I´ve often been asked about the lead-up to a big international competition. I greatly appreciate the interest that people show and I´d like to thank them for it and try to explain what these days are like for me.
Generally, the arrival of the delegation to the city that hosts the competition is between one and three days before the opening ceremony. Once the games have started, it is against the rules to train on the competition track, therefore I try to train at least once on the track before the games start. These training sessions are to get a feel for the track rather than improve the quality of my running. If I manage to get a few sessions under my belt it means that I will be more likely to give my absolute best performance on the day.
In the days before competing, I like to train just to keep that «spark» alive. “Spark” refers to the feeling, both physical and psychological, that we athletes get when everything is going well and we feel the moment is just right to achieve our maximum performance. These training sessions basically consist of techniques for the race, high-impact exercises and a series of high quality exercises.
As for food, I try not to get too obsessed about it but I do like to look after my diet, especially, when it’s time to compete. I try to eat pasta – which gives me energy – some meat – to provide protein for the muscle – but more than anything, I focus on hydration, making sure I drink enough.
As far as rest is concerned, in the days leading up to a big competition I try to rest as much as possible. During those days I like to read, write, watch movies, watch a box-set on the computer, and do things that help me switch off and help me relax. If I think too much about the competition beforehand it could lead to “burn-out” before the race has even started! I also like to have a walk while listening to music a couple of times a day so as not to be stuck in the room all the time and to prevent my legs from over-relaxing.
Psychologically speaking, there are two types of athletes: those who spend countless hours analysing their opponents, working out strategies for competition, obsessing about times and pace. On the other hand, there are those who prefer to focus on the competition when the day arrives. I’m in the latter camp. In the first international competitions I took part in, I must admit that I was one of those people who went over things a thousand times in my head. Eventually I realized that what I was doing was mentally tiring and I decided that the best possible strategy was to be rested and feel good at all times , then focus on the race when the day comes.
Another question that I have been asked is if I have any good-luck charms or rituals before the competition. There are two things I do. I watch “The Peaceful Warrior» and listen to Joaquin Sabina. “The Peaceful Warrior” is a movie that I love, and it never fails to change my mind-set and put me into competition mode. And listening to Joaquin Sabina has a simple explanation. I love his music and he has always been a favourite of mine and my family´s. He relaxes and motivates me.
Thanks again to everyone who reads this weekly column and also to those who take the time to send in any comments and suggestions.