Murphy's Peaking Cycle

I’m a superstitious person. If you’ve known me for more than a handful of days, you have probably picked up on this. I don’t fuck with ghosts and cemeteries, I don’t wash my hair on my birthday, I never discuss attempts before a meet, and something always goes wrong with every single meet prep. If I ever experience oneundisturbed meet prep, I will immediately be terrified it’s the end of my career.

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That being said, there is no such thing as a smooth meet prep for me. Someone close to me gets sick, a break up happens, a blow out with my best friend, an injury comes out of nowhere. You name it, it has probably happened.

It all seems so impossible while it’s happening. But hindsight is 20/20, keep that in mind.

In the moment, it really does feel like the end of the world. But are you really going to blow 6-12 months of training? That’s the crucial decision you have to make.

No judgements here, if you’re so broken you know you won’t make it without potentially killing yourself under the bar. Shut it down, give yourself some time to heal up, and come back harder. But, if you choose to drive right through the shitty circumstance, this one’s for you:

Have a plan

You’re going to see an underlying theme here: have a plan, stick to the fucking plan.

Do not curl into a ball and wrap yourself in a blanket. It’s business as usual. No matter how stressed you are, get up, get your clothes on, get to the gym and peak like you’re supposed to. You probably won’t feel like doing it, that’s fine. Compartmentalize like a mad person. Remove your feelings from the lifts, go through the motions. Do not do emotional lifting, that’s a sure-fire way to deviate from plan (potentially increasing odds of injury). The lovely thing about peaking is, at this point, the goal is not to get stronger. The goal is to start bringing it out from the shadows, and getting ready for the final reveal (read: platform).

Define your priorities

The death march tends to make me more introverted than usual, my peopling energy stores are almost exclusively dedicated to my day hustle. By the time I get home from my almost 12-hours of day job-related peopling activities, all I want to do is lock myself in a quiet room for an hour, take a nap, recharge, and head out to the gym. By the time I’m in my 90% microcycle (if you have no idea what I’m talking about pick up the 5thSet Series), I redirect all of my energy exclusively to getting to work, and getting to the gym. Everything else becomes secondary, this easily could morph to 3 priorities if there are problems with my family while I’m peaking.

The idea is to try to keep your priorities to single digits. Pick only things that are urgent and important (for further reading on this reference, you can check Covey’s Time Management Grid).

Pick your voice of reason

No matter how introverted I get, I am always careful to not descend too deeply into the black hole that is meet prep. There always has to be a voice of reason, a source of truth, a north star. This person will keep you from flying off the handle when you are feeling exceptionally emotional, stressed, and in thus, likely to make decisions you will instantly regret. The best candidates for this position is someone who has gone through what you are currently going through, understands the difference between listening and giving advice, and will withhold judgement so you can vent freely.

This is not to say the rest of your inner circle isn’t important. In fact, those who make up the inner circle need to be chosen just as carefully as your voice of reason. Prune early, and prune often. Anticipate meet prep will soak up and demand many resources, this really is the time to be somewhat selfish. Ideal candidates can challenge your decisions in a manner that makes you think critically, make minimal demands of your time, and have proven trustworthy. It so happens, my inner circle consists of other lifters, often other lifters who are also getting ready to compete. We tend to understand the needs of one another during this time.

Why do we need a circle? I can do it alone!

Yes, you can. But you keep the circle and the voice of reason to keep you anchored. These are the people that are charged with telling you not to take that extra attempt, these are the people who are charged with pulling you out of your own head so you don’t get gassed up, and start convincing yourself you are better (or worse) than you actually are. They keep you honest.

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Coping mechanisms

Let’s not pretend you won’t default to coping mechanisms. We can all pretend we’re so put-together we are handling everything just fine, but it’s human nature— we find ways to cope with whatever stress we have going on. This is where the other 3 things we talked about before come into play. This is usually where people fuck up.

Why? People dive headlong into their coping mechanism and let it consume them instead of using it as a tool to keep meet prep momentum going. For the sake of transparency, my chosen poison is work. It’s generally not a good idea to use food or drugs as a copy mechanism, especially if you’re getting ready for meet (read: self-sabotage).

The trick to using coping mechanisms effectively is:

  1. Have a plan - have a cut-off point. How much time are you going to spend on said coping mechanism? Do not deviate from the plan.
  2. Do not let your coping mechanism get in the way of your priorities.
  3. Have someone in place to tell you if you’re fucking up. Have supportive people around you that understand what you’re going through, but won’t let you be consumed by your own bullshit. Most importantly, your voice of truth should be someone you will actually listen to.

When everything is said and done here, remember the peaking micro cycle is only 30-44 days long. That means you’re really only delaying having to deal with a problem by a month to a month and a half. A lot of circumstances can change in that time, but you run the risk of multiplying a small problem into a much larger one by putting it on hold. You’ve been warned.

On the flip side, pushing through meet prep also brings a renewed sense of confidence. If you can push past this once, you’ll be able to do it again if you have to. Quite frankly, if you find yourself having to engage this Whatever you’re working through, remember the chickens do come home to roost, and there are no free rides, so by the time the meet is done you will have to address these issues.

Make your plans, set your priorities, and remember to choose your sources of truth wisely. To be clear, I am not advocating people drown their problems with an equally stressful meet preparation schedule… But I also know if you want to push through, you will do it anyway. Having said that, this is a strategy I’ve employed several times over my life. From break ups, make ups, family emergency room visits, and everything in-between, this method can be adjusted and utilized to effectively navigate you through your meet prep.

What method have you used to navigate your last stressful meet prep?

 
 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR // SIN LEUNG

Sin is a raw powerlifter in the 123 and 132lbs weight class. When she’s not training for a meet, Sin works as a graphic designer for Chaos and Pain, and a full stack designer in technology.