Getting Ready for a Competition

I am often asked what to do before a competition to get ready.  While each person is unique in their warm up routine, here are some things that I suggest to do before a competition.

Get Rest

24-48 hours before a competition, you need to get your sleep.  I frequently hear about people who burn themselves out two nights before a competition and try and catch up the next night.  This is a challenging way to get enough sleep.  

There are enough sleep studies out there that show that we can't "catch up" on our sleep deprivation.  As an example, if you only sleep four hours two nights before a competition and think that you can sleep twelve hours the next, things don't work that way.  It is better to get some OK rest for two nights than try and cram it all into one.  The best is actually getting the amount of sleep that your body requires.


I recommend eating a healthy meal the night before and the day of competition.  Again, what is healthy depends a bit on a person's body.  A steak for one person the night before may be perfect and another it would give them indigestion.  You have to know how to fuel your body.  

Students will often ask me about carbo loading the night before (e.g. lots of pasta the night before.)  That can help some people, but with some people, they will feel heavy the next day because of carbs inherent nature of retaining water.  There are enough people though who have found this to help in their sports performance.

If I had to say what I do, I typically have a healthy meal that has about 55% carbs, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% poly or mono saturated fat.  An good choice would be a pasta dish with chicken and a salad.  A plate full of super spicy chicken wings and an extra large milkshake is not a good choice...

The day of the competition, I try and time my meals so it is about 1.5-2 hours after I finish my meal before I would be competing.  I also have snacks and water to drink while I am competing.  I am constantly grazing all day long so my energy level is roughly constant.  Competitions day can be a long time!

Warm Up

I try and get to the venue so I have about 1-1.5 hours before a tourney to get myself sufficiently ready.  This gives me enough time to go through armory and do a weapons check and get some bouting in.  

I would do whatever warm up you do, but I would do something that eventually gets your whole body moving.  A great warm up routine would be the warm ups that are done in the fitness and footwork sections on T & Th.  

While I am warming up, I am just looking at warming my body up and get my body moving and getting my point on target.  I am not looking at showing an opponent everything that I can do.  It is about getting mentally ready.  Is my movement good?  Is my point on target?  Are my fleches fluid?  These are the things that you should be working on, not beating my opponent.  That is for the strip.  You don't want to show your other competitors your whole game while you are warming up.

Also while you are warming up, only the first bout should be with a teammate if you can at all help it.  Use this warm up time like a controlled open fencing time.  Use your observation skills and take out your notes to get an idea of how a person fences.  Most competitors ignore this valuable time of gathering intel about their opponents.  

For me, when I am doing bouting, I will find a person and do two "five" touch bouts with them.  I want to get a five touch bout in my mindset.    I do two "fives" at a time because it takes time to hook up and find a person to fence on the strip.  My goal is to do a pool before I head to my competition pool.

You should also have different durations of warm up time.  You want to have your optimal time of 1-1.5 hours, but what if you only have 45 min, 30 min, or heaven forbid, 15 min?  You should have a plan of what you will do so that way you don't expend extra mental anguish figuring out what you need to do.  Know what you need to get mentally ready.

Weapons and body cords

You need to have a routine of ensuring that your weapons are ready and will pass inspection. When you come to fence at a strip, you must have at least one extra regulation weapon and extra body cord.  You can have more than that.  These extra weapon and body cord must have the appropriate inspection marks also.  Each body cord must have their inspection mark and if you are using french grips, they will be individually checked also.  Some other things to remember:

  • Make sure that the barrel is tight in epee and foil
  • Make sure that your wires are glued down in epee and foil
  • Bell guards must be smooth and no dents or holes that could catch a point
  • Spaghetti wires must be affixed to the back side of the socket
  • Spaghetti wires must go all the way to the nut where it is affixed.  No bare wire showing
  • Both screws in epee
  • Tape around the barrel and covering the tip of the blade roughly a dollars length down. (Make sure that the tip can still depress so you can score a touch!)
  • In saber, if you have a metal nut at the end of your blade where your bottom bell guard screws together, make sure that it is sufficiently covered.
  • Before you hook up your weapon on the strip, make sure that your wires are glued down, barrel is tight, and in epee, make sure that both screws are there.  If you do this before you hook up, you will save yourself a card and mopping the floor...  (check out WFA newsletter #1, coaches' corner).

Mental Preparation

I can't emphasize this enough, you have to be mentally ready.  This should start weeks before the tourney actually starts.  What actions are you working on?  What is your training schedule?  What are going to be your hard days and light days?  How are you going to stay mentally strong during a competition?  These are things you have to foresee as best as you can.

I recommend having music that you listen do when you are doing your individual warm up.  When you are away in a different city or even different country and doing your warm up, you can have this constant to help relax and get mentally prepared.  

Final thoughts

This isn't the whole list, but it is something to get you started.  These are things that you can control.  The more things that you control and you apply, the more enjoyable your tournament experience will be!  Remember the first rule of a tournament:  Have fun!