Why do athletes do stupid things right before the contest? Part 1

That’s really a question – I have no answer.

I did it not once or twice. I see others do it. It can go from neglecting the training load prescribed for the day to ignoring injury signals.

I did the latter about three weeks before the South American powerlifting championship last year. This year, I ridiculously neglected the prescribed training load four weeks before the South American Championship.

Monday (the day before yesterday), I did some weightlifting and the technique sucked. It was the prescribed (by myself) routine for the day. Joel (who coaches me for WL) suggested that I do some front squats and I arranged the support. A few minutes later he said “I think you should stay with this load”. That was around 190lbs. And a few minutes later I heard him yell from the other side of the room: “you increased it, didn’t you?”

Not an hour after that, a friend showed up with a difficult personal issue to talk about. I said “hey, why don’t we do a few light deadlifts while we talk?”. Good idea. Light deadlifts right after heavy front squats are, indeed, a very good idea for lower back health. And so we talked and talked and did about ten sets of light deadlifts (around 220lbs, a little under and a little over), 10-15 reps, “just to set the form”. I have to admit I did feel a little tired by the last sets, but – hey ! – we were having fun.

I had a business meeting right after that. Important one. We discussed and decided complicated issues. And why not do that while swinging a few kettlebells, right? So we discussed and decided and we lost count of the number of sets. About 20 (times 20 reps). A little Turkish getup in the sequence, just to wrap up the day.

Getting out of bed Tuesday was almost impossible. I felt sore in places I didn’t know I had in my body. Recalling the stupid things from the day before, I realized I had been “doing something” for at least seven hours.

Ok, that was a one time insanity. I don’t remember ever having done something like that. Not THAT stupid.

The question is, why in hell did I do that? Am I a retard? I’m not dismissing the possibility, but I think there’s more to it.

Let’s rephrase the question: why didn’t I stop when I should? Humm… because I was having fun. I think that basically describes it.

I’m a grown up. I’m a pretty experienced athlete, I’ve been around competitive sports for decades. I write about sports, I teach about sports and I coach people. I would never allow an athlete to do what I did Monday. And “because I’m having fun” is not an excuse.

If I had never seen this type of behavior in other athletes, method would recommend this to be treated as an abnormality, an isolated case. It’s not: I’ve seen many others behave recklessly, foolishly and childishly. I couldn’t guess what percentage of high performance athletes are prone to this behavior, but a few are.

I don’t know where it comes from. It may have something to do with rebelling against the seriousness of the championship preparation. I think some of us may resent, even in an unconscious manner, not being totally free to do whatever we want in the weight room. Children are free, they don’t care about delayed reward, they want it here and now.

It may have something to do with life as it is being too damn serious all the time and every single act being part of great, extensively planned and important projects. So it may have something to do with needing some unstructured time. So maybe we just choose to screw our periodization (unconsciously).

It may have to do with expectation: you are expected to be good, precise, win and win. And break records. And all else. Whose expectation? Ours, of course. “The world” couldn’t care less. “The world” doesn’t even know powerlifting exists. “The world” is actually an abstract useless concept, when it comes to describing people or public opinion.

It may be one or any of these reasons, alone or in combination.

But why do it four weeks before the damn championship?

One day I’ll find out.



MARILIACOUTINHO.COM – idéias sobre treinamento de força, powerlifting, levantamento de peso, strongman, esportes de força, gênero e educação física. Ideas on strength training, powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, strength sports, gender and physical education.

A vida é pentavalente: arranco, arremesso, agachamento, supino e levantamento terra. Life is a five valence unit: the snatch, the clean and jerk, the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.

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