Written by: Brittany Kohnke
Injury, pandemic, or just needing to step away, there are many reasons an athlete may take a long hiatus from competing. In many cases, this lay off can be profoundly beneficial from both a physical and mental perspective. But what about when the athlete is ready to approach “the comeback”? What are some strategies one can use to ensure their mind and body are ready for this return? In this article, I’ll give several tips one can use when making their return to the platform.
Tip #1: Throw everything you did/were out the window
Let me first preface by saying, this tip is intended for those athletes who have taken considerable time off from competing (i.e. 12 months+). Like the age old saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy and it will rob you of what is here in the present. So with that, your “numbers” don’t matter now. Who you were, how you ranked, what you did, sorry, doesn’t matter. This is not to dim who you were or what you have accomplished, but rather shine a new light. The current journey is going to be different. It’s not a continuation of what “was” but rather now “what is”. Releasing those expectations of self can be incredibly liberating as you start this comeback because you won’t have anything to compare yourself to other than who you are in this moment in time.
Tip #2: GPP yea you know me
GPP, or general preparation programming, is a fantastic way to start your comeback to the platform. Depending on how long you have been abstaining from meet prep (and how long you have until you compete), a phase of GPP can be incredibly beneficial in preparing the body for it’s return to prep. Working with a coach can help iron these details out, but generally speaking, the further you are from competition the further away from the competition lifts one needs to be. So take this opportunity to incorporate variety, but most importantly a program that facilitates general strength adaptations and consistency.
Tip #3: Go back to the basics
GPP programming is essentially going back to the basics, but this tip is intended to be all encompassing. To begin your comeback, you’re going to want to look at all areas of your life where going back to the basics can be beneficial. This can mean getting back into the habits of nutritious eating, prioritizing sleep, and other basics that may have been overlooked up until this point. From a performance perspective, this is also a great time to focus on the basics when it comes to technique. Are you displaying sound technique in your lifts or has the time away developed some compensations or faulty patterns? While things are generally light and manageable, use this time to drill and refine things.
Tip #4: Think small, seek wins
As a coach and athlete, this is one of my founding principles when it comes to any pursuit. Finding “small wins” can have an insanely profound impact on the subconscious mind. The more “wins” the brain sees, the more it will seek much of the same. Consciously, seeking wins also helps us build confidence so getting back into the groove of things becomes easier. “Wins” don’t have to be (and they shouldn’t be) PR’s. These can be seemingly small feats such as “I accomplished my workout” or “I stayed on track with my nutrition”. Think small and build those victories over time.
Tip #5: If it ain’t fun, forget about it
Piggy backing off tip #4, everything about the comeback should be relatively fun. From the process of getting back into meet prep, prep, and the meet itself, making the journey as enjoyable as possible is important for any athlete, but especially for one coming back off a long layoff. I advise lifters to choose a meet, especially for their “return”, to be one that airs more on the “fun” side rather than uber competitive. The added pressure may not fare well for most athletes so having a meet to where one can “get back in the game” without the expectation of having to qualify or place for anything can help tremendously. Obviously every person and situation is different, so this advice may not resonate with you (or you may not have a choice). Either way, the name of the game should be fun (most of the time) and if it’s not, making the comeback may be something to consider.
Well there you have it, my tips on preparing the mind and body for a successful return to the platform! I would love to hear if any of these resonate with you or worked for your return!
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