12 Tips for Competing in the Festivus Games
by Mikelle Despain of WOD Relief
The Festivus Games is a worldwide fitness competition held at hundreds of gyms across the world. It is a light-hearted one-day event that allows novice and intermediate athletes to hit the floor in a competitive environment.
For many athletes, Festivus is their first real functional fitness competition. This can be a fun way to challenge yourself, get to know other athletes in the area, celebrate your progress, and reinvigorate your passion for your sport!
How to Prepare for the Festivus Games
If this is your first Festivus Games or if you’re just wanting to up your game this year, then you’re in the right spot. Here are 12 tips from athletes and trainers to prepare for the Festivus Games:
1 – Watch the WOD Standards Videos—More Than Once
This goes without saying, but you will definitely want to watch the WOD Standards videos before the competition. Watching these videos early lets you practice the standards at your gym a few more times before the actual competition takes place.
Watching the standards 2 or 3 extra times will help you feel more confident about the rules and expectations of the WOD. There’s nothing worse than second-guessing yourself mid-competition. Get to know the WODs and the standards, and visualize yourself performing them to perfection (more on this on point #7).
2 – Focus on your Breathing
April Jorgenson, 2018 World Masters IWF Qualifier and CrossFit coach says something that helps her in competition is focusing on your breathing. Adrenaline kicks in during competition which can tend to cause the body to short-circuit its natural breathing process. This can increase stress and decrease oxygen flow to the muscles, which can make them tire out faster.
“The hardest thing for me to overcome was the ‘night before’ anxiety and competition day anxiety. I would try to tell myself it didn’t matter, but I still had a gut ache and would be so antsy I was draining my energy instead of conserving it.” When this anxiety hits, April suggests box breathing where you breathe in 4 counts, hold 4 counts, breathe out 4 counts, and hold again for 4.
“If it works for Navy Seals it will work for your first Festivus! Any time I start to feel anxious, I drop my awareness back to my breath and there’s no more room for anxiety.” Not only does this help conserve energy, says April, but it also saves extra panic trips to the bathroom!
3 – Don’t Try New Foods Right Before the Games
Dallin Pepper, fittest teen on earth in 2017 and 2018 at the CrossFit Games, says his advice to athletes competing for the first time is not to eat anything they’re not used to. It can be tempting to gear up the day before with the latest and greatest energy blocks and protein bars at the fitness store or to nosh on product samples at the event. But if you haven’t been training with it, pass it up on the day of competition.
On Friday night and Saturday morning 2-3 hours before you hit the floor, eat like you normally would but with a slight bias toward carbs. Now’s not the time to throw a curve ball at your stomach.
“Don’t eat anything you’re not used to, but make sure to eat extra carbs. Sleep well and don’t stress—the work has been put in, so there’s nothing you can change. Just do what you know how to do and everything will go how it’s supposed to!” says Pepper.
4 – Start Pre-Hydrating Early
When you’re dehydrated, your total blood volume decreases, which causes:
- Reduced blood flow to your skin and muscles
- Increased body temperature
- Reduced sweat rates
- Increased glycogen use
- Increased heart rate
- Increase perception of effort
This is basically your body’s way of forcing you to slow down (in an attempt to preserve energy), which can seriously compromise your athletic performance.
In a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, researchers found that cyclists who were dehydrated at -3% of their body mass had 8% lower performance than their performance in a euhydrated (or sufficiently hydrated) state.
Tips for Hydration
Your hydration should start well before you arrive at Festivus. The American Council on Exercise suggests the following guidelines:
- Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercise
- Drink 8 ounces of water 20-30 minutes before you start exercising
- Drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes during exercise
- Drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise
Practice this hydration schedule in the workouts before Festivus so you can get used to it (and time bathroom breaks) before the big day.
5 – Take an Active Recovery the Day Before Festivus
Many athletes aren’t sure whether they should rest up before the day of the event, stick to a regular WOD, or take an active recovery day instead… Take an active recovery day!
Active recovery increases blood flow to your muscles which helps them loosen up and delivers the oxygen and nutrients they’ll need in competition the next day. It can also help to stimulate the neuromuscular system—the system that sends messages to your brain and muscles—and can help calm your nerves.
If you have a regular active recovery routine, then do whatever it is you usually do on your active recovery days! If you don’t have an active recovery routing, then it’s not too late to start. Try a rower, swimming, or go for an easy 15- to 30-minute jog.
6 – Use a Muscle Cream Between WODs
One of the difficult parts of Festivus is the timing between each event. Festivus is typically 4 WODs long with up to 1-2 hours between each WOD while you wait for the other divisions to finish their workouts.
These breaks are just long enough to make your muscles cold, stiff, and tight between WODs, which can make each subsequent WOD increasingly difficult.
High-Impact creams like WOD Relief Muscle Rub can:
- Stimulate blood flow to your muscles to warm them up and prep them for the next workout
- Prevent your muscles from tightening and stiffening between WODs
- Increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to stimulate recovery
- Prevent muscle fatigue between workouts by soothing your muscles and acting as a pain block to your nerves
- Increase energy to your muscles to reenergize and get them fired up and ready to go!
Use muscle rub 15-minutes before your event to warm up and energize your muscles. Creams like WOD Relief Muscle Rub and are fast-absorbing so they won’t leave a greasy residue on your hands or body. Once you apply, you’ll feel tingling, heating, and cooling in your muscles which shows that the essential oils are working.
One of the additional benefits of WOD Relief is that it has oils like cayenne and corn mint that interact with the nerves and act as a pain block to help you go longer and harder, giving you an extra little competitive advantage.
We also recommend using WOD Relief right after each event to help soothe your muscles from the hard work you’ve just put them through and to stimulate oxygenation to your muscles to help stave off fatigue.
As always, use the product a few times before the day of competition so you can get used to the reaction and how it impacts your workout.
7 – Visualize Yourself Performing Each WOD
Visualization is used by some of the top athletes in the world including Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, Lyndon Rush, and Emily Cook.
Visualization is where you mentally rehearse a skill, routine, or performance in your head before the actual event occurs. Even though you’re not physically practicing the movements, visualizing yourself performing the WODs still activates many of the same neural pathways that are used during the actual event.
The more you visualize proper and successful performance mentally, the more that performance becomes a habit in your mind, and the more easily the movements will come to you at Festivus.
This technique can also help to eliminate pre-event anxiety.
Here’s how to practice visualization:
- Read the details of the WOD and the WOD Standards, then close your eyes
- Visualize yourself from the first-person perspective performing the WOD—visualize your performance in detail, from what you will feel (your hand grasping the bar), to what you will hear (the grunts from competitors and yells from the crowd), what you will smell (chalk, metal, and sweat), what you will see (the crowd, the bar, the wall), and what you will taste (the residual from your pre-workout shake, sweat dripping to your lips).
- Feel the anticipation and excitement as if you were truly there
- Visualize yourself movement-by-movement performing the WOD flawlessly
- Visualize the outcome you want, and imagine the feeling of accomplishing it
- Move on to the next WOD and repeat!
Try to incorporate this practice at least once a day leading up to Festivus. You’ll feel more confident on competition day, the movements will feel more natural and comfortable, and you’ll perform at your peak capabilities!
8 – Consider the 80/20 Rule
When you hit the competition floor, it’s easy for adrenaline to take over and to sprint out of the gate only to gas out 1/3 of the way in. Move smoothly and focus on consistent reps instead of 100% power from the get-go.
You’ve heard the proverb “slow and steady wins the race,” but have you ever stopped to consider why, exactly, this is true? Steady and consistent reps:
- Keep you from hitting a wall halfway through
- Help you find and keep your rhythm
- Keeps your confidence high
Hitting a wall not only sucks, but it also decreases your confidence for the rest of the event.
Consider using the 80/20 rule where you give 80% of your capacity for 80% of the WOD, then give it your all for the final 20%!
9 – Arrive Early to Situate Yourself
There’s no worse beginning to Festivus than speeding into the parking lot and skidding through the front door minutes before the competition actually starts. Plan to arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to set up a recovery spot for yourself, get all your snacks and gear in place, to get to know the layout of the floor, and to take it all in.
Getting to Festivus early can help decrease anxiety so you can go into your first workout feeling fresh, confident, and energized.
10 – Don’t Wear New Clothes Day-Of
DO: Make amazing, hilarious shirts with an ultra-clever catchphrase for you and your teammate (if you’re competing in the October team WOD), and your cheering section.
DON’T: Wait until the day of to work out in your new shirt for the first time.
Wear your competition clothes a couple times before Festivus so you can get a feel for how they move with your body, wick sweat, and any adjustments that may need to be made. Anyone who’s gone out on the floor in a scratchy baggy shirt that distracts your focus from the workout knows what we’re talking about.
11 – Focus on Yourself
Festivus is all about athletes from all different skill levels coming together to compete. You’ll see athletes that have been doing functional fitness for only a few weeks and athletes who have competed in Festivus for several years. Don’t let other athletes get in your head!
Remember, Festivus is all about you being able to have fun and compete at exactly the level you’re at right now. Even if you don’t win, it’s a great opportunity to push and celebrate your progress and victories.
James Sprague, 4thFittest Teen on Earth in 2017 says “Go into the competition with a calm, controlled mindset and only focus on your personal performance. Keep your eyes in your lane and push yourself to your limits. Have a smart plan for each and every workout and give it your all.”
12 – Have Fun!
Although Festivus is a competition, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. If you’ve never been to Festivus before, expect:
- A whole lot of support and cheering.There’s no poor sportsmanship allowed here. Everyone cheers on everybody else. That’s the beauty of this sport—we all want everyone else to succeed too!
- Motivation and inspiration. If you’ve been in a workout rut lately, then Festivus is sure to pump you up and reinvigorate your commitment to your journey. Celebrate your own progress while becoming inspired by other “rest of us” athletes who are a little further along in their journeys (and be an inspiration for athletes who are just starting).
- Talk tips & advice.At Festivus, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded athletes who are on a similar journey for fitness as you are. Take the time to get to know other athletes, what they love most about the sport, any tools or products that they’re super excited or passionate about, and how they stay inspired to succeed.
- Cheerfulness and celebration. Festivus is as much a celebration of the sport as it is a competition. We’re here to celebrate the sport and the community we love.