By Nicole Ainsworth
As a trainer, you’d never dream of showing up to a national sales meeting, a new-hire training or any other live training event without proper preparation. You know your content inside and out, you put contingency plans in place to mitigate any potential technical difficulties and you even run through a dry rehearsal.
But is that enough?
While it’s true that omitting any of these steps from your preparation could lead to a less than stellar performance, neglecting to prepare yourself physically and mentally has the potential to do the same. High-performance athletes begin preparing their bodies well in advance of a big competition, but the final hours leading up to an event are especially critical.
Admittedly, leading a live training event doesn’t require the same level of physical preparation as a marathon, a soccer tournament or an all-day track and field competition. However, applying some of the same principles when preparing for your training event that athletes apply in those final hours before a big competition could mean the difference between a good and great performance.
Hydration is a top priority of top-performing athletes, so they’ll apply any number of strategies to remain well-hydrated. Mitigating the risk of overnight dehydration and limiting or altogether avoiding alcohol and caffeine are just a few examples.
Dehydration can occur overnight due to factors such as sleeping in an overly dry environment, mouth-breathing or overheating and perspiring. So, don’t wait to hydrate! The night before your event:
High-performance athletes may avoid alcohol altogether, but those who do consume alcohol know better than to do so the night before a competition. Not only can alcohol disrupt your sleep pattern, but it can also contribute to dehydration.
After-hours social gatherings are always on the agenda at live training events and alcohol is often on the menu. If you know you’re likely to consume alcohol the night before your big event, then have a plan. Before you head to the social event, set a specific limit on the amount of alcohol you’ll consume (i.e., no more than one or two alcoholic beverages), commit to drinking at least one glass of water before each alcoholic beverage and plan a time past which you’ll replace alcohol with water or non-caffeinated, low- or no-sugar beverages.
While some athletes may use caffeine to increase performance, it’s important to keep in mind that too much caffeine can contribute to the “jitters” or shakiness, as well as a rapid heart rate and anxiety. Additionally, caffeine acts as a diuretic, which can interfere with your efforts to stay hydrated.
Try starting the morning of your event with a tall glass of water before running out to grab that venti coffee you’re craving and perhaps consider a grande in place of it.
Continue to hydrate with water on every break. If you feel the need for more caffeine, go for a small, and consume it in addition to, not in place of, water.
Athletes who compete seriously take sleep seriously. Why? Because they know the impact of sleep on performance. Sleep issues such as insufficient sleep duration and poor sleep quality can affect an athlete’s physical as well as cognitive performance, including learning and memory, decisionmaking and creativity.
To avoid similar consequences, try the following.
An athlete’s nutritional needs vary based on many factors including the type, intensity and duration of their sporting event. Many athletes consume a meal high in carbohydrates the night before a big event; swimmers may eat a light breakfast consisting of carbohydrate and lean protein the morning of a competition and a small carb-based snack an hour or so before they head into the water; and endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, may ingest a small carbohydrate-rich supplement at periodic intervals throughout their race.
No matter how you look at it, though, nutrition plays an important role in an athlete’s overall physical and cognitive performance. The same applies to you as a trainer, so consider the following:
Athletes are thoughtful about their event day wardrobe. They plan what they’ll wear in advance, opting for breathable fabrics that wick moisture away from their skin and seams that won’t chafe, and they never break in a new pair of shoes the day of the big event.
As you prepare your wardrobe for your big event, keep in mind comfort, confidence and professionalism.
Let’s start with comfort. Fussing with a shirt that won’t stay tucked in, a skirt that rides up or shoes that pinch your feet can be a significant distraction to you and your audience. To avoid this on the day of your training event, avoid wearing clothing you’ve not at least tried on and walked, sat and leaned over in. And, never, wear a pair of shoes you’ve not broken in!
Don’t kill your confidence worrying about whether your clothing is proper for the setting, is a bad cut for your body type, looks too young or too old for you or is a bad color on you. Avoid this unnecessary distraction by knowing the event dress code in advance and selecting your wardrobe accordingly.
If you’re planning to wear something you’ve not worn in a long time, be sure to try it on before the day of the event. Changes in fashion trends and fluctuations in weight and even hairstyle can change an outfit that once was a big “Yes!” to an outright “No!”
Finally, you want to present yourself as credible and, while your subject matter expertise, communication and facilitation skills all contribute to your credibility, your clothing choice, which impacts your audience’s first impression, plays a role as well.
Although tastes in clothing styles vary dramatically, there is a general sense of what is considered “professional” within your industry. If you’re not sure what that is, observe and emulate others who are successful in your role or the role above you. If you are wondering whether your clothing choice is professional enough, you should head back to your closet and make another selection.
In conclusion, as you prepare for your next big training event, take a cue from the high-performance athlete and apply purposeful planning and discipline to prepare your body physically and mentally to achieve peak performance!
Nicole Ainsworth is senior manager, sales training, for Horizon Therapeutics. Email Nicole at email@example.com.