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Comp Prep 101

Back in 2020, my only new year resolution was to compete in a pole competition that year. Needless to say it didn't go as planned... But during lockdown I did a few online competitions, participated in online and live showcases, and last October I finally competed at PSO Canada East in Toronto! It was a long way to get there and I felt like it was overdue in my journey... And yet, I didn't feel as ready as I should have been. If you're thinking about registering for an upcoming pole or aerial competition, here are a few things I wish I knew before training for my first competition.


IT'S EXPENSIVE


It's a good idea to keep an eye on your comp-related expenses and make a budget. It doesn't have to be fancy, but at least you'll have a good idea of what's coming and what isn't a priority for you. At the beginning, I thought "the price to register was not that bad", but everything else on top of that came after felt like a lot. I'm thankful I had money aside only for the matter. And even so, I ended up spending a little more than I had envisioned.


To give you an idea, here's a non-exhaustive list of things you should consider :


Photos and video. I know, at first you think Is it really necessary to get the full package? But the closer you get to the event, the prouder you are of the routine you came up with and you wanna have souvenirs of the final moment. Phone camera quality just won't do it.


Housing and travelling. A very few pole or aerial competitions are happening in Montreal. Chances are that you'll have to travel to Toronto, Vancouver or other big cities in the United-States. Check what transportation is the cheapest, but also the most practical for you. Competing is already very hard on the body and the mind, you don't wanna be recovering from a full day of traveling at the same time. On a personal note, I took the night bus to come back from PSO because I hadn't taken my Monday off work. I don't recommend the experience, even if an extra day off might affect your budget.


For housing, if you have friends who are also competing, consider Airbnbs and other rentals in the area. It's nice to have a kitchen and not eat at the restaurant for every meal. But If you're on your own, the hotel room is probably the most affordable way to have somewhere to sleep. Plus there's always hotels close to the venue. Check if the comp organisation have deals with certain hotel chains!

Costume. You might want a nice costume that will help the audience understand your character. Or a fun and colourful outfit that will make heads turn. And even if you opt for a sobre, more traditional polewear outfit, you don't want to be wearing an old training outfit. All eyes are on you - and also the judges will definitely be awarding points to people with outstanding costumes. Your costume doesn't have to be very expensive nor made by a professional, you can glue rhinestones to a bodysuit if you want, but it's still an expense that you have to consider.


Studio rentals. Even if some studios offer open practice times, they might not fit in your schedule every week. And you will need to practice more than just once in a while. So consider studio rentals. You can team up with someone who's also competing to share fees - as well as tips and ideas! I know for me, when I'm training just by myself I get more done because I'm not chatting with everyone and also I want to make the most of that time that is precisely for that. You could even book private classes with coaches and professionals who specialize in the style you're competing in!


YOUR CHOREO IS A NEVER ENDING WORK IN PROGRESS


When you start creating your competition piece, you will be ambitious. You'll want to incorporate every combos you know, every moves that you like. And that's great! But when you actually start working on it you'll realize that there is no way you can do everything. A performance is normally 2 and 4 minutes, depending on your level and category. It is impossible to stay on the pole for more or less 3 minutes without getting tired! So you'll need to make it easier for yourself.


Make sure you do the hardest tricks at the beginning or your routine, otherwise by the end you'll be too tired to nail it. And, trust me, even until the last week you'll want to change tricks and add new moves... My advice is : accept that you're changing you mind and stick to the new things. Don't go back and forth, decisions must be made. It's fine to let go of moves you like, you can always perform them in a future showcase.


Sometimes it will be frustrating to let go of combos you like. Or to realize you can't do tricks you could easily do in the past. But you have to look at the bigger picture and make sure you incorporate only the safest ways for you to achieve your best performance.


READ THE RULES AND REGULATIONS


Are there specific moves that you're not allowed to do at the level you entered? Are there any costumes restriction? Do you have to submit your props for approval? You need to know all the details so you don't loose points on things that could have been taken care of.


If you're competing in pole, do you know which pole is on static and which one is on spin mode? If you're doing an aerial hammock piece, do you know how far from the floor the hammock is? And how high you can go? If you're a hoop aerialist, what's the hoop's circumference at the venue?


The Rules and Regulations part is boring I know, it's often a very long document with informations that aren't all important for your specific situation. To avoid having to go back all the time, write down everything that's relevant. And underline keywords to have a quick reminder whenever you're unsure.


YOU NEED TO EAT


I mean, a lot. You're training your body to do something much more difficult than it normally does. It needs sustenance.


Your body needs to build stamina, your muscles needs to recover quickly, you are pushing your limits every day. You need to eat. You will have to eat whole food, a lot of protein and fibres. You will get tired and you won't feel like cooking, the frozen pizza and instant noodles will be tempting, I know. My suggestion is meal prepping. It sounds boring, right? But it'll save you and your busy schedule and you'll be so happy you have a good home made meal ready when you come home after a hard or frustrating training.


And drink a lot of water! Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go at all times.


THE DAY OF THE COMP IS A VERY LONG ONE


Make sure you have a good night of sleep before the big day, because it's gonna be a long one. You need to get to the venue in the morning to test the apparatus. It may be optional, but I highly recommend taking the time for the stage test. It's your only moment to see how fast the pole or swivel spins, what the floor's texture feels like, etc. When that's done, you need to get your hair and make up done and be sure to have enough time to warm up properly before you go on stage.


Once your big moment is finished, the stress will leave your body and you will feel exhausted. But you'll probably want to stay and cheer up for your friends in other categories. Plus you'll want to wait for the results to see if you've placed! Even though it's a beautiful experience, it is definitely tiring.


I suggest bringing snacks that will give you energy like fruits and nuts, maybe some overnight oatmeal or protein bars. You should also drink a lot of water, even if that makes you go to the bathroom every half hour. Stress makes you want to pee anyways, might as well not dehydrate your body at the same time.


Is there anything else you would like to know about the world of competitions? What's holding you back from registering? Is there anything I didn't talk about that makes you hesitate still?

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