For many months now your muscles are sore every day from intense drills in class. You've taken apart every step in your hard and soft shoe dances and perfected your technique as much as possible.
Now it's less than a week before the Feis, Oireachtas, Nationals or even Worlds and you want to push yourself hard all week so you can perform your absolute best. That's when you start to wonder if you've done enough to prepare. Are you actually ready? Or should you put in a couple extra hours at the studio to help yourself feel more at ease?
I've learned it's very important to do the right things the week before a major competition. So I've created a list of 5 things every Irish dancer should do to prepare for a competition when it's only a few days away.
1: Take It Easy When You Dance
You know your steps, you've put in the work. Your body is trained and in shape. When you only have a few days to go, DON'T dance at full strength. It's helpful to run your steps so they stay fresh in your mind, but don't push yourself to the limit like usual. Pushing your muscles hard weakens them temporarily while strengthening them in the long run. Very effective when training for a feis, but not a good idea with only a few days to go. The last thing you want at a major competition is to be sore and unable to dance at full strength. Also, pushing yourself too hard puts you at higher risk of injury. I'm sure any dancer will agree it's better to get injured when there isn't a competition only days away.
2: Stretch Out More Than Usual
Since you won't be dancing as much as usual, stretching is a fantastic way to keep your muscles loose and fresh. Stretch out once or twice a day for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
3: Soak In The Tub After Practice
Right before a competition is a great time to massage your muscles, get extra sleep and take long baths. Taking a long bath after dancing and stretching out is a great idea. It helps relax your muscles after a lot of strain. Remember, Irish dancers push themselves physically all the time. If you don't give your body a proper amount of rest, your body won't be there for you when you need it.
4: Pack A Day Early
If you're traveling for this competition, you're going to want to give yourself enough sleep the night before a flight. I can't tell you how many times I've been up till midnight packing when my flight was scheduled to leave at 7:00 AM the next day. The last thing you want to do after all your hard work to prepare is let it all go to waste because you didn't get enough sleep the night before. I suggest packing everything you possibly can a day early. That way you can be sure to get to bed early the night before your flight and have a stress free night sleep. This also helps because you might have forgotten to pick up something important at the store. No one wants to be running through Walmart at 1:00 AM looking for travel size deodorant when they have an early flight to catch in the morning.
5: Eat A Hearty Meal The Night Before
Like any other form of physical activity, Irish dancers perform best on a full stomach. Eat a hearty dinner the night before you compete as well as a healthy breakfast the day of the feis. I'm not talking about just salad and a rice cake. You need energy and empty calories are not going to do it for you. Trust me, I dance best after eating hearty meals that include food like pasta and rolls, large sandwiches with cheese, meat, tomatoes and lettuce. Juice, yogurt, muffins, pancakes and cereal are great for breakfast. Fill yourself up because if you have no energy to burn, your body will only be working on empty fumes. Don't throw away all your strength and energy simply because you want to look slim in your new dress.
Above all else, just relax and know that what you do in the last few days is simply to help you stay focused and strong. The real work is already finished and losing your good luck charm or failing to run through your dance flawlessly 10 times the day before is not going to effect your performance. Stay mentally strong. With only one week to go you have already put in the work so just relax and enjoy the ride!