A Review of CalOpen – Pre-Comp Prep

Just one more article about CalOpen and then I promise I’ll move on! Per a reader’s request, I’m bringing you back to the days leading up to the competition and revealing some of the things I do as last minute preparations. Ready to hit 88 miles per hour?

Just a few days before CalOpen, I was sick. That’s right. Starting the Friday night before I danced, I was battling a sore throat, a cough that threatened to take up residence in my chest, fatigue and body aches. I was starting to feel better on Monday, but I stayed home from work and slept as much as possible. I was on a mission. No freakin’ way some stupid bug was going to mess up my comeback!

Even though my symptoms were subsiding by Monday night, I still felt like my energy was really low. I had a lesson with Teacher, and I requested that we dance a full round right off the bat so I could see where my stamina was. I almost fell over during waltz because some of the turns made my still-congested head dizzy. But the movement seemed to help because I actually felt a little better by the end of the round, despite being out of breath.

Tuesday I returned to work, but I was exhausted. I felt like I had molasses running through my veins. The competition was on Wednesday and I might have started freaking out, but I was too tired. Enter my main comp prep tactic: only worry about what I can control.

I was worried about this year being a repeat of California Open 2015, where dance day was the first day of relief from a three-day migraine and my body was stiff and unresponsive. Despite fantastic results, I was not happy with my performance last year. So what could I control this time? I could control when I went to bed Tuesday night, to ensure I got plenty of sleep. I could control what I ate and drank and how much, to give my body a better chance at recovering faster. I could focus on positive thoughts like how well Monday’s lesson went and tell myself that I was as ready as I could be.

It can be easy to get carried away with “what ifs.” When I start thinking of “what ifs” for a competition, I simply answer them or, if I can’t come up with an answer, dismiss them. What if I still feel sick? I’ll pack cold medicine, drink plenty of water, and make sure I eat enough. What if I still feel exhausted? I’ll get as much sleep as I can, and I already know I’m as prepared as I can be and I’m capable of performing well even when I don’t feel 100%.

And that’s where I stopped. Beyond taking care of my body, there was nothing else I could do. So I wasn’t going to worry about anything beyond that.

I hate feeling unprepared, so taking the time to organize and pack helps keep me calm. I make at least a mental checklist of what I need to bring, including snacks and other “just in case” items like tissues, safety pins, a sewing kit and hand wipes (for after eating the snacks). I also keep a small bag of “just in case” items in my dance bag all the time, so I don’t have to remember to pack it at the last minute. It’s just there.

That’s another good tactic: minimize the things you need to remember. If I store things in a way that they automatically come with me, then I don’t have to remember them which means less stress about possibly forgetting them. After forgetting my earrings this time, I’m storing them with the bracelets and arm cuff that are stored in the same bag as my dress!

As far as preparing for the dancing itself, I practice a lot more in the week or two before and then less in the days immediately preceding the competition. A huge hurdle for me is my mental state, so instead of possibly stressing myself out because I keep messing something up during my solo practice the day before the comp, I take that time to relax my mind. I’m not going to fix anything major in a day or two anyways. At that point, I’m as prepared as I can be. Time to trust myself and my dance partner to do what we’ve been training to do.

Last year, before Emerald Ball, I took almost an entire week off per Teacher’s orders. I was incredibly stressed about the comp because people kept telling me it was a “big one” and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. Teacher told me I needed to take some time away from dancing. It worked! I felt calmer on comp day and had a great time dancing. Sometimes you just need a break!

Check out BallroomGuide.com’s competition page for a lot of great, practical information on preparing for a comp. They even created checklists for you!

But if you’re curious, here is what I bring to a comp:

  • Dress, bracelets and arm cuff (all stored together)
  • Earrings (forgot these for CalOpen, they will be stored with my dress moving forward)
  • Robe to wear in between heats so I don’t get too cold
  • Competition dance shoes with heel protectors already on
  • Older dance shoes that will work in a pinch (stored in my dance bag, they just stay in there)
  • Shoe brush (always in my dance bag)
  • Money for entries if I haven’t already paid
  • My “just in case” little bag of goodies (always in my dance bag)
    • Band-aids
    • Q-tips (good for minor fixes to eye makeup)
    • Safety pins (multiple sizes)
    • Small scissors
    • Small sewing kit
    • Bobby pins
  • Tissues
  • Hand wipes (useful if your hands are sticky or messy after eating your snacks and you don’t have time to run to the bathroom)
  • Extra pair of contacts, contact solution and my glasses (I’m basically blind without one or the other.)
  • Massage roller ball (basically a small massage ball in a holder, good for working out tension that always builds up in my shoulders and neck, always in my dance bag)
  • Pain killers (always in my purse)
  • Water bottle filled with water (Every comp I have been to has provided water, but if you end up sitting on the other side of the ballroom from the water table, sometimes you just don’t want to or don’t have time to walk all the way over there.)
  • Easy-to-eat, healthy carb/protein snacks like trail mix, nuts, fruit, granola bars (for CalOpen, I baked scones!)
  • Pen (for writing down results)

Another thing that’s good to bring is a small towel to wipe off sweat. I don’t dance enough heats to work up that much of a sweat, so I don’t bring one. But I will use my heat list to fan myself occasionally!

I hope you all find this useful!

Until next time…


Live long and dance ballroom!


4 thoughts on “A Review of CalOpen – Pre-Comp Prep

  1. Full Tilt Diva says:

    Took me a while to get my act together in terms of what I needed to “get together” for a comp. Regardless of how second nature it’s gotten, I still write up a check list. I lay out what I need for each costume (dress, hose, shoes, undergarments) and bag each outfit up separately, along with the appropriate corresponding jewelry. And I confess to being an out-and-out “bag” lady – I couldn’t exist without assorted size baggies — make-up goes into one, hair is another, food, first aid (I think you get the picture LOL) — I try to do whatever it takes to keep me out of the red zone on the lunatic scale !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bosch says:

    Awesome, thanks! 🙂
    I’m a packer, a planner, a list maker. And I’m really, REALLY happy to see that 99.9% of the things on your list are things I already have packed or on my packing list, yeah!
    One thing I discovered after doing rounds this week is that I absolutely need to have a small towel that I can throw onto a table at the on-deck area becacuse OMG my hands get CRAZY sweaty when we are dancing back-to-back-to-back. My poor instructor probably had to wring out his right sleeve by the end of our lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

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