Training properly will be the biggest challenge in preparing for a bouldering competition. It's hard to force yourself to do boring training workouts when all you want to do during a climbing session is project with your friends. But pre-competition training is critical.
A few weeks out from the competition
First is the training you will do a few weeks (or a few months) out from the competition date. This training is when you will build strength and endurance on the wall. Most bouldering competitions will be in some kind of redpoint format. Each category will have specific boulders, and each competitor will have about three hours to climb the most difficult boulders they can. Each competitor's most difficult five or so boulders will be recorded. Since 3 hours is a long time to climb at your limit, power endurance will be essential. Performing about two power endurance workouts every week leading up to the competition (except the week of) will boost your power endurance so that you can climb hard for the entire duration of the competition.
Try performing your favorite power endurance exercise 2x per week for four weeks leading up to the competition. 4x4s, circuits, rapid fires, no wrong answers!
On top of adding power endurance into your climbing routine, continuing to project and climb hard every week will prepare you to climb at your limit. When training hard, monitoring how your body feels every session is essential. If you are feeling extra exhausted, or if a finger or shoulder is feeling tweaky, take a rest day or two. Getting injured will take you right out of the competition and climbing. No training is worth an injury!
Week of the competition
For the week leading up to the competition, it's time to taper. Tapering means taking a step back from physically challenging workouts, allowing your body to rest and regain all the energy and strength you built while training. Yes, it would help if you still climbed the week leading up to the competition, but only 1-2 times. The structure of your climbing sessions in this period should look like this. Option 1: 1.5-2 hr sessions with climbing difficulty levels much below your limit and not getting pumped. Option 2: 0.5-1 hr sessions climbing hard and taking long rests. Taking it easy during this week will save your energy (and your skin) for the competition!
Additionally, you can continue training one week from the competition without exhausting your body by practicing technique and mental drills. Practice hip and footwork movement, breathing, positive self-talk, and calmly climbing.
Fueling your body correctly before a competition can significantly affect your performance. Nutrition is one of the keys to every physical activity, climbing included. Redpoint competitions are long and exhausting, so paying attention to what you eat and how much you eat before your competition is essential. Have you ever tried to exercise for 3 hours without breakfast? If you have, you probably recognize now that it was a huge mistake! Eating a well-balanced meal a few hours before competing will give your body the energy to climb for 3 hours. And remember a mid-competition snack to keep those energy levels from tanking while climbing!
As we sleep, our body is hard at work. Hard at work recovering from the stress placed on it during the days prior. Sleep is when we physically heal and when we build stronger muscles. You'll want to feel solid and clear-headed on the day of the competition, and that comes from your past few nights of sleep.
Lastly, pay attention to what you need to bring to the competition. There's nothing worse than realizing you forgot your climbing shoes and missed your warm-up to go home and retrieve them. Or worse, climbing in rentals. So you'll need to remember shoes, a chalk bag with chalk in it (make sure you check), extra chalk, a brush, a snack or two, and lots and lots of water. Sometimes a change of clothes is nice, especially if the competition is not in your hometown and you are staying for awards because you crushed!
So, train appropriately, eat well, hydrate, pack your bag in advance, and you'll be ready to send hard!