Five tips to perform at your best for Varsity 2022

Sport scientist's expert advice for LJMU teams and athletes ahead of the competition

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Final preparations are in full swing for the Liverpool Varsity 2022 sporting competition which is now less than two weeks away (28-30 March).

For the majority of our LJMU students, this is the first competition of its kind that you will have had the opportunity to take part in during your time here, no thanks to the pandemic.

We know that every club and every athlete has built up their season for this event, one of the biggest university sport dates in the calendar. For most, winning represents ownership of the best club in the city (along with the bragging rights), so a lot of pressure can be felt ahead of the competition itself.  

To help get you in the zone and to maximise these final days of preparation, practice, and training, we’ve got some expert advice to ensure you can perform at your best.

Conor Heeney, Head of Strength & Conditioning at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, shares his top five list of tips, tricks, and advice to support all LJMU clubs taking part in Varsity.

1: Stick to what you know 

Many see big competitions as a separate event to the rest of the season and decide this is a suitable time to change their routines based on pressure or what they might have seen other sportspersons do. Contrary to this belief, it is always best to keep doing what you are used to. Whether that be listening to the same music, pre-game rituals or even down to wearing the same lucky socks.

Keeping your preparation the same will create a comfortable and predictable environment that you can control and understand. Everyone, and every club, has their own routine that gets them in the right state of mind to perform at their peak, and Varsity is no different, so stick to what you know.

2: Taper your training 

To be able to perform at your best, you need to have the energy needed to do so. Some coaches or athletes will try and train as hard as possible prior to a big competition because this may give them a mental boost or make them feel like they cannot be outworked. Although the premise is understandable, the reality is that this will just tire you out and leave you, or the team, too fatigued for competition. You would not expect a marathon runner to run two days on the bounce and get a PB the second day - the same rules apply here. It is almost impossible to get fitter through added training in a week, but certainly possible to do so by recovering.  

In at least the four to seven days before Varsity, athletes should be reducing training volumes by about 40% to allow the body to rest, recover, and peak in time for the event. 

3: Fuel for the occasion 

Like all competition, you need to fuel for the work required, fuel being a synonym for energy. Depending on the sport you do, from a 90 min football game to a 400m final, each context will require different energy needs. You would not expect to get to London and back on half a tank of petrol, so you should not expect to complete a big game on the same food you eat on a rest day.  

Athletes should be prioritising high-carbohydrate meals prior to Varsity as this will allow them to optimise their performance from a fuelling standpoint, as carbohydrates are an important source of energy.

Complex carbohydrates such your pastas, rice and potatoes will be great for longer events, and simple carbs like fruits, sweets and sugary foods are helpful for shorter more high intensity events. Those sports that have a mixture of intensities such as field sports can benefit from a mixture of both. The day before the event you should focus on loading with complex carbs. On competition day, 2-3 hours before the event, athletes should top up stores with simple carbs such as fruit juices, sports drinks, or sugary foods. 

4: Get some Zzzzs in the night before 

Athletes who are training for a competition needs to sleep 8-10 hours daily to recharge and improve their performance. Sleep is one of the main pillars of recovery so should be considered a priority for all athletes as the body uses sleep to reset, repair and recover from all the stress of the day, be that mental, emotional, or physical.

The day before the event, get to sleep earlier so you will not have a tough time waking up early for your event. Sometimes depending on the individual preference and competition time, taking a 20-minute nap a few hours before the competition will also help increase your energy levels. 

5: Enjoy the occasion 

One of the most overlooked elements of sport is the ability to enjoy the experience. Too many times athletes worry about things beyond their control, feel overwhelmed or anxious and performance will suffer as a result. Mistakes can happen during the game. Remind yourself not to dwell on your errors and instead focus on what you can do to get ahead and improve your chance of winning. 

Varsity is a great day for you to highlight all the year’s hard work and training, with the added benefit of all the support from the university and students. Go out there, enjoy the occasion and leave it all on the track/pitch/court. Best of luck!

Any BUCS teams or Sports Scholars looking for strength and conditioning coaching can find out more on the LJMU Performance Sport pages of our website.


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