This past week, most of the best weightlifters across New South Wales came together to contest the NSW State Championships. This competition was important for a couple of reasons – it established who the best club and best lifters in the state. Generally speaking, for an important competition like this you’d want to spend at least 4-6 weeks preparing. However, the Australian International was only 3 weeks earlier. This presented a challenging scenario for me on three fronts; training preparation, bodyweight and psychological fatigue.
So in this week’s post, I describe my thoughts and challenges during the 3-week lead up to the NSW State Championships and how I managed to get through it.
Two days after returning from Melbourne for the Australian International, I was back in the training room. Physically I was feeling sluggish, which is fairly common for me after a competition. After maximal attempts, your central nervous system is fatigued and you are not as capable of ‘firing’ as well as before. I knew it was important that I keep training as I had another competition in three weeks, but I still needed to allow time for my central nervous system to recover. To balance these two demands, I had a conversation with my coach (communicate, communicate, communicate!). We decided it was best to keep a moderate amount of volume and drop the intensity for this week. On my end, I also paid particular attention to how much sleep I was getting – 7-7.5 hours at the very least.
My bodyweight was sitting at roughly 63-64kg at this point. To cut down to 62kg for the Australian International, I had dropped 4kg over 4 weeks. It actually didn’t have to be so hard to be honest, but I went a little crazy on beer leading up to it so that packed on an extra kilo I didn’t need. I actually think the beer helped me recover even better between sessions but that’s another story. I knew I had to be mindful of my diet as I would have to cut again in 2 weeks. Unfortunately, temptation got to me and I did divulge on larger meal sizes, which didn’t help later on.
Mentally I was very driven. I knew I needed to perform well at this competition to add gravity to my bid for selection in the Australian Commonwealth Games team. Not once did I think about pulling out or giving up. I just focused on what I needed to do.
Physically, I felt back to normal. Weights moved quicker, I felt ‘snappy’ again. Sleep wise was good – I woke up feeling fresh most days and this would last well into the night. Programming wise I was back up to doing high intensity with moderate volume work. Physically, I felt well prepared… that is until the weekend when I woke up feeling sick. Just a ‘common cold’ kind of sick. If you’ve ever trained before you’d know that a cold could set you back a week, sometimes even more. I started pumping back vitamin C tablets (like 6 a day). It was even more important now that I slept at least 7.5 hours a night, so I did that. To make sure I didn’t make myself worse, I skipped two training sessions that week to take a nap.
My bodyweight in week 2 was 65-66kg. I had gone a little trigger happy with food in week 1 and now I was back where I started before the Australian International, except instead of having 4 weeks to cut down, I only had 2 left. Funny though, I never really stress about my weight because I’ve never had an issue saying no to food when I need to (a bit of a paradox I know, even though I should’ve said no to too much food the week before). Although I knew I was coming in heavy, I knew I couldn’t cut back on food just yet. During times of infection/sickness, your body needs more energy to fight the problem. So I kept eating the same, but not excessively.
Mentally I was fine. I was annoyed that I started feeling sick but hey, shit happens. It also helps psychologically when your training environment is filled with mentally strong, capable individuals. I am lucky enough to train with remarkable people at Burwood Weightlifting Club and Adonis Athletics. When you train with people who are just as determined and driven as you, you can’t mentally break.
Max out week. In this week I attempted the heaviest I could. My body was not feeling ideal. I was still feeling sick. Every morning my eyes would open and the headache would start. I felt lethargic at work and exhausted by the time I got home. At training, I struggled to snatch 90kg (11kg under my best) and jerk 110 (12kg under my best). I trained twice this week instead of the usual four. In other words, preparation was well below ideal. On my best training session before comp (4 days before), by some miracle I managed to hit my starting weights 96 snatch and 116 clean and jerk at training. I still felt shitty though.
Bodyweight was 65kg at the beginning of the week. In 6 days I needed to be 62kg. I cut out carbs by 50% every day, and saved the majority of what I had for the meal before training sessions. I also began waterloading. In 3 days I was waking up at about 63.8kg without cutting water. It sucked, but it had to be done. The day before comp I had stopped drinking 16 hours before. 12 hours before weigh in I was 63.3kg, dry (ie. I’m all pissed out). Luckily, my weigh in was first thing in the morning (6am, smh). So at 7pm the night before I went to a sauna. This was the only time during the lead up that I felt my mental toughness had to be tested.
Mentally, there were two things on my mind. Number one, my max attempts this week were terrible. Number two, I needed to lose roughly 1kg in water weight! I will try to describe what went through my mind for each issue.
Number one: I trained bad. In the past, I would’ve let this worry me. But it didn’t. Why? Because I’ve learnt to accept that shit happens, you just have to take the steps to manage them the best way you can. I became ill – sure that’s bad, but I took the vit C, I cut down the training, and I increased my sleep. I managed the best I could. I could hit nowhere near my best numbers, but that’s okay because I’ll just open lower on competition day and do what I can. There was no changing the past, so I could only concentrate on the present.
Number two: lose weight. As I’m sitting in the sauna, I’m thinking ‘you know what, this isn’t so bad. I bet I’ll be out of here within the hour.’ I started at 63.4kg. Round 1 and 10 minutes later I was 63.2kg. I had to get down to roughly 62.3-4kg because I knew I roughly lose 500g over night. Round 2 – 10 minutes in and I can feel my heart rate starting to increase. I can feel the pounding of my heart beat in my ears. That’s okay I thought, it’s all part of the process. 63.0kg. Round 3 – I’m checking my watch frequently and no matter how long I leave it, only thirty seconds would pass. 10 minutes later – 62.8kg. As I’m walking back to the sauna I can feel a bit of light headedness. I didn’t want to go back in there. Round 4, I’m starting to cave. I can hear my own voice telling me to leave (like that evil Kermit on Facebook). ‘Fuck it, just get out.’ ‘You’ll lose it overnight.’ ‘Just make sure you spit in the morning.’ 10 minutes later – 62.6kg. I remember walking up to the scale and I couldn’t feel my legs. The lights were a lot brighter than they were when the night began. I had 200g to go but I was thirsty, dizzy, tired and frankly just ready to sleep. Evil Kermit was louder than ever: ‘just go home… you can risk it tomorrow.’ I sat on a bench just outside the sauna and took a few deep breaths – it just had to be done. 10 minutes later I was 62.4 and out of there faster than kids chasing the ice cream van. 2 hours later, I had lost 1kg of water weight and gained a lot of willpower.
I ended up weighing in at 61.46kg, which was far lower than my target of 61.9kg. My snatch attempts were 96/101x/102x and 116/122x/127. I ended up with a 5kg clean and jerk PR. My point is this – you won’t always have ideal lead up to competition. I can count only one or two competitions where conditions were ideal throughout. Challenges WILL appear. All you can do is make the best out of the situation and follow through with your training. You never know, you might still surprise yourself. I know I did!