Making Weighty Decisions
Full disclosure: I’m a lousy decision maker. If you ask me where I want to eat, I’m going to say “you pick” at least 5893084 times before you get so annoyed that you just chose somewhere. I’m highly analytical and will think through a decision for hours/weeks/months before I actually decide to DO anything. My need for analysis/data is a double-edged sword: it can get paralyzing if I let it (aka I over-think/freak myself out into oblivion) BUT it also allows me to look at things from a more objective standpoint. All of this to say - me and decisions aren’t exactly BFFs. So, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make lately. One of which being - what am I doing with this whole Strong(wo)man athlete thing. And what I mean by that - how far am I going to take this? I made the decision a few months ago that my end goal would be to go to Nationals. Not just qualify, but actually GO there. The process for doing that involves either placing or winning in an open division weight class (depends on the contest level), which is much easier said than done. That involves beating a decent amount of people to qualify and then getting strong enough to actually BE competitive at Nationals. Getting there obviously requires a lot of hard work, training, etc. but there has also been another consideration that, I’m sure, I’m not the only person to struggle with.
And that consideration is weight class.
Now, I’ve never had to cut weight or worry about where I am in my weight class, so this whole thing is a bit new to me. I compete as a middleweight (140.5-180.5) and the weight class has changed from being 140.5-165 to the upper limit being 180. The changes make the classes MUCH more fair buuuut it also puts me at a disadvantage since I weigh in right in the middle of that range. It also means that I usually compete with girls who are taller than I am, which isn’t such a big deal, until you get to events like stones where height becomes a definite advantage. And to be quite honest, my strength as a middleweight open competitor is not where it needs to be. So, I could go a few ways: either gain 15-20# pounds to be compete and move to high end of my weight class OR I could lose 15-20# and move down to the lightweight class. And of course, I could focus on just continuing to get stronger at my current weight. I’m going to have a fairly long off-season where I won’t be competing but I will be training and getting ready for the next season - any changes I’m going to make to my weight class standing would occur during this time. That time is coming up, so at this point I need to make a decision about what I’m going to do.
Now, I’m 5’5 on a really good day - gaining 15-20# isn’t exactly realistic for me, nor is it something I could healthfully. Getting stronger at my current weight is always an option. Losing 15-20# is something I could do without sacrificing much strength long term (and in fact, continuing to get stronger) and I have enough body fat that losing that amount of weight wouldn’t put me an unhealthy position.
All of the options are there, but really, the question is: at what level do I want to be competitive? Do I want to keep this sport as something that is a hobby, recreation, and try and get recreationally and potentially regionally competitive? Or do I want to be nationally competitive?
The answer, for me, is that I want to be nationally competitive. And that means attempting to move down a weight class. That also means asking a lot of questions like:
1.) Is it realistic for me to get to a lower weight class in a way that will: a. not make me lose my mind, b. ensure that I am healthy, c. allow to me to continue to get stronger in the long run?
1.2) Am I at a place, mentally, where changing my weight will impact me negatively? Or am I able to look at my weight as a data point and a number?
2.) What are the benefits of switching classes? Are they in line with my goals as an athlete?
3.) Am I confident in my ability to switch classes?
4.) Am I confident in my coach's ability to help me do that?
5.) Does this work with my life/lifestyle?
What’s interesting to me, is that during this consideration, aesthetics really didn’t come into play for me. Of course, losing some body fat = moar aestheticz and frankly, I wouldn’t mind it. But it’s not my main motivation. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good - that’s an admirable goal within itself. At this point though, my decision to move down a weight class is based purely off of performance and competitive potential. If, at any time during this entire process I find myself getting crazy, not feeling good, or letting my weight impact me negatively in any way - it stops. Done.
What exactly will this plan look like? I’m not sure yet. I compete in a little under 3 weeks so I’m not making any changes at this point - the only thing I am doing differently is being sure to track my food intake. If I want to move down a class, I need to know what my daily intake looks like to be sure that I am able to eat enough and still put myself in a small caloric deficit in order to lose weight. Again, this is something that is going to happen pretty slowly to ensure that I preserve (and have the ability to gain) as much strength as possible. I think that if you aren’t at the point where your weight is just another piece of data, then a weight cut probably isn’t the best decision. I know that I would NOT have been able to do it or even consider doing that a few years ago. At the end of the day, I don’t really CARE what the scale says - I treat my weight as nothing more than a data point that’s necessary for me to know from time to time because I compete in a sport divided by weight classes. Again, my main concern throughout this process will be staying in a good place mentally AND physically. Trying to move down a weight class isn’t going to do me much good if I’m losing my mind and pissed off the entire time. It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.
Questions? Thoughts? Etc.?