last weekend i competed in my first powerlifting meet (and tied a state record bench and broke the state deadlift record, but that’s another post or another time). for those of you who are unfamiliar with how the sport works, there are three lifts – squat, bench, and deadlift, in that order – and you get three attempts at each. there are technical standards you have to meet with each lift, and you can compete raw (as i do, which means the only “equipment” you may use is a belt, knee wraps to squat, and wrist wraps to bench) or equipped (bench shirt, various other fancy suit-like things).
you also compete in weight classes.
the idea with weight classes is that it is to your benefit to be at the very top of yours. ie, i compete as a 56kg lifter. so when it comes time to weigh in, i want to be 55.9kg, not 53.5. which means that a lot of times you train at a higher weight than the weight at which you compete – in the weeks leading up to a meet you just cut out the extra weight.
now if you’ve been following along my little blogosphere, you may recall that i don’t own a scale. and i have not, in fact, owned one for several years. to be honest, one of the best parts about recovery was ditching the scale completely.
then my weight became something to be aware of, conscious of. i bought a scale, set it to kilos. i had to weigh 56kg or less on the day of my weigh-in in order to compete in the weight class we were aiming for.
the tuesday before weigh-in i weighed 58.5kg. i was panicking, texting my coach in a flurry. he kept telling me it would be fine. i was drinking tons of water (and peeing every ten minutes) to saturate my body with fluid; we readjusted my macros for the week so i was pushing tons of protein and keeping my carbs low. i watched my weight inch down. into the 57s i went. then on thursday night, i stopped drinking completely.
friday morning i woke up and was 56.1kg. i peed two more times that morning, drove to the venue after i taught my sophomores, and weighed in at 55.3kg.
the point of this isn’t to wow you with my ability to excrete fluid. it’s to make everybody step back and look at this objectively. i lost 3kg – that’s nearly 7lbs – in three days. i was eating six-egg omelets and what seemed like entire chickens every day. i was teaching and going to class and doing homework. i didn’t lose body fat – i lost fluid. that number – the number so many of us at one time or another get tied to, chained to – was nothing more than a gauge of how much i peed.
so yea, i lost about 5% of my body weight in less than half a week, and you know what? it doesn’t mean shit. i went home after i weighed in, drank a liter of pedialyte and some gatorade, ate waffles and eggs for lunch and had a whitefish sandwich for dinner, and weighed 58.5 kg the next morning as i got ready for the meet.
i’ll say it again: weight. is. bullshit.
the entire week was almost like passing through the looking glass to that mythological place where weight really is just a number. for the past few years it hasn’t even been that for me – if somebody were to ask me my weight, i would have given them a ballpark 15-pound range. i was that divorced from my weight. and that served me beautifully. but for that week leading up to the meet, i found myself at the center of an odd little experiment. my coach knew exactly what was going to happen, how the fluid would affect me, but i was in awe of the whole thing.
there was no attachment – this number didn’t mean anything. how could it, if it was so fickle as to be swayed so drastically simply by drinking a lot of water and cutting out pop-tarts for a few days?
i was the same person, the same athlete, the same perpetually awkward panda on friday, at 55.3kg, as i was 18 hours later on saturday morning at 58.5kg. the number didn’t change anything. because, as i’ve made clear, that number means nada.
i’m up to my eyeballs in a sport that i love. a sport that suits me, that is challenging and scary and exhilarating. a sport that celebrates strength and size, where somebody telling you that you have huge quads (which happened to me yesterday) is a day-making compliment.
i also happen to be competing in a sport with weight classes. and my first experience with “making weight” finally taught me what three dozen doctors and therapists spent a decade trying to get through my head: weight. is. bullshit.