By Coach Kenny Olmeda
This past weekend I competed in my sixth amateur strongman competition, NY-Strongest 5. After months of lifting things up and putting them down during training, it was time to prove my mettle in front of an audience. The only problem was I sabotaged any chance I had at performing well in the final ten days leading up to the competition.
In strongman, competitors will often cut their weight down to make a weight class for the benefit of lighter weights. After competing as a heavyweight novice for two shows, I had to choose an “Open” weight class. I decided middleweight 220lbs would be the best weight class for me because the weights in the 242 pound weight class would be too heavy for me. The only problem was I don’t “walk around” at 220lbs. I typically hover between 235 lbs and 240 lbs. The first time I cut down to 220 lbs was July 2017 and while difficult, I felt fine the day of the competition. That was not the case this past Saturday.
A horrible scenario that plays out for many lifters is that they step on the scale to see that they made weight, but then they turn around and have a piss poor performance when it’s time to compete. This is exactly what happened to me. It takes a toll on you physically to drop 4-5% of your bodyweight. However, I didnt drop 5% of my bodyweight. I dropped 10% of my bodyweight in just 10 days. I tried almost everything to cut weight. I started by cutting my caloric intake to about 1,400 a day. This was drastically low as at the peak of my training I was consuming nearly 4,000 calories a day based on my activity level. I also began drinking a lot of water about five days before weigh-ins. This was in an attempt to help me shed as much water weight as possible. Then, 24 hours before weighing-in I cut off all food and water.
I needed my stomach to be as empty as possible when I stepped on the scale. That night I started the “cut” process. I took 20 minute HOT baths that would make me sweat. These were NOT relaxing baths. After 20 minutes, I would get out, dry myself off and weigh myself. I was losing about ½ lb every 20 minutes. Awesome right? Wrong because I was miserable sitting in a tub full of near boiling water. I decided to take drastic measures and found a sauna for the final 5 lbs. Yes, I was 225 lbs three hours before I was supposed to weigh-in. I sat in the sauna for three miserable hours. My lips began to crack and my tongue dried out. After three hours of torture I decided it was time to weigh-in. I was winded simply walking to my car. My legs felt like concrete blocks and I slowly began to realize the damage I had done to my body. I finally weighed in and made weight at 220 lbs. I was so happy I could finally drink and eat. However, the damage had been done.
When I got home, my legs started cramping immediately. I spent the entire evening fighting off cramps in my quads, hamstrings and groin muscles. I knew I had thrown any chance at doing well out the window. The next morning, I got out of bed and my legs felt weak. I kept it to myself and decided I would do whatever my body allowed me to do in the competition. Turned out it wasn’t much. I quickly realized it was going to be a long day if I only focused on how poor my performance was going to be. Instead, I focused on having fun. I chatted with some of the amazing athletes in my weight class and laughed with my friends and family who had come out to support me. It was the best decision I had made in almost two weeks. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
I’ve decided to challenge myself to lose weight slowly over time while getting stronger. I challenge you to join me in putting your ego at bay and do what is going to make you the better athlete without jeopardizing your health. Extreme weight loss is not healthy. Starving yourself or cutting weight drastically is not the solution. Find a nutritional plan that works for YOU and will help you achieve your goals. On top of the performance benefit, you’ll also be healthier, which is the most important thing.