As part of the LW4x camp in January, we were trying to put together a quad to race at a few upcoming regattas. Our first stop? Australia in ...

Dropping Weight

As part of the LW4x camp in January, we were trying to put together a quad to race at a few upcoming regattas. Our first stop? Australia in the middle of March for the Sydney International Rowing Regatta.

Before travel and competitions details were finalized, we established weight goals.

Most lightweight rowers sit above their racing weight throughout the year. {I have some serious doubts as to whether this is the most effective way to train and race, which I'll address later.} The last weeks leading up to a regatta require weight loss, either minor or significant, in order for the crew to make weight.

In lightweight women's rowing, international regattas are generally subject to FISA weigh-in rules, which require a crew's average weight to be 57kg (125.5lbs) with no individual greater than 59kg (130lbs). {In the single, only maximum weight rules apply.}

This requires a lot of coordination. Lean muscle weight is a huge advantage in rowing; to be as fast as possible, we'd like our crew average weight to be exactly 57kg. There are a lot of ways to split this weight loss--one slightly heavier, all at weight, one slightly lighter, etc. During camp, we set our individual goal weights, and created a shared Google doc for tracking weight.

Our race-day goal weights will probably adjust depending on where we all get in the next few weeks, but for now, I am on target to have dropped 4 pounds in about 6 weeks.

After the fall speed order, where I had to drop approximately 6 pounds in 2 weeks and felt my performance suffer as a result, I decided to rethink how I managed my weight. Typically, lightweight women intend to train 5-8 pounds above their race weight; often, this ends up closer to 10-15 pounds above race weight.

I've had a lot of discussions about this strategy. I'd like to try something new. I know I feel like a totally different athlete at 155 pounds than 130 pounds. I know the same difference is there between 130 and 125 pounds, even if it's not as pronounced. I would like to train much closer to my racing weight (+/- 2 pounds, ideally).

A lot of proponents of dropping weight argue that maintaining racing weight is bad for training--increased injury and illness, decreased recovery, no sense of humor, etc. Personally, I feel these effects most when I am actively dropping weight, rather than maintaining (even at a smaller size). {See my post from yesterday--dropping weight definitely had an effect!}

I fully expect my weight to fluctuate some. Although my morning weight might average around 127 pounds, it will be higher some mornings and lower others. (Burrito night is almost a guarantee that I will be heavier for a day or two.) The goal is not to be hyper-controlling about weight, but to set myself  a new standard of normal.

This might not be the best strategy, but I will never know unless I try a few things. I've definitely tried weight-dropping enough to hope that it's not the best strategy. This year and next, I expect I will spend a lot of time establishing my own procedures for rowing lightweight. As I experiment, I hope to learn a lot about myself and my body.

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  1. Hi Michaela, I am researching ways for my 17-year-old daughter to safely lose 7 pounds in two weeks for an important regatta (the lightweight boat was just announced). I think all the information on your blog is very helpful, but I am concerned about her timeframe. She is vegan, but on Lexapro, which tends to keep about 20 pounds on her. Do you have any specific guidance? I'm not sure this type of weight loss this fast is safe, but she really wants to try. I would appreciate any advice you could offer. Thanks, Lisa

  2. Hi Lisa. Assuming your daughter is weighing herself in the morning on an empty stomach (weight fluctuates 3-4 pounds over the course of a day), there is no safe, healthy way to lose 7 pounds in two weeks. Honestly, I think it's pretty irresponsible of her coach to have assigned an athlete to a lightweight boat that has no way of safely making weight. My best advice would be to tell the coach directly that their choice was irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst so your daughter doesn't feel pressured into losing a scary amount of weight in the next two weeks. No race result is worth developing an unhealthy relationship with body weight.

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