Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Secrets of Bodyweight Manipulation, Part Five - J.M. Blakley

Christine Girard:
"I am the first woman from Canada to win an Olympic weightlifting medal and I grew up wondering if it was possible. Now, I have proved it is possible. So, I would say to any girl who wants to lift, IT IS POSSIBLE!"


A very common method of cutting weight is sweating. This is a natural process that is always occurring. The technique of sweating as referred to here means accelerating that process. The body responds to elevated temperature by sweating. Most methods of inducing sweating involve lots of heat. In an effort to cool down the body it is possible for the body to shed a remarkable amount of water. This depends on many involved factors but as long as the body has not been recently depeleted of plasma volume, the body will give water even in a very dehyrdrated state to lower the core temperature. Sweating is pretty much a sure-fire method.

Old school techniques regularly involve lots of exercise like running or rope jumping with "plastics" or vinyl clothing that seals off the air from the skin and stops the evaporation of sweat. With less evaporation, there is less cooling and the body sweats even more in a vain attempt to reduce the temperature. Under some extreme cases, I have heard of exercise in the sauna or steam room or even jumping around in a hot shower. In  these ways the core temperature is elevated by the exercise and the environment at the same time.

Sweating is an easy way to drop weight and will workeven if the body is very depleted already. That makes it somewhat easy to overdo. Many athletes will sweat too much and before they realize it, it's too late, they've gone too far. That is the real concern with sweating . . . it works well and too easily. It 's easy to overdo.

Methods of Sweating

The first is simply exercise. Any kind, any way. Flexing the muscles creates heat and the body seeks to lose it through evaporation. It sweats. The problem with exercise alone is that it is fatiguing. It can tire the athlete and affect performance. It is commonly used and all too often overused. There are more effective ways to elevate core temperature that aren't so exhausting. It is wise for the athlete to conserve energy for the competition.

Another way to induce sweating is by environmental heat. The sauna is ideal for this. The dry heat sauna encourages sweating by both temperature and low humidity. Several pounds can be shed in a relatively short period by simply sitting in a sauna. No matter how dehydrated the body is as long as the plasma volume was not very, very recently depleted, the sauna can almost always cut 3-5 pounds within a 30-40 minute window of repeated bouts of heating and cooling (breaks in which the athlete exits the sauna and returns). This has potential for abuse and many times I have seen an athlete keep poor tabs on their weight while in the sauna and lose several pounds more than they need to for no reason. They return for another bout of sweating yet they are already at the required weight! asteful!

There is also the phenomena of over-sweat. After exiting the sauna, core temp remains elevated for some time. If it is several hours before weigh-in the athlete can continue to lose water by imperceptible evaporation. This can be as little as 1/2 pound to 1 pound. It can vary greatly but is a common occurence. Some athletes are very surprised to find themselves needlessy underweight at the weigh-in. They usually attribute it to one of their weighing devices being miscalibrated (and this is certainly a possibility) and never consider the over-sweat. To avoid this some athletes will leave the sauna 1/4 to 1/2 a pound above target weight.

This brings up a point about the scales. First of all, never assume that all scales are evenly calibrated. Second of all, there is only one scale that matters . . . the official meet scale. No matter what the quality of that scale, it is going to count as the official weight, accurate or not. If it is at all possible, it is a good idea to access the official meet scale before assessing how many pounds must be lost. It is quite common to see a 2 pound discrrepancy, plus or minus, between scales. A serious competitor arms himself with knowledge. He may find to his delight that the official scale "weighs him light" and he must shed fewer pounds than he expected. He may also find that he must go a bit extra to make it. Whatever the outcome, he can prepare accordingly. He can adjust his protocol to the appropriate level. He will not be shocked to find that he is 1/2 pound over the class limit after having completed his program and weighing in on his home scale at a pound uncer. There is only one scale that matters.

I have access to several of the best digital scales made. They always weigh me within two-tenths of each other. That's three scales of high quality all consistent within less than 1/2 pound (that's 4 oz.)! I believe that's what I truly weigh. But I don't scratch my head and wonder when I arrive at a meet site and get a test weight on the official scale and it's got me 1-1/2 pounds heavier than I know that I am. That's normal. And sometimes the reverse is true and it's got me light. Either way I know just how much I've got to go to make it on that particular scale and I get to work with that adjusted goal. But coming in blind can cost a lot.

One of my trainees went to the Nationals and was certain he had dropped enough weight to make the 132 class the night before in the sauna. He was so certain of his success  that he did not bother to double check himself on the meet scale. He was wrong. He missed the class and lifted in the 148's. He placed third which did not qualify him for the World's. With the very same lift in the 132's he would have goth won the meet and been National champ and qualified for the World meet. He really lost on the night before the meet when he quit the sauna without checking for certain the meet scale for consistency with what he thought he weighed (honestly, he knew better, but just got lazy). He took for granted that the National meet scale would coincide with our high quality scale and it cost him the meet. He never checked it. He even lifted a personal best that day, but it would have all been different if he was diligent and responsible. He could have easily lost one more pound. A tough lesson.

The idea though is to sweat only the amount needed and not too much. For some reason that is not fully understood by me, the sauna and heat ends to coincide with muscular cramping at times. Too much heat can be draining and deeply fatiguing. Let alone the upset in electrolytes that can occur. Every athlete has a tolerance level above which the heat will begin to sap strength. Trial and error dictate just how much heat any athlete can take before performance is compromised. There are clear limits to sauna use. High blood pressure and heart conditions are no-gos.

Heat bouts last between 5 and 15 minutes alternated with cooling periods of increasing duration. For example, the first heat bout may be well tolerated to 15 minutes. The first cooling bout may only last 3-5 minutes. After the process goes on heat bouts get shorter and rest bouts get longer. The cooling should not exceed 10 minutes if possible or core temp will lower too much and if the next heat bout is only 5 minutes the first 3 will be spent re-raising the core and only 2 spent sweating. That is uncomfortable and inefficient.

Another way to expedite the process is to breathe deeply in sauna. The super-heated air goes inside the body and raises core temp much more quickly.

Liniments from horse-racing and the boxing  world are available (albolene) and inexpensive. Their effect is minimal.

Plastics and rubber suits are also worn in sauna. Even plastic garbage bags have been worn. Their affect is more pronounced out of sauna than in it. They are of little benefit in relation to the great heat in sauna. They contribute little extra.

Athletes sweating should be closely monitored. It's just too easy to overdo it. And athletes are prone to overdoing things by nature.

If sauna is not available there are options. The sweat bath is more aggressive but remarkably effective. A sweat bath is performed by filling a tub with the hottest water that is tolerable to the athlete without scalding him. The vents of the room are sealed and a towel is moistened and laid at the foot of the door. The smaller the bathroom the quicker it will heat up. The athlete submerges his lower body to the waist under the water for 3 minutes. Then he submerges the upper body to the neck and lifts the feet out propping them up at 90 degree angles against the wall to cool. This also for 3 minutes. The athlete alternates submerging the upper and lower body for no longer than 45 minutes. It is not uncommon to lose 5-7 pounds in one round of sweat bath. The body is sweating profusely but being in water already it is not noticed. Some add salts to the water to help create an osmotic pull. This probably has a small effect. The heat is the real driver and fresh super-heated water must be added at intervals.

The room takes on the appearance of a steam room but this steam has little affect. In fact, the steam room is a less effective way to lose water than either sweat bath or dry sauna. It gives the sensation of copious sweating but much of that is from the super-hydrated air and not from the body. It tricks one into thinking that they have sweat more than they have.

Sweat bath is a supercharged hot tub.

Hot tub or jacuzzi can be used in a pinch but are much less effective. They just aren't hot enough. But some results can be expected. Much more time must be spent and the longer the exposure to heat the more risk of sapping strength.

As a last resort, there's always the auto-sauna. If nothing else is tenable, one can bundle up in sweats or plastics and go for a drive with the car's heater on full blast. It works better in direct sunlight and in summer. It is crude, but it can give up to 2 pounds if there is no other option. It may take up to an hour or more though and is quite mundane and tedious. Barbaric, but a last chance option that's all natural. It can yield about a pound every 45-60 minutes.

Sweating -

 * Potential Loss: Up to 10 pounds.

 * Duration: From 30-60 minutes, sometimes longer butt the longer the duration the greater the risk.

 * Technique: Exposure to high temperatures with or without exercise. Sauna, Jacuzzi, sweat bath, or just a hot room or auto are options. Bouts of heat are alternated with bouts of cooling in most programs.

 * Plastics or liniments can be used.

 * Weight is constantly checked to avoid overshoot.

 * Effort Level: Moderate to high. Tolerance to heat is a key factor.

 * Risks -
To health: All associated dehydration risks. Also muscular cramping is an issue often. Those with heat intolerance and heart conditions must avoid. Fainting can occur. Supervision is a must. Headaches can occur.

To performance: All dehydration effects. Cramping. Sapping of strength due to long exposure to heat.

 * Upside: Always works.

 * Downside: Very easy to overdo and impair performance.


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