The Fork in the Road: Controversy of Lightweight vs Heavyweight in Rowing

The Fork in the Road: Controversy of Lightweight vs Heavyweight in Rowing

Posted by Sarah Perkins on Nov 20, 2014 in #Ambassador Blogs.


Lightweight Women’s Single: 59kg

Lightweight Women’s Crew: 57kg crew average, with no athlete over 59kg

Lightweight Women’s Erg: 61.5kg

Olympic Boat Category: LW2X (Lightweight Women’s Double Scull)

In this blog I’ll aim to give non-rowers a general understanding of the two weight divisions in women’s rowing and look into the early season thoughts of an athlete brushing the line between heavyweight and lightweight. And for my fellow rowers, hopefully this might help you if you are in a similar position or if you are curious about the extremes I go to and my thoughts behind them.

Sitting down for a coffee after today’s morning row, the discussion interestingly, turned to food, diets (including Veganism) and I was asked specifically if I still follow the Paleo Diet, to which I kind of screwed up my face in thought…I don’t feel I am Paleo, Vegan or Vegetarian…I like to call my way simply, ‘clean eating’…fresh vegetables, fruit, some dried fruit, some eggs, a piece of white fish per week, nuts, seeds, a scoop of Hydrolysed Whey Isolate per day among other Bulk Nutrients supplements etc

An interesting comment then followed about how ‘clear’ my eyes were. This is not something I’ve ever noticed, but upon further comparison to others, I’m inclined to agree, they are very clear. It’s another example that I’m on a healthy road and my body is happy. Now we come to the controversial fork in the road…

Over the past couple of weeks I had thought the first official weigh-in for the pre-season was the upcoming Time Trial on the 22nd of November. Normally the time trial requires lightweight women to be 60.4kg (57kg+6%). To have weigh-in requirements this light so early in the season makes it very difficult for taller and naturally larger athletes like myself. It was something of a relief to hear from the selectors that the first official weigh-in actually does not take place until the NSW State Titles in February, where this season all lightweight women are required to be at 57kg.

I’ve dropped roughly 7kgs naturally over roughly 3 months…I’m sitting between 65kg and 66kg base weight…my DXA scan last week showed I am 65.3kg at 19.8% body fat and still dropping fat comfortably. I have also set a couple of new personal bests on the water and the erg in training.

I now have a choice, and while it seems I have a couple of months up my sleeve to see how I go against the heavyweights in December, if I want to row at 57kg in February, the real work to make that weight starts now. My goal is to get down to 15-17% and stabilise in the low 60s. For someone with height and muscle mass, sweat running (among other means) to drop the last few kilos is unavoidable and, as I found in the 2011, the most difficult part of this division for me.

It’s no secret that dropping this kind of weight through restriction and other rough methods can lead to the body shutting down mentally and physically; especially staying at this weight for prolonged periods of time.

And so the obvious question people ask…why would you do this? Why would you risk hindering your performance…why not just go heavyweight…why not eat whatever you want?

A few reasons…

Last season, 2013-2014, there were two girls I wanted to row a double with above all others. One is a heavyweight and due to her excellent performance last season with another athlete, I have very little chance of being selected in a boat with her…while I have had some success as a HW in the past, as the third year in the Olympic cycle looms, the speed of athletes rises…I have accepted that I am average in that division, I have the possibility of scraping into the HW Women’s quad because I tend to row crew boats better than my single in HW, however, even then it’s a long shot…I don’t have the big erg scores (rowing machine) of these girls either.

The other girl, whom I really want to row with (I’ve wanted to since 2011), happens to be a lightweight, and so, some of this decision process revolves around wanting to row a LW double with her.

The main reason is that I believe I would be above average in this division, I actually think I have a chance of getting close to some of the erg records as a LW…not to mention strong performances on the water. The real obstacle is the weight management and this time I’m gathering as much support as I can; professional, friend and family.

What would you do? What lengths would you go to give yourself the best shot at making an Olympic squad? And even further, being in a crew with a real chance at a podium finish…It’s an interesting and controversial decision…

Next blog will track my progress through the November Time Trial and the December 5k erg test.

Sarah Perkins

Favourite food this week: Purple Cauliflower

Favourite training song this week: Impossible – Manafest

Bulk Nutrients Product I recommend: N03X Watermelon (new flavour, can’t wait!!)

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