Competition Countdown: 48 Hours to the British Master’s Championships

So. Sunday is the British Master’s Championships. Last night I ticked off the final workout on my taper programme, which went all right. A number of amazing friends from SCCF are coming to watch me compete, and Dave thinks I’m going to smash it– or so I’ve heard from several of those amazing friends who have come up to me and told me “Dave thinks you’re going to smash it!” He’s very direct, is Dave.

(He’s also getting up hideously early on a Sunday to help me make a seven A.M. weigh-in, which he wouldn’t do if he didn’t think it was worth his time. As they say back home, he’s a total mensch. Possibly even a cover model for Mensch Monthly. Please don’t hurt me.)

Okay, but what about this “taper”?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of tapering, it basically involves a build-up period where you complete a high volume of work at high intensity, followed by a cut to lower volume in the last several days before a competition. The idea is to stress the system and then give it time to recover before the day of performance.

Distance runners will be familiar with this– most novice marathon programs you find are sixteen to eighteen weeks long with a “peak week” about three weeks out from the race.


I first became acquainted with tapering while I was swimming in high school. Our training weeks generally involved seven workouts (five swims, two drylands), except during November and December, when we would build to ten (eight swims, including twice daily M/W/F, and one dryland).

The taper would peak on the morning of New Year’s Eve, when we would swim 11,000-15,000 meters. This included a mix of sprint work, drills, and just endless pulling and kicking and flipping and turning. Shortly after noon we would all emerge blinking into the open air.

Then we’d descend on the nearest Chinese buffet and eat everything except the giant good luck cat on the takeaway counter.

Lucky. Lucky it didn’t get eaten.

But enough nostalgia.

The weightlifting taper is less dramatic than this, but it results in a similar phenomenon: jumpiness. Basically, the work you do during the intense buildup primes your system to expect lots of stress. When you abruptly back off on that stress, your body is still rarin’ to go, and should be set to turn in a peak performance on the day of your event.

But before the event, you are fidgety and restless and even (in my case, today) irritable as fuck. Seriously. Even the slightest provocation turns me into Cersei Lannister.

i choose violence
The hype, it is real


I have two jobs between now and Sunday morning which I’m trying to focus on. One is to bank this excess energy as much as possible, which I’ve been doing with easy runs and yoga and some prescribed shoulder and spine mobility work (GEMMA).

The other one is less fun. Guess guess guess what it is?

Making weight!

(Note: we’ll do a complete post on this at some point soon.) Obviously the best way to make weight is to just lay off the cake and beer and stay within a few pounds of your category weight. But most weightlifters train heavier than they compete. I tend to weigh about 77-79kg lately (last year at this time it was more like 88-90 kg!), and need to be under 75kg Sunday morning.

Last Sunday, I weighed just under 79. During the week I cut back carbs (except for about 75g split evenly around my workouts), all added sugar, and most added salt. This morning I weighed just under 77kg. However, if I went to my scales right now, I guarantee I would weigh 80 or 81. Why?

Water loading. For the past several days I have been necking roughly 10-12 litres of water daily. Tomorrow I will abruptly stop this process, and my poor body, which has been frantically bailing out the excess water by adjusting its water-retaining hormones, will carry on excreting it for many hours afterwards. This should account for most of that 2kg by itself. The rest I will lose with painfully hot Epsom salt baths. On Sunday morning I should wake up at about 74-74.5 kg in pants.

Pants which I have carefully weighed to ensure they give me as low a weight as possible.

After that I should be ready to rip it. Wish me luck.




  1. […] The first time I became particularly aware of the ins and outs of Olympic lifting was after watching Going for Gold prior to the 2012 Olympics, and subsequently became hooked watching the weightlifting sessions on TV.  So when I saw Dave was running beginners’ Olympic lifting in 2013, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn. I completed the course, but naturally am still very much learning over 2 years on! I’m miles off from being ready to compete, but is definitely something I would consider in future, perhaps in a special category for older lifters who are a bit banged up 😉 [Editor’s note: I resemble that remark!] […]


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