Cold Showers and Abstinence

Friday, 28 March 2014

During my nine-year dalliance with ultra running I often heard fellow athletes discussing their optimum race weight. They would argue that achieving anything but a physical comparison with Skeletor might cost them two minutes and 35 seconds in a 100 mile race. In fact it's a good thing that race registration at the West Highland Way is over in a matter of a few hours or some local Samaritan might establish a soup kitchen in Milngavie car park to feed the poor, malnourished souls that gather there one night every June.

To me, all this talk of limiting ones calorific intake in a running context was anathema because when I trained properly I could scoff like Vanessa Feltz at an eat-all-you-can Chinese buffet. Regardless of how much I ate I wouldn't put an ounce of weight on. In fact, it was all I could do to keep the escaped POW look at bay and Mrs Mac would say that after a long ultra the weight loss could be detected in my face. Indeed, there are a few photos of me knocking about with a race medal round my neck and Cruella De Ville cheekbones jutting from my skull.

As I write this I'm eating a bag of Sharwood's prawn crackers and a big plate of stir fry so you can get a feeling for my approach to 'optimum race weight,' and to be fair it's never been any different when discussing the pastime of quickly putting one foot in front of the other. This, however, is in sharp contrast to a sport I formerly competed in where optimum weight did indeed exist. In fact the weight requirements for that sport were cast in stone and Lord help you if you didn't make it. I remember attempting to boil down to 10 stone, which was the light-welterweight limit, and starving myself of food for two days and going without water for hours before the weigh in for a fight. Standing on those scales in nothing but a pair of pants, watching the metal block being moved along the arm of one of those old-fashioned, upright contraptions, and then being told to go and skip another half a pound off, was torturous. All that was on my mind was a pint of water and a big bag of chips. I made the ten stone limit that day, then went off and put three or four pounds on in a matter of minutes as I hoovered up whatever food was placed in front of me.

Anyway, these days I'm more concerned about Mason (dog)'s weight than my own. He's a healthy 25kg and self manages his calorific intake: if he's exercised regularly he'll wolf his food down; if he's injured and being rested he might pick at what's put in front of him. Plenty of muffin- topped Batterssa Belles could learn a lesson or two from him. But I've had occasion recently to concern myself with the weight of three other individuals. Addi, Mark and Omar, three young men from my boxing club are due to engage in their first contest of pugilism tomorrow night.

It was Monday that Mark, the young, 18 year old man shown on the right of the picture above, arrived at the gym an hour late.

'Sorry, coach I though we were starting at seven tonight, ' he said.

'No Mark,' I replied. 'It's always six in a Monday. Never mind, I can check weigh you for Saturday's bout, come over here and jump on these scales.'

So Mark wanders over to the set of bathroom scales that I keep in the gear cupboard and kicks his trainers off.

'Take that body warmer off, too,' I instruct him. 'That's gonna weigh a few pounds.'

Mark complies with my request and stands on the scales. The needle shoots round the dial and past the Chinagraphed arrow that indicates 76kg, the middleweight limit and target for Saturday.

'Fuck,' I think (because I clearly never use bad language in front of these young people). 'You're bloody 80kg!'

I look at Mark's face in an attempt to detect the evidence of an over amorous encounter with the biscuit tin. He still looks himself in that department, slim and healthy.

I look at his body in an attempt to detect the evidence of an overstayed welcome in the burger bar. Although he appears himself in this department too I notice an extra hood attached to his hoodie. Hang's not attached, it's under the one he's wearing.

'Mark, how many hoodies are you wearing?' I enquire.

'Two, Coach. It's cold out there you know,' he answers.

'Take them both off, you lemon,' I reply.

With the hoodies removed a sweatshirt sits atop Mark's torso with......yep, I'm not seeing things.....a man-bag strapped around his chest.

'Take your bag off too,' I say in an exasperated voice. 'And while you're at it take your tracksuit bottoms off.'

The man-bag gets laid down on the floor and the tracksuit bottoms come down to reveal....another pair of tracksuit bottoms underneath.

'Mark, I ain't trying to be funny, but you've either been on a shoplifting mission in Debenhams or you've been running naked through TK Maxx covered in glue.'

'Coach!' Mark pleads. 'I really feel the cold and I need my bag for my phone and keys.'

Eventually, a rather large pile of clothes topped by a faux Gucci man-bag sit by the set of scales and Mark climbs back on them to watch the needle sweep around the dial and settle nicely at 76kg. He's walking around at his fighting weight and can comfortably continue to eat and drink normally in the run up to Saturday. No starving or dehydrating for him even though he's wearing enough clobber to clothe a small family.

'Good lad,' I tell him. 'Keep doing what you're doing.'

There's an old adage in boxing that I don't believe exists in other sports and I've certainly never heard it in relation to running. I actually believe it to be a myth but it goes something like: 'In the run up to a fight, sex will make you weak so cold showers and abstinence are the order of the day.'

If I were to believe that to be true I've got no worries where Mark's concerned because if he were to find himself in an amorous encounter with his girlfriend by the time he'd stripped that little lot off she would have got fed up and gone to sleep.



Lee Maclean said...

Man bag. Oh good god xox

Pete said...

Sex makes you week is present in soccer as well. Wives and girlfriends are not permitted to travel with the players for big tournaments. However I don't beleive in this. Abstinence messes with your head a lot more.

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