In a number of sports athletes compete in weight categories. Most of these sports are martial arts, where it is considered unfair for a bigger (and heavier) athlete to fight a smaller (and lighter) athlete.
On one hand this system opens top-level competition to athletes that would otherwise be too small to compete, but on the other hand it means athletes face the issue of “cutting weight”. The advantage obviously goes to the heavier athlete, meaning it is beneficial to compete at the top end of each weight category. This leads to a situation where athletes who are significantly heavier than they compete at, will drop lots of weight the run up to an event. Cutting weight is done differently in each sport, but usually includes sweating large volumes the day before an event, often by simply exercising wearing lots of layers! While this practice is within the rules, it can be dangerous to the athletes if they are undertaking extreme weight loss, or simply be detrimental to performance because:
- If athletes are only armed with the knowledge of how much weight they must cut it is very tricky to judge exactly how much exercise, and at what temperature, is needed to achieve this. Because of they want to be on the safe side, athletes often lose more weight than necessary, which puts them at a performance disadvantage.
- In the build up to a competition, when athletes should be mentally preparing themselves they are instead focused on their weight. This is an unnecessary distraction that athletes just don’t want!
- If an athlete who hasn’t trained their sudomotor system tries to lose significant volumes of sweat they will suffer all the negative effects of dehydration, including; raised heart rate, reduction of blood volume, fatigue and impaired decision making.
This is where Kudu comes in to save the day.
With regular use of the Kudu we have been able to build up a “sweat profile” of our athletes, showing how that athletes sweat response acts. When this data is combined with weight loss during a training session, we can see how much exercise causes a given weight loss. This means that during the process of making weight, athletes can make informed decisions about how much exercise is needed to cut a certain amount of weight. It also removes the mental stress of worrying, and having to make decisions when they should be focused on the upcoming competition.
In the future this could be incorporated into the Kudu app. Athletes can log into their account and input the weight they need to cut, then exercise while wearing the Kudu and the app will notify them when they’ve sweated enough. This means that athletes can have significantly more detailed information during the cutting weight process.
So, let me tell you about how we’re working with a team of lightweight rowers and are planning to improve their weight cutting practice. The rules for lightweight rowing state that the maximun average weight for a female crew is 57kg (with no individual over 59kg), and the maximum average weight for male crews in 70kg (with no individual over 72.5kg).
The fact that any individual athlete can be up to 2.5kg over the average crew weight gives rowing a unique weight cutting element. Imagine a situation where every athlete in an 8 person crew weighs in at 70.5kg. They’d have to lose 4kg between them, but that weight loss can come from any of the rowers. By comparing each athlete’s sweat profile, which tells us how fast and strong their sweat response is, the Kudu team can advise how this 4kg should be cut. Rather than asking each rower to cut 0.5kg, which may be a considerable challenge for some of the athletes, we could take the 4 rowers with the strongest sweat response and tell them to cut 1kg each, which wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the 4 best sweaters.
By working as a team, with each member playing to their strengths, the crew are able to cut the weight, and perform at their best.