Ashleigh Hubbard started doing Crossfit two years ago and began competitive weightlifting not long after.
The 19-year-old Appomattox, Virginia native competed at USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships this past weekend, where she placed 9th overall. Now back in Lynchburg, Hubbard gave us an inside look at what a national competitive weightlifting meet looks like — from a killer pre-meet water cut to the mind games played amongst athletes.
How do you get the chance to compete at the national level?
So for national meets, there are qualifying totals for each weight class — a certain qualifying weight total that you have to meet. My total in previous meets (most of the meets I do are at Out of Step Crossfit in North Carolina, I just like doing meets there, and I've done the RVA Open in Richmond) qualified me for junior nationals.
How did you prepare for the meet?
Travis Mash does my programming, and then Jerrod Ruhl is here [at Crossfit Lynchburg] coaching me. They're both my coaches. I was on a 12-week program leading up to the meet (I had to cut it one week short, just because that's where junior nationals fell) and I used that to prepare for it. The program is called Squat Every Day, so I followed that protocol and squatted every day. I snatched and clean-and-jerked like 2-3 times per week, I think, and did presses and stuff like that. And of course I did Crossfit during the whole thing, too.
Talk about the weight-cutting you did before competing:
I cut to try and medal or make a world team, because the qualifying totals [for those goals] lower with the weight class. (Editor's note: basically, the lighter the athlete, the less weight they have to lift to qualify for a medal or world team — it's proportional.) I don't normally compete as a 58 [kilos, 127.8 pounds], but I would place better and had a chance at medaling and making a world team trying to lift the qualifying total for a 58 than a 63. I was like, "hey, why not." I just used flexible dieting to drop around three pounds, and then I planned to cut the last three in water... it was really brutal.
Cutting in water?
Yeah, oh my gosh, okay, so — Friday, I had no water. I had coffee, because it's a diuretic, so I figured if I don't have water but drink coffee, it will make me pee more. So I drank coffee that morning and took little sips throughout the day, but I didn't really drink anything past 2 p.m. I had no water, I ate hardly anything because I was scared to risk gaining any weight; so the last thing I ate was at 2 p.m., too. It was bad.
When I got home to the hotel it was like 8 p.m., I weighed 131.7 pounds, and I had to be about 129-ish when I went to bed because I had to weigh in the next morning at 127.8 pounds — 58 kilos — and you don't want to weigh in right on the dot. You want to weigh in a little under, to be safe. So basically, I took super hot baths with epsom salts just to sit and sweat; and then I would get out of the bath, dry off, lay down on the hotel bed and my dad would wrap me in towels and blankets and comforters. He even wrapped my head in a towel, not covering my face obviously, but so I could continue to sweat after my body temperature was hot. After the first bath, I lost .6 pounds, and I was also spitting — just putting jolly ranchers in my mouth so I would salivate and literally then spitting to lose extra weight. I did the bath four times (20 minutes, then 15, 15 and 10 minutes at a time). I almost passed out a couple of times, it was bad. *laughs*
I woke up the next morning at 128 pounds, so I needed to lose just .2 more to weigh in at 58 even. I didn't weigh in until 11:30 a.m., though, so I had time to spit some more and ended up weighing in at 57.81 — literally just under enough to make weight. It was close. It was so, so bad.
How did the competition go?
I didn't realize how much the cut the night before would take out of me. I felt fine, but once I started warming up I was like, wow, my muscles literally aren't working. *laughs* My form was there, my technique was there, but once you're dehydrated and stuff, it takes so long to recover and I only had two hours. It messes with you. My head game was all there, mentally I was like, "I'm not gonna miss anything." But once you start lifting and it feels heavy? You can't control that, it's over.
I made my snatch opener, which was 64 kilos [141.1 pounds]. It's a kilo less than I've opened with in the past, but I didn't want to make any big, insane jumps and chance bombing out. So I made 64 and moved up to 67, but my left elbow pressed out, so I got red-lighted on that one. I missed my third attempt.
On the clean and jerks, I missed my first attempt at 86 kilos [189.6 pounds] and then made it on the second, thankfully. It was heavy as crap. I was really scared I would bomb out, and then I missed the third attempt. I never miss cleans, but my legs were just dead after the cut, so I missed that clean when normally I can recover from a weirdly caught one.
So overall I went 2 for 6, which was horrible, but at least I didn't bomb out! And it wasn't a horrible total. My clean and jerk attempt would have been a bronze medal, but I missed it. My snatch was really low, like 13th overall, my clean and jerk was 5th, and then I placed 9th overall in my weight class. My goal going in was to be either first or second or third in the weight class, and what's crazy is that the four girls ahead of me all had the same total, which was two kilos more than mine. If I had been given my second snatch, I would have placed third, I think. That would have been podium. It just shows how close you can be. It's weird.
What's the schedule and atmosphere like during the competition?
For the different weight classes they have different sessions, and weigh-ins are always two hours before. So you go in two hours before your weight class's session, weigh in, then eat, drink — whatever you need to fuel up. They do a little intro ceremony, and you start warming up after that.
All the competitors are in the back in a warm-up area. Most people share a platform, because there aren't enough for all of us to have our own, so I was sharing with another girl that had similar weight attempts. We just kind of warmed up together, not necessarily taking the same attempts, but just swapping and sharing the platform. You have 10 minutes to warm up before they start the first attempt, which is always the lowest weight.
You get three attempts for each lift, and the competition progresses by kilos on the bar. Once they're at a weight, you can't go back; but you can change your attempt number as long as it's not going backwards. So in the back, as you're warming up, it can get super confusing, because there's a game people will play at national meets where they'll say they're attempting a lift and then they'll purposefully change it just so another athlete has to go in front of them. Say I thought I had one more warm-up attempt and I had time to do it because the athlete in front of me was about to lift — they can actually move up a kilo and force me to go out without even having done my last warm-up set. It messes you up. It's like a game.
It depends on who the athletes are in the back — there's brats and there's nice people — but usually you just want to have fun and don't get too serious. Like yeah, there's a chance you could win and be on a team or whatever, but at the end of the day, it's just a sport. You're all there for the same reason: to have fun. So I try to be friends with other athletes in the back.
How are you recovering?
I pounded some food on Saturday. Like, I ate a lot of food. My body was completely depleted of every nutrient possible Saturday morning, so my stomach was like a black hole. I ate everything. Sunday I didn't do anything but ROMWOD, and then I was in the car all day coming back. I feel fine, I'm just ready to get back into my routine and get stronger.
Advice for people considering competitive weightlifting?
Do a local meet! And don't do the water cut. You don't need the water cut. You don't want the water cut.