The Anxiety Pee


The circumstances surrounding a lifter prior to competition unquestionably lead to nervousness, pressure and anxiety.  All of these factors cause a physiological need to urinate.  It’s a perfectly normal and natural phenomenon and the lifter has no recourse but to relieve the pressure.  So if this happens to you or your athlete (if you’re a coach), take care of the situation in the most expedient manner possible.  Don’t fight it or it will only get worse.


Many lifters dehydrate themselves in order to weigh-in under the bodyweight class limit in which they wish to compete.  In the sport of weightlifting, the weigh-in is conducted rightfully within a one hour span that begins two hours before the start of competition.  In order to rehydrate and to get that “full feeling” back, most lifters in this situation will drink a larger than average quantity of liquid.  This sudden re-filling coupled with the “pee reflex” will cause a sudden urge to relieve oneself. 


As an example, let’s say that your weigh-in starts at 12:00 PM.  You’ve cut back on your eating since the night before.  You’ve taken a super hot bath and you haven’t had anything to drink for several hours.  Everything goes right and you finish your weigh in at 12:15 PM or thereabouts.  You’ve brought the right kind of food for you and you’re eating so that you’ll have enough time to digest before you start your warm-up.  You’re also re-hydrating with some appropriate fluid.  Like many lifters you’ll be starting your warm-up around 1:45 PM and inevitably the need to pee presents itself right around the beginning of warm-up.  What to do?


Don’t panic.  This is perfectly normal and happens to just about every lifter at some point.  Panic will only compound the pressure and heighten the need to relieve.  One thing you or your coach should do beforehand is to ascertain the location of the nearest rest room.  When the urge hits, don’t spend time thinking about what to do.  Tell your coach and if your coach is experienced he or she will point you to the nearest rest room and tell you to take care of your urge.  Ideally you want to get this taken care of and get your mind back on lifting weights.


The coaches who get upset most easily by this are the compulsive ones, the ones with the spreadsheet with the time signatures for every warm-up lift carefully worked out.  The anxiety pee throws a monkey wrench into the planning and can often throw the coach off his/her game. Too bad.  There’s nothing you can do to avoid this except to


If you’re the lifter, once you are relieved you need to get back into competitor mode as fast as you can.  Start thinking about your lifts and how you should be moving your body.  If you’re the coach your job is get your mind back on track AND to make sure your athlete has not been rattled by the disruption.  Get back into warm-up mode and make whatever adjustments you have to make whether it be cutting out one lift or adjusting the weights to make up for the lost lift.  Keep in mind that we are mammals and that we are consistently maintaining a core temperature of 37°C and that all the other mammals have to sprint, escape, pounce, and combat with no warm-up. 


The occasion was the 56 kg class of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.  My athlete, Albert Hood, was the first American to mount the Olympic platform.  It was late in the warm-up for the snatch when the Anxiety Pee monster hit.  Albert had to pee and he only had a couple more warm-up lifts left to go.  Olympic coach Harvey Newton and I knew that the rest room was too far away for Albert to make it there and back in time.  What to do!

Fortunately the warm-up area was surrounded by curtained cubicles.  We entered one, found an abandoned drink cup and Albert was able to relieve himself in privacy. 

We had to immediately get our game faces back on.  Competitions don’t get any bigger than the Olympic Games. 

Albert, being the great competitor that he was, finished the snatches with a 112.5 lift for an American record and became the second American to snatch double bodyweight.  He also totaled 242.5 for a second American record and became the only American lifter to set two American records in the Games. 

This is about as behind-the-scenes as it gets.