How to Break an American Record

Let's go back to Sept 2012, when I first moved to the Olympic Training Center. At this time I was 21 years old, still a 53, and cutting from 56-57. I was still new in the sport. I had no idea how to manage my weight, and honestly didn't feel the need. It took two weeks of weigh ins for Zygmunt to finally tell me it's time to move up to the 58s. So I did, and very quickly. My perception of how to do this was eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. For those who personally know me, they know that I was a champ at eating. My diet consisted of McDonald's chicken nuggets, pizza, and Sweet Tea. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm pretty positive I'm going to live to be at least 115 years old due to all of the preservatives I have consumed. At the same time, I still had no clue what I was really doing. At that time I was basically invincible. I did this for a good three years into my career at the Training Center.

In 2013 USAW forced me to be roommates with Morghan King at the 2013 World Champion in Poland. (That's a joke, she actually forced me to be her roommate.) So here I was, rooming with this 28 year old hippy. Her travel food was all organic gluten free nonsense. My travel food was goldfish and Oreos mixed in with a few candy bars. Her eating habits baffled me, but now looking back, mine definitely baffled her. She would offer me her gluten free bar and I disgustedly would turn them down. In 2014 she moved to the Training Center where we ate almost every meal together. I was eating mashed potato sandwiches, and she was eating a beet and kale salad with some kind of hippy toppings. She constantly made fun of me, and I of her.

In 2015 I was now 24, developing headaches and felt like complete garbage all the time. I felt like my body would never recover. Finally, I decided to listen to King and try some sort of a diet plan. This is where Nick comes into play. I did RP for about two months. It was a night and day difference on how I felt, and how my training was going. I was at that point snatching over the American Record as a 58, and creeping up on the Clean and Jerk record. I was winning at the lifting game. Then I got hurt. I herniated two discs in my back, which ended up putting me out for almost the entire year. With these injuries my bad eating habits crept back up. It also didn't help that I have a boyfriend who can eat ice cream like it's his job, and still maintain his godly figure. Two weeks after my back had finally healed up, I hurt it again. And again, and again. I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on. I changed my technique in every lift, I did all of my strength exercises. At this point I was done. Physically and mentally.

During these injuries I had a lot of extra time due to not being on a regular training schedule. In this time I started my singlet company, The SnortLife Singlets. For two months I did nothing but work and stress over this company. I basically stopped eating...had zero appetite, and when I did it was always for a burger or pizza. I introduced my company at the 2015 American Open where I was just coming off of another injury, my motivation for training completely gone. I didn't decide until the day of comp that I was going to compete. I weighed in at 56kg flat, and that was with eating a big breakfast. I went in making 2 lifts, and giving zero shits that I had placed like 7th. I didn't care, I was done. I wanted to retire, but I just couldn't quite let go yet. I went home for Christmas break.  With home being Alabama, fried food is a staple. I ate and ate and ate, and still sat at 56kg.

Here we were in Jan of 2016, weighing in at 56 every morning. I had nothing left in me, and everyone could see it. I felt like my coach had given up on me, and that I was starting to bring those who were close to me down with my negativity towards the sport. One day Zygmunt had brought up the idea to me of dropping down to the 53s, something we had discussed when I first moved to the Training Center, but jokingly pushed the idea away. That day we ran numbers see what I would need as a 53 and a 58 to make not only the Olympic Team, but other international teams as well. Because of my injuries, I had lost a year of training. We decided to take the route of a 53. At that moment I realized that he still believed in me, and the next day I started my cut with Nick.

This was mid Jan when we decided this, and I had a meet Feb 14 to try and qualify as a 53 for Olympic Trials. We were in Iceland for a week, where the food was not helping me at all. I love cheese and bread, and so did Iceland. When we got back I had two weeks to cut. TWO WEEKS. I had to buckle down and trust that Nick knew what he was doing. He got me to 52.9 day of the meet, where I went 6/6 hitting 82/100. The next few weeks I started my real training for Olympic Trials. I started hitting numbers that I haven't hit in a long time. My confidence was finally back. That boss ass bitch that was killing it is a 58, was now back as 53. The biggest thing that changed was my thought process. My can-not’s became can’s, and my can’s became I will’s!

cortney 53kg

I made sure that my body weight never reached over 55, and if it did it was after a cheat meal. The first few weeks after my first cut, I couldn't eat anything that was slightly unhealthy. It made me so sick. Eventually I got over that and would have a cheat meal every weekend. Colin's and my cheats are pretty elaborate. We were having 2+ burgers along with ice cream mixers. For some reason I always ended up with a large, but I didn't want to embarrass the cashier because she got my order wrong, so I just ate it. All of it. It never failed that after every cheat, my body basically went into shock. I would get the shakes and drink what felt like two gallons of water just to bring me back to Earth. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The cheat meals kept me sane.

Coming from the south I was taught to cook with butter and milk, heavily. So I was lost for a while on the diet. King was on the diet as well. She would use her crazy hippy magic to create these elaborate meals that fit exactly in with the template. Me, I ate the same thing almost every meal, subbing out different meats once I had had enough. I quickly learned that as an athlete you cannot eat just for the fun of eating. Everything you ate affects your body in some way. The diet allows you to be creative with things, I just haven't figured it out yet. As I started to figure out what I could and could not have, and what I could have but only at certain times, I started to become accepting of the diet. I would justify different foods at times. If I didn't drink all of my carbs during my workout, then it was ok to eat this chocolate covered pretzel. I mean come on, it was at most 10 carbs. If no one saw me eat this Oreo, then it didn't count, it was a free snack. I played by the rules 95% of the time on the diet.  Every time I stepped on the scale, my thoughts were always "man, Nick really does know what he is doing." Keep in mind I did not meet Nick until after Olympic Trials, but we secretly became best friends though this. I truly believe that you have to trust both Nick and the diet to fully achieve the results you want. A month out Nick wanted no cheats. I Repeat, NO CHEATS. I had felt like my middle school boyfriend had just broken up with me. Fine, a week goes by with no cheat. The next week I start to bargain with him. "If I CJ over 105 today can I please have just ice cream?!!" Deal. Another week I had totaled 197, which is the total that I needed to jump in front of Mattie Rogers current total. I came up with a whole explanation for that meal. " I weighed 53.9 on Monday and weighed 54.3 this morning and just totaled what I need to beat Mattie, I deserve that burger, and some Ice Cream!" Again, deal.

So now we were a month out from Olympic Trials. I was in the most important training of my career so far. The last month I sat at 54.3-54.5. Nothing more. My numbers were still going up. The biggest thing that blew me away with this diet is the amount of strength that I not only maintained, but also gained. My main concern was losing my leg strength. I knew I had a big leg reserve, but in no way expected to hit as heavy of numbers that I did. At the end of the Cycle, I had Snatched 89, attempting 90 four times. I had CJ 108, attempting 110 three times. I front squatted 135, and Back squatted 150. I had never felt better both physically and mentally. Perfect timing coming into Trials.

One week of from Trials I was 53.7. Two days later I was 54.3, so we had to cut my carbs, and I had a no carb day on rest days. I would have rather done all no carb days than cut my carbs. It's just a tease and it's the worst. Our weigh ins were Sunday afternoon at 4:30. I wanted to make sure that I woke up at weight, and was still able to eat before I weighed in. Nick made sure that happened. I had a full lunch and weighed in the lightest I have ever been in my lifting career, at a tiny 52.6. Now in the past my post weigh in meal has always been either French toast or a salami and prosciutto sandwich with little baby bell cheese. This time it was a turkey and avocado sandwich on wheat bread, everything measured out to my prescribed amount. Ok, so maybe I had a snickers and goldfish with it, but for the main meal, it made no sense to me to have dieted for 5 months to make weight, and then have an unhealthy meal right before the biggest competition of my career.

Now as you're reading this, I know the thought has run through your mind, "but she bombed out." You're damn right I did, but I left everything on that stage. My goal was not to win a National Championship or make Pan Ams, but to make the Olympic Team. I have had the numbers and jumps in my head for 5 months that I knew I needed to take in order to make the Olympic Team. I also knew that they would be lifetime PRs, American Records across the board, and I knew it was a long shot, but it wasn't impossible, and that is the chance you take when it comes to making the Olympic Team. I opened with an American Record snatch, after missing my last warm up in the back. I opened extremely heavy in the CJ, but it was not a number that I was uncomfortable with. It was a number that I have hit numerous times in practice. Looking back, should I have lowered my opener? No. I did not back down from the plan that I had set...granted, all I needed was a total for Pan Ams and a stipend, but that opportunity comes every year, the Olympic team comes once every four years, and that's the only thing I cared about.

cortney 53kg 2

(Cortney receiving her gold medal for her 86kg snatch that broke the American Record. She's also pictured here with 2008 Olympian and RP diet client Melanie Roach).

So, to those of you who are thinking of dropping a weight class to be more competitive, this is my advice. You can do it, but get your mind right. I personally do not let my athletes cut down unless it gives them a better shot at making teams or medaling at National meets. Dropping a weight class and succeeding at that weight class takes a special kind of mindset. One great example of a lifter that comes to mind is Travis Cooper (went from 90kg to 77kg with the help of RP in 2014 and has become a 2x defending National Champion in the 77kg weight class). He would have done well at the higher weight class that he was once in, but he took on the challenge of dropping a weight class, in order to give them the best shot at making the Olympic Team, and look where he is today. I went so far out of my comfort zone, I had turned into that hippy that I made fun of King for being. I was that chick at the grocery store reading all the nutrition facts. I got way to excited about sales at Whole Foods and Sprouts, two stores that I swore up and down that  I would never go in. The old me, I was slowly killing myself with everything I ate, and I had no idea. That being said, I still have the appetite of a super, and still love fast food and sugar, but in tiny tiny amounts. I will now forever be a healthier eater.  So what if I bombed out at Trials, take what you want from that. Just keep in mind I opened with an American Record, I'm just getting started, and Nick played a huge role in that.

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