So close but so far… (UKDFBA 2014 show report)

September 30, 2014

ukdfba natural bodybuilding championships 2014

On Saturday, I competed in the female bodybuilding class at the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association) UK Open Championships. Here’s my show report. My emotions are still a bit all over the place so apologies if this isn’t my usual hilarious (!), witty (!!) style.

I’ve included some photos (from my instagram as always!) but have purchased the official photos (by Fivos at Showshoots) and will pop some of those up when I get them. I’ll also share the show report when it is published.

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This was the first show of the year for me, and my first since the INBF Worlds last November. You can read about my goals and aims for the show in this blog post – prep update – 2 weeks out.

There’s plenty I enjoy about the UKDFBA show. Not only does it tend to attract great numbers across the classes (including ladies bodybuilding – which is unusual!) but the depth and quality is great. It’s a good atmosphere, enjoyable for competitors but also for spectators and all the people who come to support and “crew” for competitors. This is really important to me! And I get to meet up with lots of my bodybuilding “family” at this show, some of whom I only see once or twice a year. It’s a real kind of party/reunion type event as well as a good bodybuilding comp to be part of.

On Friday I travelled up to Leamington Spa with my sister, and my Mum joined us at the self-catering apartment a bit later, as did the folk we were sharing with. So Friday afternoon and evening was chilled, fun, relaxed and a big giggle really. I had two coats of tan sprayed on by a professional spray tanner, did a few rounds of posing, Mum made some final adjustment to my bikini (I’d lost a bit of fat on my glutes in the last week and the bikini bottoms were gaping/sagging) and I tried to get a decent night’s sleep (always a challenge the night before a comp – excited, nervous, and paranoid about wrecking my tan!)

On Saturday morning I did another couple of rounds of posing and took photos – I was really pleased with how I was looking. Legs (in fact everything, but particularly legs) had been tightening up day on day and I don’t think I’ve ever looked like I did on Saturday! I was so chuffed!

I weighed in 1.8kgs less than on my home scales, which answered once and for all the question “just how sh!t are my scales at home?” (the answer being: “extremely”). In fact I weighed in lighter than I weighed in at INBF Worlds last year, by 2-3lbs.

I dashed off to bag a space in the dressing room I was in last year as I knew it was a good ‘un. Once I’d got myself and my friend Paula installed in there, I was happy – I just wanted to get us both a bit of space and somewhere to find peace and quiet during the day. I then spent the rest of the day chilling with my feet up in that room, or taking a few short wanders to say hi to folk out front.

OK so on to the actual show!

I felt confident going into it. Not 100%, of course. But definitely the most confident (in myself) than I’ve ever felt. This only increased as I pumped up. I could see with my own two eyes that I looked good, and I was getting better as I pumped and posed. As I looked around I just remember thinking, yes Nic, you look good. You have every right to feel confident and go out there with the attitude that you could take it.

As I walked out onto stage I felt I was my best ever (so far/to date) and that I knew I looked good. I was confident in my posing, my routine, and in how I was presenting myself. I guess – bottom line – I felt GOOD!

I can’t honestly remember where I was in the call outs, nor how long we were up there, but I think I was middle of one call out and next-to-middle of another (I could be completely wrong!) We were worked hard, and put through the quarter turns and compulsories several times. Then the head judge said that the judges had seen all they needed to and were happy with what they’d seen.

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(quarter turns and compulsories – click to enlarge if you so wish!)

I had a lot of support out there and heard a lot of you calling out and cheering for me – thank you very much if any of you are reading! It really makes a difference and I am very grateful for your cheers!

I left the stage feeling confident but not 100% confident. I guess I thought I could have won… but wasn’t sure. I don’t know. I certainly didn’t feel like I definitely hadn’t won. I felt good still. But you know how it is – you can never be sure… and I wasn’t…

It was then on to our routines, which I LOVE. I have a new routine and new music this year and have absolutely fallen in love with both so couldn’t wait to perform it for the first time. It went well, I didn’t forget any of it, I could have given it a bit more welly but I guess that’s always the way! I put a lot of time, thought and effort in to my posing and routines and personally think it’s a really important part of what we do (after all the spectators are there to see a show, and have paid to see us!)
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(routine pics – click to enlarge if you so wish!)

We were all called back on, did one final round of compulsories, then posedown which was good fun.
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(posedown pics – click to enlarge if you so wish!)

Then it was time for the results.

This wasn’t just a “I could win this class” situation. It was a “winner gets WNBF Pro Status and funding for the Worlds trip” situation. I can’t tell you how much of a crazy focus this has been for me. Regular blog readers will have gathered that I am massive on visualisation, mindset, focus, etc. It’s been pretty intense leading up to this comp! And now it was down to the next few seconds.

5th place was called – my friend Paula. I was delighted for her, it was her first comp, she was the only first timer in the class, she wanted to place… and she did.

4th, 3rd.… not me.

Holy Mother of Arnold. Here we go. I’ve either won it or… I haven’t, frankly. One matters, one doesn’t matter. That’s how I see it. One is a win, the other is not a win.

The head judge was saying that it was incredibly close… that, in fact, it was a tie-break. We were tied for first place, and the result of the tie-break is….

In second place….

Me.

Sigh.

OK. Smile, smile, don’t cry, look up, smile, walk forward, shake the winner’s hand, stand there and smile.

The winner was then called forward, and offered WNBF Pro status.

My emotions have been up, down and all over the place since. At the time I felt absolutely gutted and disappointed, but not so bad. I felt happy, in that I knew I was my best ever (so far!), very happy personally in how I looked and how I’d posed, etc. Happy that I’d improved a placing in a year (I was 3rd at UKDFBA last year) and happy (although it’s a bitter happiness!!) that it was so close. You can’t ask for much more (other than winning, obviously) than being in a tie break situation.

But I have also gone through a slew of negative emotions: sadness, disappointment, feeling absolutely gutted, and (if I’m honest), angry. I’m not sure at what. Myself, I think. Angry that I didn’t get on stage absolutely dominant, that I left it up to the judges to make the decision, that I didn’t step up there and make their job easier for them. I won’t be making the same mistake again. Believe me, there’s nothing like losing something so important to you on a tie-break decision to focus the mind.

So, what’s next?

A few people have asked me what’s next, if I’m done for the season, if I have another chance at earning Pro Status, etc. I was always heading out to INBF/WNBF Worlds as part of Team UK, and am still doing that. The result of the UKDFBA decided whether I went out as the newly-crowned WNBF Pro, to compete in the Pro class, or as an amateur, to do the INBF show. Those are the only differences – I was always prepping onwards for Worlds and nothing has changed there. So: I am going out with the UK Team to compete in the INBF Worlds, to defend my over all women’s bodybuilding title from last year and – hopefully – to earn WNBF Pro Status by so doing. That’s the plan.

So close but so far… (UKDFBA 2014 show report) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


What does “peak week” mean, anyway?

September 23, 2014

If there’s a competitive bodybuilder in your nearest ‘n dearest inner circle, chances are you’ve heard them talk about “peak week”. What the hell is that? If you’re not sure, you probably haven’t dared ask. Because your bodybuilder is probably lethargic to the point of zombified, over-emotional, hyper-sensitive, or asleep (or all four) during peak week.

Peak week is the jargon used to describe the final 5-7 days leading up to an actual bodybuilding competition. It can be “where the magic happens” or it can be where things all go to shit, depending on… well, on quite a lot really. A great deal can change during that final week, sometimes good (the bodybuilder will “come in” just right) and sometimes bad.

Here’s what your favourite bodybuilder may be doing, experiencing and feeling during peak week. See, now you don’t have to ask!

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Water loading
Some – by no means all – competitive bodybuilders will manipulate water during the final few days before a comp. There are many roads to Rome, but a common approach (not to Rome, to water manipulation) is to load with water at the start of peak week and then taper off (or even cut water completely) 24 hours or so before stage time. The theory is that the body gets used to the extra water, and therefore readily excretes more (the body loves homeostasis, after all). Then, when you taper/cut water, the body continues to excrete water, not realising that less is coming in. The result (we hope) is that we look drier on stage.
What this means: your bodybuilder might be glugging down anything up to 10 litres of water every day. They’ll be feeling cold, gross and probably a bit sick to be honest.

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Carb depleting
Another common thing during peak week is depletion of carbohydrates for a few days (usually 3-4). Exactly what this means will depend on your bodybuilder (are they a big one, or a little one? Have they dieted on low carbs or not? Are they going to carb up? How lean are they to start with?) Some competitive bodybuilders will cut carbs for a few days to the point of essentially taking none in at all. Carbs will come from maybe some leafy greens and that’s it. We’re talking less than 20g carbohydrate every day for a few days.
What this means: they’ll be staggering around in an exhilarating combination of brain dead, foggy haze, and mild euphoria. Sorry, I can’t tell you which of the three states you’ll find them in at any one time.

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Bony, small, childlike and flat
You might think your favourite bodybuilder looks good during this peak week. They probably won’t. They’ll feel flat, small, little in their clothes, nothing like their big strong selves. Just at the point when they need to feel good, they’ll be feeling poop. They’ll be bundled up in long trousers and hoodies, partly because they’re chilly and partly cos they can’t bear to look at their pale small selves. If they’re lean enough, it might be painful for them to have a bath (that moment when they sit up to turn the tap up – ouch), to sit in one position for too long, to lie in one position in bed.
What this means: ignore, or make sympathetic noises. Try hugs. It won’t be long til they’re full of simple sugars and off-season again.

Final cardio sessions
If your bodybuilder has been employing cardio during their competition prep, they will be counting down the amount of cardio sessions they have left to do. They might be doing cardio a couple of days before, or they might do their final cardio session early in peak week. This day is usually one to celebrate.
What this means: ask the question “when’s your final cardio session?” delicately. Be prepared for either joyous whoops or dark looks and mutterings of “I’ve got 4 left”. Even if the show is only 3 days away.

Depletion workouts

Along with carb depletion come depletion workouts – these are final weights sessions in the gym, aimed at depleting the body of glycogen (so it “fills up” again once carbs are reintroduced). These sessions tend to be exhausting and frustrating. Your bodybuilder will typically stagger through them, tearful, staring into space, and not wanting to talk to anyone.
What this means: leave them to it. And let them nap afterwards.

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Carbing up
Most bodybuilders will introduce more carbohydrates towards the end of peak week, either after a period of depletion, or just as a continuation of their prep diet. Bodybuilders need to be lean, but big and full on stage. It’s the holy grail, and a fine balance, but the only way to get there is to be lean enough in the first place and then to fill out with enough carbohydrate that they can get “the pump” and avoid looking flat, tired and stringy.
What this means: there will come a point in peak week where your bodybuilder is suddenly eating vast bowls of rice, oats, potatoes (usually oven baked beyond recognition). They will be over the moon, at first, until they realise that eating huge amounts of dry, plain carbs isn’t much more fun than eating none at all.

Shaving themselves
I’ve said it before, but it makes me laugh (and this is my blog) so I’ll say it again: you haven’t lived until you’ve shaved your own rear delts. Man, woman, hairy or smooth, all bodybuilders need to remove bodyhair a day or two before their first layer of tan goes on. Some will Veet it (dicey!) and some will shave down.
What this means: if you live with a bodybuilder, you might get roped in to the full-body shave process. And your bodybuilder will feel very, very small and cold after they’ve shaved their entire body. Have a hoodie and dressing gown ready.

Posing daily
Hopefully, your bodybuilder will have already done plenty of posing practice. But, during peak week, they’ll do more. Probably daily, at least once, for 15 or more minutes. Not only does posing at this point help calm and focus their mind, but it actually helps tighten up the physique and can even help the drying out process.
What this means: expect your bodybuilder to demand an audience for endless rounds of quarter turns at any time of the day or night, and don’t be surprised to see your bodybuilder in the gym, trousers rolled up (or dropped, to reveal pants of course) flexing and squeezing. You may also be asked to take photos. Just go with it.

What does “peak week” mean, anyway? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


NLP for bodybuilders: 3 techniques you can try today (and a bonus one!)

September 15, 2014

thefitmumTheFitMum is more than just a pretty face, you know ;) She’s also an NLP Master Practitioner. This means that she’s not just a qualified NLP Practitioner, but has done further qualifications and is the next level up. She uses NLP in her work as a leadership development coach, but she’s also taught me a bit about it in the context of sports psychology.

I was sitting with her yesterday (she was kindly altering my sparkly-bikini!) and thought I’d do a quick Q&A to find out 3 NLP techniques you competitors can use during contest prep, or on show day.

What is NLP?

NLP – “neuro linguistic programming – is a type of psychotherapy which looks at the links between our brains’ neurological processes, the language we use (internal and external!) and our learned behaviours.

Mum says, “It’s about how the language we use affects our mental attitude and the way in which we react to things. For example, if you say to yourself “I’m going to dread training today, I’ll never be able to pull that 100kg deadlift…”, it becomes what a lot of people would call a self-fulfilling prophesy. Your brain tells your body what you’ve said to yourself, and that equates to not being able to do whatever it is you want to do. Because the message you’ve sent to your brain is “I can’t do it”. The brain doesn’t have opinions of its own, it operates on the messages you deliver to it. It can’t do anything else: it’s your brain!”

I did a quick poll on Facebook the other day about 3 things competitors struggle with during competition prep or on competition day, and asked Mum which NLP techniques she thinks would be most useful.

Here are 3 (4, actually!) NLP techniques you can try… in TheFitMum’s words.

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NLP For Nerves on Competition Day

I would recommend a type of visualisation which is called “Scramble Pattern” in NLP.

When people get nervous, they are usually visualising what they dread, not what they want.

One of the best ways to get you out of that negative mindset is to make yourself relax by laughing. Once you start to smile and laugh, your body releases endorphins and you relax. So you need to get to the stage of having a giggle brewing inside of you.

Well in advance of the day, really call to mind what you’re nervous about. Think about it in detail. You’re about to step on stage, you’re standing in the wings… think about that very vividly. Then, in your head, change everything you can about that mental picture. Use all your senses.

Think about what you’d love to feel under your feet (sand, grass?)
What’s your favourite smell? The air in the auditorium smells just like that (coffee, popcorn?)
As you step on stage, you look at the audience and they’re all wearing t-shirts and waving flags of your favourite colour – all you can see is a sea of your very favourite, happy colour.
In the centre of the judging table is your favourite person in the world, grinning up at you.

Create a mental image which completely smashes the nerves. Get away from the reality of what you fear it might be like. Imagine something a little bit crazy: so you might end up walking across sand, smelling popcorn, with whole audience dressed in bright pink. Ideally, think of something really silly – maybe the audience are all wearing pink afro wigs – this will make you smile and laugh.

You need to keep thinking about your silly, funny mental image. Sit and contemplate it every time you get that nervous feeling, and put this on top of it. “Scramble Pattern” scrambles the nervous picture, mixes it up, and turns it into something which you look forward to thinking about.


NLP For Stage Presence

One of the best things to do if you want more confident stage presence is a technique called “modelling”. Think of your favourite person in the world, someone you really look up to as successful and confident. It could be another bodybuilder but it doesn’t have to be. It could be an actor, a singer, even someone you know. It needs to be somebody you personally think is superbly confident.

Think about what it is that they do to come across as so confident. Is it the way they walk, the way they stand, or smile? Pinch one or two of the things they do and practice them for yourself.

When you’re on stage at your show, you’re not going on stage as you (the you that you feel is underconfident) – you going to be them. You are sending yourself the message that “I am just like DLB because I am walking on stage and smiling just like she does…” (or whatever it is). You can even give yourself a new nickname to match your new persona, a name you use for yourself on show day.

I think it would help competitors to also choose posing music which really matches this persona, and helps you think of yourself as a rock star, a dancer, or whatever it is. It all helps you think of yourself as this person who is wonderfully confident who loves being centre stage.

Another technique which would help with nerves and confidence is “anchoring”. Set yourself an anchor – you need to do this way in advance of your comp.

Think of a time in your life when you were really confident (it doesn’t matter how long ago it was or what age you were). You need to be able to remember the exact details of what you were doing.

Sit quietly with your eyes closed and call that time strongly to mind – it may take a while at first. What could you see, feel, smell and hear? Was anyone saying something to you? Who was there? Was it warm or cold?

Really bring to mind that feeling of achievement, confidence, happiness and pride. As you get that feeling welling up inside you, anchor it. You do this by using a unique stimulus – something you don’t typically do (so, clenching a fist for instance wouldn’t work as you do this sometimes already). Many people use a physical action such as pressing thumb and ring finger together. It needs to be something the judges won’t see/notice but something you don’t typically do.

As you feel that wonderful confident memory, do your unique stimulus movement. As the feeling ebbs – let it go (you don’t want to anchor the feeling as it ebbs away).

Then “break state” by getting up, going away and doing something different like getting a drink of water.

The more often you do this, the quicker it will become. Your mind is very quick to remember and anticipate it. Soon you will barely have to think about it, just redo your anchor, and it will bring the state to your mind.

We naturally anchor lots of things, it’s a very common thing – think about how you feel when you smell suntan lotion!


NLP For Food Cravings

This is very powerful – I call it “like-to-dislike” – but it will be helpful if you can get the help of someone who knows about NLP.

Think of a food or drink you really hate, something you find truly disgusting. Close your eyes and really think about it. When you picture it in your head, is it close to you, far away, right, left up or down? Is it in colour? Is it on a plate or in a cup? Is there a smell associated with it? Is there a frame around the mental image?

Now break state.

Come back and go through the same process with the food you are craving and struggling with during your prep. Where is the mental picture? Ask all the questions above.

Now, what are the differences between the two pictures? Is the thing you hate far away and to the left and in black and white? Is the thing you crave closer, in colour, slightly above you?

Picture the thing you crave and move it to where the picture of thing you hate is. Change everything about the picture of the thing you crave, so it takes on the same properties as the picture of the thing you can’t stand.

That’s all it takes. Once the picture of the food you’ve been craving is in the same place, with the same size/colour/properties as the mental image of the thing which disgusts you, your brain won’t be able to cope with it.

If you need more, as you move the image of the craving to the place where the yukky food was, imagine you are taking the craving food and dipping it into/mixing it with the gross thing. Even talking about this is making me feel a bit sick, since I did it myself and cured myself of craving crisps!

Thanks Mum! This was so interesting (and I love any excuse to sit and chit-chat with you!) xx <3 I really hope some of you found this helpful. Do you struggle with any of these 3 categories? Have you ever used NLP for sports performance?

NLP for bodybuilders: 3 techniques you can try today is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Differences between years 1-4 of bodybuilding preps

September 11, 2014

After writing my prep-update post the other day, I started thinking about the differences between my prep these days and how it was in my first year. Not training or diet, but mindset and generally how prep affects my life (or perhaps rather how life responds to prep?) It really is quite different, and all in a good way.

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What’s different in my fourth year?

The Box
I used to have a box.. no, not a box, The Box. It was such a significant part of my prep that I used title case when referring to it (and anyone who knows me as a copywriter will realise how it pains me to do that!) The Box was a cardboard box (a large one) full of foods I’d bought during prep in order to eat afterwards. All sorts of shit. Over-priced imported American cereal. Pop Tarts. Peanut butter anything. American candy. Oh… all sorts of stuff. I don’t even know. By the time prep was over, I didn’t even remember buying most of it. And, of course, I ended up breaking into The Box more than once during prep.

Funny story about The Box v2 (2012 prep). I struggled so hard to stay away from it that, during my divorce, whilst my ex and I were separated and I was still in the house, I actually locked The Box in the shed and asked him to come to the house and take the key away. Whilst we were getting divorced. Yeah… priorities…

I do not have The Box this year. Or even a box. I just… don’t.

Post-comp eats lists
I also used to keep a list (2011: a Word doc, 2012: a page in my journal) where I’d write down meals, recipes, food combinations that I’d eat after my final comp. The reasoning was that if I wrote it down, it would be out of my head (and that I’d remember it – because, obviously, eating a toasted cheese sandwich with crisps inside is information of paramount importance which simply must be recalled at a later date). I… don’t have a list this year.

Cravings
No cravings this year. Hand on heart. I don’t know if this is because I’ve finally found a way of dieting which satisfies my taste buds (and my micro nutrient requirements!) so my body isn’t trying to tell me anything. Or whether it’s because I’m so damn focused on my actual goals in this sport that psychological cravings mean nothing to me. I don’t know. I haven’t tried not to have any. I haven’t done anything to stop having any. I just don’t have any. Maybe it’s because, finally, I realise that 99% of foods on this planet will still be in shops, cafes and restaurants when I can relax my diet. Look, ma, I’m all grown up! ;)

Obsessive thoughts about food, eating out, meals I’ll make, things I’ll buy/eat

Similar to the list I guess. I used to just think so much about foods I’d eat, cakes I’d have at coffee shops, even things I’d buy from service stations (I know… what?!) I don’t do that now. About the only thing I am doing is really looking forward to going out for nice meals with family (Sissie – I’d love to go for a burger at The Nutmeg with you and brosephine!), going on dates where I don’t have to act like a saddo and ask for modified versions of things on the menu, and lingering over home-cooked meals with my Dad and my Mum.

Stock-piling
Similar to The Box. I used to stockpile foods, not even stuff you’d call “bad” foods, but things I still couldn’t really eat at the sharp end of a prep diet. Why? It’s not like Tesco is going to run out of muesli any time soon. My cupboards/fridge/freezer now just feature the food I eat at the moment. I haven’t even got anything stashed away in the freezer. I just can’t be arsed. If the apocalypse comes and all the food in the world gets blown up, I guess I won’t be here to worry about it anyway.

Focus and goal setting
I’m more focused this year. I was always focused (those who know me from a certain squeaky-clean, bubbly online forum ;) will recall that I had a forum journal back in 2011 called “Operation Pro Card”… haha!) But my focus is different this year. It’s more… focusy. It’s narrower, yet calmer somehow. Perhaps because I understand the structure of the sport a little better, and I know what I actually want.

Sleep
I’m sleeping soooo much better. I used to wake most nights during prep (not the whole thing, the final 6 weeks onwards I guess) at exactly the same time every night. I never knew if it was down to hunger, cravings, wonky hormones, or my dreadful habit of reading food blogs (!!!) on my iPhone in bed at night (I no longer do that, either). But I sleep all night through now, 99% of the time anyway. My personal life is very different now to how it was during my first two preps, which certainly helps. Anyway – I’m not going to question it. Just be thankful for it. I love sleeping! :D

Reading
On that note, I read a lot of blogs and online articles (occupational hazard!) Back during my first prep, almost all of the blogs I read were foodie ones. Recipe blogs, food blogs, “healthy living” blogs which frankly were anything but. I don’t read any of those any more. I read competitors’ blogs, yes, but not the ones which are mostly about terrible low-calorie “recipes” and borderline eating disorders. And not the ones full of cheat meals and other things which would often just trigger me into The Box or the post-comp eats list activity. I read loads of mindset blogs, strongwoman blogs, feminism blogs (hollah), writing blogs, funny/comedy blogs, blogs of my friends… lots of stuff. But not food.

Pinterest
Oh lord. Pinterest. I used to spend hours on damn Pinterest, pinning things I’d make (I never did), places I’d eat (I never went) and things I’d buy (I often did… they went into The Box). The boards are still there… peanut butter, cinnamon, banana bread, cereal (yes I had individual boards for those niche topics). I haven’t been on for ages, to pin or to browse. Partly because I CBA, and partly because I am aware that gazing upon pictures of peanut butter muffins with cinnamon buttercream and pretzel crumb topping is just a mental temptation I can do without.

Journalling
I’ve always journalled (have kept a personal diary since I was eight years old) and have always kept a training/food/mindset type journal during my bodybuilding preps. But these days I also keep a “me” type journal. I write a page every single morning before I get out of bed. I love this practice. I swear it’s helping, or perhaps I’m doing it because other things have changed. I’m not sure which came first.

To those of you in your second (or more!) year of competitive bodybuilding, what differences have you noticed since your very first diet/competition? Until I wrote this post, I hadn’t realised how far I’ve come and how much my mindset has changed. I can’t wait for my fifth (sixth… tenth… ?) year competing! :)

Differences between years 1-4 of bodybuilding preps is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Prep update – 2 weeks out

September 9, 2014

ukdfba natural bodybuilding championships 2014
I’ve been neglecting my blog… Prep is full on, work is (happily) busy, and time has a habit of flying by. But I really must update: so here it is. Just a quick prep update since I know some of you like to read about what’s going on.

I’m now just 18 days out (EIGHTEEN!) from my first show of this year – the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association) UK Open Championships. It’s in Leamington Spa on 27th and 28th of this month. The show is going to be epic – on the Saturday, there’s the Open show and then on the Sunday there’s a WNBF Pro Show (including Pro Women) and a INBF International Show. Apparently numbers are high in all classes and on both days, and there are competitors from all over the World coming for the Sunday show. I really can not wait!

My goals are clear: to win the thing. I don’t mind saying it. Those of you who know me already know it, and those of you who don’t probably won’t be surprised. There’s a lot resting on the win: the winner of my class (amateur ladies bodybuilding) not only takes the British Title but gets offered WNBF Pro status. :-O <3

So, I'll certainly be competing on the Saturday, but have every intention (positive thinking!) of competing on the Sunday in some capacity, too. I've booked accommodation right through to Monday morning. If all else fails and I don't end up competing on the Sunday, I'll be up front and centre watching and cheering anyway!

So, prep.
I never really know what to tell you guys! Perhaps you can leave any questions in the comments section and I'll address them.

Basically I've been dieting, training, cardio-ing and ticking all the boxes every single day for a while now. A week ago I made some small but significant changes (with big thanks to one of the UK Team who helped me with his thoughts/advice/guidance). The changes are basically to keep my kcals roughly the same as they were, but to actually add in more carbs on a few days a week, but also to up my output. More food: more work. More energy: more attack. So I’m doing a little more cardio than I was, and some of the sessions are a lot harder than they were. Think running sprints, bike “efforts”, hill sprints. The rest of my cardio is longer, but steadier. I am still carb cycling (as I always do) but my low carb days are lower, my high carb days are higher, and my training is more intense. The idea is to keep my metabolism on side (after all, it’s the most powerful tool we have in the ongoing battle to get leaner than the human body wants to be!) and to “shock” the body, keep it from getting complacent, prevent it from slowing down and just ticking along.

So far it really seems to be working… I’m now seeing changes every day and am getting a lot leaner.

The question remains: is it lean enough, fast enough?

Only time will tell, and the moment of strewth will be on the 27th.

I know you like details so here are a couple of training sessions I’ve done recently

BACK
4 x 15 Close grip pull down
2 x 10 Heavy CGPD
2 x 10/10 dropset CGPD
4 x 15 Wide GPD final set a dropset
4 x 15 Bent over barbell row final set a dropset
4 x 12/12 single arm dumbell row.
Deadlifts
2 x warm up
5 x 8
2×10 Dorian nautilus pullover machine thingy
Rear delt face pulls with multigrips (<<< my favourite bit of gym kit!) superset straight arm push downs

HAMS
– seated ham curl – 2 w/u sets, 4 sets x 15 reps (4th set a dropset)
– lying ham curl – 4 sets x 20 reps
– 4 sets kneeling single legged ham curl superset 4 sets on seated ham curl, toes pointed – 12/12 reps on the kneeling, 15 on the seated
– SLDL barbell – warm up set then into 3 sets x 12 reps
– SLDL-esque thing standing behind the Paramount squat and using the bit you put the plates on as handles
– Seated calves – 4 x 30 reps

I must say I love SLDL of all sorts this year – up there with favourite exercise of 2014 I think!

And here are some recent pics (apologies for just copying them from my Instagram – that’s where my pics end up anyway so it’s the easiest way to get them here!)

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How is my prep this year different to last year?
Well, I’m bigger (I think/hope!) and – as always seems to be the case – it’s more difficult (or certainly “not as easy”) to get lean. That’s just the way it is! The first diet is always the easiest!

I’m eating more this year, and more of it is carbs. I’m eating more fish – partly because I live minutes from the sea and honestly what’s not to love about seafood which was out there swimming a few hours ago, and partly because I am kindly supported by fantastic local fishmonger Griggs (thank you, Andy!)

I’m probably taking fewer supplements, just because honestly I CBA with half of them and I don’t think many of them make a difference to me anyway. I’m not having much in the way of protein powders, because I don’t think I need them (I come straight home from training 99% of the time, so I just have a meal).

I’m sleeping more, and better. I sleep whenever I can, really. I am more chilled, happier and laid back (a good friend actually commented on this the other day and it was one of the nicest compliments she could have given!) I’m lifting heavier and keeping my weights higher and my lifts more compound-based. No circuits stuff or high rep/depletion type stuff, although that might change.

I’m rambling a bit now so will leave it there. But if you have any questions, please do ask away, I will answer if I can!

And, yes, I have a new (to me – second hand as always!) bikini, posing music and routine ;) The important stuff, right? SPARKLES AND DANCING! Haha ;)

Hope you’re all well and enjoying your training, prep, racing, competing or generally being fit and healthy (<<< delete as applicable).

Prep update – 2 weeks out is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


What happens at a bodybuilding posing class (and why should you go)?

September 1, 2014

I’m aching all over today! Why? Yesterday, I was up at The Workout Mill gym in Leamington for a 3-hour posing workshop run by WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki and UKBFF and NABBA bodybuilder Max O’Connor.

I thought it might be interesting to give you a behind the scenes glimpse (in words, anyway – no pics were taken) of what happens at these things, and to tell you why you really should go to something similar if you compete.

Why is posing important?

Posing is incredibly important to competitive bodybuilders. It’s how we’re judged on the day. For my category, and in the federations I’ve done and do, we have to do:
quarter turns (the judges score “symmetry” in this round)
compulsory poses (used to judge “muscularity” and “conditioning”)
a free posing routine to music

If you can’t pose – and pose really well – you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. You could be the most genetically gifted bodybuilder with a beautiful structure, you could have trained as hard as you like, and dieted to achieve great condition… but if you then just stand there on stage, unable to pose, or posing badly, the judges can’t judge you. They can only judge what they see, after all.

Isn’t it just… standing there and flexing?

Nope. It’s really hard. Not just hard to learn, but physically hard. It hurts, it makes you out of breath, it makes you sweat. You’ll ache from it the next day. And the most you practice, the easier it is. If I told you right now to spread your lats, would you be able to do it? Can you engage your lats, switch them on, spread them without hunching your shoulders or pinching your scapula or bunching your traps? It’s not all front double biceps ;) (although we do those, too).

Why do you have to learn it?

Like any skill, there’s an art to it. You need to learn, ideally from someone who can actually see you moving and touch you to help you get it right. You definitely can’t just rock up and hope for the best. Nobody was born knowing how to do bodybuilding poses, and watching Pumping Iron really won’t be enough.

Is it important to practice?
Yes! As often as possible. Not only will practicing your posing help it become second nature, but you’ll be able to find your own style, make those subtle little tweaks which show your physique off and highlight your strengths (and hide your weaknesses, which is what also what it’s about!) Posing practice actually helps tighten you up and “bring you in” (<< quality BB lingo for you right there) during prep. And the more you practice posing, the easier it’ll be on the day. You’ll sweat less under the lights, so your tan won’t run as much.

Surely it’s easy?

It’s really not. I’d like to think I’ve got a decent level of proprioception, but there are still a couple of poses I find very difficult. Not just physically, but mentally. My head just doesn’t know what I mean. And I favour one side on some poses. Ask me to do them on the other side (as can happen on stage) and I fumble and bumble. No bueno!

All of that is a preamble, explaining a little about why I drove up to Leamington Spa to attend a 3-hour posing workshop yesterday. It’s important!

So, what happens at these things?

Yesterday, we were split into two groups – one with Rich, one with Max. This was roughly done by federation. Most of the people I was with are prepping for the UKDFBA UK Open show, the remaining NPA qualifiers (or the Finals if already qualified), or the BNBF British. I was one of two females. But posing with men is no problem for me, as I do exactly the same poses as them.

We started at 9am, changing into bikinis/trunks (no point being shy at posing class!) and went through our quarter turns one by one. I stuck myself front and centre, cos that’s my style ;) Everyone received individual feedback and critique, positive or negative/where improvements could be made. There are mirrors, as it’s always good to be able to see yourself, but it’s also important (IMO) to *not* look at yourself in the mirror sometimes during poses. After all, there are no mirrors on stage and if you can only hit a pose when you can see your own reflection, you’re going to struggle on the day.

After the 1/4 turns we went through all eight compulsories, and got individual feedback. We were able to learn from each other as well as from “teacher” Richard.

We had a few breaks for water/food if necessary during the couple of hours of posing – it really is hard work. I was sweating more than I do during some of my training sessions.

We then went through everything exactly as it would be called on the day of a comp, without stopping for critique. It’s important to know how the poses “flow”, and to be able to hold them for a reasonable amount of time. You never know how long you’ll have to hold them on stage, it could be quite a long time.

After that, people had the opportunity to run through their free posing routines or to work on putting one together if they haven’t yet done so. I took the chance to just keep on posing, jumping in with some of the guys in the other group. As far as I’m concerned you really can’t practice enough, and should grab every opportunity!

Here are the compulsory poses I have to do as a female bodybuilder with the UKDFBA/INBF
(WNBF… one day! ;) )
Front Double Biceps
Front Lat Spread
Side Chest
Rear Double Biceps (showing one calf)
Rear Lat Spread (showing one calf)
Side Triceps
Abs and Thigh Pose
Most Muscular (this is technically “of your choice” but they can call specific ones so you’d better learn ‘em!)

I said no photos were taken but that’s no quite true. Richard is almost as keen on selfies as I am… so… this happened:
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After the class? I trained hamstrings and calves with Richard (a WNBF Pro Heavyweight who’s currently off-season) and Troy (a very impressive junior who won his class at NPA and is prepping for more shows). We were training for nearly two hours.

Yeah… suffice to say that I’m pretty tired and sore this morning ;)

Competitors, have you been to a posing club or class? Do you struggle with any particular poses?

What happens at a bodybuilding posing class (and why should you go)? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


It’s official. I’ve got a phagia!

August 22, 2014

Oh, this is so exciting. I’ve officially got a peculiar affliction! It must be true, it says so in a press release (for iron supplements) that I got this week.

Actually, this is something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while, but now I know there’s a proper word for it and everything, I mustn’t delay.

Pagophagia. Doesn’t it sound cool? Actually, it’s really cool. Sub-zero, in fact.

Pagophagia is a specific form of the disorder (great) “pica” (which involves craving or obsessively eating things which aren’t technically food. You know, like soil, or coal, or licking a shovel or something).

I don’t do any of that. I am obsessed with freezing my drinks, adding ice to drinks, drinking icy things. I stand in front of the freezer, eating ice out of the bag.

That’s pagophagia. It’s a real thing – look, there are 32 articles in PubMed on it.

Does anyone else crave ice? Please, let me know, so I don’t feel like such a freak.

Wiki tells me that “Pagophagia is a form of the disorder pica involving the compulsive consumption of ice or iced drinks.” OK.

And goes on to tell me that “It has been associated with iron deficiency anemia, and shown to respond to iron supplementation… leading some investigators to postulate that some forms of pica may be the result of nutritional deficiency.”

Hm. I dunno, can I really be iron deficient? I eat red meat, probably more often than most people. At least 5 times a week, if not daily. I eat lots of greens, including leafy greens. I don’t boil all hell out of my food. I take a greens powder (Lean Greens – if you’re interested).

I’m not too worried about my pagophagia. In fact, here are my top tips for fellow pagophagists! (I have actaully been telling people in the gym about #1 and now I feel a bit bad for spreading disordered drinking around South East Kent).

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- Half-fill water bottles with water, BCAAs, intraworkout or just squash if that’s your thing. Freeze them, ideally over night. Before you head to the gym, fill the bottle up with water. Voila! You have a gorgeously icy drink for your training session. And – added bonus – you can use the solid ice bit at the bottom of the bottle as an on-the-go ice pack. Ideal for leg day.

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– You can also use your half-frozen water bottles to help keep your food cold in your cool box

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– Know your ice suppliers. For example, Londis only sells bags of massive ice cubes. The holy grail is that “ice crush” stuff and I’ve only ever found it in Tesco and Sainsbury. Tesco ran out of it completely for about 6 weeks last Summer. Let me tell you, that was a bad time.

Pagophagists unite! Do you love all things icy, too, even when you’re actually feeling quite cold? Is it really down to anemia and if so what should I do about it?

It’s official. I’ve got a phagia! is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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