2 x World Champion!

November 24, 2014

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I’m back at my desk after a week away in Boston, where I competed in the WNBF/INBF World Championships as Team UK’s amateur female bodybuilder. I’m delighted to tell you that I won, thereby retaining my World title (blog posts about last year’s INBF Worlds are here and here) – and can now say I am a “2 x World Champion” (even if it feels a bit weird to say so!)

Like most sportspeople, I place significant amounts of pressure on myself. I’m very competitive and expect a lot of myself. With many things in life, the further you go, the more you need to achieve in order to fulfill your own expectations (even if those expectations are of yourself). Sport is certainly no different.

That’s why this World blog post will be a little different to last year’s. I’m just as happy, just as excited, just as proud of myself. I had just as wonderful a time out in Boston with the rest of Team UK, and feel just as privileged to have been given the opportunity once again.

But, this year, my pride and pleasure at winning are joined by seeing where I need to improve, how I want to move forward, and where to go from here.

First of all, a few words about the experience of going abroad to compete as part of the UKDFBA‘s Team UK.
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Once again, being part of the Team was absolutely fantastic. Last year was one of the best times (if not the best time) of my life and this year did not disappoint. The team were all great people (I knew some of them already but there were lots I hadn’t ever met or hadn’t really spoken to), the UKDFBA’s planning and organisation was flawless, our accommodation was really great, and we had some great opportunities to bond as a team (Team training at local Gold’s gym, for example). I come away from Worlds 2014 – as I did from last year’s Worlds – with solid friendships, amazing memories, and having been part of something very special.

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Onto the comp itself

As already mentioned, I won my class and thereby retained my World title from last year. Last year there were only four competitors (split into three LWs, one HW – me – and then an overall which I won). This year there was just one open class of three (no over all) which I won. :) Cheery wave to the other two ladies, if they’re reading this! It was great to meet you and share a stage with you :)

I am of course delighted to have won, it feels great (if a little surreal!) to say I “retained a World Title” and to say I am “2 x World Champion”. But I’ve got mixed emotions, too, which weren’t present last year. I guess this is what makes competitive bodybuilders what we are! And what keeps us hungry, keeps us pushing forward, stops us ever settling for mediocre, average, for “just OK”.

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As much as I am over the moon to have won, I’ll tell you now that I wasn’t completely happy with how I looked. I did not look as good as I did at the UKDFBA UK show, and I wanted to look the same (or better!) I’d been really pleased – shocked, even – with how I looked at the UKDFBA show this year. But I was heavier, less lean, less conditioned at Worlds and I am disappointed and cross with myself for that. I know why – my diet and mindset weren’t 100% in those weeks between UKDFBA and Worlds. I did diet, of course, but it wasn’t perfect enough for me.

I need a little more think-time before I could tell you why this was. I know that I was so hugely focused on UKDFBA (and the goal of winning there and taking the Pro Card on offer), that when I came 2nd (especially when it was on a tiebreaker) I had a mental wobble. I don’t think I fully appreciated at the time, but a couple of weeks later I saw it had affected me more than I realised.

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None of that is an excuse, and I know that to be a successful bodybuilder I will have to develop ways to prevent things like this affecting me, and to refocus very quickly and turn my attention fully to the next goal regardless of how I am feeling. It’s unlikely to be the last time I fall short of a goal – this is sport, after all!

A note on the Pro Card thing

Pro Cards are only on offer at Worlds to class winners when there are five or more in the class. A lot of people have said they were sorry that a Pro Card wasn’t on the cards again this year for me. But to be perfectly honest with you? I don’t feel I deserved it. I do want to be a WNBF Pro – it’s my ultimate goal in this sport. But, based on how I looked at Worlds, I don’t feel I’m ready (in terms of physique or mindset). Not quite. Nearly… but not quite. The fact that I have “missed out” a few times now by a whisker kind of confirms what I feel: that I am very very nearly there (but not quite), that I still have lessons to learn and improvements to make. I don’t want a Pro Card until I’m ready for it.

My next steps?

A very good, very constructive off season. I may or may not take a year off competing. Either way, I’ll be training hard and heavy, making improvements to physique, mindset, my knowledge about training, diet and my own body.

Stay tuned for a blog post about what to do if you develop horrendous edema/water retention after spending 5 days celebrating in an American city after coming off a long bodybuilding prep diet and then get stuck on a middle seat on a night flight between two large sleeping men (I will come up with a catchier title, promise!)

Thanks for reading!

2 x World Champion! 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.


Fitness photoshoot advice from Fivos the photographer

November 10, 2014

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As part of my prep this year, I booked a photoshoot with Fivos Averkiou, a photographer who specialises in physique-type shoots. He’s been a (very good) bodybuilder himself, and is also the guy who shoots the official stage photos at most of the bodybuilding shows I’ve ever done, so was the obvious choice!

It’s something I’ve been promising myself for a while, and I thought… well, I guess I thought why not! I wanted a record of how I look during prep (and I now have a load of useful work/fitness type promo and headshots, which will come in handy for work!)

The day after the shoot, I ached from head to toe and was absolutely shattered! This wasn’t helped by being in the latter stages of a (lonnnng) prep diet, I’m sure, but the shoot was a lot more tiring than I anticipated. We essentially did a high-rep full body workout (something I never do), with lots of holds and squeezes and plenty of posing, too.

I was pretty clueless going into the shoot. I sort of knew what to expect, from sitting in on magazine shoots as a journalist, but this wasn’t editorial. I was also incredibly nervous, despite knowing Fivos very well (Fivos – I can tell you this now – I nearly cancelled on you about five times!)

Things to do before a photoshoot

If there’s anyone else out there who, like me, has booked a physique/sports gym-based shoot for themselves without having the first clue about how to get the most out it, I hope this will help:

I asked Fivos to give me his best advice for anyone else as clueless nervous new as I was to this kind of thing. Here’s what he had to say.

Who arranges the location and how do you decide what to do when you are there?

Locations are your personal choice, but personally I mainly shoot around London and Essex (where I’m based). Although I have had shoots further up North.

With bodybuilders – what I’m mainly known for – it’s easy to set the shoot criteria as most will want the same kind of thing. I tell them “you train, I shoot”.

I will add in some staged, “static” shots once we’ve got warmed up, which always look cool.

For me, it’s about making the person feel comfortable in front of the lens. Most that shoot with me are bodybuilders/physique athletes, so it’s about coaching them into how the different shots and angles will look, etc.

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On the flipside, when I shoot fitness models, it’s the opposite. They tend to be great at getting in the right position, but need instruction when it comes to muscle contractions.


What do you advise people to wear, bring with them?

I generally tell people to wear what they would normally train in. With men, shoots tend to be mostly topless. I also encourage outfit changes throughout the shoot. And, if the person wants, we can to more brand clothing “model shots” at the end of the shoot.

(Thefitwriter says: for example, I brought two tops to my shoot and only wanted a few frames in each: one for the friend who’d kindly sent me one of the tops as a gift, and one of the wording on my favourite training top: Work Hard, Be Nice… can’t really go wrong with that simple mantra! ;) )
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How would you suggest someone prep for a shoot, both in the medium and short term (e.g. getting your body ready, deciding what sort of images you want to go for, and having a tan…)

If they are prepping for a show, I advise people to shoot one week beforehand at the latest. At one week out you are ready to go and have not started any water manipulation etc. You don’t want to do anything which will affect your show prep, but equally you don’t want to be at your shoot in the middle of a carb deplete. I would always advise a great base tan, as it really shows on the images.

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Fiv’s five top tips for a physique photoshoot
1) Remember you are paying for the shoot so make sure you get what you want.
2) Check out the photographer’s work and ask around about the photographer’s work ethic (word of mouth is the best recommendation).
3) Choose a photographer who will act professionally on your shoot and ask you permission to release any shots.
4) You pay for the shoot, so you should know exactly what’s going on with your images (I always ask permission from the person I shoot if it’s OK to post an image on social media.
5) Take time to talk to the photographer before the shoot: bounce ideas off each other and get a shoot criteria laid down.

Thanks Fivos, I really enjoyed our shoot and love my images!

You can get hold of Fivos via Fivos Photography on Facebook or at his website Showshoots.

Fitness photoshoot advice from Fivos the photographer 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.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: myvitamins.com BCAA powder

November 6, 2014

Today’s fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: BCAAs powder (2:1:1) from myvitamins.com.
powdered BCAAs
I was contacted by myvitamins.com – an online store which offers a range of fitness, health & beauty products – to see if I’d sample and review some of their goodies. I explained I was deep in contest prep but that I could probably stretch to BCAAs.

As I’m sure most of my readers know, BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) are three amino acids (leucine, iso-leucine and valine). They’re referred to as essential amino acids because the body can’t synthesise them from anywhere else, so we need to get them from diet (difficult, at least in the optimal amounts and ratios) or supplements.

Powdered BCAA is a popular choice with bodybuilders, who often choose to take a serving in water before cardio (particularly fasted cardio) or pre/intra workout. People in muscle and strength sports tend to like BCAAs because these three aminos help protect muscle mass (particularly when in a caloric deficit). And leucine is currently thought to be the mac-daddy of amino acids (it plays a key role in muscle protein synthesis).

myvitamins.com BCAAs are a ratio of 2:1:1, which is what I’d consider a basic or “general” ratio. 4:1:1 and even 8:1:1 BCAAs do exist, but 2:1:1 is the most common ratio.

My feedback? These 2:1:1 BCAAs mixed well, were gently flavoured (berry) and went down the hatch just fine without causing me any digestive issues. And my Mum liked the taste, too (cue a mini monologue on “BCAAs 101″ in her kitchen!)

Take a look at the myvitamins.com site – there’s lots on there including a range for active kids.

Thanks, myvitamins.com for the sample (and for your patience in waiting for this review!)

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: myvitamins.com BCAA powder 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.


6 things female bodybuilders know (…and now you do, too)

October 30, 2014

Bodybuilding teaches us a lot of things. Time management. Patience. Self-sufficiency. The power of playing the long-game.

But for the females in the sport (holla!) it also teaches a few interesting life skills. Read on to discover a few things only a female bodybuilder knows (until now).
Dream Tan

Dream Tan 2 makes a pretty decent bronzer
Dream Tan is the “wash off” (kinda!) tan used by some bodybuilders in some associations. As opposed to the ones which need to be sprayed/rollered/layered on over an excruciating amount of days, “DT” (as it’s known) just gets slapped on there and then just before you get on stage.

What women know: DT also makes a mighty fine bronzer. Simply tap a (very) small amount onto cheekbones, clavicles or cleavage (wait.. you still have a cleavage? Are you off-season?) Et voila.

Bikini Bite has other uses
Bikini bite is the “glue in a roller” that bodybuilders use to literally stick their bikinis/trunks to themselves to ward off the horrendous possibility of slippage during a particularly enthusiastic bout of posing (I told you about this here).

What women know: Bikini Bite needn’t be banished to a drawer between November and May. In fact, it comes into its own over Christmas and New Year… cos it can be used as “tit tape”.

How to work the MAC counter

Here’s the thing. When you tan for a comp, you don’t put tan on your face (unless you want that lovely “Leprosy 2.0″ look going on for about 3 weeks – never a great look). So, female bodybuilders tend to use a really dark foundation, usually one made for black skin. But not all of us are actually black under the tan. So we don’t necessarily want to buy an entire bottle of a foundation we’ll only use for a few days of the year.

What women know: ask your foundation-manufacturer of choice for a little sample. There’s no need to tell them you have no intention of ever buying the full size.

Once you go orange, you never go back
Tanning is a pain in the glutes. But everything just looks so much better with a tan. Along with fake eyelashes, tan becomes one of those things you possibly never indulged in before taking up this bodybuilding lark. But now… you can’t stop!

What women know: how to apply tan without ending up with orange deadlifting-callouses ;)

Body weight takes on a new meaning

To generalise horribly ;) most women who care about their body weight step on the scales hoping to see the number go down.

What women know: that body weight only really matters if you’re in a weight class. Body fat, now, that’s a different matter.

Sorry, I’m (not) washing my hair

Little things are a big effort when dieting (and after doing a particularly arduous gym session). It becomes a case of priorities. Does my hair really need washing? Honestly? I know, I’ll ask the dog for his opinion…

What women know: dry shampoo exists for a reason. This is it.

6 things female bodybuilders know (…and now you do, too) 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.


Latest favourite training, nutrition, health podcasts

October 26, 2014

It’s been a while since I listed the podcasts I am currently enjoying. I listen to tons (as well as audiobooks) because I walk so much (dog owner living in a beautiful part of the country!)

This will be the third of these types of blog posts I’ve written; my previous podcast recommendations are here:
favourites from last year
more from 2013
and podcast recommendations from 2011 (many of which are no more)

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The Ben Pakulski Podcast
For those who don’t know who he is, Ben Pakulski is an IFBB Pro bodybuilder (he was in Generation Iron). I came across his podcast when Mark Coles of M10 (whose social media content I absolutely love) was a guest. I listened to that podcast episode, applied some of the ideas to my next leg session, had DOMS for about a week, and was hooked. Ben and co-host John Meadows interview athletes, coaches and experts in bodybuilding, strength and muscle hypertrophy about practical applications and ideas in various areas.
Ben Pakulski podcast on itunes

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Elite Muscle Radio
Phil Graham is another guy whose social media content I really enjoy, and now I can listen to his podcast too. The Elite Muscle Radio podcast explores nutrition and training in pretty high-end detail but does so in a way that won’t leave you feeling lost (or bored). I was once stuck in traffic on the M25 and listened to almost 80 minutes all about dietary fats and insulin sensitivity for sports performance and body recomp. I’m not a prep coach nor do I have a scientific mind but those 80 minutes were fascinating and I was grateful for the traffic jam. All of the episodes are similarly interesting. I truly feel like I’m “getting my learn on” when I listen.
Elite Muscle Radio on itunes

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Physique Science Radio
I’m sure you’ve heard of Layne Norton. Well, here’s his podcast. He co-hosts with Sohee Lee, a smart woman who has just released a reverse-dieting book. Layne and Sohee are known for their work on flexible dieting, reverse dieting and health-based contest prep and off-season nutrition. Expect lots of evidence-based nutrition and training advice.
Physique Science Radio on itunes

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Real Nutrition Radio
I really like this nutrition podcast, hosted by Clinical Sports Nutritionist, Martin MacDonald and his co-host, Mike Sweeney. Between the two of them, they are able to discuss and dissect nutrition topics from two angles, bringing loads of experience not just from academic study but “from the trenches” of actually treating people. It’s not all fat loss and contest prep, either, which I really like. They set out to dispel myths and misconceptions and bring real talk about nutrition for health, sports performance, muscle gain and body composition.
Real Nutrition Radio on itunes

Do you have any podcast recommendations for me?

Latest favourite training, nutrition, health podcasts 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.


Audible sports audiobook of the month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret

October 21, 2014

In this blog series, I review a sports audiobook from audible.co.uk

This month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) by Barry J. Whyte

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Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) (Barry J. Whyte)

This is one of Audible‘s “sports shorts” series and is a very quick listen. I picked it for a short dog-walk soundtrack, because I’ve always been fascinated by the sport of boxing. I wouldn’t say I love it, but I admire the basic and pure nature of it as a sport. No gadgets, no tech, just two human minds and bodies trying to outdo each other.

This little book began life as an investigative report into the dangers of strategic pre-weigh-in dehydration in boxing. But I think it will appeal to anyone who’s interested in what goes on behind the scenes and in the lead-up to sport’s famous moments (and, of course, to boxing fans).

Journalist Barry J Whyte looks at the potential dangers of the 24-hour weigh-in by looking closely at one specific example from boxing’s history: the February 2000 fight between Joey Gamache and Arturo Gatti.

By looking at the controversial ruling which allows (encourages?) boxers to dehydrate right down the day before the fight, and then pile weight back on before stepping into the ring, he stimulates debate about the short and long term consequences. Physical, psychological and physiological risks are explored: extreme dehydration weakens the athletes, opening them up to the prospect of taking more punches, not to mention heat-stroke, long-term brain damage and even death. And the question is asked: why have the sport’s fans, journalists and officials done so little to investigate this practice?

Here are the opening few lines:

There are 278 seconds left in Joey Gamache’s professional boxing career.

He doesn’t know this.

Standing in front of him in the ring tonight is Arturo Gatti. He is going to end Gamache’s career.

He doesn’t know this either.

If you fancy a very quick listen about a fascinating aspect of one of the oldest sports still in existence, download Making the Weight from Audible.

Let me know if you have a favourite sports book you’d like me to review, or if there’s a title in Audible’s library which you’ve had your eye on.

Audible.co.uk is the UK’s leading provider of new and classic audiobooks and has a range of autobiographies, investigative journalism and sports training titles.

Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret (a Sports Shorts) (Barry J. Whyte) is available only from audible.co.uk

Audible asked me to write the reviews and provided me with free credits for the purpose.

Audible sports audiobook of the month: Making the Weight: Boxing’s Lethal Secret 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.


A few photos and videos from UKDFBA 2014

October 12, 2014

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I’ve already blogged about my most recent competition – the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association) UK Open Championships. My show report is here.

In that blog post, I promised some official photos, video and report. The report’s not out yet but I have the photos and the show video, so – for those who are interested – here y’go!

Quarter turns (I’m second in from the right of the pic)

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A few from the comparisons/compulsories

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Pose down!

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From my individual posing routine
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Here’s a video of my routine


And a classic couple of shots showing the “moment of strewth”
;)

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And here a video clip of that result being announced

Official photos by Fivos at Showshoots.
Video clips taken with permission from official video by Chris Lambert.

A few photos and videos from UKDFBA 2014 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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