Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Smart Recovery bedding from The Fine Bedding Co

August 19, 2014

I love napping. And sleeping. And bedtime. Never more so than during bodybuilding prep when, frankly, the days just seem a little bit too long. (The rather trying extra bit seems to be between 3pm-6pm. What is the point of that part of the day? Unnecessary.)

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So, I was delighted to receive a lovely bit of kit to review from the clever people at The Fine Bedding Co: their brand-new Smart Bedding set. It’s the UK’s first “smart recovery” bedding and has been specifically designed to improve sport performance by boosting recovery (after all, the period of time we’re asleep is the biggest stretch of recovery time in our day).

Smart Recovery Bedset

Sports Sleep Coach Nick Littlehales was commissioned by The Fine Bedding Company to develop the bedding (a pillow and duvet – various sizes) who knows how important consistent, good quality sleep is to sports performance. Nick told me:

“Sleep is the longest recovery period in any 24 hours and is essential to achieving optimum performance – whether you’re a top athlete or simply want to get the best out of your day. But it’s not just about how many hours we sleep for, it’s about how many productive cycles of sleep we actually get and managing these cycles so that we wake refreshed both mentally and physically. Like all sports related equipment, bedding needs to be under constant management and development to improve an athletes’ personal best performance.”

The aim of this bedding is to enhance the amount of deep sleep we can get each night. The Smart Bedding has proved so popular with athletes like that they take it with them to major competitions and use it instead of the hotel bedding. Nick works with elite sport events, including the London 2012 Olympic games, and sports squads and teams including the FA and England squads, leading premiership football clubs, Rugby Union, Rugby League, British Cycling, the Sky Pro cycling team, cricketers, triathletes, rowers and golfers.


What’s different about the Smart Bedding?

– Smartfil fibres for breathability and temperature control
– very light
– the pillows are really plump and keep their shape
– non allergenic
– designed for comfort
– 10.5 tog (I had to ask them about this bit!) – “There is always a lot of tog talk when duvets are being discussed – maintaining core body temperature is vital to quality sleep. We chose 10.5 as the best tog for this duvet to help regulate body temperature throughout the year. Anything more or less in tog relates to certain people’s individual needs – whether they experience night sweats or are particularly cold in the night.” (Now you know!)

My experience of using the Smart Bedding?

I do struggle with sleep when I’m dieting for bodybuilding comps. I don’t know why – hormones, I suspect. I tend to wake around 2am and stay awake for an hour or two. This affliction definitely lessened the very first night I used the Smart Bedding. I won’t lie – it hasn’t stopped completely – but it is much, much better. The bedding feels amazing, really light and soft, but keeps me a nice temperature. The pillow is very comfy. In short, yes I’d recommend it. For the price, I think it’s definitely worth a try if you do any kind of sport, or just know how important sleep is to a healthier, more stress-free lifestyle.

I’ll leave you with
Nick Littlehales’s Top 3 Smart Recovery Tips

1 Check your mattress, pillow and bedding is giving the right support. “Your mattress should take your body shape and weight easily – almost as if you don’t need a pillow,” says Nick. “Get someone to ­analyse you lying on the bare mattress, in a foetal position on your non-dominant side (so if you’re right handed, lie on your left side). This is the natural sleeping position. If there is a clear gap of five centimetres or more ­between your head and mattress, or you feel your head dropping on to the mattress, then it could be too firm. Head raised out of line? The mattress may be too soft.”

2 Choose bedding that’s breathable, comfortable and sleep inducing. Nick makes up “sleep kits” for athletes with contouring, pressure sensitive mattress toppers, linen and climate control duvets and pillows from The Fine Bedding Company.

3 Think of sleep in terms of 90-minute cycles rather than hours. During each 90-minute cycle, the body goes through five stages essential to overall recovery. These include “light sleep”, “deep sleep” and “REM sleep” (when we dream).

Thank you, Smart Bedding people! What a lovely thing to receive. :)

You can find out more about the Smart Bedding sets online here at The Fine Bedding Co, or check them out on Facebook or Fine Bedding Co on Twitter. Sport Sleep Coach Nick is on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Smart Recovery bedding from The Fine Bedding Co 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.


I’m on a podcast (… so now you can hear what I sound like… !)

August 18, 2014

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Check my riddims! Not only am I blogging twice in the same day (!) but I’ve been interviewed on a podcast.

(Fun fact: “Be on a podcast” was one of my goals for the year. TICK!)

The lovely Katie Bulmer-Cooke interviewed me for her podcast – you can listen to the episode (number 7 I believe) here or directly on Katie’s website.

If you like it, share it!

Here’s what you’ll find out by listening to my interview:

– why fitpros and fitness businesses need to create more content
– how to reuse every single bit of content you produce
– the sporting challenge which kicked down the door and started my freelance writing career
– why your writing is part of your brand
– how to deal with awkward situations like… um… interviewing an Olympic athlete whilst they’re taking an ice bath
– how to find something to blog out within 30 seconds (it’s so easy!)
– why I think of myself as “a little dog” (did I really say that? I’m so weird)
– what I sound like when I guffaw at my own jokes

Thanks for the interview, Katie! x :)

I’m on a podcast (… so now you can hear what I sound like… !) 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.


Why does winning matter, anyway?

August 18, 2014

I’m in a philosophical mood this morning. Chatting with a friend about my goals in this sport (happy to share them: WNBF Pro), and sharing photos of current female WNBF Pros who inspire me, I realised that I’ve set myself a really very difficult challenge.

Why have I bothered? Why did I let the idea in, and why do I continue to pursue it? Why not just compete for fun? Why compete at all?

Being competitive is a blessing, and a curse. It’s helped me thrive in business, and succeed in most challenges I set myself. But being highly competitive, single-minded, with tunnel vision and “laser-beam focus”, is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth.

It pushes you outside your comfort zone and doesn’t make for particularly easy living. So why can’t we just settle?

(I’m sure my family and friends wouldn’t mind if I didn’t compete. And, whilst it does help that I “walk the talk” as a copywriter for the fitness industry, I’m sure my clients would be fine if I was “just” someone who trained hard.)

Because – like many of you – I’m like a dog with a bone. Give me an idea, and I’ll either reject it immediately, or obsess over it. When I’ve got a goal, my mind sees it in vibrant technicolour, and turns grey towards everything else.

Sometimes, I wish I’d never heard of this sport, never started, never had the seed sown. I’m just being honest! Most of the time, I love it, and I definitely think the plus points outweigh the negatives. It’s true that you can’t “unknow” what you learn about nutrition, diet and fat loss during bodybuilding prep, but – on balance – I’m glad I know it. That’s probably a different philosophical discussion for another time though!

So, why does winning matter, anyway? Why do our goals – whether that’s a World Record lift, a competition win, a particular title, or Pro Status – matter so much to those of us blessed/cursed with the ultimate of type-A personality?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And here’s the photo, stuck to my kitchen cupboards, which both excites and terrifies me every day. It’s last year’s Pro Heavyweight FBB line up at the WNBF Worlds.
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Why does winning matter, 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.


You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when….

August 10, 2014

My 2014 contest prep marches on, and the diet has started to kick in.

You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when…
(feel free to fill in the blank with your own funniest, strangest or most melodramatic and self-indulgent story!)

You strip your bedsheets in the morning when you’re full of beans, thinking you’ll make the bed later. By “later”, the very thought of such immense levels of activity is enough to reduce you to tears. You sleep wrapped in a sheet for the next four days.

You strategically combine household chores according to height. Already undoing your shoes? So pick up the junk mail and straighten the doormat whilst you’re down there. Saves energy. Every little helps.

A bit of paper blows off the kitchen counter on to the floor and you stand, staring at it, before bursting into tears of self-pity and rage. You now have to bend down and pick it up?!

8:30pm is a perfectly reasonable bedtime for a fully-grown adult.

You invent new and unusual ways with dry shampoo, because even the idea of washing your hair is enough to make you need a little sit down. You haven’t actually dried your hair in weeks.

You consider moving to a bungalow so that going to the toilet is less of an arduous ordeal.

But your house does have a staircase. Which you have taken to crawling up, on hands and knees, when you’ve trained legs that day.

You just can’t be bothered to make your food interesting any more. It’s too much effort. Who cares, anyway?

The sight of a new line in your abs/glutes/quads has a revitalising effect like nothing else! You (momentarily) feel like you could run 10 miles! Til… er… about 5 minutes later.

Your tolerance-to-attitude ratio reaches peak velocity (“look at this selfie of my abs! Now shut up and go away!”)

You put on noise-cancelling headphones whilst the dog is eating his dinner because the noises he makes are quite simply beyond anything anybody should have to tolerate.

Coffee. So much coffee.

Written with fond and humble apologies to my nearest and dearest. Especially the dog. ;)

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You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when… 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 to expect during body building prep (it’s not what you think)

July 26, 2014

I wanted to post about all those little things you should expect when you embark on competition “prep” for a bodybuilding contest.

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No, no… not about dieting, training, emotions or any of that stuff. The little details which are so peculiar, you wonder if anyone else does them. Then you venture to admit them to another bodybuilder, and they say “OMG, I do that too! I thought I was the only one!”

7 random things you are likely to do as a competitive bodybuilder

You’ll indulge in intense, often bizarre and very niche, online shopping
Perhaps it’s a displacement activity, but most bodybuilders I know end up obsessively buying and stockpiling… something during their contest prep. Of course for many it’s food. Food they can’t eat until after their show. By which point they no longer want it (because they never truly did in the first place). Thankfully, I’m past that stage. But… er… I did win 4 pairs of high top trainers on eBay last week. Yes, 4 pairs. I had employed uber-stealth mode and was stalking ones listed at 99p. I put a small bid on all of them, thinking I’d win maybe one or two pairs. Forgot about them all. And… well, you can predict the outcome. No doubt by next week it will be something else.

Top tip! If you find yourself spending too much time (and cash!) on online shopping during your contest prep, try this. Browse to your heart’s content, fill your online shopping basket – and then close the browser window. Do not press “complete purchase”. You get all the fun of window shopping without actually crippling your Paypal account.

Your language will change
Perhaps it’s the extra testosterone your body is producing (we can hope!) or maybe it’s hanging around more males than females, but expect your lexicon to shift. You’ll start calling your (female) friends “beast” and telling them they’re starting to look “disgusting”, and they’ll be delighted. Someone could call you a “horrid little monster” and it would make your day. Oh, I’m a “freak”, you say. Thank you, thank you!
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You’ll eat out of the same bowl all day long
Thanks to my gym buddy “Lady P” for this one. You’ll take to pretty much eating out of the same bowl all day long. I’m not sure why! I can’t remember the last time I used a plate – always a bowl and usually a spoon – and, yes, I tend to have my breakfast in one bowl and then… er… just kind of fill the same bowl with my next meal, and so it goes on. Why? I don’t know! But I’m not the only one who does it. I then wash up at the end of the day. As Lady P quite rightly points out: “my cats eat out of the same bowl all day, so why not!” (I refer you to the “beast” description above…)

You’ll be more obsessed with beautification than before you were a bodybuilder

Maybe just one for the women (but I never judge). Before I competed as a bodybuilder, I don’t think I’d ever had a manicure and I’d certainly never had cluster lashes. Nowadays? I “get my lashes” done as often as I can afford. There doesn’t have to be a reason. And as for spray tans/self-tanning… don’t get me started. Once you go orange, you never go back.

You think nothing of going out wearing shorts, a stringer or tank top (and your hi-tops, of course)

I’ve been to client meetings in gym kit (good quality, non-revealing stuff of course, and on my way to the gym, not on the way back!) I’ll go in to town wearing gym kit. I’ll queue in the Post Office post-cardio. I honestly don’t think anything of it, until someone points/stares/tuts (expect all three when you’re prepping). I will put an extra layer on to go into Waitrose. Somehow, it just feels the proper thing to do ;)

You’ll genuinely like very odd food combinations
If you’d told me five years ago that I would look upon ground flaxseed and egg whites as a delicious treat, I would have looked at you like, well, a bit like how your face is looking right now. Dieting for bodybuilding shows not only means that you come to appreciate the smallest and most paltry treat as hugely exciting, but you end up experimenting with certain foods in a bid to make a meal you haven’t eaten 234,123,943 times already. What are some of your favourite discoveries?

You’ll kind of like shaving…
Before I tanned up for my first bodybuilding comp, I’d never shaved my arms (funnily enough). But when you’re getting ready to apply stage tan, you kind of have to shave everywhere. Let me tell you, you’ve not lived until you’ve shaved your own rear delts! Most (female) bodybuilders I know will give their forearms a quick swipe with the razor throughout the year. And no, it’s nothing to do with getting hairier (I’m part of the drug-free scene, remember). It just… feels nice.

OK, so that was a bit embarrassing! Please let me know I’m not alone in all of this. What weird and unexpected things do you now do since prepping for bodybuilding shows?

What to expect during body building prep (it’s not what you think) 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.


Easy ways to generate content for your business blog

July 24, 2014

Do you struggle to find things to blog about? If you’re a sole trader, owner/manager, or the person responsible for marketing, chances are you have a business blog (if you don’t… start one!)

One of the biggest grumbles I hear from people with work-related blogs is “I don’t know what to blog about!”

Yes, you do. And I’m going to tell you how to uncover it.

professional blog content writer

I’ll aim this at fitpros and brands/businesses within the fitness and wellness worlds, cos that’s who I work with. But, really, this advice could apply to anyone in any sector. I’ve actually written something similar – based on a presentation I delivered to a local business networking group (none of whom were fitpros) – you might like to read my advice for small businesses – why write in your authentic voice

Here’s a professional copywriter’s advice on how to generate blog content every single day (your only problem after reading this will be finding the time to blog it all. Hint: get in touch with me ;) )

What are your clients talking about?
– you see your clients regularly, and you have a good relationship with them. You’re not just a fitpro to them, you’re a sounding board, a therapist, a friend. They tell you what they’re worried about, what they’re excited about, what confuses and intrigues them about health and fitness. They are your eyes and ears – listen to them and they’ll tell you what your next potential client is almost certainly thinking about.

What do your clients ask you?
– what do your clients actually ask you? What exact questions do they come to you for, looking for an expert answer? In their eyes, you’re the expert, and that’s how your blog is going to position you, too. Take those questions, and blog with an answer to them. Chances are, someone is actually Googling that question. SEO, my friend, SEO…

What’s hot in your industry right now?
– You know what’s creating waves in your industry. Regardless of how seriously you take the latest discussion/argument, or how long you think the next fad is going to stick around, these things are on your prospects’ radar, too. So blog about it. Your opinion, your advice, your experiences.

Use the news
– Had a news story broken which affects or feeds off the fitness industry somehow? The news is a great resource for your own blog posts. There’s something in the news every day which somehow refers back to health, fitness, weight loss, wellness. Use news, stats, research. Local news (great if you’re trying to dominate your local area) and national news. Link back to the story for better SEO.

Memes and infographics

– Content is about more than just words. It’s becoming increasingly more visual. Consider making memes and infographics to illustrate your blog posts and to give you another angle on creating compelling content which your followers are likely to share and engage with.

Numbered lists and top 10s
– Stuck for a blog post? Here’s an easy way to break your writer’s block: choose a topic, and do a “top ten reasons why….” or “ten easy ways to…” type post. Easy to write, easy to read, great to share.

Create a theme
– Use regular themes within your blog: perhaps a mindset/motivation post on a Monday, a workout type post on a Wednesday, a healthy recipe on a Friday. Not only will this make blogging easier for you, but your readers will come to expect the content and will look forward to their favourite posts from your blog.

And here are some practical tips (because it’s all very well having all those fabulous ideas, but you’re busy and likely to forget them)

- carry a notepad and pen with you at all times. Or have a note-taking function on your phone/tablet. If a brilliant idea for blog content strikes whilst you’re rushing between clients, setting up your circuit class stations, or making a coffee… make sure you can make a note of it

- Just do it. Don’t procrastinate. The nice thing about blogging is that you can do it quickly and get it out there. And it’s a medium that lends itself well to being time-sensitive and reaction. So… just get on with it

- Reuse and recycle your content. Once you’ve written your blog post, use that bad boy! Push it out via your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other social media (personal and business). Put it in an email and send it to your list (with links to your website of course). Use the first paragraph in your digital customer newsletter with a juicy enticement to click through. Add it as a Facebook note. Consider using it as part of that ebook you’ve been meaning to write for a year. You get the idea

- have an editorial schedule. Treat writing, and blogging, as part of your business strategy (because it is)

- set aside regular time for blogging, just as you schedule in time for other business matters

- and… outsource! If you can’t do it yourself, or don’t want to, contact me. Writing content (including blog content) for people just like you is exactly what I do as a job. You have no idea how many of the fitness industry blog posts out there were written by me!

Easy ways to generate content for your business blog 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 Writers at FitPro Live 2014

July 20, 2014

fitness writer fitpro liveThanks to membership organisation The Fitness Writers’ Association (please note the impeccable use of apostrophe!), I got a VIP pass to FitPro Live, and popped along on Friday.

Here’s a quick round up of what I did, saw, heard and took away with me:

I spent most of the day in the educational talks rather than at the expo. Room 8 turned out to be where it was at for all things marketing, digital and content. My kinda place to be!

I listened to sales specialist Lesley Aitken talk about how digital is rapidly changing the customer journey (particularly in the fitness industry). Fascinating stuff. Clients, are you aware of just how much research your potential customers are able to do about your business, brand and products… before they even visit your website, shop or facility? What’s out there online about you? And how do you control and optimise it? Lesley told us about “ZMOT”, which pretty much defines how the customer decision-making and buying process has changed due to digital/online. She talked about the ongoing importance of big data but, more than that, what to do with it. Don’t let it languish (80% is never used, apparently). Segment, drill down, utilise “pen portraits”… and then make sure your message (content!) is specific, relevant and targeted. The right message, at the right place, at the right time.

Here are my take away points from Lesley’s talk:
– pitch to the customer journey (understand what that really is, not what you think/hope/assume it is)
– collect data… but use it!
– the future of sales, marketing and comms is going to be much more integrated (hooray)
– plan for conversion and retention (this includes your content strategy)
– social is huge, and it’s not going away. Social marketing, advertising and selling… don’t get left behind (because your future customers are already ahead of you)
– become a publisher of content in some way and on some level
– get your content out there, position yourself as an expert, build trust, engage people and then nurture them. Yes – all through content (but I would say that ;) )

Next up was Jon Lipsey of Jon Lipsey Media and the man behind the new (and fantastic) Iron Life Mag (have you got your free download yet?) He spoke about how fitpros can use Twitter more strategically to get more customers. It was really interesting for me to sit in on this and hear the barriers and challenges PTs, coaches, facilities managers etc face (or think they face) to using social media. Most were things I hear from my clients on the regular: not enough time, not sure how to structure a message, not sure how to achieve the desired tone of voice, how to put together a strategy rather than just being on social media for the sake of it.

Jon gave some real gems of research into Twitter use, and left the fitpros with some useful questions to ask themselves:

- how active are your targets on social media?
– how much time/money per week are you willing to spend on social media content creation, upload, management?
– what is your strategy?
– how will you track and measure success?
– why would someone follow you and engage with you?
– and why would they want to stay connected?
– why would they engage with you, and not your competition?
– what do you offer (what’s unique)?
– why would someone want to share your content?
– what message do you want followers to take away?

I really liked his advice on putting together an authentic Tweet which does the job: ask a question (be specific), push people’s buttons, be subtle and genuine, and always reply!

I then sat in on a talk about the future of exercise and nutrition by Dr John Berardi of Precision Nutrition. It was a real pleasure to hear John talk “in real life”, he doesn’t come over the UK often so there was no way I was missing this! I was a total cliche at this point… yes, I sat listening to Dr Berardi of Precision Nutrition whilst I ate turkey and green beans out of a plastic tub ;) There was a great deal to take away from his talk and it was fascinating for me to listen to a leading name in the industry talk about future trends, challenges and opportunities.

I think the bit which resonated with me most was John’s prediction that the fitness industry will shift more and more towards a holistic consultative role, helping people with stress management, sleep and all the lifestyle and behavioural barriers they present. It’s going to be about change management before exercise and nutrition plans.

I then…er…did a Metcon class! Yes, me! It was fun actually, I’d forgotten how much I like classes :D I don’t do them at all any more but I was really into classes at one time. The presenter reminded me of one of my friends (who also presents fitness classes), the music was bangin’, I worked up a right old sweat, and I jumped in the air! As in, with both feet off the ground at the same time! :-O I KNOW RITE!

This was, by the way, on the hottest day of the year. I then got stuck in horrendous traffic driving home (from London, at rush hour on a Friday… no sh*t). But never fear, because I had left my coolbox in my car, so I popped my (still frozen) icepacks on my legs and drove home like this.

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Did you go to FitPro Live? What were your highlights and take-homes?

Fitness Writers at FitPro Live 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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