Training update: the countdown has started to 2014 bodybuilding competitions

April 15, 2014

A few people have asked for an update about training, competition prep, and generally “where are you in your off-season/prep?”

I find it tricky to blog about “prep” when I’m so far out from competition, but I know I love reading about other people’s training, nutrition, mindset etc, so hopefully whatever I end up blogging about here today will be of interest to someone (oh, hi Mum! ;) )

ukdfba nicola joyce

Am I competing this year?
You bet! I have goals firmly in place but don’t want to share all of them here just yet. One thing I am happy to share (because it’s obvious) is that I will be competing at the UKDFBA bodybuilding competition in Leamington Spa in September.

If we use that “A” goal as our marker, I am 24 weeks out. Actually, no I’m not: I’m 23 weeks and 5 days out. Because, let’s not fool ourselves, there is a difference!

As of this weekend just gone I am into “under 24 weeks of prep” territory. To some, that might sound like ages. To others (me included) it seems like long enough (if things are going well) but, at the same time, really not very long at all. 24 weeks to diet down to best-ever stage leanness. 24 weeks to continue working on size and shape, symmetry and balance. 24 weeks to make some noticeable changes to certain body parts. Oh and 24 weeks to design and perfect a free posing routine, improve compulsories posing and fine tune stage presence.

If we say “a little over 5 months” rather than 24 weeks, it all seems a little more pressing… ;)

As anyone who’s prepped for a show will know (in fact as anyone who’s prepared for any time-specific and very detailed goal will know!), 24 weeks goes by in a flash. I know full well that I’ll be “20 weeks out” before I know it, and from there time will only seem to speed up.

I’m not working with a prep coach this year. I felt it was time for me to take charge of my own training, diet and prep approach and I feel confident that I can do it, if not better than anyone else, certainly as well as anyone else could. I may be wrong; we’ll see. One thing I know is that thanks to the help, guidance and education I’ve received from previous prep coaches and various bodybuilding friends and mentors over the past few years, I feel I have a fair bit of knowledge. And thanks to lots of reading, journalling, data gathering, monitoring and navel-gazing on my own part, I feel I know my body pretty well.

Before this post gets too long, I’ll briefly answer a few questions people have asked me recently:

What stage of prep are you at? (See above – 24 weeks out although I may do a show or two before UKDFBA… maybe…)

What does this mean diet and training wise? Am dialling in my diet slowly but surely, tracking my intake, planning my meals and sticking to a plan. Training is 5 days a week (lifting) and some cardio (as well as my twice daily power/dog walks). I’m not feeling any changes in strength or energy (yet) so am lifting very heavy and using quite a bit of volume, just because I feel it’s what gives me the results I want.

How is it different to this time last year and the year before? What have you going to keep the same? What are you going to change? The main difference I guess is that I am working by myself, no coach. I would say that I have taken aspects from my 2011 prep and my 2013 prep (we don’t talk about 2012 ;) ) and come up with an approach which I think will suit my body (because it’s a different body, certainly to 2011!), my lifestyle and also how I like to train. My diet is very similar to last year (so far) because it worked and I enjoyed it (thank you, coach Vicky Bradley!) although I will tweak it as I go along, as and when things need to move along a bit.

I’ll be back soon with another update, I’ve realised that there is a fair bit to say I guess, if people want to read it! I’ve had some great training sessions recently with visiting female bodybuilding pals – I’m so sore from this weekend just gone that I had to physically roll sideways out of bed this morning – so perhaps I’ll detail those for you. Or a day’s eats? I had homemade burgers for breakfast today! ;)

Do you think 24 weeks sounds ages, or like no time at all?

Hope your prep, training, gym visits, and sport-specific activities are going well. Whatever it is that you do, I hope you enjoy it. Cos, ultimately, that’s what matters!

Training update: the countdown has started to 2014 bodybuilding competitions 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.

TheFitDog hosts a running magazine giveaway

April 10, 2014

TheFitDog has a big head at the moment. And I’m not talking about the generous proportions he was blessed with by mother nature. He’s puffed up with pride, far beyond his wrinkly jowls and square brain-box.


He’s in a magazine again.
nicola joyce running magazine

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted him (and me, but that’s by the by) in the current issue of Women’s Running magazine. Remember when we went on a caniX training session? This article is the result*


Anyway, Frankie thinks that absolutely everybody should have the opportunity to gaze upon his handsome face and marvel over this athletic physique. So he’s offering one of you a brand new, slobber-free copy of May 2014 Women’s Running magazine.

To be in the mix – do these two things

1) share this blog post on Twitter (with my Twitter name @thefitwriter in your tweet somewhere)
share this blog post on Facebook (with my FB page link in the post)
2) leave a comment on this post to let me know you’ve done one of the above!

Frankie and I will pick a winner on Monday and get the magazine sent out to you ASAP.

Open to readers anywhere in the world :)

*In case you think I’ve gone a bit quiet with the “where you’ll find my byline this month” posts, I don’t do much journalism these days – it’s mostly copywriting. I put a fair bit of client news on my website newspage, when possible.

TheFitDog hosts a running magazine giveaway 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: Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson)

April 1, 2014

In this monthly blog series, I review a sports audiobook from

March’s audiobook was Mike’s Tyson’s autobiography “Undisputed Truth”.


Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson)

Sigh. I wanted to love Mike Tyson’s “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography”. I find him a fascinating character and he was one of the first boxers I was aware of. I like boxing as a sport. And I knew Mike Tyson’s autobiography would be compelling stuff.

But I struggled with this book. It was just… too much. He was too much. I suppose that’s the point. But, honestly, I found it all too much to bear much of the time. There were days when I set off on my walk and chose to listen to a podcast instead, because I just didn’t want more of Mike’s horrible stories in my ears.

Mike’s autobiography got under my skin and unsettled me. Like his opponents, I was out on my feet before we even got to the fights (and, actually, there’s not much of the story given over to his fights nor to his training). The many excesses of Mike Tyson make for uncomfortable listening.

It wasn’t all bad. The early years – when he was under the mentorship of trainer and manager Cus D’Amato – were what I was hoping for. Full of strong, inspiring sports psychology, an insight into what went into the making of an undeniably great champion. D’Amato was presented as a persuasive, perhaps manipulative, very effective mentor who did a fine job of convincing a young Tyson that he was meant for greatness and would not – could not – be beaten.

But after Cus died I’m afraid it all went downhill, for Mike and for me.

The rest of the book was an exhausting barrage of womanising, violence and drug use in an emotional void. I felt like I was out for the count. I’m no prude but it was all just so depressing. And I couldn’t even find it in myself to feel sorry or sympathetic. I found myself desperately hoping there’d be some kind of reprieve at the end of the book but as time ticked on I realised that, nope, this was 99% of the story. Which I suppose it was.

I should mention that it’s not narrated by Mike himself – the narrator is Joshua Henry (I couldn’t find any info online about him) who does a great job of bringing the story and all its colourful characters to life. Maybe too good a job, and that was part of the problem for me. I found it difficult to listen to Mike’s awful stories, terrible treatment of people, and dismissive attitude to the pain he’d caused, narrated through the self-satisfied smile of an autodidact.

There is a reprieve of sorts, although I won’t spoil the “end” (and those of you who are Tyson fans will no doubt have kept yourselves up to date with his career anyway). But it was barely enough to make up for the battering I’d taken by sticking with Mike and his story. I was relieved when it was all over, to be honest. Happy that he’d found some peace, desperately sorry for him over the death of his child, and pleased that he’d been given a second career in acting. But I think I can safely say I won’t be listening to this book again. I might scan back for some of D’Amato’s best motivational quotes. But I’ll leave Mike to it. Peace out, Mike.

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

Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson) is available only from

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

Audible sports audiobook of the month: Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography (Mike Tyson) 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.

Learn from the Champs: natural bodybuilding Q&A with best of British beef

March 25, 2014

There must be something in the water. Because Britain seems to produce a huge amount of very, very good natural bodybuilders. And, because the sport is so small and friendly, these people walk amongst us ;) Such is the family feel of our sport, I’m able to call various World Champions, British Champions and multi-titled bodybuilders “friends”.

Last weekend, there was a natural bodybuilding training meet at Future Fitness gym in Coventry. I couldn’t go (prior engagement) but the event was filmed in two parts for NMTV.

I watched the Q&A section this morning. It’s beyond motivating. If you’re into natural bodybuilding, want to find out more about what goes into the mindset, training, diet and off-season approach of champions, or just need some fire in your belly for your next gym visit, give this a watch (the link is below).

The video features
Richard Gozdecki NPA British 2010 winner, UKDFBA 2011 winner (and WNBF Pro Card), Pro Debut 2011 at WNBF Pro Worlds – HW winner & Overall, WNBF Worlds 2012 HW winner
Gavin Gibson NAC Novice British 2008 winner, NPA SE HW 2010 winner, UKDFBA LHW 2011 winner, INBF amateur World Champion 2012 & Pro Card winner – now competes as a WNBF Pro
Matt Argall NPA Midlands 2012 overall winner, 2012 & 2013 NPA British winner, UIBBN 2012 World LW Champion
Steve Howarth perhaps the most decorated Masters Champion in British natural bodybuilding: 5 x amateur British titles, 2 x amateur World titles, and won DFAC Pro card in 2013
Mark Oakes 4 x British titles (NPA and ANB), 3 x overall British titles, 2 x UK titles (1 of them an overall), 1 World UIBBN Title, and now a WNBF Pro with one WNBF World title (2013)
Nigel St Lewis BNBF Novice British winner and NPA Novice British winner (both in 2011), NPA British HW winner 2013, UIBBN World HW Champion 2013
(I hope I got all of that right!)

and they answer questions relating to mindset, training protocols, contest prep, dieting, the logistics of work/life/training, how their approach has changed over the years, and what’s next.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you to all the guys for taking the time to be part of it, and to Mark for facilitating (and to Toby for filming and editing).

You can catch the rest in the NMTV series here.

Learn from the Champs: natural bodybuilding Q&A with best of British beef 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: Well Hung Meat delivery organic meat box

March 24, 2014

photo 2

Up for review today is a box of delicious organic meat from Well Hung Meat, an online organic butcher and meat delivery company who specialise in organic meat. It’s all they do (and they’ve got tons of awards for it).

They’ve launched a new range of healthier meat boxes (which they say are ideal for fitness folk and anyone following a specific diet/lifestyle, such as paleo, but honestly I think they’re ideal for anyone who likes great meat!) Each box contains a variety of organic meats and the website has lots of information about the origin of the meat, the farms, how the animals were raised, etc. All good stuff if you care about what you’re eating and where it’s come from.

There’s a Paleo Grass Roots Box and a Super Size Cross Fit Box (can you guess who they’re aimed at?) but it was the Protein Power Nutrition Box which I took delivery of.
photo 1

photo 5

photo 3
Well Hung Meat’s Protein Power Nutrition Box (shown here) contains:
Chicken breasts (400g pack)
Burgers (400g pack)
Thick-cut Sirloin steaks (450g pack)
Minute steaks (375g pack)
Chicken thighs (400g pack)
Pork loin steaks (400g pack)
(and it’s on offer at the moment for £50 with free delivery!)

I’ve now tried everything in the box apart from the pork loin steaks, which I donated to my sister (it’s probably more accurate to say I donated them to my brother-in-law). Nothing wrong with them at all, in fact they looked thick and succulent, I just don’t like pork.

The chicken breasts were amazing: massive, very juicy, didn’t shrink at all when I cooked them. They weren’t as well trimmed as some I’ve had (from other meat delivery companies) but this not a complaint. They just didn’t look as neat.

The burgers were absolutely delicious – vast, soft, juicy – and I’m glad I’ve still got one left to enjoy as a treat again.

The sirloin steak was amazing, barely needed cutting it was so soft.

The chicken thighs were lovely, a real treat, slightly fatty, and delicious pan-fried.

And the minute steaks were great quality (minute steak often seems like a poor cousin to other cuts, but this was very tasty, soft and tender, and of course cooked in a flash). Fun fact: I used to think minute steak was pronounced minute. As in tiny. It wasn’t until I had one and it wasn’t tiny at all that I realised…. no… it means minute. As in the amount of time you need to cook it.

The folk at Well Hung Meat kindly sent me the nutritional data for the meat, as I knew some of you would be interested. Click the image to enlarge.
Well Hung Meat Company nutrition data calories macros

I’d definitely recommend Well Hung Meat – everything was perfectly packed, delivery was hassle-free, and the meat itself was wonderful. The website is very informative (and fun). I’ll be placing an order soon (“hooray”, says thefitdog!)

(One last thing – if you’re a Utility Warehouse customer, you can get 7% cashback on Well Hung Meat orders when you pay using your cashback card! Bargain!)

Thank you for my organic meat box!

You can find out more at the Well Hung Meat, like Well Hung Meat on Facebook and follow Well Hung Meat on Twitter.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Well Hung Meat delivery organic meat box 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.

Training update: shoulder session & biosig at Shaping Change

March 21, 2014

Kitchen 2
A few weeks ago, I won a session with Chris Heron of Shaping Change in London (thank you, Twitter!) Part of the prize was a biosignature assessment. I wasn’t sure how meaningful a biosig (body fat/skin fold) test would be at this stage of the season (ie, not started prepping for competitions yet) but I thought if nothing else it would give me some interesting data points: where I’ve gained fat this off-season, and how much lean tissue the test reckons I have. I don’t need anyone to tell me I am “not-lean” (I have mirrors!) but what I would like to know is my lean mass – and how much of it I can hang on to when I do start dieting down.

When Chris did the test, I was about 30 weeks away from competing. The furthest out I’ve had a biosig in previous years is 8 weeks.

The results I found most interesting:

lean mass estimated to be 54.2kgs (safe to say I probably won’t be a Lightweight competitor on stage…)
The umbilical (belly!) skinfold was my “least-lean” area (I could have told you that!) but, looking on the bright side, at least I will be able to watch those numbers tumble during prep!
However, my quadricep skinfold was the same now (months away from competing, and not yet dieting at all) as it was with 8 weeks to go from my first comp last year. How strange!

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 15.09.04Here’s what Chris said:

“At this level of body fat and so far out from competing, I would give the following general advice:

1. Start eating cleaner, cut out all the bad stuff.
2. Start the day with a meat & nut breakfast, no veggies.
3. Eat 6 small meals per day.
4. Take a cocktail of NAC 2-Plex, Glycine & Vit C to help with your hamstring measurement.
5. Eliminate sugars.
6. Hydrate… drink 3 litres of water per day.
7. Keep your cardio HIIT style.
8. Try some insulin sensitising protocols. I like a fenugreek cleanse using fenugreek seeds, linseeds & liquid chlorophyl with 500mls of water or waking. Freshly grind the seeds.”

As for the training – ay caramba! Chris asked what would be most useful (since the Twitter prize could have been won by anybody) and I asked him to really put my shoulders through hell. They’re a focus for me this year and I often feel a bit uninspired about training them. Well, after this little beauty of a session I felt… numb ;) And motivated, inspired and full of ideas for my own training!

Shaping Change shoulder training session

6,12,25 for shoulders plus assistance work

5 sets/circuits of 6, 12, 25 reps as follows:
[numbers after the exercise are reps, and tempo. Minimal rest between exercises (just enough time to get the equipment) but 2 minutes rest between sets/circuits]

A1: Seated overhead military press 4-6, 40X0
A2: Seated dumbbell Arnold press 10-12, 30X0
A3: Seated barbell behind the neck press 20-25, 2020
(bar must touch the traps and up to full lockout)

B1: 10kg plate front raises – only go up and down on my commend – to failure and beyond!

4 sets of 8-10 reps at 2020 tempo as follows:
C1: Seated cable reverse flys
C2: Bent-over multi-grip single arm reverse flys
C3: first set was “teapot” laterals with dumbells (slight tilt at the top) – 15+ reps followed by “partner-assisted” lateral raises
second set was “down the rack” side laterals (10 reps with each pair of DBs – 50 reps total) followed by partner-resisted lateral raises to failure third set was seated dumbbell “L” type laterals, followed by “partner-assisted” lateral raises

Hope you followed all of that?! If you need the short version: OUCH!

Thanks so much Chris for your time, advice and ideas. Training at Shaping Change was a great boost and has given me lots to think about.

You can find Shaping Change online, follow them on Facebook or like them on Twitter (maybe you’ll win your own prize!)

Next up: a report from my first (last? only?) Strongwoman comp!

Training update: shoulder session & biosig at Shaping Change 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: Quest bars via Best Supps

March 15, 2014

Have you tried Quest bars? If you haven’t tried one yet I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They’ve been big news in the USA for a while and have slowly made their way over here. One UK stockist – Best Supps – kindly sent me some to review.
quest bar free delivery uk
First of all, why is the fitness community going crazy for Quest?

Aside from the taste (more on that later!) the nutritional stats and ingredients are pretty fantastic for a “store bought” bar. Very few ingredients, no nasties, no chocolate coating. In short, they’re not one of those protein bars which are basically a chocolate bar in a hench wrapper. Quest bars are the real deal. High in protein and very low in carbs (most of the carbs are soluble fibre) – in fact most of the bars have around 3g net carbs, and they’re all from nuts.

Here’s what the various flavours contain:

Whey protein isolate (WPI) and milk protein isolate
Isomalto-Oligosaccharide (IMO) (a plant-derived fibre)
Natural nut butters (peanut, almomd)
Peanuts, almonds, cashews
Sea salt
Lo han guo (a plant-derived sweetener)
Stevia, erythritol and sucralose

Sucralose is probably the “worst” thing on the ingredient list. Not too shabby!

Quest bars are famous for their flavours. Here are my top three:

Banana nut muffin
Amazing! Not too sweet, a true banana bread taste. Warm the Quest bar up in the oven for a few minutes and it’s even more authentic.

Chocolate brownie

The chunk-factor of this is amazing! I don’t quite know how they do it. Big, soft chunks of chocolateyness in a slightly chewy bar. Delicious.

Vanilla almond crunch
I was really surprised that I liked this one so much (more than the Cinnamon Roll or the various Peanut Butter flavours!) I thought it would be too mild and bland but actually it’s a lovely taste, subtle but so moreish. Not many chunks in this one (you want the brownie bar for that) but very soft.

I have to say that the bars I was sent are definitely softer and nicer to eat than the two Quest bars I’ve tried in the past (from elsewhere). It’s really noticeable. I asked Mike at Best Supps why this might be and he said: “We do turn them over quite fast, so they’re never on our shelves for long.”

Why buy Quest bars from Best Supps rather than anywhere else? Two good reasons that I can see: you can buy individual bars (rather than an entire box of one flavour) and delivery is free, even for one bar. So if you want to try a bar or a new flavour but you’re not sure about it (or if you don’t want the temptation of a dozen bars in the house!), it’s ideal.

One last thing: don’t just eat your Quest bars straight up. That would be wasting a ton of opportunities! Check out the official Quest youtube channel for some amazingly creative “15 second recipes”, or use my favourite method (it takes about 5 minutes):

- unwrap the bar, pop it in a warm oven for about 2 minutes til it soften
- roll it out thinly with a rolling pin or bash it with something to flatten it
- turn the oven up a bit
- slice the flat bar with a sharp knife into strips or squares
- you could add a berry or a smear of nut butter on each strip/square at this point
- put the bits back in the hot oven for 2-3 minutes
- leave them to cool slightly

Voila. Quest bar mini-cookies (or thumb-print cookies if you did the berry thing).

Yum Yum!

Thanks Best Supps – find them online here or at the Best Supps Facebook page or follow them on Twitter for offers and deals.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Quest bars via Best Supps 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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