What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out

So, I’m now 10 days away from my first bodybuilding comp. I’m tired. I’ve been training hard for a long time, and dieting for quite a while. I’m not sleeping well due to nerves and general insomniac tendencies. And I’ve still got a business to run, so there’s all that to stay on top of (and do a good job of!) too. These past few weeks, my diet has got even stricter, and I’m cutting carbs. Ever had “low-carb brain”? If you have, you’ll know how I’m feeling. If you haven’t, get a load of this true story from yesterday:

Scene: the local Co-op.
I am picking up a few bits because we’ve got this voucher for £16 and, even if you spend just 1p of it, you get the rest back in cash. I haven’t spent the full £16, and I know this.

The woman on the till puts my stuff through and I bag it up. “That will be £12.40,” she says. I root through my bag for my wallet, pushing the £16 voucher aside. “I’m so sorry!” I blurt, “I left my wallet at home, it’s only a 10 minute walk, I’ll be back.”

I walk home – having walked to the Co-op already – pick up my wallet, and walk back to the shop again, where I… pay using the voucher which I was well-aware I had all along. WTF?

Oh well, call the walking extra cardio. 😉

Do you have a bodybuilder in your life?
Tread a little carefully if they’re going through the latter stages of contest prep. Low carbs, lack of sleep, fatigue, soreness and nerves are not a great combination. Please accept my apologies on behalf of us all.

Here’s a handy, print-out-and-keep list of “things not to say to a bodybuilder in the last couple of weeks of contest prep”. I shan’t say which are from experience and which are from my imagination…

1) “You look thin!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: we don’t want to look thin. A better choice of word would be “lean” or, if you want to go all-out “ripped”.)

2) “Why are you doing this to yourself?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because… just because. It sounds disapproving. We don’t see it as doing anything negative to ourselves. Even the idea of “doing” something “to” ourselves insinuates damage, punishment, enduring something bad. If we saw it that way, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. We are, after all, in possession of common sense.)

3) “You’re a bodybuilder? OMG, I won’t get on the wrong side of you,then!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because it’s dumb and offensive. We’re strong, not aggressive. And, quite frankly, we probably wouldn’t have enough energy to punch/slap/whatever you think we’ll do to you anyway. Since when does bodybuilding mean fighting?)

4) “Oh yummy my pizza is here” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because I love pizza and I’d like to eat one. You could however follow this with “It’s a super supreme with extra cheese, stuffed crust and salami.” That would be fine.)

5) “You don’t look like a bodybuilder!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because I do, actually. You just have a misconception of what bodybuilders look like. And I’m wearing neither my gym kit nor my bikini, so how do you expect to tell anyway?)

6) “I ate that chopped up, portioned out chicken from those tupperwares in the fridge.” (Why you shouldn’t say this: we have meticulously cooked and portioned-up that chicken to make meal planning easier over the next couple of days, particularly if we have to travel or spend a lot of time out of the house. There is no need for you to eat it. You could have eaten whatever you wanted.)

7) “Please do this very complicated mental arithmetic right now.” (Why you shouldn’t say this: just…no. There are no words to convey how exhausting this even sounds.)

8 ) “What is that you’re eating?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because it’s annoying. It’s chicken/tuna/an egg white omelette/raw veg – OK? I know you probably only mean it out of genuine curiosity but this is the only food we get to eat (til next time) and we just want to eat it in peace. You may not mean to criticise it, but some people do, and we just can’t be doing with explaining why we’re eating this. Sorry.)

9) “…can I have a bit?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: whilst it would show that you’re not repulsed by our choice of food, which is nice, this is still not a great idea. Why? See above – this is the only food we get for this meal, we’ve probably thought about it for ages, and we’ve certainly prepared and portioned it out carefully. You can not have any of it. Don’t you know what that would do to our macros? 😉 )

Please know that (most of) this is completely tongue-in-cheek and (most of) these are from my imagination. I don’t want anyone thinking my husband thoughtlessly eats my meals, or my friends annoy me by asking what I’m eating in disapproving tones. There… that helps you work out which ones people have actually said to me over the past few weeks… 😉

What annoying things have people said to you whilst you’re preparing for a sporting event? How did you react? Can you believe that I walked 3×10 minutes to the Co-op only to use a voucher I had on me the whole time?

What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days 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.

39 Responses to What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out

  1. David Rowe says:

    Number 3. Guilty as charged! Sorry!

    Looking forward to reading about the final prep and of course the big day.


  2. Patricia says:

    I’ve had lots of “Ooh, you don’t look like a rower!” Fair comment, in that I’m small and not very bulky, but it annoys the hell out of me because (a) there’s nothing I can do about my height and (b) I have spent the last year doing ergs, cardio, weights, circuits, boot camp and put myself through no end of pain to improve my muscle mass and fitness. Plus there’s also room in the bow of the boat for someone a bit smaller and lighter if they’re technically precise. Which I’m working hard on, too. Grrrr. So I feel your pain.

    What I do love to hear is (a) “Oooh, you’re looking very toned”. And (b) “Oooh, that last piece looked very neat.” And what I’d love to hear most of all is, “Congratulations, you won”.

    By the way, did you see the programme about pensioner bodybuilders on TV last night?


    • thefitwriter says:

      I think it’s just misconceptions isn’t it – like people expect bodybuilders to be vast and hulking, mainly because all they’ve seen is pics of non-natural competitors and/or pictures of competitors all tanned up and on stage – of course bodybuilders look bigger then, that’s the whole aim. And, for you, those comments just show an ignorance of your sport. Most people don’t know there can be a range of sizes in a rowing team, they just think you have to be huge and tall.

      “Congratulations, you won” sounds good to me 😉

      I didn’t see that programme no! I’ll have to try and iPlayer it. What channel was it on (I’ll google)?


  3. Great post! Good Luck – keep us updated on Twitter!


  4. ALice says:

    My parents said ‘I hope you’re not overdoing it, you look tired’ a lot, leading up to the ironman. And colleagues sometimes comment on ‘what are you eating today…you must train so much you can eat whatever you want’ as they tuck in to their biscuits and complain about not being able to keep the weight off. I think cheeky comments are normally a sign of envy and the fact that they don’t have the mental strength to do what you are doing. As for physique, when we’re all in normal clothes I think the only people who joe bloggs consider as athletic are 6ft something guys with big shoulders, small waist and possibly don’t train much, they’re just built that way. … Maybe you should take to wearing your gym kit or bikin to work, that would make a few jaws drop 😉 Keep up the good work, so nearly there x


    • thefitwriter says:

      Ha well I often wear gym kit to work… but I work at home by myself 😉 Client meetings and networking… hm maybe not!

      I forgot about the “you must be able to eat anything you want” thing when training for an endurance event. ha ha! xx


  5. Juliet says:

    I HATEEEEEEEE all those questions. My absolute least favorite is the ‘what are you eating’ question or when people peer in my tupperwares. I hate it now when I’m not in prep. I have actually snapped at my coworkers for it…. it’s like food aggression in dogs. I know they won’t eat but I just want to be left alone for 5 min while I eat. HAHA


    • thefitwriter says:

      I know, it does make me possessive/defensive about my food. I think for me it’s that I feel people are going to criticise what I’m eating, and that would take the enjoyment out of it for me. I don’t want to explain, justify or defend – not whilst I’m eating, anyway! Happy to do so afterwards! Plus, STOP TALKING, MY FOOD IS GETTING COLD 😉 ha ha.


  6. Allie says:

    I’ve said it before, but the usual response when I mention going for a run is along these lines: ‘Ooh, how far are you running?’ ‘Nine miles or so, just our usual Saturday run…’ ‘NINE MILES? You’re running NINE MILES? You runners are all CRAZY! I hate running! I don’t know why you do it to yourselves! ‘ etc etc. I’m always surprised at how vehement – almost aggressive – some people can be about it. And I completely agree about the ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ comments – I do it because I enjoy it, it keeps me fit and I like the challenge.

    Then, of course, there was the person at work who said ‘You’ll have to give us a map of your half-marathon route, so we can all come along and laugh at you slogging your way round!’ – charming.

    I get comments about my eating, as well – I’ve heard ‘You must be able to eat whatever you like, with all that running!’ more times than I can count!


    • thefitwriter says:

      OMG yes I *hate* the “crazy” word. I mean.. really? Really? Doing something active or healthy actually warrants being put on medication or taken to a secure unit? Well, Broadmoor is just down the road from me so, please, cart me away. 😉

      It really does bug me. I know it’s (mostly) meant in a kind of “I can’t think of another word to use, my mind is so boggled way” but… ugh.

      I remember you saying about that person and your HM route. That’s just awful. What did you say?


      • Allie says:

        I think I just said ‘Oh, nice – why don’t you try running a half-marathon and I’ll come and laugh at you?’

        Went on a solo run this morning and had several people looking at me like I was insane – but I find the worst thing is when I finish a run. I’m exhausted, I’m sweaty, I find a convenient bench or little wall to have a sit down on…and people look at me with utter disgust, like I’m some kind of pissed-up tramp! I’m wearing running kit – can they not work out that I must have just finished a run??


  7. Helen G says:

    Doing a little cross fit training for triathlon partner asked in a disproving tone whether I was ‘training for BBC Superstars or a triathlon?’

    The same week, with just a few days before an Olympic distance triathlon (having already done an Ironman 70.3 a few weeks earlier), the slow swimming lady from the pool asked whether ‘I actually practice running’ hmmmmm.


  8. Kat Millar says:

    GREAT post Nic, made me laugh. And I love all the comment follow ups.

    Allie can’t believe someone would say that about ‘laugh at you as you slog your way round’ – charming indeed!! What did you respond?

    If I ask someone what they’re doing and I don’t understand it, I just ask them to explain – better than making a dum comment!

    My worst is “Oh no, you’re not doing one of those again are you” or “That’s really bad for your body isn’t it??” – what, and what you’re eating / not doing isn’t!?!

    Yeah I got the same Alice “Hope you’re not over-doing it, you must be tired” bla bla as if we don’t have any intelligence for ourselves haha.

    Thanks for the morning giggle Nic! I can TOTALLY believe you went to the Co-op 3 times. I have a memory of crying on the phone to my sister and when she asked what was wrong I said “I dropped my pen and I have no energy to pick it up” …. Oh dear!


    • thefitwriter says:

      Glad it gave you a giggle! 😉 And I can totally sympathise about the pen thing. Last week the laundry basket fell on the floor, piled high with clean clothes I’d folded. I just stared at it, utterly devastated… ha ha!


  9. Shaherah says:


    You hit the nail on the head with this post!

    One thing that does wind me up is when friends say – ‘let’s catch up when you can eat’. I don’t understand why they take it upon themselves to decide that I can’t have a good time because I’m not wolfing down the same things they are.

    Ah well….


    • thefitwriter says:

      Hey girl! Yes I can imagine that would be a sad thing to hear – I haven’t had that one but if I did, I’d point out that I can usually find something to eat (see my blog post about my friend’s hen do!) and – if I can’t – no big deal! I’d be there for the chat, not the food!


  10. Wendy says:

    Darling, you look freakin’ ripped!!

    I would NEVER eat your chicken (vege that I am) and err I do try not to say anything stupid but it doesn’t always work.

    I like the helpful advice of HOW we might be able to support you because often the people who love you want to…just don’t know how.

    Next dropped pen, I’m there!

    P.S. I have lots of ideas as to why people might say these things being a general lard arse myself (none of them flattering to the speaker really) but it doesn’t really matter because you’re 10 days out of the comp and all that matters is YOU.

    And mate, YOU looked RIPPED!!! ;0)


    • thefitwriter says:

      Yo thanks maaaaan! Yeah ripped to the bone whoooo yaaaaa! 😉

      Tee hee.

      Yes I suppose a more helpful and less belligerent blog post might have included things TO say… maybe next time.

      And you might not steal my chicken but imagine if you stole my radishes :-O Actually I would gladly give you my last radish, there that’s friendship.
      PS You’ve never said anything stupid, you’ve only ever been curious and shown genuine interest 🙂


  11. Kristen says:

    #5… Had a coworker ask me what I had done to my shoulder that required surgery (arthritis), and when I told her it was likely that the arthritis was from repetitive weight lifting, she said, “Yeah, because you have *such* huge muscles.” I was tempted to punch. Or flex.


    • thefitwriter says:

      LOL! That reminds me of one I forgot to put on the list – I had hernia repair surgery last year (and the hernia is now back). Almost everyone says “oh well that will be from lifting too much weight in the gym/running/whatever”. Um, no. It’s *from* naturally having a gap between my abdominal muscles which is just part of how I’m made. It’s always been there. The hernia poking its way through would have happened eventually anyway, whether it was from coughing if I were a 60-a-day smoker or lifting up a barbell. Weight lifting didn’t cause it!

      Did you invite your colleague to train with you? 😉


  12. Crystal says:

    I am seriously considering printing your 10 thngs and passing it out to the people in my office. 🙂


  13. On things to say:
    1) When’s your next comp?
    2) I really admire your dedication, I couldn’t do what you do.
    3) OMG how fit do you look!
    4) You can Bench more than my boyfriend/husband
    5) What are you eating, it looks yum (even if you’re lying, I’ll tell you what I’m eating, but if you add a sneering tone I’ll probably throw my stinky fish/rice/oil in your face so you can closely inspect it.
    6) When’s your next cheat day – maybe we can go and get something to eat -my shout.
    7) Can I make any of your food for you? How much uncooked rice/chicken do you have per meal? I’ll do it.

    I laughed so hard at this article, because I can happily say everything on that list to you now Nic, and get away with it, cos I’m one of those bonkers people who’ve done what you are just about to do!

    My biggest pet peeve is taking my food I’ve prepped and eating it. Do you REALLY want to eat my cold, flavourless chicken??

    One more thing not to say, “How long is it to go now?” – Nic it sounds like you don’t get this at your gym, but people used to ask me day in day out and I was soooo done with it! They never used to listen to the answer anyway!

    Sad but true story, I used to have to eat egg whites for breakfast, but I used to get a train from Cheshunt to Harlow every morning after morning cardio – after a few days insults of “Ewww something f**king stinks” from school kids on my train, I ended up eating my breakfast in the toilet on the train! EWWWW! But then exacted my revenge by leaving the empty peeled shells in the bin on the train as I got off!


    • thefitwriter says:

      They are all *great* things to say 😀

      Oh I forgot the ‘how long now?’ ones (but I don’t mind that). Mind you one PT at my gym keeps asking me what exactly it is I’m training for and can’t seem to retain the info even when I just say “Bodybuilding”… !


  14. christina says:

    I’ve had a couple of comments in the opposite direction. After bikram yoga one day I had a fella ask me if I was a body builder (I’m not) and I thought that was pretty cool. Also, I work out with a trainer for small group training a couple of times a week (among other things) – he used to be a pro body builder – and he asked me if I ever thought of body building. I told him it isn’t for me (for a number of reasons) but I was pretty flattered he thought I’d be a good candidate for it (I’m on the verge of my 48th birthday after all).


    • thefitwriter says:

      That is cool, and unusual (but good) that those people thought a yogini might be a BB. Usually people’s misconceptions are so far off in the other direction – they think bodybuilders have to be vast and on steroids. Happy birthday whenever it is! 🙂


  15. Carmen Scales says:

    Oh lots of irritating comments:

    ‘You can’t have tried very hard if you can walk the day after your marathon’ – actually it’s because I trained hard before the event that I was able to recover quickly afterwards.

    ‘I wish I could eat that’ – said by people who think that a diet consisting of Alpen Light, sugar free jelly and Muller Lights is a healthy diet and that mine of baked potato with tuna and salad is going to cause me to put on a stone.

    ‘I could never do that’ said in a patronising, critical manner – almost anybody can do anything if they put their mind to it. Just because you are a lazy so-and-so doesn’t mean that it is bad for me to try to fulfil my own dreams and goals.

    ‘Isn’t it cold in the sea?’ said by someone wearing a skimpy top and a skirt that hardly covers their bum on a cold Saturday night while waiting for a taxi – actually the water temperature is currently warmer than the air temperature and you are wearing less than I wear in the sea, and being less active.

    I could go on… but I won’t.


    • thefitwriter says:

      LOL love these!

      My responses
      1) “It’s usually the day after the day after, or even longer than that. It’s called DOMS and the D stands for “delayed”.”
      2) “You can. Why don’t you?”
      3) Ugh… this old chestnut. “You could if you wanted to.”
      4) “Yes, yes it is.”

      Perhaps my favourite from channel swimming days: “why do you do it?” How on earth are you ever meant to answer that?

      Hope training’s going well?

      PS You might like this if you haven’t seen it already: https://thefitwriter.wordpress.com/channel-swimming-stuff/channel-swimming-faqs/


  16. Tweeting this, EVERY one of these is horribly familiar!


  17. kate says:

    this has had me in stitches …

    having just completed a 2 person relay channel swim, my favourite peeve was ‘oh.. so you’re not doing the whole thing then’ … errr.. how bout you try and last like 10 mins and see how you get on…

    followed by the CONSTANT ‘how long have you got to go now’ asked every week by the same people… i appreciate the interest but really… its a week less than when you asked me last time!?

    and not forgetting:

    we had to eat LOTS to try put on weight for the swim.. and had a lot of ‘what are you eating NOW’ .. or ‘are you eating .. AGAIN’ comments from the muller light / sit on your fat arse all day diet brigade!!!

    i really admire all of you for your commitment and dedication to training … its really inspirational



    • thefitwriter says:

      Hi Kate! Thanks. Having done a relay myself (not a two person mind you, but it was a two-way!) I can honestly say I would much much mmmmmuuuuch rather do the whole thing by myself than a relay. A relay is tougher in so many ways. And a two person – you don’t get much time off between swims! Congratulations on your swim, my CSPF swimhat is well and truly off to you! “Are you eating again?” – um, yes, yes I am, I spent 8 hours both days this weekend in and out of the water at Dover harbour…..thanks for asking…. ;D


  18. Kooloft says:

    Who ever wrote this is very sensitive i think she lived in het imaginary world of her creations or something and probably never bumped heads with no-one


  19. paul delnero dissertation

    What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out | The Fit Writer Nicola Joyce


  20. doctoral dissertation assistance

    What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out | The Fit Writer Nicola Joyce


Please leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: