My UK Health Radio Interview: Bodybuilding and Channel Swimming

July 3, 2016

nicola joyce interview uk health radio bodybuilding

Does ANYBODY like the sound of their own voice? I don’t. It won’t surprise you that I’m far more comfortable being interviewed in print

…but UK Health Radio managed to persuade me to go on their Fitness Hour Show to big up the sport of drug-free bodybuilding. I’ll take any opportunity to talk about it people who might not know about the sport. So… here I am! In all my “I sound like a 5-year-old” glory.

You can listen again to it via this link >> Nicola Joyce bodybuilder interview on UK Health Radio

(I’m the opening interview on the show – it’s just after the first song – at around 5 minutes in)

As predicted, I went off-piste… here are a few of the topics the interview covers:

– My background in Channel swimming
– What goes through your brain when you’re swimming the Channel?
– What are the skills you need to be a Channel swimmer?
– Is swimming the Channel scary?
– How and why did I make the transition from swimming to bodybuilding?
– Can anyone get involved in bodybuilding?
– Is age a barrier in physique and strength sports… or a bonus?
– What are the different categories and types of bodybuilding?
– Is bodybuilding healthy or not?
– How can a bodybuilding lifestyle benefit our health?
– Why is lifting weights and eating like a bodybuilder healthy (even if you don’t compete)?
– What does “clean eating” really mean? Is it always a good thing?
– Healthy lifestyle improvements vs extremes of diet and exercise
– Advice for anyone wanting to get into bodybuilding

Hope you enjoy the interview. If you think it would be interesting or useful to anyone you know, please do share.

Nicola Joyce UK Health Radio Interview: Bodybuilding and Channel Swimming 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.

Advertisements

Tips From The Bodybuilding Judging Table

June 14, 2016

Are you stepping on a bodybuilding stage this year? This might be worth a read – especially if you’re a first timer or novice.

I’ve judged at a few UKDFBA bodybuilding shows (and am doing so this year). Let me tell you, judging is a huge eye-opener. Even if you’re a competitor! (Perhaps especially if you’re a competitor?)
ukdfba bodybuilding judging
(Image by AllSports Photography at the UKDFBA USN Classic 2016)

Judging really helps me see what a difference the small details can make. Some are things I know (but can forget). Others are things I would never have thought about…

Here are some “tips” from behind the judges’ table.
(By the way, if you want more like this, I recommend two articles on Jon Harris’s natural muscle.co.uk website – this one written by Jon and this one written by Karen Mason).

TAN
Every competitor knows tan is important. But first-timers might not realise just HOW important it is to get your tan right. Your tan (colour, coverage, evenness) does make a difference to how well the judges can actually assess your size, shape, condition. A poor tan can make it really difficult for judges to judge you properly.

Advice: if you’re doing your own tan, practice it a couple of weeks beforehand. If the show organiser has a professional tanner at the venue, consider using her. But book your appointment in good time!

YOUR NUMBER
You’ll get two numbers (same number twice – you know what I mean!) Pin one to the back of your suit, the other on the front. Make sure it isn’t upside down (particularly if your number contains a 6 or a 9!) Do a round of posing in the waiting area with your number on, so you can see whether or not your hands are going to knock/brush the number as you pose. Look in a full length mirror to check that your hands don’t obscure the number during any poses. If it falls off on stage (which it might), don’t panic. Wait until the Head Judge tells you to “relax” (i.e. after that round of posing is over), and pick it. Worst case scenario, leave it there. And remember your number! The Head Judge might call it out (to move competitors around in the line up). Don’t be the one who’s standing there looking blank whilst the Head Judge says “number 3. Number 3! Yes, that’s you… number 3…. please swap with number 5. No, number 3. Yes, that’s you. Number 3….”

Advice: judges need to see your number (front and back) and you need to know what it is.

POSING
Please spend time learning and practicing your poses. Good, confident posing is a joy to watch and can encourage the judges to keep their eyes on you. In fact, good posing can mean it’s difficult to take your judging-eyes OFF you! Poor posing, on the other hand, just does you no favours. Judges can’t judge what they can’t see. So if you’re not showing off a body part, or not posing something properly, it’s incredibly difficult for the judges to assess you in that area.

Advice: get someone experienced to teach you how to pose. Then practice – LOTS. Get someone to check your progress (ideally the person who taught you). Attend posing clubs/workshops if you can get to one.

HIT YOUR POSES QUICKLY AND CLEANLY
There’s a difference between posing with style, and posing with necessary faff. When the pose is called, just move into it. By all means transition into it slightly differently (everyone has their style) but don’t mess about trying to draw attention to yourself (or a body part), and don’t try to be the last person hitting the pose. Two things are possible: the judges won’t notice any of it anyway (so conserve your energy), or they will notice, but for the wrong reasons (being frustrated and wishing you’d just pose properly).

Advice: be confident enough in your posing that you don’t need to add flourishes and embellishments. Move into poses in a timely manner, and then hold them.

FREE POSING
I know you might be nervous, but try to relax and give a confident free posing routine. This is your chance to have the stage to yourself! It’s finally time to show us your routine and to pose to that music you chose so long ago. Enjoy it! I can’t speak for all judges, but personally I absolutely love watching people’s free posing routines. So bear that in mind: the judges are looking forward to seeing this, they want to see you enjoying yourself. Walk on confidently, and walk off confidently too!

Advice: be confident in your routine, choose music which makes you feel good and positive, then go out there and enjoy it!

BLING
Figure and Bikini competitors will often choose to spray glittery stuff on after their tan. And many will wear blingy jewellery. That’s all fine, but please don’t go overboard. Make sure it accentuates your physique. Don’t create a distraction for judges. Less is often more, even if you are Figure or Bikini. Let your stage presentation, posing, and your own stage presence shine instead!

Advice: choose enough bling to accentuate your stage presentation, but don’t go overboard.

“FLAPPY” HANDS & FLIPPY HAIR
Pay attention to your hands, both in poses and whilst moving between poses. Minimise flappy hands or overly-artistic finger pointing. Chances are you either think it looks better than it does, or you don’t realise you’re doing it at all. And if you’re wearing long hair down, don’t make a big deal about moving it to one side to show your back. Hair-swishing can be part of Figure and Bikini stage presentation, but don’t overdo it. Think classy and understated, not OTT. Let your physique do the work, not your hair. Another reason to practice posing (and get people’s feedback). Video your own posing practice so you can see if you have any random hand/finger stuff going on!

Advice: flappy hands are just distracting.

REMEMBER: SOMEONE WILL BE LOOKING AT YOU
Go on stage thinking that at least one judge will be looking at you every single moment you’re up there. This includes walking on, walking off, when you’re being moved about in the line up, when you’re standing at the back of the stage, waiting for presentations, and as presentations are called. Obviously only some of these are being judged. But you might be in photos at any moment. So hold your pose, try to look relaxed, and try to smile (or least not look like you’re about to kill somebody). I know it’s a lot to think about. But it is worth bearing in mind.

Advice: just remember that at least one pair of eyes is on you at all times. Plus the camera, potentially.

WE CAN SEE YOU, I PROMISE
Even if you’re out at the end of a long line of competitors, off to one side of the stage, the judges can see you. I promise. And if you’ve been out to one side, you will be moved to the other side (so the judges at that end of the table can see you more closely). The judges have the best seats in the house. And the Head Judge will move everyone around so each competitor can be seen by each judge. In fact, judges can actually request to “see” certain competitors again (or in a different order) if they feel they haven’t had an adequate opportunity to look at them properly.

Advice: don’t panic, we can see you – and we are looking!

LEGS!!!
I can’t end without mentioning legs. Seriously, pose your legs! All the time! You might hear coaches in the audience shouting out “stay on your legs”. This means pose them, flex them, then hold that – even when it starts to hurt. As a competitor, I always knew this. And I always tried to do it. But I didn’t really think it made all that much difference. I mean, of course I’m posing my legs, it’s fine. Then I sat at that judging table. And I saw with my own eyes just how massive the difference is between the person “kind of” posing his legs “most of the time”, and the person really, really thinking about it and posing the legs hard. It’s night and day. And not doing it could cost you a place – or more. Remember, judges can only judge what they can see. So all your amazing striations, feathering, shape, condition… they can only be judged if you pose your legs hard enough for them to come out. “Legs!!!!” πŸ˜‰

Advice: pose from the bottom up – set your legs in every pose before you hit the rest of the pose. Practice this, so you get used to how it feels without a mirror.

Tips From The Bodybuilding Judging Table 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.


Basic Information About Competing In UK Drug-Tested Bodybuilding Comps

May 15, 2016

Almost every week, I get asked about how to go about competing in drug-tested/natural bodybuilding competitions. Tis the season, I guess!

Having just Facebook messaged someone the same information (for the third time this week), I thought it might be useful to actually pop it all in a blog post.

If I stuff this first section full of enough SEO phrases it might even get picked up on Google πŸ˜‰ “Natural bodybuilding comps in the UK”, “How do I start natural bodybuilding in the UK?”, “I want to do a natural bodybuilding show but I’ve no idea who the organisations are or when the competitions are, help, where do I look for information?”

That should do it πŸ˜‰
ukdfba bodybuilding uk 2016
So, here’s what I send people when they ask me about competing in drug-free BB comps…

There are three drug-tested/ drug-free/ natural bodybuilding organisations in the UK at the time of writing.

Who, What, Where?

UKDFBA – United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association (website is in the link, and they have a FB page). They are the UK affiliate of the WNBF. The UKDFBA run a series of UK qualifiers, then a UK final. There is also a Pro Show and an International Show alongside the UK Final. They award WNBF Pro Cards at the Final. They then take a Pro and Amateur team out to WNBF Worlds.

BNBF – British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (website is in the link, and they have a FB page). They are the UK affiliate of the DFAC. They run a series of UK qualifers, a UK final, then they take a Pro and Amateur team out to DFAC Worlds. They award DFAC Pro cards at their UK Final.

NPA – Natural Physique Association (website is in the link, and they have a FB group). The NPA isn’t affiliated to an international federation. They have UK qualifers and a UK final, and sometimes then take a team out to the UIBBN competition.

Drug Free & Banned Lists

UKDFBA and BNBF are both 7 years drug free.
NPA is lifetime drug free.

They all use urine testing and polygraph testing. Although most of the “things you can’t take” are obvious (or ought to be!), some people are completely unaware of just how strict “drug free” is. So, if you choose to do all or any of the drug-tested bodybuilding organisations’ comps, it is 100% your responsibility to check the banned list OF THAT ORGANISATION and be certain you are in the clear. The information for each organisation’s rules and banned lists are on their website. If you can’t find it, contact the organisation representative.

Categories

All 3 associations have classes for men, women, teens, juniors, and older competitors (Masters). They all have Novice classes and weight classes. Some have Bikini and Men’s Physique. Some have Masters Figure as well as open Figure. Some of their women’s classes will be split by weight. Some have beginners’ shows and first-timers categories. The women’s categories tend to differ between organisations.

My (quick) advice would be:

– Choose the category your body is best suited to (or that you think your body will be best suited to, if you haven’t competed previously)
– Download the judging criteria, and/or contact the Head of the organisation to ask for the guidelines. Be sure you are clear about posing, footwear, whether there’s a posing routine or a T-walk (etc).
– If in doubt, ask advice. The organisation will be friendly and approachable and happy to help (if they’re not, find one that is!)

I’m very happy to chat more about any of this over message or email. I appreciate that it can seem overwhelming and confusing – like any new sport at first!

What To Do Next

Look at the Federations listed above, and their shows/calendars. Choose either by show dates and location, convenient to you (and your prep).

Mark your calendar. Train and diet. Keep in mind the judging criteria of your category. Put together a posing routine or T-walk to music.

Learn the poses you’ll need to do, and practice!

But more than that… do your research:
– make friends on Facebook with people who have done your category in your chosen organisation. Take a look at their competition pics and videos.
– look on YouTube for competition footage and competitors’ individual posing routines (or T-walks).
– see if you can get along to a show (ideally run by your chosen organisation, but anything will help!) Seeing a bodybuilding show before you compete is invaluable experience.

Then there’s stuff like posing suits/bikinis, tan… but that’s all for further down the line.

That was a whistlestop tour through the drug-free bodybuilding competition scene in the UK. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten. Official folk: if I’ve got any of the facts and information wrong, please comment/messsage me and I will correct it.

And if anyone reading this ever wants any advice, tips, or “where to go next”, please get in touch. I love the sport and love to help. If I’m not the right person to ask, I’ll try to find out who is!

Basic Information About Competing In UK Drug-Tested Bodybuilding Comps 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.


First-time bodybuilding competitor questions (and my answers)

February 2, 2015

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a friend of mine who is doing her first bodybuilding comp. She’s got support at home, but is certainly not surrounded by other competitors in daily life. So she often pings me questions on whatsapp or email. Now I’m not a coach or a PT, nor do I have one single qualification in training, nutrition, programming or coaching. But as a female competitor I am always happy to help out where I can (even if it’s just to give options or signpost to other/better resources!)

first-time bodybuilder competition prep questions

Here are some of the questions she’s asked me (and the answers I’ve given).

(Her questions in bold, my replies underneath).

Our chit chats cover all sorts of things that a first-time competitor feels, thinks, wonders about and worries about. Everything from cardio, to unwelcome gym comments, to what to do when you want to throw every tool in the box at prep all at once…

They might be helpful to you, too, if you’re just embarking on your first prep.

Feel free to add your own answers in the comments section (and don’t flame me if I’ve given really bad advice – I do always remind her that I’m not a coach, just a pal…)

On the topic of a stranger saying something pretty hurtful at the gym

Being a female bodybuilder means strong mind as well as muscles. You will come up against comments like that (also “don’t get too muscly”, “don’t overdo it”, “why do you want to do that to yourself” etc). What other people think of you is none of your business πŸ˜‰ And don’t forget he knows nothing of the criteria of your competition and category.

Frankly the only people’s opinions who matter are
-yours
-your loved ones
-the people sat at the judging table

Head down and focus on what you’ve set as your goal. Everything else is just chatter in the larger scheme of it all

Do you use MyFitnessPal or any kind of app to track your macros/calories?

Yes I use MFP. I also wear an activity monitor bracelet thing (Jawbone UP) which tracks output and syncs with MFP.

Had a deep tissue massage before the gym – OMG it hurt!

Ooh ouch! Try to have them on rest days if possible, not ideal before training. After training is an option too.


I’ve still got a fair amount of cellulite and naturally hold a lot of fat in this area…[legs]

Do you dry body brush? I swear by it for improving skin texture esp when prepping skin for show tan. Massage helps with blood flow; can’t hurt. Dry body brushing might not actually help the fat loss but will improve skin texture. I love it!


I don’t know enough about supplements! I only go buy what I read on the internet. I’m thinking because I’ve got a lot of leaning out to do, I should give everything a go? I can’t stand casein though… I’d rather eat cottage cheese.

I’d say the opposite: do the least, because then you’ll know what works. In terms of supplements I don’t think anyone “needs” anything but here’s what I take:

Whey, whey isolate, beef protein isolate (only after training)
Vit C, Vit D
Green tea capsules
Prebiotic and probiotic
ZMA (zinc and magnesium) at night (but I sleep like sh!t and you don’t)
Sometimes a BCAA drink/powder but don’t think I actually need it.

I’m never sure CLA does much for me but I know people who absolutely swear by it. Same as Creatine…never sure it does much but others wouldn’t be without it!

I’m on a downer… looked at where I was this time last year compared to now and feel my physique has barely changed… I feel like my dream is impossible

Your goal is NOT impossible. I promise. First up welcome to the head f**k of being one of the few to ever address a physique goal and actually do the hard work involved in changing health, fitness, body and mind. It is tough which is why we have these wibbles. But don’t let them overwhelm you. And “don’t believe everything you think” πŸ˜‰

Secondly, changes will always be less visible at the start or anytime you’re less lean. But they are there and to discount them just because you can’t see them clearly is doing yourself a massive disservice. Think of it like the tip of an iceberg. That’s what you can see but you’d better believe there’s a lot more going on.

And finally don’t forget the stuff you can never “see”. How has your knowledge, passion, focus changed? Your education about training and nutrition? Your ability to walk into any gym and know what to do? Your ability to make good food choices, to prep food? What impact has it had on your health, confidence, performance at work?

You’re looking far ahead and the body needs to catch up with the mind that’s all. Body is always a slow coach but it’ll catch up in the end! Promise.

(Evidently I was in some kind of Yoda-mood that day LOL)

Majorly craving chocolate Nic… I’m so addicted!

Me too if it helps! Here’s what I’d try: Options (or similar) hot choc, or proper cocoa powder and coffee together. Or would that set off cravings? If so then try a fatty but savoury snacks: bit of steak, eggs, salmon, even a burger (just the burger) yes it’s unplanned cals but maybe better to eat as a strategy than potentially give in to cravings and ending up eating much more that way! Or use the distraction/change of scene tactic….bath and go to bed!

Think how different you’ll feel in the morning if you do have choc now vs if you don’t. Your brain and body are battling….. it’s up to you who wins

(This was sent late at night by the way, I wasn’t suggesting go to bed during the day just because you fancy a bit of choc).

I’ve barely eaten all day. Back to back meetings then jumped in the car straight after to try get home at a reasonable time! Nearly 9hrs with nothing. Debating what to have for dinner (aka trying to resist every naughty thing in the cupboards) That 3hr car journey has taken it out of me!

My response to this was on an email but it involved thinking about planning ahead, always having your meals with you (if you’re actually prepping for a show – which this person is – so you can stick to your plan, not get over hungry, and not run the risk of overeating because you’ve lost touch with your hunger cues).

I need to start doing cardio before work…

I’d say give current diet time for now…keep back morning cardio as a tool up your sleeve so you have somewhere to go. Don’t throw everything at it at once.

I go at it hammer and tongs rather than a tactical approach

Get the most results from the least…otherwise 1) you won’t know what thing worked and 2) you’ll have nowhere left to go when things slow

Do you think it sounds like I’m on the right track with my prep so far? 0.75kg loss per week?

0.75kgs off a week is perfect. Any more than that won’t be fat and you don’t want to lose muscle or be dehydrated. We can’t know what you’ll look like at [target]kgs of course but the rate of fat loss is perfect.

Should I just use spin as an occasional tool if the weight loss slows down? I did wonder how often to do it.

I think stuff like spin can be good for prep from time to time, just not often/regularly. Don’t agree with those who say avoid it. Good intervals, but really it’s too long (45 mins?) to be real HIIT. It’s more like longer cardio, but pretty stressful. Better to REALLY blast HIIT and really make the steady stuff steady, if you see what I mean.

OK so I’m think my new routine will be…[new plan follows with lots of changes and lots of cardio]

Every day? No chick, too much. Either/or am plyos/intervals or PWO cardio. And just do abs like any other muscle group, they need time between sessions.

You think doing cardio/plyo in the AM and weights in the PM works better than doing them combined?

Yes but only if it doesn’t compromise sleep, or happy family relationships! And 2x cardio definitely too much. And too much hiit/plyos too much. And throwing everything at it at the same time not a good idea. Needs to be gradual and measurable. So long to go yet, don’t think too far ahead. Stick to the plan, be CONSISTENT (always most important of all).

Should I up the cardio this week?

No don’t change anything. You’ve already changed some things this week. Fat loss may be right back on track! Just sit calm and wait and see. Plenty of time to tweak again if needed. Take measurements as well as weighing.

I’m sat at work hungry and grumpy and tempted to eat something naughty…

Maybe develop some snack ideas you can have on hungry days (especially when is such cold weather) so you don’t push the hunger to cravings but also don’t wreck progress. But for now I’d say it’s a good sign that the morning HIIT is doing its thing.

My team at work are doing a ‘Fat Friday’ today – cakes, fish and chips, pizza. I’m sticking to my chicken and rice

Fat Friday lol is that what they really call it? I have Fats Friday as its a rest day so low carb. Whole eggs, chicken thighs and steak πŸ˜‰

Can you do a high fat day on comp prep?

If you carb cycle then yes of course, when carbs go down fats go up. Not too many changes all at once – you need to be able to measure and track.

First-time bodybuilding competitor questions (and my answers) 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.


Should YOU compete in bodybuilding competitions or not?

January 23, 2015

A few weeks ago, this article from T-Nation was doing the rounds. John Romano on Why You Should Never Compete It’s a pretty harsh (but also true) set of statements about why some people should accept the fact that bodybuilding isn’t the sport for them. Genetics, structure, psychological inability to diet hard enough, that kind of thing.

Whether you think Romano is correct or cruel, whether you think it’s the taking part that matters or only the best should be up there, it got me thinking.

Should you compete? Should we – as current or former bodybuilding competitors – encourage people to compete? What are the questions we should encourage people to answer honestly to themselves before they embark?

Or is there no need for over-thinking at all – should anyone who expresses an interest in physique sports be encouraged to get on stage, and see how the feel afterwards?

I’ve asked around, and here are what my fellow “existing competitors” have to say.

“I sometimes think ignorance was bliss! In some ways I’m so grateful and proud that I know what I know and have had some achievements, but I half wish I’d never seen myself stage lean – anything less feels like a bit of a fail now!”

“It depends very much on their motivation to want to do so. If someone asks me for advice because they want to compete my first question is always “why do you want to?”…

“I recommend competing to everyone who trains: set yourself a goal and go for it. Signing up for any comp will motivate you better!”

“I have given first-timers my advice in the past and my honesty has been misunderstood. Some people have unrealistic expectations and are in denial.”

“For first timers I’d say “why not!” Go for it see if it makes you happy, miserable or somewhere in between. Is how you feel worth making all the effort? You can’t really know know unless you try.”

“You never know until you try and it could change your life in a positive way, be the perfect fit for you and give you a lot. Or it may turn out to be something you find does not suit you, but you will have lost nothing by trying except a few weeks of your life on a strict diet. The worse than happens is you answer an internal question.”

“After my first comp, the eating demons were hard to control. I have a background of “issues” around eating. Now I’m off-season, and I know you have to eat more to gain size… but I’m really struggling. Mainly mentally, as I just question how I think I look now!”

“More of us should openly share the real struggles nobody wants to admit.”

“I would ask them a lot of questions. I think competing is risky for anyone with self esteem or self confidence issues, and also anyone who’s experienced any sort of disordered eating. I would certainly encourage first timers to weigh up the pros and the cons and then decide for themselves. But you never really know if you’re going to enjoy the experience until you do it.”

“Their “why” is important. Weigh it up in terms of risk:reward ratio, and think about the potential benefits. Having said that, I did none of that! I just knew I wanted to do it and find out what I was made of. I learned loads I can apply in other areas of my life and work. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but also one of the most rewarding. 10 comps later don’t regret a single one.”

Interesting variety of responses, huh! I can tell you that it was mostly male friends who were of the “go for it, you won’t know til you try, and what have you got to lose…” school of thought. Females were the ones who suggested you need to identify your “why”, and it was 100% females who gave any response to do with disordered eating, body-image struggles and struggling to know what’s normal after you’ve experienced a comp prep.

My view? Somewhere in between. I’ve often wondered what life would be like having never done a prep diet, not knowing about macros, how to crunch the various numbers in a meal, or how to design a meal plan. Would I be better off without the knowledge, or worse? And by that do I mean physically, mentally, in body composition, emotionally, or what?

But then again you could say that for anything!

It’s certainly true that you can’t “unknow” any of the things competition prep teaches you. But the extent to which you let them affect or control your life after the stage (or between competitions) is down to your personality, the rest of your life, your non-bodybuilding support network, and many other things.

Competition prep is a harsh mistress. So go into it with your eyes open, with full support of both bodybuilding and fitness folk, and those in other areas of your life. Ask questions – of coaches, of bodybuilding friends, and of yourself. Be very honest, and realistic. And remember that the challenges of contest prep don’t end when you step off stage. In fact, many people would say that’s when they’re just beginning.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you a competitor who’s been asked “do you think I should compete?” by a newbie? Have you ever felt it was your obligation to advise anyone against it? Or are you a first-time competitor who wished someone had told you what it would really be like… or shut up and let you get on with it?

Should YOU compete in bodybuilding competitions or not? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


Differences between years 1-4 of bodybuilding preps

September 11, 2014

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

Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 21.42.21

What’s different in my fourth year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 1, 2014

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

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

Why is posing important?

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

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

Isn’t it just… standing there and flexing?

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

Why do you have to learn it?

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

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

Surely it’s easy?

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

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

So, what happens at these things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said no photos were taken but that’s no quite true. Richard is almost as keen on selfies as I am… so… this happened:
10666121_1546520715566706_1316506583_n

After the class? I trained hamstrings and calves with Richard (a WNBF Pro Heavyweight who’s currently off-season) and Troy (a very impressive junior who won his class at NPA and is prepping for more shows). We were training for nearly two hours.

Yeah… suffice to say that I’m pretty tired and sore this morning πŸ˜‰

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

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

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


How to beat the bodybuilding post-comp blues

July 5, 2014

With the bodybuilding contest season in full swing, I thought it might be useful to blog about the post-comp “blues”, how to avoid them and what to do if they strike!

Post-event blues aren’t reserved for bodybuilders and physique athletes, of course. It’s a common thing after any big goal: a marathon, a triathlon, a wedding! But there’s another level for bodybuilders, that of “falling off the diet”, potentially dealing with the rebound, sometimes even struggling with bingeing and the body-image issues which come with all of that.

It’s worth noting that the post-comp slump can strike whether you win or come dead last. I’ve experienced both πŸ˜‰ , and I’ve felt great and not-great afterwards. Winning or placing does not guarantee a wonderful few days after the comp, and has little bearing on how you’ll feel, act and cope. In fact, doing well can actually make the come-down worse.

Here are my thoughts and suggestions on how to navigate that post-comp period

Before competition day:

Have a food plan for the following day. Lots of people fall off the diet wagon the day after their comp, and they fall hard. It’s understandable, when you’ve been dieting for months, but it won’t make you feel any better. In fact, it’s likely to make you feel worse – physically, emotionally, and in terms of self-image, motivation and energy levels. So, have a food plan in place before your comp day. Include treats, things you’ve been cravings, meals out or meals in with loved ones. But have a plan, and stick to it. Your body and mind are used to a plan by now, and having one for after your bodybuilding comp will provide a sense of security.

Prep some meals. Again, you’ve got used to eating good solid homecooked food for months now. Have a few meals prepped and in the fridge or freezer for the days following your comp. That way, you can slip back in to a healthy eating routine easily, without having to think about it. Of course you don’t have to get back on your prep diet (unless you’ve got another show coming up), but it will serve your mind and body really well to not fall go completely off the rails. Your body won’t know how to cope with going from prep food one day, to all the foods you’ve been craving the next day. Give it a helping hand. Also, the less choice you have, the easier you will find it to eat well after your comp. And the better you eat, the better you’ll feel (physically and emotionally). I’m not saying you have to prep plastic tubs of chicken and broccoli. By all means prep some lovely nourishing meals you’ve been thinking about. But make them good choices, based around foods you know won’t bust your insides to bits, but with enough nice extras to satisfy your tastebuds.

Write down what you love about bodybuilding
Do this now, before your comp. Write down everything you love about bodybuilding, about training, about lifting. Everything you’ve learned about yourself, your abilities, your strengths. All the bits of prep you enjoyed. You can have a read of this list in the days and weeks after your comp, if you’re feeling a bit down or lost. And you could even go back to some of them now you don’t have the pressure of the competition looming.

Get a post-comp training plan in place
It can be a struggle to get back into training when your competition date has been and gone. You might feel a bit lost without a goal. You may feel demotivated. Some people feel that, if they’re no longer “that person who’s competing”, they don’t have a place in the gym community. Others might be struggling with weight gain and/or body image and let that keep them away from the gym. Have a training plan in place before your comp date comes around. Work with a coach, mentor or trusted BB friend, or work it out yourself. Be realistic, and kind to yourself. You’ll likely be sore (from posing), weak (from dieting) and more prone to injury. But this is also prime time to make some serious progress, because you’ll be full of energy, food and nutrients!

After competition day:

Make bodybuilding more sociable
Chances are you got a bit insular, quiet, moody (moi?) during prep πŸ˜‰ So why not plan to make your bodybuilding more social in the weeks after your comp. Visit bodybuilding friends for training and foodie dates. Pay a visit to some other gyms and have a play on the equipment. Attend bodybuilding meets. Maybe even arrange to go and watch other bodybuilding shows, unless you think this will bring up any negative feelings.

Pay attention to recovery
Is your body a bit beaten up by prep? Well, now you’re done, here’s the ideal opportunity to indulge in massages, spend more time foam rolling, maybe even enroll in a yoga class. Or forget the sport-specific stuff and treat yourself to something really lovely like a beauty treatment, spa day etc (I would say ladies only but hey I’m not here to judge!)

Enjoy your success
Whether you won, placed or came dead last, your competition was a success. I bet you achieved at least one of the goals you set yourself when you started out, didn’t you? And I bet you felt great, beat some personal demons, stepped outside of your comfort zone, and transformed your physique? So celebrate that. Don’t be negative, don’t beat yourself up for not winning or not taking the overall or whatever didn’t happen. Celebrate what did happen. Look at your show photos, talk to other competitors about the day, chat with your supporters who were there.

If you’re struggling:

Seek support
If you’re floundering a bit, feeling lacking without a goal, struggling with self-image, eating issues, body-image, identity or anything else, seek support. I don’t know what will suit you best, but you could chat with a good friend, surround yourself with family, talk to a coach, go for actual counselling, read online articles/blogs, use online forums or groups of likeminded folk… Just do reach out and don’t let it fester.

It was only your physique which was judged
This is a subjective sport and not winning doesn’t reflect not trying your best. And the judges aren’t judging your character or the whole you. You’re still a lot of great things, even if you didn’t win a bodybuilding comp!

Take a compliment
Folk will comment on your Facebook photos and send you messages saying you looked fantastic, should have won, were the best one up there, etc. Even if this isn’t strictly true, they mean well, so take the compliment. You never know who you’re inspiring. So don’t say “oh god, no, I’ve got at least another 1/2 stone to lose!” or “are you kidding, look at my hamstrings!” Just say thanks, I’m glad you like the pic, I had a lot of fun. Or similar.

Remember, this doesn’t define you
Ultimately, nobody really cares. And I mean that in the most positive, constructive and kind way. Whatever level you’re competing at, it isn’t as important to anyone else as it is to you. And the people who really matter – the people who really love and support you – will be happy for you as long as you are happy. They only care about where you placed because you care where you placed. If you came last, but enjoyed yourself and are happy, balanced and in a good place after your comp, they will be happy for you. And remember that bodybuilding doesn’t define you. Yes, you’re a competitive bodybuilder, you put a hell of a lot of time and effort into prep, and it means a lot to you. But it isn’t all you are. And the rest of your life is still waiting for you once you step off stage.

How to beat the bodybuilding post-comp blues 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.


10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single

April 24, 2014

Just a bit of fun in today’s blog post, and one for all my single fitties!

It occurred to me last night, as I stirred my blended broccoli and tuna “soup” (don’t knock it til you try it – delicious – I can’t get enough!) that bodybuilding contest prep/dieting/whatever you want to call it is perhaps simpler (if not necessarily easier) as a singleton.

So, big up my fellow singletons (and do let me know what you’d add to this list).

10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single

1) You can make meals which look like babyfood (or the result of babyfood) without anyone asking what it is, why you’re eating it, or commenting that it looks disgusting. You can see that it looks disgusting. You just couldn’t care less.

2) You can stink your house out doing something like…oh, I dunno…. roasting 2kgs of brussels sprouts at a time (I hear some people do that kind of thing) and nobody cares. The dog seems to positively enjoy the oleracea odour.

3) You can get up and do cardio at 6:30am on a slightly squeaky piece of home cardio equipment, whilst watching a chick flick on Netflix. It’s fine, you’re not disturbing anyone.

4) You can wear gym kit all the lifelong day! Even “lightly worn” stuff…. πŸ˜‰

5) Tired? Done a high volume squat session today? Fancy going to bed at 8:30pm? Then off you go. Snores will not disturb your slumber.

6) Want to look muscly? A bit weird? Veiny? Then you go for it. (Sure, you might be alone forever but hey… remember the 2kgs of brussels sprouts!)

7) Your cupboards will not be full of biscuits or breakfast cereal (or anything that’s not in your contest diet plan) unless you put them there.

8) We’re all a little (or a lot) selfish when prepping for a bodybuilding show. Most of us are self-aware enough to know it, but when you’re single, it’s far less of a problem (and carries far less potential for guilty feelings!)

9) Your cheat/treat meals can be completely designed and dictated by you to suit your wildest dreams (and your macros.

10) Too tired to wash your hair? Again? Well… it is a bit grim but never mind. It can go another day I’m sure.

Bonus 11) And this last one is a bonus extra from a male bodybuilder friend of mine (one for my male readers, if I have any…) Single and not getting any? Perfect! Dieting male bodybuilders tend to suffer from a drop in testosterone levels, and a coinciding lack of interest in sex. No partner, no pressure. Although… surely it’s all extra cardio, right?

Hope you took this in the spirit in which it was meant πŸ™‚ Do you have any to add to my list? Or perhaps you’d like to suggest items for a counter-argument: why is it better to *not* be single whilst prepping?

10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single 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: 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! πŸ˜‰ )

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… πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜‰ ) 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! πŸ˜‰

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.


%d bloggers like this: