My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again)

August 7, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

Sort of! You see, I haven’t said anything about it on the blog but I’ve got a photoshoot tomorrow, so today I’m doing depletion workouts and playing around with carbohydrates and all that kind of thing. Plus, I have a lot of work to do (I do actually do paid work as well as blog and bodybuild, crazy as it might seem… !)

So, today’s blog post is less active and more informative. 😉

I know I’ve already covered triathlon (when the women’s race was on) but today, inspired by the men’s race (go Brownlee! and go Brownlee!) I thought I’d do a fun little jargon-buster, so those of you who are watching the race feel a bit more at home with some of the commentary.

The world of triathlon is full of confusing words, shiny kit and new jargon. Let this handy guide help you tell your transitions from your turbo sessions…

Olympic-distance: not just because it’s the one they’re doing in the Olympic Games. Olympic-distance is the name for the standard distance of triathlon (as opposed to Sprint, middle distance, long-distance at al). What is it? 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run.

Ironman: Chrissie Wellington is in the commentary box at the Beeb today. She’s an Ironman champion. Have you ever told people you’re doing a marathon, only to be asked “how long is that?” Ironman is a bit like that: Ironman is a brand which owns some long-distance triathlon races, but you can do an ‘ironman-distance race’ without taking part in an actual Ironman race.

Transition: the part of a triathlon race between the swim and bike, or bike and run. Used for changing kit, getting your bike (or putting it away again), grabbing a drink.

Racking: bikes are usually held on ‘racks’ in transition. Racking means putting your bike in transition before the race and is part of registration

Turbo sessions: a turbo trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. It holds your bike steady so that you can carry out bike training sessions in your garage (or front room!) if the weather’s bad or you want to do an intense session

Open water: triathlons always start with the swim, but some are held in a pool (pool-swims) and some in open water (open water, or OW swims). Open water can mean rivers, lakes, the sea or man-made bodies of water.

Buoyancy: the degree of extra floatation a good triathlon wetsuit will give you.

Zip cord: the long tie attached to your zip, which you grab in order to start undoing your wetsuit

Drafting: the technique of tucking yourself in behind someone else on the bike (can also be done on the swim) in order to conserve energy and therefore go faster. Pro triathletes are allowed to draft o the bike. Us mortals are not and it’s punishable by time-penalties or disqualification.

Aero: aero bars, aero position… what the what? Aero means getting into a tucked, aerodynamic position on the bike so you go faster. Aero bars (or tri bars) – the sticky outy bits on the front of the handlebars – help achieve this. Aero helmets help too. As does a good aero position.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of bits of triathlon jargon! If anything is confusing you as you watch, ask and I’ll try to answer 🙂

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again) 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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My Olympics: day eight, triathlon

August 4, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

It had to be done, really. I used to do triathlon (surely there’s a more eloquent way of putting it… “I used to compete in triathlons at amateur level), coach triathlon (the open-water swim part of it), write about triathlon (mainly for 220 Triathlon magazine and Triathlete’s World magazine, but also for British Triathlon‘s Tri News and other industry/trade publications) and have even been interviewed on BBC Radio about triathlon. Oh, and I wrote the non-newsy content for British Triathlon’s media site.

So, yeah, after following the progress of Helen Jenkins, Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall on TVs and radios as I went about my day, it was clear that today’s blog post had to be “triathlon”.

However, I have neither the energy nor the resources to actually do an entire triathlon today! The bike and run bits are easy (in that you can ride and run from anywhere and use your own house as “transition”). But for the swim, you need a body of open-water. I don’t have one. So, I decided to do a (very!) short bike/run “brick” (the official name for a training session which runs two of the triathlon disciplines together – a swim/bike brick or the more common bike/run brick).

I even put on a tri-suit. Yes, to cycle round local roads and to run round the block. See how dedicated I am to this blog!

Here are two videos, of me talking you through T1 and T2 – the transitions between swim-to-bike and then bike-to-run. If you watched the Olympic triathlon today you’ll have noticed how quickly the athletes transition from each bit of the race. That’s the key: get your transition area set up and organised, know what needs to be done and then practice endlessly until you’ve got it down to a fine art. Transition is often called the “4th discipline” of triathlon because it can make or break your race, just as the swim, bike or run can.

Here’s transition in a nutshell. This assumes that you’ve already “walked it through”, noting where you come into transition from the swim and how you’ll find your bike from there, where the bike exit is, where the bike “in” is and where you’ll find your (empty) bike racking space from there, then where “run out” is. It also assumes you’ve set your transition area up however you need it to be so you can lay your hands on everything just as you need them without getting flustered or losing time.

Transition one
– Finish the swim
– Wetsuit off (unzip, arms out, down to the waist) as you run into transition.
– Find your bike, wetsuit fully off, swimcap and goggles off
– Bike helmet on and done up (do this now before you even touch your bike to avoid getting penalised)
– Sunnies on, race belt on, bike shoes on (unless you have them clipped to your bike and opt to get into them whilst on the go – yes this can be done, not by me though!)
– Grab your bike, head for “bike out”
– Get on at the “mount” line, start pedalling (you will, of course, have racked your bike in a low gear so you’ll be able to get going easily)

Transition two
– Dismount your bike at the dismount line
– Run into transition, find your racking area, rack the bike
– Helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes on (elastic laces and lace locks make this very quick to do)
– Grab any energy gels/visor/hat etc and get running
– Run through “run out” and go for Gold

Transition two in particular is lightening fast, often taking the Pros just a matter of seconds! Amazing to watch.

There you have it. Did you watch the Olympic triathlon today? Did you notice the speed and efficiency of the transitions? If you watch the men’s race on Tuesday, look out for the bits between the swim/bike and bike/run – and get prepared to be amazed!

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day eight, triathlon 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 get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off

April 21, 2011

In my capacity as an age-grouper triathlete and triathlon feature-writer, I’m often asked the best, easiest and quickest way to get a triathlon wetsuit on and off. When someone asked me the question on Twitter today, I thought – why not write a quick “how-to” blog post. The open-water training venues are opening up very soon and the first triathlons of the season won’t be far behind. And I daresay this glorious sunshine will tempt a few of you into the open-water. But it’s a bit chilly to go without a wetsuit just yet (don’t be fooled by the air temperature!) And why swim without a wetsuit when the event you’re training for dictates you wear one?

So, here they are: my top tips for getting that skin-tight triathlon wetsuit on – and then off again!

Getting your wetsuit on

Remember a couple of things: firstly, no prizes for being the fastest person to put their suit on. Secondly: yes, it really should feel that tight (it will loosen off a little once you’re in the water, which is all that matters).

The clock doesn’t start ticking til the starter sets you off on the swim. So you can take as long as you like. Leave yourself plenty of time and find a cool spot (it’s amazing how hot and sweaty you get struggling into a wetsuit). Take your secret weapon (thank you to my triathlon pro and super-speedy swimmer pal Richard Stannard for this tip):

Yes, the common carrier bag. Put the carrier bag on one foot, like a sock. Slide that foot into the suit (the leghole, obvs). Take the bag/sock off, repeat on the other side. You should now have the suit on both legs, up to about the knees.

Pull it up. The zip should be at the back. You now need to make sure the groinal area of the suit (I know groinal’s not a word, but how I wish it were) is right up into your groin. Do this by inching the suit up, from below the knees if necessary, in tiny steps. Don’t yank and pull at it – therein lies a future of rips and tears to your suit. Use the pads of your fingers to pinch a bit of suit, and pull it up a few inches…and repeat all over the legs until the groin is in the right place.

Now check there are no rucks or folds behind your knees. This+swimming=ouch.

OK now check the time. Is your wave nearly ready to go? If so, proceed to the next step. If not, leave things here for a while. You really don’t want to be walking round for ages completely zipped up into your wetsuit on a hot day.

Put one arm and then the other into the suit (different arm holes). Then repeat the process you went through with the legs, but with the arms, making sure the suit fits right into your armpits. This is really important. So, inch the neoprene up in tiny bits from the wrists until it fits properly. Get someone to help you if necessary, don’t feel shy to ask, after all you need to keep your strength for the triathlon and it can be exhausting getting a wetsuit on!

Once your arms and legs are in and your groin and armpits are aligned with the relevant bits of the wetsuit, it’s time to zip up. Again, don’t do this if you have a long wait for your swim, it’s just not worth getting overheated.

Ask someone to help you zip the suit up (you may need to breathe out and draw your shoulders together right back behind you). They’ll need to press the velcro flap down over the top of the zip. Get them to hand you the end of your zip leash (if that’s what it’s called?) so you’re confident you can find it on swim exit.

Now just a couple of things to do to really check your suit is fitted snugly. Bend forward at the waist and grab any spare neoprene around your stomach. Yes, it really is neoprene and no I will not believe it is your belly. You are a triathlete! You have trained!

Ease any spare neoprene up, over the boobs (if you’re a lady…) and onto your upper chest/shoulder area. This is really the only area where you want any ‘spare’ neoprene. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene in that dent in front of your shoulder/under your collarbone? That’s OK. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene anywhere else? This is not so OK.

Check again for folds and creases in your elbows and behind your knees – get rid of them.

You’re ready to go (assuming you have your hat and goggles on). Enjoy.

Getting the wetsuit off

OK so you’re out of the swim. Time really does count now so it pays to practise getting your wetsuit off as fast as you can. What makes that super-tight wetsuit come off quickly? The layer of water inside. So act quickly before the water drains out. Here’s the drill.

Stand up out of the water, pop your goggles on top of your head, and start to run/walk towards transition. Immediately, reach behind you for your zipper leash and pull.

As you run/walk along, take one arm and then the other out until the suit is flapping around your waist.

Get to your bike and roll the suit down to your knees. Then lift one leg and the other until you can pull one foot free. Use that foot to stand on the other leg of the wetsuit, so you can pull the other foot free.

You’re done!

If you struggle with this technique, experience dizziness after the swim (me too) or feel a bit flustered, there’s no shame at all in just sitting down by your bike and pulling your suit off whilst you sit on the ground.

Hope that helps!

Do you have any tips or personal experiences to add? Please do!

Edited to add: My friend Dick (yes, really) has alerted me to the fact that “groinal” is, in fact, a word. Thanks, Dick!

How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Windsor Triathlon race report live on Sportsister

July 12, 2010

When I blogged about the Windsor Triathlon, I mentioned that I couldn’t give a full write-up because I’d been commissioned by Sportsister to race and report back.

My article has just gone live, so if you fancy a read follow this link.

Whilst you’re there, have a click around on Sportsister’s site. It’s a great resource. If you live in London, you’ll be able to pick up a paper copy of the monthly magazine, too.

Other articles I’ve written for Sportsister:
Getting started guide for open-water swimming
Interview with track star Laura Kenney about growing up with a sporty sibling


Windsor Triathlon in pictures

June 14, 2010

Yesterday saw the 20th running of the iconic Windsor Triathlon. I was racing courtesy and on behalf of Sportsister magazine. I owe them a race report in return so won’t blog about my day here before they’ve published the article. In the meantime, here are a few pictures to give you a bit of an insight.

Great event, by the way. Fully deserves all the accolades which the tri community have bestowed upon it over the years.

Thanks to the good folk at Human Race for all their organisation (and for the press place!), all the marshalls (gathered from local clubs and groups including the Datchet Dashers) and last but not least to my husband who got up at 4:30am and did a sterling job as my own personal support crew.

The day before: jungle transition is massive

The day before: scoping out the swim start and really hoping these guys aren’t here tomorrow. Give me jellyfish over swans any day

Race day, 5:30am: Setting up in transition and listening to some choons. Eminem, since you ask.

Spreading my stuff out and feeling glad the woman next to me decided not to show up.

Full transition. Many many beautiful bikes.

Going to my swim start

And I’m off! Along with a good few others. See you in 1.5kms.

At (long) last, here I am. Loving that chap’s straw hat

Multi-tasking: getting out of the water, running up concrete steps, unzipping my wetsuit.

T1, getting out of my wetsuit and getting ready to ride

42kms later, riding back into transition

Final stretch. Just a 10k to run

Nearly finished!

Busy transition in the sunlight. After all that, it’s barely 9:30am…!

Congrats to everyone who raced at Windsor yesterday.


10 Years Ago Today…

September 17, 2017

10 years ago today, I was stretching out a cold, wet hand to touch the wall of the Elizabeth Castle breakwater on the Channel island of Jersey, signalling the end of my Round-Jersey swim. Today is the 10 year anniversary of my 44 (ish) mile swim around the island.

As good an excuse as any to kick start the blog. Sorry it’s been so long!

nicola joyce copywriter swimming round jersey
That Round-Jersey swim in 2007 wasn’t the first of my sporty adventures (I did my first or two English Channel swims in 2004, and I had run marathons before that). But 10 years is a nice stretch of time to look back on. So let’s do that 🙂

2007 To 2017 – Sporting Adventures

2007 – Round Jersey swim

44 (ish) miles of solo swimming, with boat support. No wetsuit, just swimsuit, ear plugs, and goggles in the grand tradition of open water long distance swims. This was actually the second attempt at a Round-Jersey swim. The first attempt, a month or so prior, was stopped halfway round. The boat pilot aborted the swim and pulled me out, because the conditions were so bad that it simply wasn’t safe. I think we had Force 6 on that swim.

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2008 – 2nd English Channel swim

14 hours 27 minutes of swimming – you can read more about it here if you’re into that kind of thing.

2009-2011 – Triathlons and Cycling

Um…I can’t honestly remember exactly what I did in this time period. And I’m sitting on the sofa and cba finding my old training diaries. They’re in the attic and it’s a Sunday night – come on! It was definitely land-based and mostly wearing lycra. So let’s go with various triathlons (including a half-Ironman distance one called the Little Woody), at least one half marathon, and some road riding events/sportives.

2011 – Present Day Bodybuilding & Powerlifting

If you know me via this blog and my social media, you will mostly know me for bodybuilding. But it’s not my background (I was all about the endurance stuff!); it’s a relatively recent incarnation. I did my first bodybuilding season in 2011, entering one show* but ending up doing four: BNBF qualifier and British Finals, NPA qualifier and British Finals.

(* side note – in locating that link, I discovered that I wrote FOUR blog posts about my first bodybuilding comp – LOL bless me!)

I competed in Bodybuilding in 2012 and 2013, going to the WNBF Worlds (via the UKDFBA – the UK’s WNBF affiliate) in 2013 and bagging myself the amateur world title for my category of Women’s Bodybuilding. I did the same again in 2014, and then took a year off (much needed!) in 2015. In 2015 I did a couple of Powerlifting comps – which you can read about here. Last year (2016), I got back on the Bodybuilding stage with the UKDFBA but didn’t place top 5 at the UK Finals. I’ve kept up with the road cycling all that time, but not the swimming! I literally get goosebumps when I think about getting in the sea. I’ve paddled – and fallen off my kayak – but haven’t been back in for a swim. Maybe it’s time… 😉

(If you want to read about any specific event or comp I’ve done – use the search box on this blog. It’s all here!)

Right. That was just a very quick post to get me back in the habit of blogging. I have a few things to tell you about, and some ideas for regular posts, including ANSEM (A New Sport Every Month) – the first one of which involves 8 wheels and a gum shield.

It’s good to be back. Don’t be a stranger!

PS I’ve been profiled and interviewed a few times since I blogged last:

Afletik Nicola Joyce: a writer who walks the talk

Pullup Mate Nicola Joyce fitness copywriter interview

The Fitness Network 7 Steps To Making A Copywriting Relationship A Success

Nic

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Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required)

June 23, 2016

Cardio doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It’s been a long time since I was involved in endurance sport, but I still enjoy cardio*. However, I don’t often fancy the idea of plodding on a cross trainer for half an hour.

(*I realise that i might be kicked out of the bodybuilding “fam” for admitting this.)

So I employ Stealth Cardio tactics.

If you enjoy working up a sweat, but don’t want to do “traditional” gym indoor cardio, here are my 4 current favourites.

nicola joyce on a bike
Cardio disguised as commuting
I’ve been riding my bike to the gym (and back, obvi) a couple of times a week. Only when it’s sunny, mind. It’s not far – maybe 4 miles each way – but it involves a steep hill whichever way I go. (The gym is in the “East Cliff” part of town which should tell you something). So there’s 30+ minutes of cardio right there.

Only it doesn’t feel like cardio because 1) I like riding my bike, 2) it’s serving a purpose to get me to the gym and back again and 3) there’s plenty to see.

PS That photo is not recent. But it makes me laugh because it’s me, riding my bike, apparently to swimming club (note the 80s towelling swimming bag).

dog in a kayak
Cardio that’s funny
If you only need to do cardio for general activity levels, then the best kind is the funny kind IMO. Frankie thefitdog would agree. Here we are, attempting to paddle about together in a sea kayak. Quite possibly I found that funnier than he did. But you get my point. Challenge your kids to some sprints around the local playing field. Go and play badminton (or whatever sport you used to love) with a mate. Cardio can be fun, honest.

tabata on concept2
Cardio that’s so tough you can’t think about it til later
When I do cardio at the gym, my new favourite is the rowing machine. I’ve had some great advice from my fellow writer friend Patricia Carswell of Girl On The River, who’s a Proper Rower. I don’t know why I love the Concept2 so much, but I do! I think it’s because it’s proper hard cardio which makes me sweat buckets and feel like I might die a bit. (Don’t forget, I come from a very “ultra distance” endurance sport background).

I’ve mainly being doing “a href=”https://www.tabataofficial.com”>tabata on the rowing machine. If you’re not sure what tabata is, it’s a structured form of intense interval training. One “tabata” is 8 rounds of 20 seconds HARD work/10 seconds recovery (4 minutes). I do 2 Tabatas – 16 rounds, for a total of 8 minutes.

I’ve also done a couple of 5000m rows, and a 2000m row just to see how long it would take me. Point being, if you choose a form of cardio that’s so challenging that you can’t zone out or get distracted, you might actually feel more inclined to do it. Maybe. If you’re weird like me!

Cardio that’s so short you don’t notice it til later
Finally, this is something I’ve been doing once a week: adding 1-minute bursts of cardio in to my weights workout (as giant sets). At first I wasn’t sure if this would actually feel effective. Erm… I can report that it definitely does.

The idea of course is to make the 1-minute bursts hard, so your heart rate stays high and you break a sweat. You could do this by hopping on a piece of cardio equipment, or by using a skipping rope, or doing any kind of bodyweight move like burpees. If your gym has conditioning kit (battle ropes, sled, prowler) or strongman events equipment (farmers walk handles, tyres to flip) then that would work, too. You can easily add 20 minutes of cardio to your day by doing it this way. 20 x 1-minute feels more manageable – and more fun – than 20 minutes of zombie mode on the cross trainer.

Do you do any cardio at all? What’s your favourite approach?

Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required) 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.


Your A-Z of Powerlifting jargon

March 7, 2016

With my recent foray into the world of powerlifting, the content of my blog posts has changed. Just as you lot got used to “mandatory posing” and “bikini bite”, I’m throwing you for a loop with talk of “openers” and “bombing out”. Here’s my A-Z of powerlifting lingo.

(You might also like The A-Z of Bodybuilding Lingo and the weeing-into-a-cup content of The Grime Behind The Glam).

Attempt
The name for each “go” at a lift. In full power (see below) powerlifting, every lifter has three attempts for the squat, then three for the bench and then three for the deadlift. You have to declare your weight for each opener at weigh in or registration. And then you declare your second attempt weight after you lift your opener, and your third attempt weight directly after you lift your second attempt.

Arch
The funny posture powerlifters get into when they set up for benchpress. Why do they do it? Because it reduces the distance between point A and B. As long as you follow the rules of your federation (usually head and bum on bench, feet flat on the floor), you can have as big an arch as you can manage. The higher the arch, the less distance the bar has to travel to the chest.

Bar’s loaded
What the referee will call out when your bar has been loaded with your desired weight. That means it’s time to get on the platform (see below) and get ready to lift.

Bench
Benchpress – the second lift of a powerlifting event. The one most people will ask about when you tell them that you go to the gym. (aka “how much can you bench press?”) Also the name of the thing you lie on to do the benchpress.

Belt
One of the few bits of kit all powerlifters will wear. Unequipped (or “raw”) usually means you can only wear a belt and wrist straps (as well as your singlet and shoes, obvs). Equipped is a whole different world, involving bench shirts and other things I know very little about.

Bombing out
If you fail all three attempts, you bomb out. You can’t continue the competition, and that’s the end for you. So if you bomb out on squat (if you fail all three of your squat attempts), that’s it. Home time for you.

Carbohydrates
What powerlifters eat a lot of.

Cardio
Anything more than 5 reps in training.

Chalk
Either liquid chalk, or big blocks of chalk. Powerlifters rub it on their palms (to assist with grip, and to minimise the effect of sweating), and you can also rub it across your back where your squat bar will sit, and on your upper back and bum to help you stay in place on the bench.

Collars
The silver things that go on the end of the bar, after your plates (see below). Collars are different to clips (clips are the things you probably use on your bars in the gym). Their weight is taken into account as part of the weight on your bar.

Commands
What the referee will call out during all lifts. You will be given red lights if you fail to respond appropriately. Commands include “squat” and “rack” for squat. “Start” and “press” for bench.

Deadlift
The third and final lift of a powerlifting comp. The one which looks the least technical, but is often the most demanding. You can lift conventional (narrower stance hands outside your legs) or sumo (wide stance, toes turned out, hands inside your legs). The bar is on the floor. You walk up to it, and pick it up until you are standing up straight. The one which usually results in the most epic facial expression in the photos.

Depth
What you must hit on your squats. It’s deeper than you think. The top of your hip-crease must be below the top of your knee. Try it next time you squat.

Dumping the bar
What you mustn’t do if you fail your squat. Dumping the bar means throwing it from your back onto the floor. This is dangerous (to you and to the spotters) and could get you disqualified. Instead, let the spotters do their job. They will know that you’ve failed the lift and will take the bar from you. No harm done.

Flight
The term for a “batch” of lifters. Similar to “wave” in triathlon.

Full power
The name for powerlifting competitions where the lifters do all three lifts. You can also have push/pull events (bench and deadlift) or single lift.

Good lift
3 (or 2) white lights show after your lift. Hooray!
Hitch
One of the few ways you can fail a deadlift. Hitching refers to the small movements a lifter sometimes makes when the deadlift bar gets to mid-thigh. It’s a small stop-start movement to inch the bar up the thighs.

Hole (The)
The “hole” is the term given to the very bottom of the squat, when you hit depth. You need to be powerful out of the hole (so to speak) to successfully squat the weight back up.

Lock out
The final bit of each lift, where you make it clear that you’ve finished the lift. Particularly important for deadlift.

Lifter
You.

No lift
2 red lights, or 3 red lights. Sometimes a no lift is obvious (the person got stuck at the bottom of the squat, couldn’t press the bar, or couldn’t lock out their deadlift). Sometimes it’s less obvious (they didn’t quite hit depth on the squat).

Nose tork
Ammonia in a little bottle (essentially very strong smelling salts). Lifters sometimes waft it under their nostrils before a max attempt.

Openers
Your first lift of each exercise. Choosing your weights for openers is strategic and challenging! Open too light and you might risk having to jump up by too much weight in your subsequent lifts. Open too heavy and you risk failing the lift.

Pause
What you have to do with the bar during the bench press. It’s only a short pause (long enough for the referees to see that the bar is at your chest, and for the referee to call out “press”) but it’s very different to touch-and-go style benching.

Plate
The name for the large weights that go on the bar.

Platform
Where you lift. Usually just a small area of special flooring (to take the impact of weights). The platform will have squat rack or bench, bars, and spotters on it waiting for you to step up and make your attempt.

Rack
The bit of kit that holds your squat bar, ready for you to unrack, walk out (see below) and wait for the squat command.

Rack height

Squat racks can be adjusted. You need to go and squat the bar a couple of times after you weigh in, find out your rack height, and tell the officials so they can adjust it when it’s your attempt.

Raw
Another word for “unequipped”, this means powerlifting with no additional kit. Just a belt and wrist wraps (as well as your clothes and shoes, obviously).

Singlet
The delightful outfit lifters wear.

Squat
The first lift of a powerlifting competition. You get under the bar, put the bar on your back (not too low, as per the rules), walk out, wait for the “squat” command, squat down (to depth of course), and stand back up. Do not move your feet until you hear the “rack” command.

Talc
Just regular talc, but you put it on your thighs before deadlifts to help the bar slide up smoothly and to avoid the need to hitch (see above). There’s a technique to talcing up – after all, you don’t want to get it on your palms or on the soles of your deadlift shoes!

Total
The all-important number you get when you add up your heaviest squat, bench and deadlift of the day. If you compete full power, this is then number that matters.

Walk out
Part of the set up for the squat. The bar will be in a rack. You get underneath it and stand up to lift the bar from the rack. You then need to walk backwards so you have free space to squat down. This little walk is called the walk out. The ideal walk out is three steps: back, back, side.

Weigh in
The bit where you find out whether you should have laid off the ice-cream for a few more weeks before comp. As long as you are within your weight category, it’s OK. (For example, I lift as a “70” lifter, which doesn’t mean under-70. It means 70… or under. So if I was 70 on the day, that’s fine.) If you weigh in heavy, you have the opportunity to go and go a bit of cardio (or a poo) and try again. Or you can just lift in the next category up. If you weigh in light, you can’t move down a category.

White lights
The sight every lifter really wants to see after each attempt. There are three referees, and each of them has a “red” or “white” light button. They will press a button after your lift, to signal whether they assessed your lift as good or a fail. White lights are good. Reds are a fail. You need 3 white lights or 2 (of 3) for it to be a good lift. 2 red lights, or 3 red lights, is no lift.

9/9

How you’d describe your meet if you got all 9 lifts (3 attempts in squat, bench, deadlift) successfully.

Your A-Z of Powerlifting Jargon 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.


“Oceans Seven” Adam Walker on ocean swimming technique

January 11, 2016

Those of you who’ve known me (or the blog) for long enough will know about my other life.

Back in the day, I used to be a swimmer. Specifically, a Channel swimmer. I’ve swum the Channel twice and done other long open-water solo swims. (You can read more about all that here).

But Adam Walker‘s sea swimming accomplishments are something else. Adam was the first British person to complete “Oceans Seven”, thought to be the toughest seven sea swims in the world:

– English Channel 2008 (finished 11 hours 35 mins)
– Two-way Gibraltar Straits 2010 (finished 9 hours 39 mins – he broke the British Record one way and was the first Brit to swim back)
– Molokai Straits in Hawaii 2012 (17 hours 2 mins)
– Catalina Channel in USA 2012 (12 hours 15 mins)
– Tsugaru Channel in Japan 2013 (15 hours 31 mins) (the first British person to complete this swim)
– Cook Straits in New Zealand 2014 (8 hours 36 mins)
– North Channel Ireland to Scotland 2014 (10 hours 45 mins)
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So when Adam asked if he could grab a guest-blog spot on TFW, I had no hesitation. If I still have any open-water swimming readers, Adam’s story and stroke technique advice will be golden for you. And for the rest of you? Be inspired by his story, and consider reading his book “Man Vs Ocean” by Adam Walker (published by John Blake Publishing and available at Amazon here – Man Vs Ocean, Adam Walker, Amazon).
Man V Ocean Book Jacket

Over to Adam for some serious technique talk.

On 6 Aug 2014 I became the first British person to swim the hardest seven ocean swims in the world, known as the Oceans Seven.

My swim stroke was the conventional style of a high head and winding my arms, entering long and flat.

I trained with this style for 18 months, resulting in a ruptured bicep tendon whilst swimming the English Channel. Having completed the swim I had to have two operations. The surgeon told me that the bicep tendon had attached itself to the supraspinatus, and they were unable to separate them. He advised me to give up swimming as the arm rotations would irritate it and cause more injury. He said “If you do another long swim you will have serious long term problems!”

Giving up was not an option for me. I love the sport so much. So I began studying the front crawl stroke and how to take pressure off the shoulder, limiting irritation, and becoming more efficient.

At this stage I wasn’t concerned with speed, I just wanted to find a way to prolong my swimming career. Here’s what I learned.

Head position

After many months of practice and video analysis I established that having a still head looking downwards is critical in the stroke: if it’s not still, you could zigzag.

If you immerse your head then your legs will come up if you are on your side. It’s better to work with the water than lift your head up (which takes energy), not beneficial when the head is the heaviest part of the body.

Core movement

I thought about other sports such as golf, cricket, bowling, tennis and cross country skiing – they all use core stomach muscles to instigate the initial phase. Therefore it didn’t make sense for me not to use rotation as part of the swim stroke.

Rotating using the core only, allowing the hips to push the arms forward instead of throwing them overhead had a number of big benefits:

– Using fewer muscles
– Less impact when entering the water
– Reduced pressure on the shoulders
– Stronger propulsion in the stroke
– More length out of the stroke

If I drive the arm/hand into the water, I am using my chest as well to do this, using more muscles than necessary. Using the core helped keep my hand and arms as wide as my hips. If your chest dominates, more often than not they will drive into the centre line, particularly when you breathe.

You will then have to push them out again in order to pull back which takes time and is an added unnecessary movement. By driving them into the centre you have the potential to pinch tendons and cause friction which will eventually tether and cause significant damage (something unfortunately I know a lot about!)

Early arm entry

I was taught to enter my hand into the water as far out in front as possible to gain a good pull. However, if your hand enters the water early with a bent elbow and then extends under water this creates less resistance and will take pressure off your shoulders.

If you think about diving off a block in a race, they only allow you to go 15 metres under water. Why? Because you are faster under water than you are on top of the water. Therefore the sooner you get your hand and arm into the water the better.

Recovery arm

I discovered that by holding the front recovery arm in place until the stroking arm is just about to enter the water, I gained constant momentum. This aids with stability, which is necessary if you get knocked by a competitor or if a wave is about to hit you. This happened to me in the English Channel with my old stroke and I was flipped onto my back.

Pulling

Pulling to your hip only is your ‘power section’ – beyond that it turns into a tricep movement with your power significantly reduced and delaying the time needed to get your hand back in for the catch.

Leg kick

My leg kick is just enough to keep me afloat, nothing too vigorous. 70% of energy is used up in your legs and you don’t get that benefit back. The kick is a sideways kick as you are swimming hip to hip (never flat).

By carrying out a simple two-beat kick I’m not wasting excess energy and am limiting the calories burnt. This is also important in colder temperatures.

My suggestion is to swim the majority of a triathlon with a two-beat kick, then kick a little more in the final 50m or so to get blood flow into the legs in readiness for transition. The limited leg kick will serve you in good stead when you get onto the bike as they have had limited use. On my 17 hour Hawaii swim, when I climbed out of the water, my legs were so fresh they didn’t feel as if they had be used.

How my new stroke technique has saved my career

This stroke, which my clients are calling ‘The Ocean Walker’ technique, has not only saved my swimming career but meant I was the fastest man on a 21-mile two-way swim in Windermere, and completed all seven channels including fastest British crossing of Gibraltar Straits one-way, and became the first British person to do a two-way crossing.

I’ve had three operations in total on my left shoulder, I can’t sleep on that side and I can’t hold over 10 kilos of weight with a straight arm, yet with the ‘Ocean Walker’ stroke I can swim 17 hours and am 1:15 mins faster over 1,500 metres and 5secs faster per 100 metres.

And my stroke rate has gone down from an average of 72 SPM to 52 SPM, showing that holding form in the stroke is generating more speed. I am saving 1200 strokes per hour! I am not pulling any harder than I did previously, actually if anything I am pulling with less power, showing the importance of body position and efficiency.

What I have realised is the key to swimming efficiently is to make the water work with you. By being relaxed, getting body position right and reducing resistance you will go faster.

The best athletes in the world are normally the ones who make it look effortless, use timing to their advantage and are efficient in what they do. Just look at Roger Federer or Usain Bolt!.

(It’s me, Nic, back again…. 😉 )

Thank you Adam, what an incredible amount of information. For more information on the ‘Ocean Walker’ stroke and Adam’s swim camps and 1-1 coaching, go to Ocean Walker.

Want to read more about Adam’s amazing swims? He’s on a “blog tour” and here’s where you’ll find him:
Man vs Ocean blog tour banner

“Oceans Seven” Adam Walker on ocean swimming technique 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 😉 , 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 😉 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.


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