Closing In On My Blood Donation Challenge

July 28, 2016

donate blood uk

I’m just back from giving blood and – as instructed – am putting my feet up rather than operating heavy machinery or doing a Hazardous Activity.

Today was my 38th donation. Not bad, given how I’m 39 and all. My personal challenge is for my number of donations to overtake my age. So I need to donate twice more in the next 11 months…

Are you a blood donor? There was a first-time donor at the session tonight who looked to be in her mid-30s. I wondered what made her decide to start now? I’m always curious about the reasons behind people’s decision to donate. (I didn’t ask her, don’t worry!)

Here’s my story. I hope it encourages at least one new person to register as a blood donor and turn up at that first session.

The NHS Blood Donation website
Register as a blood donor

I first gave blood in my early 20s, although the event that triggered my decision happened a few years earlier. When I was 17, my sister and her Mum (my step-Mum at the time) were in a car crash. It was bad – very bad. My sister’s Mum was in a coma for a time, and in the ICU for a good while after. My sister was in hospital for months, both legs in traction. Suffice to say the whole thing was a huge shock and pretty traumatic.

We got the news overnight, and I went to the hospital the next day. As I left to go back to school, I picked up two things from the hospital reception: information about becoming an organ donor, and information about giving blood.

I’ve given blood, on and off, for nearly 20 years. I try to do it as regularly as I can (tattoos and body piercings have slowed down my average!) I won’t lie, it’s not the best thing in the world. But it’s nothing like as bad as some people imagine.

Is it painful?
No. Honestly, the bit which “hurts” me the most is the pin-prick thing they do on one finger to check your iron levels. The actual donation part is almost painless. Sometimes there’s a sharp scratch feeling as the needle goes in. But not every time. Tonight, for example, I honestly barely felt it. It does not hurt during the donation, nor when they remove the needle.

Does it take ages?
No. My PB (yes, I am competitive with myself over donating blood…) is around 5:45. Tonight was mega-slow for some reason: 9:20! WTF! Women’s donations take longer than men’s (less body mass, smaller veins). The entire session usually takes around 40 minutes from walking through the door, filling out the questionnaire thingy, and finishing up your cuppa and snacks 😉 It will be quicker if you pre-book. Walk-in sessions can be slow at busy times, obviously.

Are the people good at it?

Yes. They’re fully trained (obviously) and this is their full time job. They’re efficient, friendly, and always make you feel at ease. They’re really lovely, actually. Holla to “Brian” who oversaw my donation tonight.

It is scary?
I guess it could be a bit daunting at first. Fear of the unknown and all that. But you’ll get used to it. It’s made very easy for you, and the sessions are relaxed, quiet, and you won’t be rushed. The website is easy to use, there’s an app, and they’ll text you little reminders before your session. Staff are always extra-kind and caring to first-timers.

Does it wipe you out?
I’ll admit that it does affect me a bit. I usually donate in the evening, so all I have to do when I get back is eat and go to bed. I’m fine by the next day. There’s plenty you can do to minimise the effects: drink lots of water, get enough sleep (they’ll give you plenty of advice). I have very low blood-pressure, which might explain why it does leave me feeling a bit drained. Pun intended.

Why do you do it?
See above. I realise that not everyone has a “story” like mine – indeed I hope you don’t!

If you are a blood donor, what made you decide to donate? And if you’re not, what fact, statistic, or event might persuade you to start?

Closing In On My Blood Donation Challenge 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.


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.


12 Years In Business (Part 2)

June 3, 2016

Sorry for the cliffhanger!

1st June 2004 was when I set up in business as a freelance copywriter. So, 2 days ago, I wrote a quick blog post about how I got to that point in my life and career.

Recap here if you need to catch up.

So there I was, in 2003. I’d just been made redundant from my Conference Production job. And I was ready to move out of London.

I made my way to Southampton (long story involving a man, which is another story for another day, preferably over a gin & tonic please… although you could read this if you can bear it!)

Once there, I took a role via a recruitment agency. Trouble is, their geographical knowledge of the south coast wasn’t great. And my knowledge about the A-road system in that part of the world was nonexistent. As a result, my new job turned out to be a couple of hours away. My heart wasn’t in it from the start. Quite honestly, I was terrible, and I made no effort to be better. I sometimes wonder if I wanted to be sacked? Anyway, I was.

In hindsight, I should never have taken another “real job”.

I should have made the leap right away.

But I guess I needed to be certain….

I’d always wanted to write as a career. As a kid, I wrote (terrible) short stories, meticulously hand-written in A4 hardcover notebooks. One of my clearest memories of primary school is when a local author came in to give us a talk. I studied English and critical writing for both my BA and Masters degrees. And my 32-year streak of keeping a journal recently made it onto BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour.

At the time, I was training to swim the English Channel. I thought to myself, look, if I can’t get a foot in the door as a sport and fitness journalist with a first-person feature story about swimming the bloody English Channel, then I clearly can’t pitch, can’t sell, and can’t spot a good story. I’ll give it a go.

And that’s what started it all.

From that initial feature, I struck up good relationships with the Editorial teams at various sport and fitness magazines. Over the years, my journalism career grew, and I’ve now written for consumer magazines, trade journals, the membership magazines of NGBs, the Washington Post, and books published by The Observer and by Weider/Muscle and Fitness.
nicola joyce journalist
Early on, I realised that I would struggle to build a business on journalism alone. I wanted to be more commercial, to deal with clients, to have a scalable business, and to make more money.
nicola joyce copywriter
So I took on copywriting work for local businesses. My journalism skills and experience were a useful foundation.

I networked relentlessly. I put myself out there at fitness industry events (Paul Mort’s FEB was pivotal for me). I took training courses with industry bodies and with independent copywriting coaches. I studied sales, marketing, advertising. I branded myself, walked the talk, and grafted hard to deliver good work.

And now it’s 2016. I can’t quite tell you how I got here. A strong brand, good quality work, focusing on a nice. Tenacity, consistency, and enjoying what I do.

A lot of exciting things are happening at The Fit Writer towers. Business is changing, and I’ll be rolling out at least one new service soon.

But copywriting for the fitness industry will always be at the core of what I do. I love it.

…I’m so glad I was made redundant in 2003!

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12 Years In Copywriting Business: Part 2 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.


12 years in business! (Or “Why Being Made Redundant Was The One Of The Best Terrible Events In My Life”)

June 1, 2016

nicola joyce freelance copywriter the fit writer

12 years ago today, I officially set up in business as a freelance copywriter.

In 1999, I left Uni after hanging about for an extra year doing a Masters (partly because I wasn’t ready to leave).

I worked in admin for a holiday company in my University’s city (mostly because I wasn’t ready to leave) and then made my way to…where else… London.

I lived in a houseshare in Archway with Uni mates. I shared a house in the wilds of South Woodford with one Uni mate, our very old landlord, and his disgusting German Shepherd dog. I lived in a beautiful house with my new London friends (and – randomly – a friend from secondary school) in Tulse Hill. We said we lived in Dulwich.

I worked in “conference production”, which these days would probably be called Content Development & Offline Marketing For Corporate Events (or something).

The company was owned by a huge publishing brand. My job involved interviewing very high-level execs, extracting research information from them, and writing it up into various formats (including the titles, topics, and structure of the conference, as well as the copy for the conference brochure, promotional web copy, and letters).

This was before email was widely used in marketing. And long before social media was big enough to be a marketing tool.

I went in at the very lowest level, and eventually became a Lead Producer in two different conference departments.

The in-house training was market leading at the time. It set the blueprint for various conference companies which followed it its footsteps.

It taught me…

** to think VERY quickly and commercially.

** to come up with themes, topics, and titles against tight deadlines, and to write them in the most compelling way. Our events lived and died by delegate bookings. Not enough sales? Your event would be cancelled, and you lost money (for the firm, and for yourself).

** to be fearless about picking up the phone and asking strangers to give me their thoughts about industry trends.

** how to write for the web, for email, for direct mail, for marketing and sales, for post-sales.

** how to use my curious mind to learn just enough about a lot of topics in a very short amount of time.

Then I was made redundant.

But it was OK. Around that time, I’d met the guy who would be my husband (then my ex-husband), and I was training to swim the English Channel. I was growing, and I’d outgrown the conference world. Truth be told, my mind was already out of there.

You might think that’s when I set up “thefitwriter” and went freelance.

You’d be wrong. I had one more lesson to learn…

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12 years in business! (Or “Why Being Made Redundant Was The One Of The Best Terrible Events In My Life”) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…)

April 26, 2016

WordPress informed me today that this blog is six years old. In blog terms, that’s positively elderly. But a blog isn’t a blog if it’s not actually updated… so here goes!
the fit writer blog nicola joyce 6 years birthday

I’m not sure I’ve got a lot to say…

…so – for anyone still out there and interested – here’s a stream of disconnected ramblings about training, food, and my newest bits of home fitness kit.

My most recent blog posts were about powerlifting. Specifically the BDFPA full power Nationals in February (so long ago already?) where I squatted 105, benched 60, deadlifted 150 (but I’d like it to be known that I got 160 to my knees!) You can read about that comp by clicking the clicky <<< .

Directly after that meet, I really wanted to do more powerlifting. I had grand plans:

1) the BDFPA single lifts nationals (initially just deadlift, but then I fell in love with squatting and decided to both deadlift and squat)
2) a BDFPA qualifier, ideally with my girlbro Charlie, to qualify early for 2017 nationals
3) nationals in 2017

But then various annoying logistical issues got in the way – travel, dog sitters, accommodation – and I had to make an executive decision.

I decided to shelve my powerlifting for the year (I’m happy enough with the progress I made between my qualifier and Nationals), and to revert to plan B: get back to training, do a late qualifier (Jan/Feb 2017) and see how I get on.

What am I up to now, then?

TRAINING

I’ve brought more bodybuilding aspects of training back into my life (although my training has definitely altered since my time focusing on powerlifting). I’m enjoying doing a wider variety of exercises, and paying attention to body parts I didn’t have the time (or the need) to train as a powerlifter.

Remember “notch watch” from way back when? (No, nor do I really and I wrote it.) Well, that belt has long since been thrown in the bin (it perished – literally – after languishing in the boot of my leaky car). But I still wear my Inzer belt for heavy squats, and I’m down 3 “notches” on it since the start of the year.

EATING

Things got a little wild there out in the hinterland of powerlifting, so yes I am dieting, but very slowly and extremely “flexibly”. No meal plan, no eating out of tupperware, and no cutting carbs (indeed no cutting anything). I’m just paying attention to what I’m eating, tracking it, and working to macros. Carbs are lovely and high, and I’m loving life! I’m dieting to macros, rather than to a meal plan, but it’s a very “flexible dieting” type approach. Carbs are no lower than 180, and I got above 200 twice a week. I think I might turn into a rice cake soon!
rice cakes bodybuilder
MOVING

Cardio has made a re-appearance, partly to support the slow diet and partly cos it’s Summer and it’s a lot nicer to ride my bike and pull my sled around the field in this kind of weather.

(Sled from Celtic Strength)

Bit of sled work out on the field tonight with my push/pull sled, handmade and custom painted by @simoncelticstrength 👌🏼

A video posted by Nicola Joyce ✒️💪🐶✌️ (@thefitwriter) on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:45pm PDT

No plans for events/comps/meets just yet. I’m really enjoying getting some structure back into my nutrition and training, and seeing where it leads me over the next few months. If I end up in shape, I have the option of UKDFBA (bodybuilding) later in the year. To all UKDFBA competitors and the general UKDFBA “fam” – I will be at as many qualifiers as possible this year, and I can’t wait to see you!

I’m better at updating my social media…

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I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


Time Away From Competing: Opportunity Or Loss?

December 8, 2015

Those of you who know me in real life, or who have been reading TFW for a while, will know that I competed in bodybuilding competitions from 2011 to 2014 (several shows a year). I haven’t competed this year. People are now starting to ask me whether or not I’m going to compete next year.

I don’t have an answer to that question yet.

But it did start me thinking about an interesting topic: whether or not to take a year (or more!) off. And why some do, and some don’t.

It seems to me that there are two types of (bodybuilding) competitor. The “every other year” guy (or gal) who competes every other year or perhaps two years out of every three.

Then there’s Mr or Ms “every season” who – for whatever reason – feels compelled to compete every year.

Which are you?

I was a Ms Every Season. I’m now a Ms “Time Off, Thanks Very Much”.

The way I see it is that bodybuilding is the sport of building your body. Yes, being lean on stage is one aspect of that, but just as important is the training, the building, the growing, the improving.

As natural bodybuilders, the only way we get lean for shows is to diet – sometimes aggressively – living in a near-perpetual calorie deficit. Muscle does not grow out of thin air. Particularly when you are a drug-free female pushing 40 years old (holla).

Hence my decision to take time off: quite simply, if I step on stage again, I want to be improved (size, mass, symmetry, balance… as well as condition/leanness). And I don’t feel I can make those improvements if I diet every year for 6+ months of the year.

Plus, I love training and sport in general. I’m really enjoying training for a powerlifting meet at the moment, and I’m loving boxing which I only tried because I wasn’t prepping. I had a lovely Summer being out on my road bike and doing a few sportives. I’ll never not train, it’s what I do. But there’s so much out there I want to do – in addition to my bread-and-butter bodybuilding training. I have a sneaking suspicion that other sports and other styles of training will benefit my physique, too, but that remains to be seen I suppose.

There are other reasons for the time off, too. Enjoying all life has to offer. That kind of thing 😉 Birthday cake on my actual birthday (in the middle of comp season). Channelling time, energy, brain power in to my business, my relationships. Doing things I need to be on the ball for (buying a home). Turning the spotlight off just one thing and shining my considerable energy on to lots of things, not just one thing.

But I know not everyone agrees with taking time off from a sport and a passion. Some feel that if you want to do it, do it now. And others know they probably should take time off if they want to improve, but they love competing so much they’d rather just crack on, even if it means less-than-optimal results.

11059840_883527415075299_6382110664345541851_n

Here are a few thoughts from my bodybuilding friends on the topic of “why do some bodybuilders seem to fear taking time off from competing”.

I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences…

I think some bodybuilders feel it is competitions that define them, rather than realising that it’s what we do day in and day out that defines us!

I think competitors worry that they will lose their identity if they are not actively competing year in year out.

People fear getting too out of shape and losing focus.

Some people fear falling off the radar and being forgotten about in comparison to the athletes who compete year in year out.

The attention one gets when in show shape is quite addictive. If you struggle to control body composition without an event to be working towards, it is easy to get out of shape. If you feel that your value comes from being in good shape, some can feel inadequate without that. Maybe the key is to work on being more self-aware and self-assured?

For some people bodybuilding IS their life and competitions are the highlight of it. Not competing can leave a huge void for those people.

Competition gives a massive buzz. The run up to competing, being on stage and everything that goes with it. However if you want to improve in bodybuilding you need time off the stage. This also gives you mental space to improve other areas of you life.

In reality each workout is the competition

It is foreign to some people’s thinking to consider themselves a top athlete in a sport yet have a 2 year interval from actually competing in it.

The stage is addictive. Being on stage matters more than substantial progress to some people

It’s the fear of being forgotten. It’s also that yearning to be on stage with your pals year after year and to see what you need to improve (that being said, if you don’t take the time to improve then you won’t!)

My body is telling me a year out. My mind is telling me I have unfinished business and I’m not getting any younger so I need to finish this. If I thought I was not making progress year by year I would take a year out but also I think it depends heavily on other commitments and finances as well. I, for one, work better if in regular interaction with a coach

I’ve wanted to take a year out for 4 years and still haven’t, simply because every year when others start to get their shreds on I just get pulled in… I genuinely wanted to take a year out this year but a few people advised me to stay on the circuit and it doesn’t take much persuading

LOTS more to say on this topic but I’ll stop here – maybe a few follow-up posts to be done!

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Time Away From Competing: Opportunity Or Loss? 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.


Impressing My Toughest Critic (“You could have done 13!”)

December 5, 2015

My nephew has never been especially moved by my various feats of sporting endeavour.

I once picked him up from school brandishing a big silver cup (won at a bodybuilding comp), and he asked why I didn’t bring my dog with me.

He knows I’ve swum the English Channel. He knows I sometimes ride my bike quite a long way. He knows I once did a competition where I pulled a truck.

No biggie.

There was the – somewhat devastating – time when I was two days out from a bodybuilding comp and went round to his house so my sister could take progress pics. He popped his head round the door as I was doing a front double bicep, looked me up and down and said, “no, Auntie Nic. Your muscles are too loose”. I was 48 hours away from getting on stage in my bikini in front of a load of strangers. I’m surprised I didn’t have two nights full of nightmares about “loose” muscles.

10698520_10154587920110072_7693303579520668776_n.jpgThen there have been all the times (too numerous to detail) where he’s assured me that “I’m stronger than you, anyway, Auntie Nic”.

Even at 10 weeks old, he barely batted a baby eyelash when I did an entire Nephew Workout using him as a weight.

So, it is with pride that I can report that finally, after five years, I have earned some encouragement from him about my physical prowess. Not just some encouragement. Glowing praise. Solid encouragement. Unshakeable faith in my abilities.

It was last night. Just before his bedtime. He suggested we do some “exercise” with his Mum and Dad’s dumbbells. I told him I could pick up the biggest ones. He eyed those 17.5kgs dumbbells, then looked at me doubtfully. “Really, Auntie Nic?” Yes, I told him. In fact, I told him to choose a number between 10-20 and I’d (single arm overhead) press it that many times.

12 reps was the challenge thrown down.

“Ooh, gosh, well I’ll try my very best!” I told him.

I got to 8. I struggled to 10 😉 I made a big deal about rep 11, and then I “just managed” rep 12. “Phew! I did it!” I told him.

“Auntie Nic…” he said. “YOU COULD HAVE DONE 13!”

🙂

Impressing My Toughest Critic (“You could have done 13!”) 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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