A New Sport Every Month: Roller Derby

September 29, 2017

What’s got 8 wheels, a gum shield, and a witty pseudonym?
A Roller Derby athlete!

Yep, I did Roller Derby.

I’ve decided to try one new sporty thing every month. Partly to stop my training from getting stale, partly to meet new folk, and partly for the LOL factor.

Because we all know I’m no good with:

– falling down (or prospect thereof)
– jumping/moving both feet off the ground at the same time
– any form of agility

September’s A New Sport Every Month was pretty funny (…mostly for the instructors…)

What Is Roller Derby?

Just about the further thing from my comfort zone that you can imagine.

No But Really, What IS Roller Derby?

Roller Derby is a contact team sport on roller skates. Two teams of five players skate counter-clockwise around a track, during “jams” (point-scoring bouts) that last up to 2 minutes.

One of each team’s five players is the “jammer” who can score points. The other four are “blockers” – defensive/offensive players whose role is to block the other team’s jammer, and to protect their own jammer so she can lap the other team to score.

Two things really appealed to me about Roller Derby.

1) It originated as a female-only sport, and men’s teams are a much more recent thing. Roller Derby is closely tied up with themes of feminism and body positivity and, at entry level, it’s an amazingly encouraging, empowering sport for women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels.

2) The names. I mean, come on. At my trial session I met Demi Lition, Hellen Degenerate, and Brute 66. In teams around the world, you’ll find Brazilian Whacks, Tess of the Derbywheels, and Nancy Raygun.

Roller Derby has been around since the 1940s, but fell off the radar until recent years. It’s enjoying a massive surge in interest now, so when I realised we have a local team, I signed up for the Open Day.

I didn’t get to actually play (that would have been asking way too much of my first hour on skates!) But I learned some of the basic skills: how to fall (various ways!), stop, speed up, and turn. We got to watch the Rec League in training, and then saw the main competitive team practising.

I asked Demi Lition, Founder of Kent Roller Girls, to tell you more. about Roller Derby.

Who is Roller Derby suitable for?

Pretty much everyone. You don’t need any experience or fitness level to start, and there’s no particular shape or size of person it suits best. You just need to be prepared to fall over a lot!

What does basic, entry-level Roller Derby consist of?

Most teams run a variation of beginners sessions. These can be a course over a set number of weeks, or continual drop-in sessions. My team – Kent Roller Girls – runs a recreational league. Skaters can join at any time with any level of experience, and we will teach you everything you need to know. You can take as long as you want/need to learn the skills, before getting to the level of playing games. Our rec league needs absolutely no experience whatsoever to join! Just the willingness to learn something completely new

Can you do Roller Derby as exercise/training and never compete (if you want)?

You can indeed! Recreational teams are great for this. There’s no pressure on skaters to compete, and you can focus on the fun side of the sport and of skating. There’s a place for everyone in the sport.

What does Roller Derby do for a body?

Roller Derby is all about the bum and thighs! (Nic: I concur! I “do legs” twice a week but the day after trying Roller Derby, my adductors, abductors, and glutes were sore!) You spend the majority of your skating time in a stance known as “Derby stance” – a slight squat position – which you definitely feel when you start skating! You build a lot of power in your legs to get yourself around that track. And as you make your way towards actually competing you need to be able to skate at a certain speed for a length of time which really helps with improving cardio.

Roller Derby has done more for my body confidence than anything else ever has. And a lot of people will say the same. It’s a sport for everyone, no matter what body shape, and we’re all as valuable to the team as each other. We all have our strengths based on our sizes and we all learn how to use them to our advantage. I’ve gone from hiding in baggy shirts and tracksuit bottoms, to wearing shorts in front of crowds of people. I hadn’t worn shorts in public for 15 years!

Thanks, Demi! :)

Go and visit Kent Roller Girls’s website or KRG on Facebook. Where is your local Roller Derby team? Why not look out for an open day, or pop along to their Rec League to give it a go.

Do you do Roller Derby? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks to Kent Roller Girls for the open day 🙂

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.

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National Fitness Day – What Does Fitness Mean To YOU?

September 27, 2017

NFD blog

Happy National Fitness Day! It’s the annual UK-wide celebration of fitness (exercise, training, sport, activity… whatever you choose to call it).

What do you choose to call it? And what does it mean to you?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Why do I make time to get to the gym, work so hard that I’m often aching for a few days, and bother to set goals (goals that often nobody knows about except me and my training log book)?

I’m not a pro athlete. The effort and investment I put into training won’t necessarily come back to me. Life might well be easier if I didn’t know or care about training!

Yet I do it. Almost every day. For years – decades, actually – now.

Why?

I didn’t start out this way. I guess very few people, unless their parents are elite athletes and they were born into a sporty household, given a tennis racquet/put on horse/thrown off a diving board before they could walk 😉

So why have I persisted with training, general lifestyle fitness, and sometimes pretty high-level sport? It must be because of what it MEANS to me.

Fitness means health

Some of the extreme goals I have pursued in the name of sport haven’t been healthy (swimming the Channel, dieting down to bodybuilding-stage-lean). The sharp end of sport often isn’t. But on a day-to-day basis, fitness means health. This year has hammered this home to me. A couple of close family members have been through serious illness, and that stuff puts things into perspective. I want to be fit so my heart is as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I want to build and keep muscle so my body stays strong for as long as possible. Cardio matters. Muscle tissue matters. Activity levels matter.

Fitness means growth

Not just physical – although as a bodybuilder, that is important to me. (I actually think it should be important to anyone: after the age of about 30, our muscle mass starts to atrophy and bones lose density. By trying to “grow”, you’ll stand a decent change of keep one step ahead!) Setting myself personal fitness goals and working towards them helps me grow in confidence, learn new skills, and develop myself.

Fitness means confidence

I have no idea if I’d be the same kind of person without fitness. But I’m pretty sure that my regular fitness routine, goal setting, and achievements, empower me with a lot of confidence. Fitness is all you. Even if you’ve got a Personal Trainer, a coach, or team mates. What YOU achieve is all down to YOU. And it’s not always easy. Once you’ve achieved a fitness goal, you know you can achieve more – in business, in relationships, in finance, in life.

Fitness means fun

A lot of my social circle comes from fitness, and I’m not at all ashamed to say that. Fitness has given me friends, contacts, and an entire world of likeminded people. Training with a partner is about more than just the exercise session. It’s about friendship, talking, listening, making a human connection. The same goes for any hobby, of course. But with fitness, you’re getting healthier at the same time!

Fitness means sanity!

Training, a long walk, any kind of exercise on/in water, and even a sweaty gym cardio class gives me an important outlet for stress, high emotion, or an attack of the blahs. It’s one of my most important – and reliable – coping mechanisms. Exercise boosts my mood, lifts my spirits, and helps me put things into perspective. It also helps me work – some of my best ideas come to me when I’m physically active.

I asked a couple of fitness friends to tell you why fitness is so important to them.

Girl on the River, what does fitness mean to you?

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“Fitness has fundamentally changed my life and how I feel about myself. Becoming fit has given me body confidence I never had, makes me feel strong and healthy and has given me a load of amazing friends. Finding a sport I love has also made it really fun, which I never thought possible.”  Twitter: Girl On The River

And Lucy Fry, how about you?

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“Fitness means… freedom to express myself, strength to embrace life, and help with slowing the chatter inside my mind. It’s been a support in difficult times; a source of joy, pride and excitement…!” Twitter: Lucy Fry

 

 

 

Over to you: what does fitness mean to you?

National Fitness Day is an annual awareness day from ukactive, the non-profit organisation whose mission is to get more people, more active, more often.

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.


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.


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!

See you at:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

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…

Keep up with me on social media
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

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.


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