thefitdog on “Take Your Dog To Work Day”

June 24, 2016

This is a post from Frankie, the office dog.

Hi, friends!

I am dictating this blog post to Nicola from my bed (nothing new there, I hear you say). Ah, but today I am not just lazy! I am RECUPERATING! Yesterday I fell asleep at the vet’s and he stole another bit off my body. The first time was the worst – it was ages ago – he took my nuts! Then another time, he took a little lump off my leg. Yesterday, he took my dingly-dangler (technical term for a skin tag).

Anyway. All of that is to say that I’m very glad it’s Take Your Dog To Work Day today, because I need Nic here with me in case my brow needs mopping (or in case I try to bite my stitches).

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.50.02

And that’s what I want to write about today…

The fine invention that is Take Your Dog To Work Day. It’s a real thing! Personally, I feel that every day should be TYDTWD. I think having your dog at work with you has huge benefits, not just for the dog but for the human, too.

Here’s why every day should be Take Your Dog To Work Day.

Less Stress

Everyone knows that it’s nice to stroke a dog. But did you know that it’s actually a medical fact: stroking a dog’s fur has been proven to boost your levels of the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine. And just having a dog around helps humans manage their stress levels. You’ll have lower blood pressure, and you’ll be able to calm down and think things through.

Frankie’s Top Tip: stroke the ears, they have magical stress-busting properties (not medically proven).

More Productive

Everyone knows that people are more creative and productive at work when they take short breaks every now and then. You need to stretch your legs, get a change of scene, breathe some fresh air. Errrr… hello! An office dog could help with that! Having a dog around will encourage you to be less sedentary and take regular breaks, which could help you figure out a work problem or get through a plateau.

Frankie’s Top Tip: take the office dog outside for a wee even if he or she doesn’t need one.

Better Working Environment

According to some study (Nic did tell me where it is, but I forgot), 90% of employers who allow dogs say they have noticed a positive change in the working environment. Half of them said there’s been a decrease in absenteeism, and 67% said the office dog has improved staff morale. GO DOGS! Well, we’re just nice to have around aren’t we? We’re cute, and funny, and usually pretty laid back. I can completely understand how an office dog would improve morale at work – and therefore attendance!

Frankie’s Top Tip: make sure your office dog is cute/funny/cuddly so you want to see him or her every day.

Nic says she feels very lucky to be able to “bring me to work” every day (she actually works in our house, and I sleep just round the corner from her desk). Here’s how I help her during the day:
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– Walk before work every day
Nic says our morning walk helps her switch from “home mode” to “work mode”. It means she doesn’t just let the work day take over. She gets some time to get her thoughts in order. By the time we’ve had our walk, she feels fully awake, focused, and ready to tackle her workload. And because we’ve already been outside, she doesn’t get any FOMO if it’s a nice sunny day.

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– Regular breaks for cuddles
If Nic has been sitting down for ages, or if she’s feeling frustrated with some bit of her work, she’ll just come over to me and we’ll have a quick cuddle. Sometimes Nic will sing me a song. She always goes back to her desk feeling calmer, happier, and ready to tackle the work.

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– Fresh air during the day
Nic knows she spends too long sitting down. It’s an occupational hazard. So I’ll often whine at her periodically during the day as a handy reminder that she needs to stretch her legs. If she’s busy, we’ll just go out into the garden for some sunshine and fresh air. If she has a bit longer to spare, we’ll pop out onto the field behind our house and walk round once or twice. When Nic wore an activity monitor, she noticed that these little walks really added up!

Are you allowed to take your dog to work with you? Big up Pets At Home, Google, Amazon and co for all allowing dogs in the workplace. They know a thing or two about business!

Speaking of business… I need to go in the garden.

Thanks for reading! Frankie xoxox

thefitdog on Take Your Dog To Work Day 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.


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.


Tips From The Bodybuilding Judging Table

June 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice: flappy hands are just distracting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips From The Bodybuilding Judging Table is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


29 More Books To Add To Your Reading List (Swiped From Smart Folk)

June 9, 2016

book list recommendations business mindset
I had some complaints about my previous book-recommendation post.

Apparently it increased the size of people’s Amazon wishlists and “Books To Read” lists to uncomfortable levels.

Well, sorry about that! By way of apology, here are 29 more book recommendations as swiped from the conversations and Facebook posts of interesting people 🙂

You’ll be pleased to know there are no more books on my swipe-list.

Just…a load of podcasts 😛

Self-Development
The Power Of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
As A Man Thinketh, James Allen
The Universe Solved, Jim Elvick
Changes That Heal, Henry Cloud
Vision Of The Anointed, Thomas Sowell
Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
The Art Of Learning, Josh Waitzkin
The 1 Thing, Gary Keller

Mindset
Unbeatable Mind, Mark Divine
Lead The Field, Earl Nightingale
Manifest Your Destiny, Wayne Dyer
Dianetics, L Ron Hubbard
Choice Theory, William Glasser
No More Mr. Nice Guy, Robert Glover

Business
Die Empty, Todd Henry
The 10X Rule, Grant Cardone
Start With Why, Simon Sinek
Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
The Millionaire Fastlane, MJ DeMarco
So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport
Good To Great, Jim Collins

Fiction, Biography, Autobiography
Obvious Adams, Don Farrell
The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Self Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Letters From A Stoic, Seneca

Which of these books have you read? Should I fast-track any of them to the top of my reading list?

29 More Books To Add To Your Reading List (Swiped From Smart Folk) 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.


39 Book Recommendations I’ve Swiped From Smart People

May 30, 2016


For a few weeks now I’ve been swiping book recommendations from various Facebook posts. It’s about time I pulled the lists together. Full disclosure: this is a self-serving blog post. I’ll put the list here for my own reference, and if someone out there benefits from it too then great!

These 39 books are all titles I haven’t yet read (or listened to), so I can’t personally recommend them. It’s a long list, and not particularly organised. But I hope you get something from it.

(I download all my audiobooks from Audible.co.uk – I haven’t checked to see which of these books are on Audible yet.)

If you’ve read any of these, did you love it, hate it? Think I should put it at the top of the list… or think I’d be wasting my time reading it at all?

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BOOKS FOR YOUR BRAIN BOX

Self Development
Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz
The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer
A New Earth, Ekhart Tolle
Leadership & Self Deception, The Arbinger Institute
The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
A Million Miles In a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
You Are Not So Smart, David Mcraney
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn
The Game of Life & How To Play It, Florence Scovel Shinn
The Happiness of Pursuit Chris Guillebeau
An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth, Chris Hadfield
How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen and James Allworth
Legacy, James Kerr

Mindset
The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi
The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
Mastery, Robert Greene
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, Paul Arden
The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz
The Confidence Game, Maria Konnikova
Wooden, John Wooden
The Art Of Exceptional Living, Jim Rohn
How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World, Harry Browne
The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge
Various recommendations of books by Robert Greene
Winning Through Intimidation, Robert Ringer
Rising Strong, Brene Brown
The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer

Business
Think & Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
Three Laws of Performance, Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan
How to Get Rich, Felix Dennis
Learn Or Die, Edward Hess
Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About, John Carlton
The E-Myth Enterprise, Michael Gerber
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Way You Do Anything Is The Way You Do Everything, Suzanne Evans
Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

Fiction
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig

(This isn’t my entire list… ! Back soon with the second half)

39 Book Recommendations I’ve Swiped From Smart People 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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