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

September 1, 2014

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

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

Why is posing important?

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

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

Isn’t it just… standing there and flexing?

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

Why do you have to learn it?

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

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

Surely it’s easy?

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

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

So, what happens at these things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah… suffice to say that I’m pretty tired and sore this morning 😉

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

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

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

It’s official. I’ve got a phagia!

August 22, 2014

Oh, this is so exciting. I’ve officially got a peculiar affliction! It must be true, it says so in a press release (for iron supplements) that I got this week.

Actually, this is something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while, but now I know there’s a proper word for it and everything, I mustn’t delay.

Pagophagia. Doesn’t it sound cool? Actually, it’s really cool. Sub-zero, in fact.

Pagophagia is a specific form of the disorder (great) “pica” (which involves craving or obsessively eating things which aren’t technically food. You know, like soil, or coal, or licking a shovel or something).

I don’t do any of that. I am obsessed with freezing my drinks, adding ice to drinks, drinking icy things. I stand in front of the freezer, eating ice out of the bag.

That’s pagophagia. It’s a real thing – look, there are 32 articles in PubMed on it.

Does anyone else crave ice? Please, let me know, so I don’t feel like such a freak.

Wiki tells me that “Pagophagia is a form of the disorder pica involving the compulsive consumption of ice or iced drinks.” OK.

And goes on to tell me that “It has been associated with iron deficiency anemia, and shown to respond to iron supplementation… leading some investigators to postulate that some forms of pica may be the result of nutritional deficiency.”

Hm. I dunno, can I really be iron deficient? I eat red meat, probably more often than most people. At least 5 times a week, if not daily. I eat lots of greens, including leafy greens. I don’t boil all hell out of my food. I take a greens powder (Lean Greens – if you’re interested).

I’m not too worried about my pagophagia. In fact, here are my top tips for fellow pagophagists! (I have actaully been telling people in the gym about #1 and now I feel a bit bad for spreading disordered drinking around South East Kent).


– Half-fill water bottles with water, BCAAs, intraworkout or just squash if that’s your thing. Freeze them, ideally over night. Before you head to the gym, fill the bottle up with water. Voila! You have a gorgeously icy drink for your training session. And – added bonus – you can use the solid ice bit at the bottom of the bottle as an on-the-go ice pack. Ideal for leg day.

– You can also use your half-frozen water bottles to help keep your food cold in your cool box

– Know your ice suppliers. For example, Londis only sells bags of massive ice cubes. The holy grail is that “ice crush” stuff and I’ve only ever found it in Tesco and Sainsbury. Tesco ran out of it completely for about 6 weeks last Summer. Let me tell you, that was a bad time.

Pagophagists unite! Do you love all things icy, too, even when you’re actually feeling quite cold? Is it really down to anemia and if so what should I do about it?

It’s official. I’ve got a phagia! 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.

Why does winning matter, anyway?

August 18, 2014

I’m in a philosophical mood this morning. Chatting with a friend about my goals in this sport (happy to share them: WNBF Pro), and sharing photos of current female WNBF Pros who inspire me, I realised that I’ve set myself a really very difficult challenge.

Why have I bothered? Why did I let the idea in, and why do I continue to pursue it? Why not just compete for fun? Why compete at all?

Being competitive is a blessing, and a curse. It’s helped me thrive in business, and succeed in most challenges I set myself. But being highly competitive, single-minded, with tunnel vision and “laser-beam focus”, is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth.

It pushes you outside your comfort zone and doesn’t make for particularly easy living. So why can’t we just settle?

(I’m sure my family and friends wouldn’t mind if I didn’t compete. And, whilst it does help that I “walk the talk” as a copywriter for the fitness industry, I’m sure my clients would be fine if I was “just” someone who trained hard.)

Because – like many of you – I’m like a dog with a bone. Give me an idea, and I’ll either reject it immediately, or obsess over it. When I’ve got a goal, my mind sees it in vibrant technicolour, and turns grey towards everything else.

Sometimes, I wish I’d never heard of this sport, never started, never had the seed sown. I’m just being honest! Most of the time, I love it, and I definitely think the plus points outweigh the negatives. It’s true that you can’t “unknow” what you learn about nutrition, diet and fat loss during bodybuilding prep, but – on balance – I’m glad I know it. That’s probably a different philosophical discussion for another time though!

So, why does winning matter, anyway? Why do our goals – whether that’s a World Record lift, a competition win, a particular title, or Pro Status – matter so much to those of us blessed/cursed with the ultimate of type-A personality?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And here’s the photo, stuck to my kitchen cupboards, which both excites and terrifies me every day. It’s last year’s Pro Heavyweight FBB line up at the WNBF Worlds.

Why does winning matter, anyway? 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.

You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when….

August 10, 2014

My 2014 contest prep marches on, and the diet has started to kick in.

You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when…
(feel free to fill in the blank with your own funniest, strangest or most melodramatic and self-indulgent story!)

You strip your bedsheets in the morning when you’re full of beans, thinking you’ll make the bed later. By “later”, the very thought of such immense levels of activity is enough to reduce you to tears. You sleep wrapped in a sheet for the next four days.

You strategically combine household chores according to height. Already undoing your shoes? So pick up the junk mail and straighten the doormat whilst you’re down there. Saves energy. Every little helps.

A bit of paper blows off the kitchen counter on to the floor and you stand, staring at it, before bursting into tears of self-pity and rage. You now have to bend down and pick it up?!

8:30pm is a perfectly reasonable bedtime for a fully-grown adult.

You invent new and unusual ways with dry shampoo, because even the idea of washing your hair is enough to make you need a little sit down. You haven’t actually dried your hair in weeks.

You consider moving to a bungalow so that going to the toilet is less of an arduous ordeal.

But your house does have a staircase. Which you have taken to crawling up, on hands and knees, when you’ve trained legs that day.

You just can’t be bothered to make your food interesting any more. It’s too much effort. Who cares, anyway?

The sight of a new line in your abs/glutes/quads has a revitalising effect like nothing else! You (momentarily) feel like you could run 10 miles! Til… er… about 5 minutes later.

Your tolerance-to-attitude ratio reaches peak velocity (“look at this selfie of my abs! Now shut up and go away!”)

You put on noise-cancelling headphones whilst the dog is eating his dinner because the noises he makes are quite simply beyond anything anybody should have to tolerate.

Coffee. So much coffee.

Written with fond and humble apologies to my nearest and dearest. Especially the dog. 😉

Screen shot 2014-08-10 at 15.46.52

You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when… is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

What to expect during body building prep (it’s not what you think)

July 26, 2014

I wanted to post about all those little things you should expect when you embark on competition “prep” for a bodybuilding contest.


No, no… not about dieting, training, emotions or any of that stuff. The little details which are so peculiar, you wonder if anyone else does them. Then you venture to admit them to another bodybuilder, and they say “OMG, I do that too! I thought I was the only one!”

7 random things you are likely to do as a competitive bodybuilder

You’ll indulge in intense, often bizarre and very niche, online shopping
Perhaps it’s a displacement activity, but most bodybuilders I know end up obsessively buying and stockpiling… something during their contest prep. Of course for many it’s food. Food they can’t eat until after their show. By which point they no longer want it (because they never truly did in the first place). Thankfully, I’m past that stage. But… er… I did win 4 pairs of high top trainers on eBay last week. Yes, 4 pairs. I had employed uber-stealth mode and was stalking ones listed at 99p. I put a small bid on all of them, thinking I’d win maybe one or two pairs. Forgot about them all. And… well, you can predict the outcome. No doubt by next week it will be something else.

Top tip! If you find yourself spending too much time (and cash!) on online shopping during your contest prep, try this. Browse to your heart’s content, fill your online shopping basket – and then close the browser window. Do not press “complete purchase”. You get all the fun of window shopping without actually crippling your Paypal account.

Your language will change
Perhaps it’s the extra testosterone your body is producing (we can hope!) or maybe it’s hanging around more males than females, but expect your lexicon to shift. You’ll start calling your (female) friends “beast” and telling them they’re starting to look “disgusting”, and they’ll be delighted. Someone could call you a “horrid little monster” and it would make your day. Oh, I’m a “freak”, you say. Thank you, thank you!
You’ll eat out of the same bowl all day long
Thanks to my gym buddy “Lady P” for this one. You’ll take to pretty much eating out of the same bowl all day long. I’m not sure why! I can’t remember the last time I used a plate – always a bowl and usually a spoon – and, yes, I tend to have my breakfast in one bowl and then… er… just kind of fill the same bowl with my next meal, and so it goes on. Why? I don’t know! But I’m not the only one who does it. I then wash up at the end of the day. As Lady P quite rightly points out: “my cats eat out of the same bowl all day, so why not!” (I refer you to the “beast” description above…)

You’ll be more obsessed with beautification than before you were a bodybuilder

Maybe just one for the women (but I never judge). Before I competed as a bodybuilder, I don’t think I’d ever had a manicure and I’d certainly never had cluster lashes. Nowadays? I “get my lashes” done as often as I can afford. There doesn’t have to be a reason. And as for spray tans/self-tanning… don’t get me started. Once you go orange, you never go back.

You think nothing of going out wearing shorts, a stringer or tank top (and your hi-tops, of course)

I’ve been to client meetings in gym kit (good quality, non-revealing stuff of course, and on my way to the gym, not on the way back!) I’ll go in to town wearing gym kit. I’ll queue in the Post Office post-cardio. I honestly don’t think anything of it, until someone points/stares/tuts (expect all three when you’re prepping). I will put an extra layer on to go into Waitrose. Somehow, it just feels the proper thing to do 😉

You’ll genuinely like very odd food combinations
If you’d told me five years ago that I would look upon ground flaxseed and egg whites as a delicious treat, I would have looked at you like, well, a bit like how your face is looking right now. Dieting for bodybuilding shows not only means that you come to appreciate the smallest and most paltry treat as hugely exciting, but you end up experimenting with certain foods in a bid to make a meal you haven’t eaten 234,123,943 times already. What are some of your favourite discoveries?

You’ll kind of like shaving…
Before I tanned up for my first bodybuilding comp, I’d never shaved my arms (funnily enough). But when you’re getting ready to apply stage tan, you kind of have to shave everywhere. Let me tell you, you’ve not lived until you’ve shaved your own rear delts! Most (female) bodybuilders I know will give their forearms a quick swipe with the razor throughout the year. And no, it’s nothing to do with getting hairier (I’m part of the drug-free scene, remember). It just… feels nice.

OK, so that was a bit embarrassing! Please let me know I’m not alone in all of this. What weird and unexpected things do you now do since prepping for bodybuilding shows?

What to expect during body building prep (it’s not what you think) 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.

Macros and the bigger picture

July 15, 2014


I’ve got a story to tell you this evening.

The other day, I was on a long walk with my dog. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere (well, as far as the Kent Downs allow) and the only souls in sight.

Then I saw a chap crouching down, peering at a spot on the ground. He had some pretty hefty photography equipment set up. Being the nosy curious person I am (occupational hazard), I asked him what he was taking photos of. “Just this flower,” he said. “Oh, I thought maybe you’d found some mega-rare newt or something,” I replied (no, I don’t know why I thought of a newt, either).

“I’m just playing around with macros,” said the chap.

Macros. That little word which means so very much to us in the fitness industry. IIFYM. What’s your macro split? Have you met your macros today? What are your macros?

It’s a word we use so often, it needs no explanation.

At least… to us.

For this photographer guy, the word macros means something else entirely. And he probably has no idea what his own macros are, maybe he doesn’t even know what the three macronutrients are and – if he does – he probably doesn’t care.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about our macros. After all, for those of us serious about body composition, physique sports and nutrition, macros do matter. In general, I think it’s a positive thing if you know the makeup of what you’re eating.

But the encounter with the photographer so absorbed in the details of that flower made me realise: the macros that matter so very much to us in the fitness industry really mean very little to a lot of other people. For the photographer, it’s about fine and tiny detail in extreme close up. To us, it’s about three big all-encompassing nutritional behemoths.

So, fitness industry, maybe it’s time to tear our eyes away from the detail of our own macros (and everything else) so we can spend more time looking at the bigger picture. Looking through someone else’s lens from time to time is refreshing.

Macros and the bigger picture 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.

Prep update: what’s been going on?

July 14, 2014

It’s been a while since I blogged about this year’s bodybuilding contest prep, so I thought it was time for an update!

I’m now mumble-mumble weeks out… let’s call it “about 12” although it could be less than that, or more than that, depending on what I decide to do, which will depend on when I feel I’m ready. How’s that for vague? 😉


Training is going really well, I always enjoy my lifting sessions and am enjoying doing my own training programmes this year. I stick to the same split (same bodypart/s on the same days) but tend to mix up my actual sessions from week to week. I have some favourites which I gravitate towards, and always include big compound lifts, but enjoy trying out new things and mixing stuff up, too. I share ideas and new finds with friends (often over whatsapp, in the form of spontaneous videos using household objects in place of the barbell… LOL you know who you are!) In general I am a high-volume person, and also use things like supersets and dropsets.


Diet is going OK too, it’s tough at times of course but that’s bodybuilding dieting for you! I find it fascinating how my body holds fat differently each year. This year for instance, my quads were as lean at the start of prep as they were at about 8 weeks out last year (on skinfold) and my abs (amazingly!) have remained pretty lean. In previous years, most of my bodyfat has been on my abs. This year it’s on my triceps (standard) but also on my bum and hamstrings. Boo! Oh well, I suppose it has to be somewhere. I just hope it starts coming off soon! Everything else is definitely getting leaner. I spotted my friend Gary Gristle last week (<< this is a weird lump of gristle on one of my shoulder blades, which is only visible when I get to a certain point of leanness). Next up will be spotting the knot on the stitch of my hernia repair operation. Then we'll really be motoring!


I’m doing a lot more cardio this year than I did last year (which wouldn’t be difficult, since I did no cardio – other than powerwalking with my dog – in last year’s prep). This is partly because I genuinely enjoy it, and partly because I feel I need to extra push (I refer you back to the fat-bum comment above). I’ve been doing either off-road rides on my mountain bike (love it!) or running hill sprints (don’t love it quite so much) in the mornings, or doing a bit of “gym cardio” (usually stepper or Arc machine) after weights sessions. I prefer morning cardio, though, and I prefer doing my cardio separate to my weights sessions.

Does anyone else find that, during prep, they start to enjoy training bodyparts which are boring or uninspiring off-season? For me, that’s shoulders, and arms. I’m loving both at the mo!

Oh and I got tutted at by an elderly lady in the High Street today. I take this as a good sign! I was wearing gym kit (including sleeveless top) and she stared, patted the top of her own arm, and shook her head crossly. Cheers, lady! 😉

The amount of #gymselfies ^^^ (arrest me, social media police! 😛 ) has increased, which is also a sign that I feel I’m getting leaner. So, if you want to keep up with prep in pic form, follow my instagram. Other than that… what can I tell you? Any questions, just ask 🙂

How’s your training, racing, competing or generally being-active going? Hope you’re having a great Summer so far.

Prep update: what’s been going on? 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.

So you want to compete? First steps for new bodybuilders

June 25, 2014

Are you interested in competing in bodybuilding (I’m including all the various bodybuilding categories here – bodybuilding, physique, figure, fitbody…)? Maybe it’s on your bucket list, or perhaps it’s the reason you started training with weights.

Whether you’ve made the decision, or are still debating it, competing can be confusing and overwhelming.

Here are a few things you’ll need to do, look into, and think about at those initial stages.

Which association/federation?
So, you know you want to compete. What next? Literally… where do you go next? There are lots of bodybuilding organisations (let’s just talk about the UK for now), all slightly different. Things you’ll want to ask yourself:

1) Drug tested or not? If you’re not a drug-free competitor, or if you’ve taken something in the distant past, you’ll need to do one of the organisations which aren’t specifically drug free. You could also choose to do one of these organisations if you don’t care either way about the people you’ll be up against, but you do particularly want to compete with that organisation. There are 3 drug-free associations in the UK (I can do another post explaining them if you like?), two have a 7-year drug-free rule, one is lifetime drug-free.

2) Which association has the category I want to do/I think I’ll be best suited to? Do your research. All the bodybuilding organisations have websites and Facebook pages, and there’s lots of advice out there. Some offer slightly different classes, some offer classes you won’t find anywhere else, and the criteria will differ. Make sure the organisation you choose suits your body, your ethics, your past or present choices of “supplementation”, and your personality too. You need to feel “at home”.

Which category?
Please note I’m just talking about the drug-free organisations here, since they’re the ones I know (and otherwise I’d be here all day!) All offer slightly different categories for women. For men, it’s slightly easier: you’ll be in bodybuilding, and can enter Novice, or age (masters) classes, or open (weight) classes. Men’s Physique is starting to be introduced.

For women, it can be a little confusing. Essentially you have:
– bodybuilding (the same poses as male bodybuilders, barefoot). Also sometimes called Physique or Ms Physique. Do not confuse this with the Physique category in the IFBB (Dana Lynn Bailey & co). Physique in drug-tested UK organisations=female bodybuilding.
– Figure (some organisations also offer Masters Figure)
– Fitbody
– Athletic

It is well worth looking at the organisation’s criteria, asking organisers/show promoters/competitors, and looking at plenty of photos from previous competitions.

IMO, it’s best to train and see how your body is looking when you start to diet down, unless you desperately want to do a specific category. That said, most women feel instantly at home in one category and can’t imagine doing another. Fun fact! I originally started out as a Figure competitor, til someone had a good look at me and suggested bodybuilding/physique. I was glad, I feel like a bodybuilding competitor 🙂

Do I need a “prep coach”?
Bodybuilding is the first sport I’ve done where people seem to feel that they need a “prep coach”. Maybe it’s because it’s such a lifestyle thing, involving more than just your training. But I’ve noticed that people new to bodybuilding seem to automatically assume you have to have a coach prep you, and panic about finding the right person and funding this.

You don’t need a coach. There is plenty of information out there about dieting for muscle gain and fat loss, about training for hypertrophy, about tanning and choosing a posing suit and how to pose. In fact there’s probably never been a better time to access tons of free information.

That said, I understand that some people feel better with a coach. Certainly it’s good for accountability, and keeping your head straight when panic and self-doubt sets in. But a good close circle of bodybuilding friends could do that, too. One thing I would say: if you have a coach, trust him or her. Question them, sure, but work with them and trust them. If you don’t have a coach, find one or two knowledgeable people who you trust. Listen to them, do your own research, and bounce ideas off them. Then don’t fuss. Listen to your “mentor/s” and don’t listen to anyone else!

Am I ready?
Hm, I don’t know! Certainly lots of people get on stage when they’re not ready. But that’s not a crime. It just means they probably won’t place, but maybe that doesn’t matter to them. I would say that you will be amazed at how “small” you end up once you’re lean enough for stage. So, ask yourself if you have the necessary muscle mass build from a foundation of solid time training with weights.

Do I have the support network I’ll need?
You also need to ensure your mind and lifestyle are ready. Are you in a “good place” in your life? Do you have support? If you live and train alone, are you OK with that? If you have a partner, kids etc, are they OK with the idea of you competing?

What should I expect?
From competing? That’s a blog post in itself! But, in a nutshell: hard work, focus, 24/7 dedication to diet, hard training, food prep, washing up a lot of plastic tubs and shaker bottles, much time assessing/measuring/crunching various numbers, hunger, tears, self-doubt, double guessing yourself, mood swings, euphoria, excitement and a massive sense of achievement. Amongst other things 😉 One thing I would say is that you do not have to compete. You could just train, and eat well, maybe even “do the diet” for yourself, or for a photoshoot, or for no reason at all. If you love lifting, and like eating a bodybuilder-y type diet, you do not have to compete. It’s not the next logical step. Unless you want it to be!

How much will it cost?
Like any sport, it’s as expensive as you let it be. But, it’s not cheap. Here are some costs you might expect. Not all are essentials.

Prep coach (if applicable)
Gym membership/s
Food for throughout your prep (doesn’t have to be expensive but can be)
Supplements (you don’t need any/many, but it can get spendy)
BB association membership
Contest entry fee
Polygraph fee
Photos/DVD of show
Beauty treatments before your show
Bottle/s of tan
Or professional tanning (if applicable)
Bikini/s or trunks
Shoes (if you’re doing Figure or Fitbody)
Stage jewellery and such adornments (if you want)
Travel to show
Tickets for supporters (if you’re the generous type)

This is getting long… so I’ll sign off for now. But if you want any more info on any of this, leave a comment and I’ll do a follow up.

Oh -I asked my bodybuilding friends to chip in on this topic, and here are some of their responses 😉

You will lose your mind at some point, so make sure the people around you are supportive and understand

You need to know just how much time and energy it takes up the closer you get.

The importance of getting tan right. …….

First go and see a competition – not like I did!

The importance of another person looking you over.

Biochemistry. Is the body ready to build muscle / reduce body fat?

The emotional impact, during and afterwards, and also the fact you should reverse diet, the possibility of bad rebound and the fact you might look great but you probably don’t feel your best!

For competitors who are parents: to schedule in set family and separate kids time. The mental side is tough already but feeling guilty of not spent seemingly enough time with family especially little ones is stressful. Time for oneself and children is vital.

Don’t over think it! The whole process is a journey, one to learn from and develop. Keep it simple and be prepared to learn for future events. Its far too easy as a newbie to get caught in the trap of trying to manipulate every fine detail so that you fail to fully understand what and how your own body responds. Keep it simple!

Nailing your posing is an absolute must.

So you want to compete? First steps for new bodybuilding competitors is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic

June 2, 2014

I’m shattered!

I was away last weekend at the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug-Free Bodybuilding Association) Caledonian Classic, a 500-mile round trip from Kent to Livingston in Scotland. I wasn’t competing, I was actually the other side of the judges’ table this time, delighted (and honoured) to be one of the panel of judges who got to scrutinise the athletes’ hard work up close. Best seat in the house! The show was the UKDFBA‘s first show outside England, and it was a resounding success with both competitors and spectators (tickets sold out weeks ago). I had a fantastic time meeting back up with some of my Team UK buddies, supporting the UKDFBA and judging. Well done to everyone.


That’s not why I’m shattered though.

Another member of the UKDFBA “family” is WNBF Heavyweight Pro and former WNBF World Overall winner Richard Gozdecki. I’m not sure how I got myself into it, but I found myself training (legs, what else?) with Big Rich early on Saturday morning before the show. He’d never trained with a female before, so he told me. I channeled my inner Beyonce and represented for all womankind.


Evidently I didn’t do too badly because Rich then suggested we train again on Sunday morning, after a long day at the show on Saturday, and before a very long drive home. Sure! I’m hardly going to pass up that kind of opportunity.

Want to know what we did? I’ll tell you. Although I should point out that we were only able to use the kit and equipment available to us (one commercial/chain gym and one hotel gym). Richard’s own gym – The Workout Mill in Leamington Spa – is his usual training ground. And Rich says to also say that we were up against the clock both times because he had to get breakfast before the kitchen stopped serving! ;D

Before I left:
I received the following ominous whatsapp

“Things you’ll need:
Hot pants or bright leggings
Lifting belt
Lifting shoes
Sick bag
Spare pair of knickers
Baseball cap (essential)
And a huge pair of balls”

Well. Hot pants would not be happening at this early stage of a diet, although I do own a fine selection of jazzy leggings. My belt perished in The Great Mould Incident of 2013. Shoes are Converse or Vibrams. Women don’t puke (we leave that to the men). We do however sometimes wee ourselves, so he got that bit right. Water and oxygen go without saying, as does the hat (I have many). And huge pair of balls is not a problem (although please rest assured I am a drug-free bodybuilder!)


Before our sessions, Richard kindly mixed me up his own blend of USN goodies so I could sample the combo he uses as a pre workout (he is sponsored by USN): anabolic nitro-X, BCAA amino gro, and glutamine.

Here’s what we did, working with the kit available, and somewhat up against that breakfast clock:

Calves and quads
– Calf raise/toe press on leg press – 2 warm up sets, then 4 x 20 working sets (heavy!)
– Rotary calf superset with stretches/standing on your toes (no idea how many sets – lots – 4-5)
– Leg extension – 2 warm up sets then 3 x 12/12 rep dropsets, then a 36 rep triple dropset (working fast on these)
– Plate loaded leg press 4-5 (?) sets of 20 reps (heavy!)
– Then the real work started: barbell back squats – 3 working sets, climbing in weight, then a triple drop set from the top weight (I got 32 reps out). Rich did 100kgs more than me and he wasn’t working at 100% 😮

– Standing dumbbell laterals to warm up, then 5 x 15/15 rep dropsets
– Explosive seated DB laterals (never done these before!) 2 sets of 12
– Cable laterals 4 x 12-15
– Giant set of 2 types of cable face pulls, then seated dumbbell rear delts (15 reps) – 4 or 5 sets of this
– Seated overhead press type machine (not sure what make) lots of sets, climbing in weight, until we really had to go so Rich could get breakfast with his Mrs!

Heaviest and hardest I’ve gone on shoulders in a long time, thank you Rich!

The following day, another of our WNBF Pro bodybuilders – Gordie Adam – who was the UKDFBA’s “man on the ground” up in Livingston, popped into the gym where we’d done legs. Apparently the staff were talking about how much of a machine I was, going at it like-for-like with Rich and smashing it. Thank you to the kind staff at Bannatyne’s Livingston. The cheque is in the post. 😉

Did you have a great weekend? Did you compete at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic, or come along to watch? Are your quads as sore as mine?

Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic 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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