What would you ask Brad Schoenfeld?

January 24, 2014


Just a quick one from me today as it’s all go here.

bodybuilding journalist writer
I’m donning my journalist’s hat tomorrow (it’s one of those black porkpie ones with a press card tucked into the hat band) and going along to Brad Schoenfeld‘s seminar Maximal Hypertrophy, on behalf of my clients at Muscle & Fitness magazine. (Thankfully, I get to hide behind my notepad this time. I was too embarrassed to write about the time I had to be in the photos for the article, but my dog hijacked the laptop and blogged about it. He’s a better writer than I am to be honest.)

Brad is thought of as one of the leading authorities on body composition training (and he’s also a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder).

I wanted to ask those of you who are Muscle & Fitness readers, or who follow Brad’s work, or who are interested in the topics… what would you ask Brad if you were coming along?

Here’s the agenda:

1. The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy: What Makes Muscle Grow?

2. Hypertrophy Program Variables: Applying the Mechanisms to Practice

3. Hypertrophy Program Design: Periodising the Ultimate Muscle Building Program

4. Eat to Grow: Nutritional Strategies for Maximising Muscle Development

It’ll be interesting for me to hear your questions… I’ll try to get the answers from Brad, and then perhaps build the article around the most interesting answers!

What would you ask Brad Schoenfeld? 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.

Happy New Year from thefitwriter: 2013 in review

December 31, 2013

What a year it’s been! I’m looking forward to the opportunities and adventures which 2014 will bring. Here’s how 2013 went down in my world (and on the blog)

nicola joyce inbf world champion

I did five bodybuilding competitions and experienced the lows of not placing at all right through to the highs of competing in the USA and winning an overall World title!

comp 1) BNBF Centrals – 6th place physique
comp 2) BNBF Midlands – 2nd place physique
I was then invited to do the (new) Athletic class at BNBF Finals and decided to go for it
comp 3) BNBF Finals – 4th (of 5!) athletic
comp 4) UKDFBA Open – 3rd place bodybuilding
A few days later, I was invited to be the amateur female bodybuilder on Team UK at the INBF Worlds! Getting that phone call was one of the best moments of my year and I think I’ll remember it forever.
comp 5) (aka What the whaaaaat?! :-O ) What an experience… competing at the INBF Worlds as part of “Team UK”. I won the women’s bodybuilding HW class (by default!) and then competed in the over all against the LW winner. I won it, and became the INBF women’s bodybuilding overall winner and World Champion for 2013!

You can read the UKDFBA’s report of the INBF/WNBF Worlds 2013 here – it’s a great read and I encourage you to take a look.

I won a two awards in the naturalmuscle.com end of year awards (Best Journal, and I tied for Toned Glutes, LOL) – thanks, chaps!

WordPress.com has generated a handy summary of my blog stats for 2013. Have a look, see if you spot yourself in there! thefitwriter 2013 blog activity.

My most active blog commenters in 2013 were
Tara of Sweat Like A Pig (a fantastic strongwoman blog which tackles some meaty issues about training, women in sport, nutrition and competing – read it!)
Trish (she doesn’t have a blog but give her a cheer anyway, she’s probably making her bodybuilding debut next year)
Helen of Diary of a Newbie Strongwoman (as the name suggests – a strongwoman blog charting Helen’s journey through training and competing)
Rooobarb & Custard of Adventures in a Campervan (a wonderful blog about adventures in Ruby the 1967 split-screen campervan)
Fiona of HiFifi’s Transformation (a blog about a one-time (and future?) figure competitor who’s working out a way to eat and train for life)

Thank you, ladies (and gent)! But really it’s a big thanks to all of you who read, share and comment 🙂 Apparently people read this blog from 155 countries, mainly the UK, USA and Australia.

Most popular post and product reviews in 2013 were

Tesco Nutri1st Advanced protein products
Monkey Nutrition whey isolate Primal26
Bio Synergy
Bio Synergy and Melanie Sykes supplement range
What I learned from the Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar
(You can see all my product reviews here)

Big up yo bad selves

I’d like to say a big thank you not only to my blog readers but to my friends and supporters in sport and business. Clients, agencies, PRs, collaborators, designers, editors, interviewees: thank you all. You can find me (wearing a slightly more professional hat) on my website, my linkedin and linkedin company page.

To anyone who has read, shared, liked, commented on or visited this blog in 2013: thank you! If you stick around into 2014 I promise to bring you plenty of interesting content, training info, competing reports, and behind-the-scenes news from a competitive bodybuilder who writes a lot. Hey, 2014 might even be the year in which I actually write more about the business of writing 😉 You never know.

Happy New Year from thefitwriter: 2013 in review 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.

Random musings, 48 hours out

October 21, 2011

Less than 48 hours til the NPA Final. In fact, in 48 hours, I predict I’ll be all done and sitting in the audience cheering on the rest of the competitors. Whilst eating —insert current craving here— (today: corned beef sandwiches. Yes, really.)

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Friday of peak week is usually my favourite day. Of peak week. Perhaps of prep as a whole? Why? It’s restful, relaxing, time to reflect.

I don’t train. Carbs are back in my world. I usually take the day off work and, after walking the dog and prepping vast amounts of sweet potatoes and fish for the following 48 hours (I don’t fancy firing up the oven every time I need a serving of potato…), I just chill.

I wander into town. I buy the things I’ve been drooling over for months, knowing I’ll be eating them in 48 hours. I sit in a squishy chair in a coffee shop and read, or journal, or watch the world go by.

Today’s musings, on (almost) the eve of my fourth and final comp of the year, and (almost) the end of my 2011 competitive season. In no particular order.

What have I done?!
Whatever the result on Sunday, I have already achieved far more than I set out to and far more than I expected to. More, too, than I thought I was capable of in my first year of competing. I thought I’d only do one comp. Then I realised there were two associations, so I thought I’d do two. Never in a million years did I think I’d reach one let alone two Finals. As it turns out, all these months later, being a British Finalist twice over in my first year is what I’ve achieved.

Progress… step by step, rep by rep
Every competition I do means I’ve taken myself to a new level. Even if I come dead last on Sunday, it’s not dead last to me. It’s further than I was before. Any placing in a Final is a step onwards, because it’s a reflection of more hard work, more training, more dieting, more prep.

A year-long experiment (ongoing!)
This entire year has been an experiment. A guessing-game much of the time. A collection of research, ideas, plans and fine-tunings. It’s been absolutely fascinating and I’ve learned so much, about nutrition and training, about my body and my mind, about the limits I can take myself to and how much I can achieve. The competitions – those brief moments on stage – are really a very small part of it all. The most exciting part, for sure, and the part involving the sparkliest bikini! But just the tip of the iceberg. Most of it is stuff only I really know, and most of it is stuff I can’t even articulate or reflect upon yet.

“That’ll do, Pig”
I am proud. Not prideful, but extremely proud of myself. There, I’ve said it. I don’t often (if ever!) give myself credit or simply say “well done. You did great.” But I did. We’re not even there yet, but I hereby pat myself on the back and say “well done, you did great.” Don’t misunderstand me, my prep has been far from perfect. But I’m proud of how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned and how I’ve applied it.

Marbles? Check!
I’m proud, too, of the fact that I’ve gone through almost a year of prep without letting it send me insane. Those of you out there who have competed, you know how hard it is. The rest of you have some idea. It’s very easy to let prep – particularly the diet side of things – mess with your mind. I promised myself very early on I would not let this happen. Life’s too short, health is too precious. The moment it stopped becoming fun, I’d stop (believe me I came very close, on more than one occasion!)

So, for that reason, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve slipped up on my diet, given into cravings and eaten well outside my plan on some days. I’ve always been honest with myself and with my coach. I’ve never been ashamed, guilty, or dashed out to do extra cardio. I’m proud that I think I know myself and my body well enough to know when to say “shut up and eat the broccoli” and when to say “you’re right. Let’s have a bowl of that.” I’d rather get on stage 90% in shape physically and 100% in shape mentally, than 100% “shredded” if that means shredding my mind as well as my body. After all, time on stage is very short. Time at home, at work and being happy in my own self represents a far bigger portion of my life. In short, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve got through a long and tough prep, being strict enough to get great results without sending myself mad. I’m happy. That’s the main thing, and the thing which will still matter on Monday, trophy or no trophy.

I’m sure there was more I had to say, but that’s probably enough. To end on a lighter note, I must now go and scrub myself all over and get busy with a disposable razor. Tanning starts soon! 🙂

Random musings, 48 hours out 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.

3 sleeps! (Or, how you know it’s nearly showtime)

October 20, 2011

Well, hello! This post is brought to you by carbohydrates. Life is good.

So, just three days to go til the NPA Final. I’m feeling good, on track and – most importantly – EXCITED! I just can not wait. It’s going to be such fun and I can’t wait to get on that stage, pose for the audience, give my supporters something to cheer for and have a ball!

I’ve now done my final gym session, and everything is “the last” this and “the last” that. We are definitely on countdown to showtime. I thought I’d walk you through a few things I see during my day which really bring that home to me:

Recycling bin – the result of peak week – many, many water bottles and an empty bottle of fish oil. (Next week I predict this bin will look somewhat different 😉 )

Wedding and engagement rings firmly on my hand, rather than in a “very memorable” (yeah right) place around the house. I don’t wear them when I lift weights, because I don’t want to scratch them any more than I already have (and they give me worse callouses than I already have). Recently, I’ve barely worn them. (Please excuse the Raynaud’s)

Bannisters. Empty! What’s usually there? My gym back, loaded and ready to go at all times. It is now upstairs.

I’ve been doing lots of posing practice, and so has thefitdog. He can only really do a front doggle bicep, and even that needs… some work.

Yesterday on Twitter I mentioned an “11/11/11” treadmill interval session I do, courtesy of Ben the PT. To explain: after you’ve warmed up (I walk fast on the steepest incline), turn the treadmill up to 11% incline and 11kph. Then do the following for 11 minutes:
15 seconds run
15 seconds where you straddle the treadmill and rest (this takes some practice but if I can do it, you can. I’m a complete klutz)
repeat until 11 mins are up
Then cool down (again, I walk at about 5kph and 15% incline).

Ben says you can do 12/12/12 and he’s even had someone do 14/14/14. Good for them. Perhaps their legs are longer than mine.

So, that’s more or less it. I waved bye-bye to the gym today

(Or was it….)

Tomorrow I’ll walk, rest, eat more carbs, pop into town for a wander about, pose and practice my routine.

Saturday is much of the same, without the town bit and with extra Sister. Yep, my Sister is coming up for the weekend and I can’t wait!

3 sleeps! (Or, how you know it’s nearly showtime) 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.

Final peak week for the final Final (finally!)

October 16, 2011


Well here we are in “peak week” – the final week of contest prep. This time next week we’ll be partway through the NPA Final and the season will be almost over.

I don’t have a lot to update you with… I’m approaching peak week the same way I have for all my other comps so far this year: carb deplete followed by a carb-up, water manipulation and lots of chilling out (hopefully!)

I won’t lie, I feel pretty rubbish, which is probably a “good” sign in that it shows my body is responding to those final dietary tweaks. It’s been a long season, particularly for someone who thought they’d do one show and that would be it! I can’t believe here we are in October and I’m still prepping and dieting!

I’m training up until Thursday. Friday will be my traditional “wander into town, buy treats to eat after the show, sit in a cafe nursing a hot drink and journalling in my training diary”. I’m looking forward to it already.

How am I feeling?
I never really know how to answer this question but, this time round, I’m finding it even harder. I just don’t know what to expect from Sunday’s show, I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to tell whether or not I’m looking as I should a week out, and I’m just tired. I know this week will change all that: I’ve got the week off work, so the pressure will be lifted and I’ll have time to reflect on the season, start imagining the show and really get excited. I know, too, that this week will bring about daily changes in my body, visual rewards which will spur me on and give me an extra spark of motivation. I’ve got a great support crew coming to Bedworth: my Mum and her husband, my sister and of course my husband. It will be a fun-filled, happy occasion and I can’t wait to step on stage again.

Knowing it will be the final time this year makes it even more special. I still can not believe I made it to not one but two British Finals in my first year of competing. The line-up for my category is immense, packed full of top-quality women who epitomise the highest level of natural bodybuilding. Just to stand on stage with them is a massive achievement for me. Every time I look at the list, I feel like a very small minnow swimming with big fish! (I was going to say sharks but they’re all very nice people!)

Then there are my feelings about the end of prep and transition into off-season. I’m torn. Prep is and has been hard, very very hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be and – I honestly think – the hardest thing I’ve done in sport (this from someone who’s swum the English Channel twice). It’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your mind. It’s hard on those around you (thank you, you know who you are…) It’s hard on relationships, work, sleep, social life. It really does affect everything. Bodybuilding prep is there 24/7. It’s not like any other sport I know.

So, for that and lots of other reasons, I am looking forward to prep being over. I have a list of things I want to eat (if I write them down, I don’t obsess about them any more), although I’m sure I’ll only eat a few of them (Pop Tarts? Why do I want Pop Tarts? I’m pretty sure I’ve never even eaten one.) I want to catch up on my social life, I want to go out to eat with my husband. I want to bake, and cook, and eat with family and friends. I want to give my body a break and make some changes in training.

But, I know myself well enough to know that I’ll miss prep in a way. I’ll miss the routine, I’ll miss the organisational side of it and, of course, I’ll miss the results. It would be great to be able to stay in contest shape year-round, but of course it’s not sustainable (and hardly healthy). Have my cake and eat it, too? At this stage, I’ll settle just for eating it. 😉

After my bodybuilding Q&A post, a couple more questions came in – thank you! Here are my answers:

“How does your stomach react to the bodybuilding diet, with high protein, veggies, etc? Have you noticed any increased gas, bloating, constipation, etc? I hear the diet can be tough on your GI system.”

Hm, I don’t know! I’ve been eating this way for a year now, and on an actual prep/cutting diet for much of that. I don’t think I’ve reacted badly to it, although there are too many variables to be able to say. I do get a bit of bloating if I have too much protein powder (particularly whey) but I don’t think it’s the protein which bloats me, as I don’t get it from fish and meat. Sorry – what a useless answer! One thing I can tell you is that I feel great on this kind of eating – lots of fresh veggies (raw, stir fried, baked, roasted) and salads, a massive range of meats and fish. If I eat meat/fish and veg for breakfast, I feel great for the rest of the day. (Someone remind me of this next week…!)

“What tips would you give to someone competing for the first time?”

I would say ask someone a lot more experienced than me! Seriously, I could not and would not have got to this stage had it not been for my coach Kat Millar and various other kind souls who have helped me, advised me, given me feedback and taught me so much. Annie Uelese, I’m looking at you! So my advice would probably be something like:

– ask yourself why you want to do it? Because it’s going to get tough and you’ll need a reason which resonates with you.
– set yourself some rules. Someone outside the sport suggested this to me and it is very wise. Whether that’s “stay natural”, or whether that’s “don’t take my calories below 1600 a day” or “don’t do two cardio sessions a day”. Whatever is important to you, make the rules, write them somewhere and stick to them.
– find a coach, ideally someone who has competed and who knows the association/federation you’ll be competing with, so they’ll have some idea of what’s what, what the judges are likely to want from you, and little things like how the shows are run, how long your routine should be etc. You can find all that out yourself but when you first get into prep it’s just overwhelming. Having someone you can just ask if so comforting.
– get a great support system around you. My husband should probably be knighted or sainted (although I think he has to be dead for the latter so let’s say knighted!). Being the partner of a prepping bodybuilder is probably worse than being the athlete. I can’t imagine what prep must be like if you have no support or, worse, people around you who are negative about it.
– get a plan in place: identify a show to enter, count backwards, mark the weeks on your kitchen calendar and get going!

Final peak week for the final Final (finally!) 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.

40 days and 40 nights…

August 10, 2011

… to go til my bodybuilding Final, that is. And, whilst I won’t be fasting that whole time, things are going to get tougher from here on in.

This is just a quick post to check in. I haven’t got much to update!

Training is going really well, I’m still lifting heavy (8-10 reps) and am actually putting my weights up. I don’t know how much longer this will last but I’m making the most of it whilst I can!

I think I’ve put on some size; we shall see…

I’ve added more abs work into my training and am now posing almost daily, with one longer session a week.

Cardio remains pretty low – although I’m doing a lot of walking! – with a focus on intervals and plyo stuff.

I’m trying to sleep as much as possible, even grabbing naps during the day (at the weekends, at least) which is just blissful. There’s something about falling asleep during the day, with everyday background noise seeping into your dreams, which feels deliciously decadent!

Diet is good, I’m changing up my protein sources and enjoying lots of lovely different meats from Athleat (<— put "nicolamillichip" in at the checkout for a 10% discount) and Osgrow. I discovered the latter through Helen Milton, who won the Figure Lightweights at the most recent BNBF qualifier and, to my mind, looked in fantastic condition with superb symmetry – she brought a great package to the stage.

I got given almost 2kgs (!) watercress yesterday by the fruit and veg man at the market – it was the end of the day and he was packing up to go home. I’m trying to eat it all before it wilts away to nothing, but if anyone has any good watercress recipes or ideas, I’m all ears! (Ideally something which will prolong its life whilst I eat most of it raw).

I’m having a biosignature assessment done soon which I’m fascinated by. I can’t wait to find out what feedback and recommendations I get.

All in all I’m feeling pretty chilled out, just trucking along taking things one day, one meal, one training session at a time. I’m really enjoying the days (which are pretty regular at the moment) where I feel really “at one” with prep, like I’m doing everything I can and enjoying it all, too. It’s a lovely blissed-out feeling and I’d like to bottle it up for a quick spritz later down the line when I’m riding the rollercoaster of the final few weeks!

How’s your training going? Have you ever had biosignature done? Tell all!

40 days and 40 nights… 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.

Last-minute thoughts, stats and a packing list for female bodybuilders

July 2, 2011

Morning everyone! One day to go…

I’ve just had an espresso so bear with me if this post is a bit frenetic and over-emotional. To say that the last few days have been up and down is an understatement. Here’s a recent selection from the rollercoaster:

Emotional ups and downs from peak week

– Tuesday (during my carb-deplete), I had a lovely day. But by the evening I was so exhausted, I’d had enough and – despite being just five days away from comp and two days away from carbs – I was honestly ready to jack it all in. I mean it. I was ready to cancel our travel plans, call it all off and just not turn up at the show. As my training diary notes: “Stupid sport, stupid posing, bloody diet, f***** water, ridiculous prep. Feeling really lonely/alone in all of this even though Mark, Kat, everyone so supportive and always there.”

After training in the evening, I still had to do posing practice. Just the thought of it almost reduced me to tears. I came home and put my dinner in the oven and posed in the kitchen, so I would be nearer my dinner, despite the fact that the rest of the house is about 60 seconds further away from the oven…

– Thursday (final day of carb-deplete) I drove to Kent to watch my l’il sister in a play. Yes, I know, bad move, but we are very close and it was important to me to see her. But in hindsight – sorry Sista – I will never ever do something like that again so close to competition date. The M25 was horrendous and an 80-minute drive took me over 3 hours. I had a bursting bladder from all the water I’d been drinking, and was on low-carbs. Not nice. I felt like hell by the time I got there. Thank goodness the M25 was clear on the way back! (American readers, the M25 is one of our motorways, notorious for being more like a carpark than an actual road you can move along…)

– Yesterday, I was home alone (no dog, no husband – he’s also in Wales this weekend but doing a three-day mountain biking event for his own training. He’ll be there for my comp!) I swung between napping on the sofa under a blanket with Wimbledon in the background, feeling blissed-out, and struggling with self-doubt, fear, anxiety and what-ifs.

I texted Kat whilst I was buying last-minute items in town and she texted back mentioning “…train as hard as you can today…” We’d planned a rest day, and I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I honestly felt defeated for the first time in this prep. I struggled not to cry right there in the High Street and walked home muttering “No! I won’t do it! I hate you!” (sorry, Kat! ha ha!) Coming from the sport of channel swimming, I am used to coaches throwing last-minute challenges like this at you, so I thought this was part of my mental prep. Turns out we’d both got crossed wires and it was a (hideous short-lived!) mistake. I didn’t have to train at all. Back to feeling blissed-out!

Body changes one day out

OK I hesitate to post this next bit but I’ve decided I will anyway. I woke up this morning and could see lines/striations in my glutes (bum cheeks) without flexing or holding a pose. This is insane. I know very well that it’s almost all to do with the carb and water manipulation of these past couple of days but… still… it’s nuts.

And my abs have started to “pop” (so has my hernia by the looks of it – yuk!)

I know this is just a temporary look, by the way. I am fully aware that by Monday – Sunday night, even – I won’t look like this. It’s not sustainable, and I don’t honestly want to sustain this level of leanness. But… it’s pretty nuts.

Stats and figures from throughout prep

Back when I started blogging about this prep, I said I would never post figures about my weight or fat % and I hold true to that. I just don’t see how it could be constructive but I do see how it could be potentially negative to some readers. But I have had a lot of questions regarding the facts and figures of my body’s changes. And I do think that, taken as a set of completely emotionless data points, it is interesting. So here are the stats, from 15 weeks ago to most recent:

Weight – down 6kgs
Fat % – down 9%
Lean weight – up 1.3kgs
Fat weight – down 5.5kgs

The weight is from this morning, the rest are from Wednesday of this week (when I weighed 0.9kg more – see, told you it’s mostly about carb/water manipulation!) so the fat/lean stats relate to the higher weight. I registered as 70% water during the body fat test, which was taken by bioimpedance machine – the type where the electrodes are stuck to your hands and feet. It was done by a friend of mine who’s done the same test on me periodically throughout prep.

I know these tests aren’t completely accurate and I’ve never thought the actual numbers were, but what I have always been interested in is the gains and losses themselves. I only ever wanted to see losses in fat and gains in lean as we went along and (barring this final few weeks when it said I’d lost 0.2kgs lean mass in a month), that’s what’s happened. Which I am delighted about!

Competition packing list for female bodybuilding competitors

OK one more thing before I turn this machine off and start packing. A packing list for female bodybuilding/physique competitors! I love a good list, me. I cobbled this one together from notes Kat gave me and my own modifications. I’m hoping someone out there might find it useful at some point!

Cash, wallet
Phone, flip cam, chargers
Federation membership card
Robe (I bought a cheap one from Peacocks so I don’t mind when it gets tan all over it)
Warm clothes including hooded top
Clothes for afterwards/travelling in
Pyjamas or shorts and t-shirt for sleeping in
Old sheet or duvet cover to sleep in (tan!)
Tanning stuff
Latex gloves for tanning touch ups
Dry mouth spray
Glasses, contact lenses
Toothbrush and paste, glasses, contact lenses
Nail file
Make up
Hair stuff – brush, comb, bands, grips, hairspray
Straighteners or hair dryer
Wet wipes
Sewing kit and pins, scissors
Bikini bite (glue)
CD of posing music x 2
Warm up equipment – resistance band
Paper cups
Pen and paper
Something light to read whilst waiting backstage
Thank you cards/pressies for supporters

With that, I’m off. Well, not off, just offline for a bit. In a few hours, my coach Kat, friend and supporter Annie Uelese and my wonderful Mum (she needs a blog name – thefitMum?) will be here. I’ll put my first coat of tan on then we’ll drive to Wales and check in to our hotel where we’re going to have a good old girly evening of chit-chat, giggles and DVDs. One of us will be the colour of creosote, that’s all. 😉

Thank you all for your support, tweets, facebook messages, emails and texts. I am so glad you’ve enjoyed following my story and I hope to do you all proud tomorrow.

Stay tuned to twitter to read updates! If you have any questions, do tweet them and I’ll reply.

Last-minute thoughts, stats and a packing list for female bodybuilders 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.

Random thoughts & progress pics: 7 days out

June 26, 2011

This time next week I’ll be tanning up, going over and over (and over) my routine and munching on a bit of dark chocolate before stepping on stage. If I had the energy, I’d be super excited and very nervous. As it is, I’m just kind of hanging on in here, hoping I haven’t forgotten to do anything (or done something I shouldn’t have done) and trusting in the structure of this final week to “bring me in” as well as possible.

Here are some random thoughts from the brain of a first-time bodybuilding competitor at 7 days out from competition:

– New favourite word: “acromiom process”. If you don’t know already what it is, what would you think? Some sort of procedure or set of actions? Nope, it’s that nobble at the top of your shoulder. My lovely friend Jo, who came to give me a very long and very relaxing massage on Friday, told me that’s what the nobble is called. What a funny name! I want to open a nightclub or buy a racehorse so I can name it Acromiom Process.

– Why can’t I sleep? I am just not able to sleep beyond 6am, sometimes earlier. I’ve always struggled with insomnia and never been one to lie-in but, seriously, when I need sleep the most, I’m waking the earliest. Why? Is this common? I’m not sure it’s nerves and it’s not hunger. I don’t get up and start freaking out about things, nor do I rush to the kitchen to eat. I just potter about, ready to be awake.

– Supermarket shopping whilst in a deficit is hard. It’s not til you’re eating this strictly, with very plain food repeated for most meals, and limiting carbs, that you realise just how much food for sale is sugary, processed and packaged in the most enticing way possible. It really is an eye-opener. It took an extreme display of will-power to put my head down and walk through the store and only get the things on my list. Going down the cereal aisle to get my husband’s granola was toughest: who knew there was a cereal consisting of rich brown plump squares, which burst open to reveal melty chocolate? Seems there is. I could honestly have grabbed a box, torn it open and sat on the floor eating it. (I didn’t) And I don’t even like cereal!

– I am very very glad that I genuinely like fish, seafood, eggs, chicken, turkey, red meat and vegetables. I can’t imagine how tough competition prep must be for people who don’t really like eating this way and have to force the food down.

– Dreams on a competition diet are whack. I’ve had the normal anxiety dreams: I turn up at the comp and, rather than being in a local theatre or hall, it’s in the Albert Hall and there are about a bazillion people in the audience but the lights are so bright I can’t even see them. Oh and every woman who’s ever won my category in the history of time is in my class with me. Great. However, how about this for a “deficit dream”: I dream that I wake up after a night’s sleep only to remember standing in the kitchen, shovelling handful after handful of the dog’s chocolate-button treats into my mouth. In my dream, I’m disappointed, I can’t believe I did it, why eat that if I’m going to crack and eat anything? Then I wake up from the dream and have to actually think for a few seconds: did I really eat dog chocolate? Of course, I didn’t.

Here’s a progress pic – today (26th June) first, then yesterday, then one from 15th June (in the red bikini). I hope I can see changes… I think I can.
PS Is that a teeny tiny striation in my glute?
PPS The first two – that’s my bikini so thanks to those of you who voted “purple”!

So today is my last day of carbs before a four-day carb deplete. Bye bye, my lovelies! I just had a Bramley apple creation. It was very nice. From here until Thursday it’s mainly chicken and fish, with just enough green veggies to be healthy. 🙂 And I need to start really glugging that water down, too – although judging by today’s amazing temperatures that won’t be too much of a chore!

Right, it’s a gorgeous day here so I’m off to the gym to lift as heavy as I can whilst that Bramley is still in my system! Then I think I’m going to come back and work on my tan whilst lowering my cortisol levels (aka sunbathe 😉 )

Sorry this was a bit rambling and boring. If you have any questions, please ask and I’ll do my best to answer! 🙂

What are you up to today? Training or resting?

Random thoughts & progress pics: 7 days out is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out

June 23, 2011

So, I’m now 10 days away from my first bodybuilding comp. I’m tired. I’ve been training hard for a long time, and dieting for quite a while. I’m not sleeping well due to nerves and general insomniac tendencies. And I’ve still got a business to run, so there’s all that to stay on top of (and do a good job of!) too. These past few weeks, my diet has got even stricter, and I’m cutting carbs. Ever had “low-carb brain”? If you have, you’ll know how I’m feeling. If you haven’t, get a load of this true story from yesterday:

Scene: the local Co-op.
I am picking up a few bits because we’ve got this voucher for £16 and, even if you spend just 1p of it, you get the rest back in cash. I haven’t spent the full £16, and I know this.

The woman on the till puts my stuff through and I bag it up. “That will be £12.40,” she says. I root through my bag for my wallet, pushing the £16 voucher aside. “I’m so sorry!” I blurt, “I left my wallet at home, it’s only a 10 minute walk, I’ll be back.”

I walk home – having walked to the Co-op already – pick up my wallet, and walk back to the shop again, where I… pay using the voucher which I was well-aware I had all along. WTF?

Oh well, call the walking extra cardio. 😉

Do you have a bodybuilder in your life?
Tread a little carefully if they’re going through the latter stages of contest prep. Low carbs, lack of sleep, fatigue, soreness and nerves are not a great combination. Please accept my apologies on behalf of us all.

Here’s a handy, print-out-and-keep list of “things not to say to a bodybuilder in the last couple of weeks of contest prep”. I shan’t say which are from experience and which are from my imagination…

1) “You look thin!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: we don’t want to look thin. A better choice of word would be “lean” or, if you want to go all-out “ripped”.)

2) “Why are you doing this to yourself?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because… just because. It sounds disapproving. We don’t see it as doing anything negative to ourselves. Even the idea of “doing” something “to” ourselves insinuates damage, punishment, enduring something bad. If we saw it that way, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. We are, after all, in possession of common sense.)

3) “You’re a bodybuilder? OMG, I won’t get on the wrong side of you,then!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because it’s dumb and offensive. We’re strong, not aggressive. And, quite frankly, we probably wouldn’t have enough energy to punch/slap/whatever you think we’ll do to you anyway. Since when does bodybuilding mean fighting?)

4) “Oh yummy my pizza is here” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because I love pizza and I’d like to eat one. You could however follow this with “It’s a super supreme with extra cheese, stuffed crust and salami.” That would be fine.)

5) “You don’t look like a bodybuilder!” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because I do, actually. You just have a misconception of what bodybuilders look like. And I’m wearing neither my gym kit nor my bikini, so how do you expect to tell anyway?)

6) “I ate that chopped up, portioned out chicken from those tupperwares in the fridge.” (Why you shouldn’t say this: we have meticulously cooked and portioned-up that chicken to make meal planning easier over the next couple of days, particularly if we have to travel or spend a lot of time out of the house. There is no need for you to eat it. You could have eaten whatever you wanted.)

7) “Please do this very complicated mental arithmetic right now.” (Why you shouldn’t say this: just…no. There are no words to convey how exhausting this even sounds.)

8 ) “What is that you’re eating?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: because it’s annoying. It’s chicken/tuna/an egg white omelette/raw veg – OK? I know you probably only mean it out of genuine curiosity but this is the only food we get to eat (til next time) and we just want to eat it in peace. You may not mean to criticise it, but some people do, and we just can’t be doing with explaining why we’re eating this. Sorry.)

9) “…can I have a bit?” (Why you shouldn’t say this: whilst it would show that you’re not repulsed by our choice of food, which is nice, this is still not a great idea. Why? See above – this is the only food we get for this meal, we’ve probably thought about it for ages, and we’ve certainly prepared and portioned it out carefully. You can not have any of it. Don’t you know what that would do to our macros? 😉 )

Please know that (most of) this is completely tongue-in-cheek and (most of) these are from my imagination. I don’t want anyone thinking my husband thoughtlessly eats my meals, or my friends annoy me by asking what I’m eating in disapproving tones. There… that helps you work out which ones people have actually said to me over the past few weeks… 😉

What annoying things have people said to you whilst you’re preparing for a sporting event? How did you react? Can you believe that I walked 3×10 minutes to the Co-op only to use a voucher I had on me the whole time?

What not to say to a bodybuilder: 10 days out 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.

13 days to go: squatting 80kgs

June 20, 2011

Hi! I’m glad you all liked my post asking who your “physique inspiration” is. Thanks for your comments!

Today I met up with my coach, Kat, and her friend Annie Uelese (an experienced competitor and avid follower of the sport) for some training, posing and… to unveil my posing routine!

For the physique class of the bodybuilding comps I’m entering, competitors do compulsory poses first and then, in the evening, we can dress up in jazzier bikinis to do our posing routines – 60 or 90 second solos, to music of our choice. I made my routine up so – whilst I really like it – I had no idea if it was “right” or as it should be. So it was great to be able to show it to Kat and Annie (who made some minor tweaks to improve it – thanks, ladies!)

Here’s a sneak peak of some of the moves from my routine

Beforehand, Kat and I trained (twice no less!): here’s me squatting 80kgs and leg pressing 200kgs – not bad for 13 days out from my comp! I have neither proper squat rack nor this kind of “push the plate away” leg press at my local gym, hence the grin! 😀

I feel fine, strong and full of energy BUT when my energy goes, it goes. Suddenly and overwhelmingly!

Quick Q&A

I’ve had a few questions recently on Facebook and Twitter and here’s as good a place as any to answer them:

“Tell me – what are you going to eat once the competition is over? What’s the first thing you’re going to run to?!”

It sounds weird but I honestly haven’t missed much. The one thing is pizza, so either that it just a big juicy steak (which I have now anyway!) but with more choice of ‘sides’. I’ll just enjoy having stuff like Greek yoghurt, peanut butter etc which is good for you but I’ve still had to limit it during prep. Husband and I are going to our favourite Italian place (meat and fish, not pizza and pasta type place) 😀

“It would be nice to hear on your blog what exactly you do eat, and how you keep track of it. Are you following the principles of clean eating, a formal nutritional plan, counting calories, or just replacing certain foods?”

Well, it depends on when you’re asking about! This week is different to last week, and next week will be different again. At the moment, I am eating in a caloric deficit, as obviously I need to lose bodyfat for the competition, and that’s how you do that. When I was putting on my muscle a few months ago, I was eating in a surplus. Both times, I prioritise protein, eating more than most people (and I eat less carbohydrate, too). Most of my carbs come from a vast selection of vegetables, with some coming from sweet potatoes, oats and other grains. The latter I keep to before and after training. Protein comes from protein powders (whey, casein, pea, hemp, goat’s whey), eggs, egg whites, fish of all sorts (fresh and canned), beef, chicken, turkey and also meats like bison (when I can find it) and liver. So, to answer your questions: I keep track of it on a spreadsheet which I send to my coach weekly. I suppose it is “clean eating” but it really depends what you mean by that. A formal nutrition plan: yes and no, Kat guides me but doesn’t tell me exactly what meal to eat or which ingredients to use, no. Counting calories, yes at the moment. Replacing foods: no not really, if I can’t have pasta, for instance, I’d rather just not have it than try to find some low-carb replacement. It’s really all about the macros (protein, fat, carbs) – if I hit the required amounts of those, everything else tends to take care of itself.

Right, that’s it, I’m shattered so it’s off to bed I think. Stay tuned for a (lonnnnng overdue “Fitness kit I’ve tested this week” post)

13 days to go: squatting 80kgs 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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