Time Away From Competing: Opportunity Or Loss?

December 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Which are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences…

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

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

People fear getting too out of shape and losing focus.

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

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

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

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

In reality each workout is the competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Time Away From Competing: Opportunity Or Loss? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


March 14, 2014

Apologies for not updating more frequently! Busy times. I’ve had a blog post in the back of my mind for a while…

I’ve been thinking about the power of routine and good habits. How fostering a sense of ceremony around your sport and training can contribute to success. It strikes me that many of the most successful elite and amateur sports people I’ve ever known, in all sorts of sports, have their own ingrained habits and routines around training and race/event day. For some, it’s almost OCD. For others, it’s simply an automation, so everything that needs to happen just flows.

Do you have habits, routines and maybe even some slightly-odd quirks which you think contribute to being successful in your sport?

I’m not necessarily talking about success in competition. Although I think we all know that very personal habits on competition day can act as anchors, putting us in a positive mindset (whether that’s happy, relaxed, aggressive, confident, focused…)

I’m referring to the day-to-day habits some of us develop. Some are mindful: vision boards which take a while to create and compile, journalling every day, using countdown timers or calendars. . Some seem more instinctive: preparing for training in the same way every time, listening to music, getting yourself psyched up, using the drive to the gym to focus and get in the right headspace.

Here are some of the things I do – I’m a very visual, wordy person and get inspired by things I can see and read.

Vision boards: every year I create a new vision board for my competitive season. It can change as the year goes on but usually stays pretty much the same. I put it somewhere I’ll see it every single day (several times a day) and it can include things like photos of other competitors, photos of past competitors who inspire me, motivational quotes (maaaan), posters of events I’m training for, words which mean something to me.

Countdowns: I have a countdown app on my phone which ticks away the days and weeks (I realise some people would find this a lot of pressure – I find it motivating and exciting).

I also did this last year, although I haven’t done it yet (with nearly 40 weeks til my competition, I don’t think I’ve got enough Post-Its. Or enough bathroom wall!) I loved taking that day’s sticky paper off the wall whilst I was brushing my teeth every night. HAVE IT, “10 DAYS TO GO!” 😉

Calendars: I’ve got an A4 calendar of the year in my kitchen, with competition dates marked in red, and the weeks written on counting backwards from the main event. Every day of prep which I complete to my satisfaction gets a black cross. Days which aren’t as good get a red mark. Last year’s calendar was fascinating (I’d show you but I threw it away). Quite frequent red marks at the start of the year. Barely a single one by the end of the season.

The Fridge of Motivation
I think I’ve posted a photo of my fridge before? It’s no ordinary fridge… in that it’s absolutely plastered with quotes, photos, words which motivate (and scare me a little!) It also has a small square of magnetic whiteboard on it, on which I write very specific goals. Obviously – being my FRIDGE – I end up seeing this many times every day!

Of course there’s also the more obvious things which I think help success in any sport, fitness or healthier living goal: making sure you have a training plan, preparing ahead of time, knowing when you’ll train (putting it in your diary if necessary), having your gym bag ready at all times.

How about you? Do you do any of these things, or anything similar? How about very different habits or routines which keep you focused and motivated?

Or do you think I’m completely mad? 😉 It’s OK… I can take it… brb just off to walk up the street backwards with a saucepan on my head so the aliens can’t send signals to my brain *twitch*

Routines+habits=success? 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.

Biosignature assessment at 2 weeks out

July 8, 2013

I’ve been having biosignature body fat caliper tests throughout this prep (as I have in previous years) – I had one at about 8 weeks out, one at about 4 weeks out and one today (just under two weeks out – eek!)

As mentioned previously, what I’m always most interested in when it comes to these tests, and like to compare each time, is the skinfold measurements themselves.

Here are the readings from today –
8 weeks out vs 4 weeks out vs 2 weeks out!

Chin: 5.6mm/3.8mm/3.6mm (-0.2mm since last time, -2mm total (so far!))
Cheek (face… !): 8.4mm/7.6mm/7.4mm (-0.2mm since last time, -4mm total)
Pec: 1.8mm/1.8mm/1.8mm (no change)
Triceps: 14.4mm/11.4mm/12.2mm (up 0.8mm since last time (hm!), -2.2mm total)
Sub scap: 6.8mm/6.0mm/5.8mm (-0.2mm since last time, -1mm total)
Mid aux: 3.3mm/2.8mm/2.6mm (-0.2mm since last time, -0.7mm total)
Suprailic: 6.4mm/4.6mm/4.4mm (-0.2mm since last time, -2mm total)
Umbilical: 8.4mm/7.0mm/5.8mm (-1.2mm since last time, -2.6mm total)
Knee: 6.6mm/6.6mm/5.6mm (-1mm since last time, -1mm total)
Calf: 13.0mm/10.6mm/9.6mm (-1mm since last time, -3.4mm total)
Quadricep: 21.2mm/17.0mm/15.4mm (-1.6mm since last time, -5.8mm total)
Hamstring: 17.6mm/13.2mm/10.8mm (-2.4mm since last time, -6.8mm total)

(Really hope my mental arithmetic is correct – it’s 9pm on a hot evening on my lowest carb day of the week with 13 days to go til comp. HELP ME WHERE IS MY ABACUS! 😉 )

I’m really pleased with the quad and hamstring (leg) readings – my legs were lagging behind and, although I could see with my own eyes that they’d started to come in well over the last two weeks, it’s good to have it clarified in numbers. I’m not sure why I now have a fat tricep! All I can do is press on, keep doing what I’m doing, and trust that it will come down eventually.

Biosig experts, if you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions on my tricksy triceps, let me know!

So, that’s a total of another 7.4mm off in these past two weeks, to add to the 21.1mm off between the previous two tests.

I’m pleased!

Running all the skinfolds through the Poliquin software today gave me a reading of 8.9% bodyfat today (-0.8% from 2 weeks ago and 3.5% from 8-ish weeks ago) which I’m pleased with for this stage in prep (don’t forget that I plan to have a good long season of comps – this first competition in two weeks is not the only goal). Putting the same skinfolds through the 7-site Jackson/Pollock bodyfat calculation brings me out at 12.08% which I’m also happy with.

Regardless of the final number, I use these test results as one part of an ongoing set of markers to chart progress.

That’s me done for the night! Byeeee!

You can get in touch with Aimee, who did my biosig, at her website – Tunbridge Wells Kent Personal Trainer or connect with Aimee on Facebook or Twitter.

Biosignature assessment at 2 weeks 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.

Biosignature assessment at 4 weeks out

June 21, 2013

I had a biosignature re-test today (if you’re interested in reading more about biosignature testing, or seeing the results of all of mine, I’ve put all the relevant posts together here: biosignature test blog posts).

I had my first biosig of this prep four weeks ago exactly and went back to see Kent biosig practitioner Aimee Stevens today for a retest.

2013 prep biosigs

Here’s the screenshot with both tests on (click to enlarge). Ignore the weight (which is the weight of me, my bottle of water and my meals) and, to an extent, ignore the bodyfat % (I say that partly because every method differs, and also because the % takes bodyweight into account). What I’m always most interested in, and like to compare each time, is the skinfold measurements themselves.

Here are the readings –
8 weeks out vs 4 weeks out
Chin: 5.6mm/3.8mm (-1.8mm)
Cheek (face… !): 8.4mm/7.6mm (-0.8mm)
Pec: 1.8mm/1.8mm (no change)
Triceps: 14.4mm/11.4mm (-3mm)
Sub scap: 6.8mm/6.0mm (-0.8mm)
Mid aux: 3.3mm/2.8mm (-0.5mm)
Suprailic: 6.4mm/4.6mm (-1.8mm)
Umbilical: 8.4mm/7.0mm (-1.4mm)
Knee: 6.6mm/6.6mm (no change – hmmm!)
Calf: 13.0mm/10.6mm (-2.4mm)
Quadricep: 21.2mm/17.0mm (-4.2mm – yippee!)
Hamstring: 17.6mm/13.2mm (-4.4mm – also yippee!)

If my end-of-the-week maths serves me right, that’s a total of 21.1mm off – with the biggest changes being in 1) hamstring 2) quad and 3) calf. Looks like it’s been all about the legs this past month!

What I liked about today’s retest is that (most of!) the areas which were a bit too high for my liking last time have come down (legs in particular). And now everything is a bit more in line and even – with the exception of that knee reading!

All the number-crunching gave me a reading of 9.7% bodyfat today (-2.7% from 4 weeks ago) which I’m very pleased with. Whether or not we think it’s a true 9.7%, it doesn’t matter – I use it as a measurement and a set of numbers to compare against each other each time. Given that I was (by biosig testing/measurement methods) 6.7% in 2011 around the time of my qualifier competition, and then 4.1% for the BNBF British Finals, I feel in a good place given that I have four weeks left until my qualifier this year.

As long as everything’s moving in the right direction, I’m happy.

I’ll be heading back for another test in a few weeks – by which time I hope to have leaner knees 😉 (and leaner everything else for that matter).

So, here we are with 4 weeks (on Sunday) to go til my qualifier! I’m having a long catch-up with coach Vicky next week, to discuss training and diet changes for the next few weeks. Exciting! 😀

Have you ever had a biosignature assessment?

You can get in touch with Aimee, who did my biosig, at her website – Tunbridge Wells Kent Personal Trainer or connect with Aimee on Facebook or Twitter.

Biosignature assessment at 4 weeks 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.

New biosignature assessment for 2013

June 4, 2013

Nearly two weeks ago now (where is the time going…?!) I had another biosignature assessment. Long-time readers might recall that I had my first biosig about a month out from the BNBF British Finals in 2011, and a follow-up assessment just a few days before the Final, and then one biosig last year, as well.

Whilst I recognise that they’re not necessarily completely accurate (what method of body-composition testing is, other than autopsy? 😉 ), I do find the data fascinating. For more information about the biosig method and assessment, take a look at my previous biosig blog posts (linked to above) or Google it. Briefly: it’s a skinfold test, using calipers, which assesses 12 specific sites on the body that relate to individual hormones. The result shows your hormonal profile, and the practitioner can then advise on lifestyle, training and nutrition tweaks you can make to get you healthier (and leaner, if that’s your bag).

And, like any form of measurement, I like using biosig tests as comparisons as I make my merry way along the Path of Prep.

So, I had a biosig test two weeks ago with a biosig practitioner here in Kent – Aimee Stevens. She hasn’t calipered me previously and it’s worth bearing in mind that different practitioners will do things slightly differently, no matter how hard they try to replicate the process. My reading came out as 12.4% bodyfat which I was pleased enough with at the time (just over 8 weeks out from my qualifier) although I would hope (and am confident that) it’s come down from then. I’ll be going back in a few weeks to find out!

Here’s the report (clicking on it ought to enlarge it)

And here’s what Aimee had to say:

The Biosignature Modulation body fat assessment is a testing criteria devised by Charles Poliquin, based on the hypothesis that individual body fat testing sites are hormone modulated, therefore allowing practitioners to target site specific fat loss.

Nicola Joyce 24th May 2013
Body fat percentage is currently 12.4% (lean body mass 55.6 kgs)

Hamstrings (estrogens)
Calves (growth hormone/sleep)
Triceps (testosterone)

Body fat is good/lean, therefore it is perhaps more insightful to look at each individual site reading comparatively and set targets from here in order to achieve increased leanness for competition. One thing to bear in mind: the Biosignature Modulation testing is devised solely as a tool to reduce body fat, therefore – no matter how optimal the site readings are – it will always point out priority sites 1, 2, and 3 for focus. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would encourage Nicola to maintain this body fat percentage, however for competition it is a different ball game!

Very optimal sites are seen in her chin/cheek, representing a good overall leanness. The pec site reading is low, as is sub-scapular (hypothesised to represent high carbohydrate tolerance), mid axillary (thyroid), supra-illiac (insulin), and umbilical (cortisol).

Hamstring – first priority – would be the first port of call for reducing body fat in this case. For a female, 17.7mm is a good lean hamstring, and as discussed this is no cause for concern. For Nicola to reduce this further we would firstly look at any exogenous exposure to estrogen toxins (for example non-organic produce, plastic exposure, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc). My second step would be to optimise Nicola’s ability to detoxify:
– Improve gut health, mainly through a high quality pro-biotic and increased fibre
– Ensure diet is antioxidant rich, greens supplements are a fantastic way of boosting levels
– Supplement with a good B complex, high quality fish oil, magnesium, possibly zinc

I do not personally feel Nicola would need to follow an estrogen detoxification specific protocol at this point, but would encourage her to keep her (filtered) water high, and drink lots of green tea. It is interesting that Nicola’s quad reading is 21.2mm, which is slightly high for 12.4% body fat. The quad reading is hypothesised to be indicative of estrogens that your body is producing, for example being on the contraceptive pill. In combination with the guidance above, perhaps sauna protocols (infrared if it is available) might be useful in reducing this site.

Calves as priority 2 is slightly high again for a lean girl, so 12.4% (double the fat as on her hips for example!), therefore lifestyle changes to induce sleep should be put into place at this important stage, and increased magnesium should help. Triceps being third priority is slightly unusual for such as muscular lean girl (14.4%). I often find that heavy weights reduces this site. I would expect this to be well below 10mm for Nicola. Her next training stage is higher volume, which should lead to a reduction in this site, but Nicola could also look at boosting zinc which is a testosterone modulator.

profile_aimeeAimee is a registered biosignature practioner, holds credentials from top UK universities, further certification from the Australian Performance Training Institute, and has worldwide experience of training 100+ clients across 3 continents.

You can get in touch with Aimee at her website – Tunbridge Wells Kent Personal Trainer or connect with Aimee on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks Aimee and see you again soon!

New biosignature assessment for 2013 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.

When tough times get tougher

April 16, 2013

Bear with me here.

This is a blog post which took me a year and a day to write.

You see, a year ago yesterday was the day that life (as I knew it) fell apart suddenly around my ears. I’m not going to go into details (there’s no need – and those in real life who need to know certainly do know) but it’s no secret that I have recently gone through a divorce, house sale, relocation.

The reason for this blog post? Very simple – although it seems very silly to me now, with hindsight.

I feel the need to blog a response to the question “can I prep for a bodybuilding comp whilst I’m getting divorced?”

I know… it sounds so silly, but I can’t tell you how many times last year I googled that exact same question, or variations on a theme, hoping to find some disembodied answer which would placate me, direct me or fast-forward me somehow through what was a truly awful time.

It wasn’t that I wanted someone to tell me for sure either way. I just wanted to know. Was it worth it? Prep is hard. Divorce is harder. Put the two together and, well, I can’t actually remember much of last year.

So what was I looking for when I googled over and over about the topics of divorce, separation, upheaval, trauma and bodybuilding competition prep? I was searching for someone, anyone, who’d been through this and would share their experiences. I didn’t want someone to tell me “yes you definitely can and you will place second and your posing music CD will play just fine and you will remember to pack your bikini top and bottom.” Nor did I want someone to say “no, don’t do it, it’s too much and you will implode.” I just wanted to read some shared experiences because, frankly, I felt so lost.

I didn’t find a single thing. Not a blog post, not a forum thread, not an article.

To illustrate just how bad I was feeling, here’s an excerpt from an email conversation with Kat Millar, my 2011 prep coach who valiantly stepped back into the role when I was also suddenly left without coaching support.


Up and down, up and down… keep thinking “I’ve got this” then something knocks me for 6 and I react badly even though I so desperately dont’ want to. Can I really do this? Should I be sensible and accept that this year might not be my year? Put it off for a year and compete in 2013? Do you really think I can do this Kat?


…yes I absolutely, totally without a shadow of a doubt know (not just think, know) that you can do this. I don’t doubt you at all, whatsoever! You are the same person who stood on stage last year… that same winning spirit is still in you, whether you feel connected to it right now or not, it’s there – it’s always there to draw upon, and no one can take that away from you.

My only question to you would be – do you want to? Do you really really want this? Because if you don’t, you won’t fight for it and nothing me or anyone else says will help.

Whatever you decide, your worth doesn’t come from what you do or whether you compete – and if you do, where you place.

As your coach and friend, I want what’s best for you… But from a physiological perspective, you do have enough time and if you believe you can do this and want to, you can.

Could you take a day or two just to forget about it and see what your subconscious decides? Would writing all the reasons for and against be helpful? What would you regret/not regret?

The bit in bold was such a relief to read. Sounds crazy now, I know! But that right there was what I was so desperate to hear. That is was physiologically possible to prep during a time of crisis. I did not know.

So, here’s my blog post, written in the genuine hope that one person, one day, at some point, will find it when they are feeling as desperate as I was.

Can you prep for a bodybuilding comp when your world has collapsed around you? I’m sure you can. I did, and I’m nothing special.

Am I glad I did?

Yes. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and there were days when I thought about jacking it all in. After my atrocious performance at the UKDFBA, I thought very hard about carrying on for one more show, and asked a lot of people’s advice. Some of them kindly and constructively said no, stop now, start off-season and move on. I do wonder if that might have been a good idea. But, I didn’t, and no harm done. However, I can remember the moment that my place (… last place!) was called at the NPA Finals (my final show of last year). The thought process immediately went “OK, right, fine, next up is moving home.” I was ready to move on, get my bodybuilding season over and done with because I finally felt a furious need to physically move away and get on with my new life.

I can’t tell you if you should compete or carry on with your prep, only you know that. But can you? Yes. You can, and maybe it will give you something to hang on to, something for you when everything else seems to be shitting on you from great heights and draining your emotions and energy.

I remember coming to the conclusion that, yes, prep and competing was a stress, but it was a stress that I wanted. It was all the other stresses that I didn’t want. So, by deciding not to compete, I’d have got rid of something I actually wanted to do, but I’d still be left with all the other crap.

Things which might help

If you do decide to carry on, these things may help. They certainly helped me:

– good friends. Goes without saying but honestly you are about to find out the power of true friendship. You are also about to discover who your true friends are. It may surprise you, in good and bad ways. The people you turn to first may end up screwing you over (happened to me) and the people you thought had forgotten about you completely may end up a year later being back in your life in big ways (also happened to me).

– an inner circle. It’s always a good idea to only listen to one or two trusted advisor-types during prep but when you’re also trying to deal with the exhausting noise of divorce and house sale etc, you’ll probably only have energy (and trust!) left to listen to one or two

– training partners. Again, often helpful but a wonderful support at this point in time. You need to find the right person but, if you do, they will play the part of mentor, coach, accountability partner, sounding board and much more

– getting in to a routine. If you suddenly find yourself alone, prep can go very screwy. Meal times? What are those? Bed time? Oh I suppose that was a few hours ago. Get up? I suppose I should, I mean it is 10:45am. You get the picture. Do try to carry on as normal, even if inside you feel far from normal.

– a dog (if you like dogs, that is). If you’ve got one, fight to keep it. If you haven’t got one, get one to celebrate your new life. Your pup will get you outside on days when you don’t want to go anywhere, will make you smile and will remind you daily about trust, love and the power of living in the moment.

Pros and cons…
…of competing and prepping last year at the same time as going to Relate sessions, getting divorced, trying (endlessly) to sell a house, planning a relocation and dozens of other frustrating and upsetting things

– Sense of pride at a time when my confidence was on the floor
– A positive, healthy distraction/set of habits at a time when I honestly could happily have ended (or started) some days with gin
– Maintaining contact with a very tight-knit and supportive community online and offline
– Routine, habits, structure
– A goal which was nothing to do with anyone else, just me
– A high point or “good thing” in an otherwise shit year

– Often very stressful
– Physically and emotionally exhausting
– Pressure (on myself) that I often didn’t need
– Kept me in one place long after I wanted to move away
– Change in lifestyle (single person with dog to walk/house to run) meant sudden change in energy output
– Change in lifestyle meant sudden change in routine, meaning I could (and did) very easily eat/sleep badly

Lessons learned

– let yourself feel whatever you need to feel. There’s nothing wrong with being sad, angry, mildly hysterical or anything else you care to feel. I can tell you right now that over the past year I have cried in Tesco supermarket, in the Post Office, and walking down the High Street on a Saturday afternoon. Oh well. You have to let the feelings out, and then sort of past. They won’t stick around forever I promise. Just because you spent all of yesterday crying it doesn’t mean you’ll spend all of tomorrow crying (although if you do that’s OK too)

– spend time on you. This one really helped me. I don’t mean having bubble baths and going on a silent retreat. I mean really digging about and getting to grips – for the first time ever – with who I am, what makes me tick and why I really am quite awesome thank you very much. I went to some therapy/counselling (not sure what you’d call it). I read a lot of self-help/emotional intelligence books. I watched my Google reader’s contents subtly shift from food and fitness blogs to sports psychology and emotional wellness blogs. One of the most valuable things I did was sit and write down my own personal values. This might not work for you, perhaps you’re not as driven by words as I am. But I found it interesting, enlightening and very strengthening to know what’s important to me, so I then had a kind of values blueprint against which to align my life.

– go with your gut. This kind of links to the values thing. If last year taught me anything, it was to trust my gut instincts. I no longer care very much what people think of me (not in a callous way, more in a “look I know I’m a good person, if you disagree or come to some odd conclusion about my life then that’s your issue not mine” way) I am much happier to trust gut instinct and do things (or not do things) that I know are right for me and for the people I care about, probably because I have a much better idea now of who is worth caring about. Do listen to what your gut is telling you. Good and bad. If it’s telling you that person is slightly odd and probably a bad influence in your life, get rid now. It’ll happen one way or another anyway. If it’s telling you that person was amazing all along and you really should get back in touch with them, give them a call. They’ll be back at some point anyway!

– nothing’s set in stone. If you do decide to compete, remember that you can stop any time. That might help ease the pressure. Obviously it doesn’t quite work the other way around – if you decide not to, you’ll probably find it hard to jump back into it if you change your mind. But if you do take the tough decision to carry on, don’t be proud enough to stop if you no longer feel prep/competing is doing anything positive for you. I promise you that nobody will think any the worse of you (in fact they may be relieved, or may not notice at all!)

Oh, and one last thing? You will be OK, and whatever happens/wherever you find yourself, things will be better. Maybe not in the ways you expected or predicted (or even wanted) but they will be.


In signing off today I’d like to say the hugest and most heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped me through the past year. You know who you are. And to the people (because there were a few) who didn’t help me, well, thank you too. You played a part in getting me here, but I’m afraid you won’t be the ones who get to play a part in celebrating it.

Peace out 😉

When tough times get tougher 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.

Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks out?)

March 5, 2013

It’s been a while since I talked about training, prep or this year’s competitions, so here’s an update.

I’m currently either 20 or 22 weeks out, depending on which show I do. Sorry to be vague and cryptic but I’m not 100% sure yet, and I won’t be revealing the show til a lot nearer the time anyway (although those of you with the various federations’ calendars at hand will be able to work it out fairly easily!)

I’m still working with Vicky Bradley and everything is going really well, I’m very happy with progress and excited to see how things turn out.

I’ve been under Vicky’s small but surprisingly muscular lats for nearly seven weeks now. I’m onto my second lot of training sessions with her – the first block focused on my bigger lifts, great technique, lower reps (very low for me!), working out just how much weigh I can handle and getting some more muscle on me. This new block of training is bringing in work which will bring more balance and shape to my physique.

Progress is being made: not only do I look and feel better, but I’m getting stronger, and the stats are there in black and white. In six weeks I’m down:

We think about 4.5% body fat from Vicky’s calipering.
2.3cms hips
6cms waist (!)
5cms chest/back

The only thing which hasn’t budged is arm measurement, although body fat/skinfold has come down.

This is from about 3 weeks ago…

This is from last Sunday at a BNBF club/meet at Body Bionics Gym

As is this….

I’m in the gym four days a week:
Saturday – deadlifts, hamstrings, glutes, back and calves
Sunday – chest and triceps
Tuesday – back and shoulders
Wednesday – squats, quads and calves

And doing posing practice, stretching, foam rolling and postural/remedial work a couple of times a week at home. No cardio (other than two fast dog walks of about 45 mins every day).

Eating (I can’t really call it dieting yet!) is simple and enjoyable. Lots of meat, fish, eggs and veg, good fats and veg (including spuds). The plan is to slowly bring bodyfat down to a reasonable “year round” level, teaching me and my body good, sustainable habits along the way. Never mind the comp, this is about finding habits and routines which work for me and can then work for me all year round. Then, from there, we’ll worry about “prep diet”. But the idea is that, by then, there won’t be a huge amount to lose anyway.





How about you – how’s your training going? 🙂

Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks 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.

Quick-fire quiz: “You know you’re a dieting bodybuilder when…”

September 30, 2012


Sorry I’ve been a bit AWOL. I just don’t know where the time goes. Except, yes I do really, cos if I take a look at my Google calendar for the next few weeks I can see:
UKDFBA bodybuilding comp in 13 days
NPA Finals in 28 days
– moving house in 34 days
(And you don’t even want to see my work whiteboard.)

However, I’m still here, still prepping, still dieting and still blogging, promise!

Today’s blog post is a little quiz: a highly-scientific test to ascertain whether or not you are, or ever have been, a dieting competitive bodybuilder. (You’d be forgiven for forgetting: low carbs get to us all).

1) You’ve just completed a long drive. The little rubbish-bin compartment in your car’s drivers door is filled with
sweet wrappers, an empty bag of Skittles and a crushed up Starbucks cup
B the stems of green beans, a screwed up bit of tin foil, and crushed egg shells

2) You last ate Brussels sprouts
Christmas 2011
B Yesterday, for meals two and four

3) The last thing to make you cry was
Your dog dying
B The thought of climbing the stairs to have a shower after training

4) You would jump for joy right now if someone offered you
Your favourite type of cake and a hot cup of tea
B A bowl of raspberries

5) The most recent thing to make you lose your temper and want to kill someone was
Phoning up a utilities company to try and discuss your bill
B Someone trying to talk to you at “the wrong volume”

6) The last inanimate object you called “m*ther f*cker!” was
Your laptop
B The hack squat machine

7) In the last week, you have permanently mislaid this number of everyday items
B 5-100 (bonus points if this includes house keys, car keys, wallet or official documentation of any kind)

8) You can’t find the TV remote anywhere. Finally, you locate it
Down the side of the sofa
B In the freezer (and you still haven’t got tomorrow’s turkey out to defrost)

9) You categorise your bags by
Type (work, leisure, smart, weekend), number of pockets, and how well they match your other accessories
B How many tupperwares can fit inside them, and how easy it is to clean chicken juice off the lining

10) You are most likely to block, unfollow or ignore people on social media because
They post too often, are boring or are no longer relevant to your interests
B They post pictures of their dinners, endless recipes, or check-ins at Costa (drinking lattes)

Bonus question
11) Whilst answering these questions, you have mainly been
Shaking your head or furrowing your brow, wondering “why do they do it to themselves?”
B Laughing a lot, wondering “why do we do it to ourselves?”

You answered
Mainly A!
Congratulations! Long may you enjoy milk in your coffee, space in your fridge for something other than green veg, and a car which doesn’t smell of chicken!
Mainly B! Congratulations (commiserations?), you are currently dieting for a bodybuilding competition, or have done in the recent past and have not yet been able to banish some of the finer details of the experience from your mind

Quick-fire quiz: “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.

Friends like these…

September 20, 2012

Bodybuilders need a small army of genuine good friends, particularly during prep. At any given moment, we can be sensitive, hyper-critical, euphoric, snappy, self-obsessed or prone to tearful outbursts (… no, I refuse to believe that’s just me!)

Really good friends are hard to define and hard to come by. So, today’s shout-out goes to my friend Zoe. Always a quietly reliable force in the background, she shows her support in unusual but very appreciated ways.

For instance, on Tuesday she popped in on her way home from work with not one but two gifts. These two offerings are a beautiful illustration of how to tread the fine line – of hunger and humour, self-control and over-indulgence – which shape our lives in the final few weeks of contest prep.

Exhibit one


Huge, delicious cucumbers from Zoe’s garden (she’s so green-fingered: I’m currently growing green chilis, peppers and tomatoes supplied by Zoe, and that Stevia plant she gave me is still growing!) As I said to her when she brought these round, she couldn’t have chosen a better gift, really. I was feeling very hungry on Tuesday but – with three weeks til my next comp – now is not the time to give in to an attack of the nibbles. Chomp on homegrown cucumbers? Perfect.

Exhibit two


Zoe works at the head office of a well-known brand of confectionary. There are often great deals to be had in the staff shop, but I’m not allowed on site (it’s not that I have previous convictions pertaining to chocolate bars, not do I pose a particular security threat to boiled sweets – it’s just the rules). So, from time to time, Zoe will email me to say “we have boxes of microwave rice on offer!” or “there’s tons of seasonal chocolate being practically given away!” I’m still making my way through all that Uncle Ben’s rice she got me.

Here we have a load of Malt Easter bunnies, which cost me pennies, and which will be taken to the NPA Finals and shared out amongst my fellow competitors. For now? They’re under lock and key in the garden shed. Zoe can vouch for that – I showed her all the things I’ve chosen to lock away in there for these final few weeks of the diet. (See: you thought I was iron-willed? Not so much. I find dieting as hard as anyone!)

Friends like these… 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.

A toddler’s guide to bodybuilding comps

September 10, 2012

Hello hello! Phew, I’m home, I’m sitting down and I’ve finally got time to write. I haven’t unpacked yet, and this tan will take a while to come off but, you know, let’s blog.

I’ll post a full show report soon (when I have the official photos for illustration) but here’s a quick summary: I came second and got an invite to the NPA British Final next month! 😀 The lady who came first is the competitor I came 2nd to at the BNBF Final last year (she even turned Pro with the BNBF at that comp), and so she’s certainly top competition! It was a good battle, all three of us had fun and it was a lovely atmosphere. The whole show was really enjoyable, and I had a blast all day. I’m very very happy with my progress this year and with how I posed and performed my routine. But, more of that later!

Today, I wanted to blog about some of my two-year-old nephew’s “funnies” from the show yesterday. He’s a chatty little guy and very funny (did you see his impersonation of Lou Ferrigno?). He did come to this competition last year but was too young to be saying much and I’m not sure he understood what it was about at all. This year, he got into it a lot more.

So here is Henry’s guide to bodybuilding competitions.

What to say…
– when you see your Auntie’s tanned-up feet: BEEN PLAYING IN THE MUD, BEBE?
– when you are impressed by a pose: THAT’S A BIGGER ONE!
– when you are really impressed by a pose: THAT’S A REALLY BIGGER ONE!
– during the men’s classes, when you see competitors with particularly small trunks: THAT’S A WILLY! AND THAT’S A WILLY! AND THAT’S A WILLY… (etc)
– when competitors leave the stage to get ready for their individual routines: WHERE THE BOYS GONE?
– if a competitor begins their routine lying down on the stage: SHE HAVING A NAP?
– when your Auntie walks out on stage but she’s a funny colour: THAT’S NOT BEBE?!
– when your Auntie is doing a lat-spread: OPEN UP! OPEN UP!
– when you disapprove of your Auntie’s tan: BEBE HAVE A SHOWER NOW?

nicola joyce NPA miss physique
And, this morning, he was studying my trophy in great detail. He asked me to read what the engraving said, so I told him: “NPA South East Champs 2012, Miss Physique, 2nd” He looked at me, shrugged, and said “Mrs 2nd”. Much easier, I agree! LOL!

Henry hopes you find this handy guide helpful. He also says that he’s learned there’s no point offering a bodybuilder a crisp, a plum or a “happle” the night before a comp… but the next morning, wow, you’d better protect your croissant with your life ;D

A toddler’s guide to bodybuilding comps 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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