Basic Information About Competing In UK Drug-Tested Bodybuilding Comps

May 15, 2016

Almost every week, I get asked about how to go about competing in drug-tested/natural bodybuilding competitions. Tis the season, I guess!

Having just Facebook messaged someone the same information (for the third time this week), I thought it might be useful to actually pop it all in a blog post.

If I stuff this first section full of enough SEO phrases it might even get picked up on Google 😉 “Natural bodybuilding comps in the UK”, “How do I start natural bodybuilding in the UK?”, “I want to do a natural bodybuilding show but I’ve no idea who the organisations are or when the competitions are, help, where do I look for information?”

That should do it 😉
ukdfba bodybuilding uk 2016
So, here’s what I send people when they ask me about competing in drug-free BB comps…

There are three drug-tested/ drug-free/ natural bodybuilding organisations in the UK at the time of writing.

Who, What, Where?

UKDFBA – United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association (website is in the link, and they have a FB page). They are the UK affiliate of the WNBF. The UKDFBA run a series of UK qualifiers, then a UK final. There is also a Pro Show and an International Show alongside the UK Final. They award WNBF Pro Cards at the Final. They then take a Pro and Amateur team out to WNBF Worlds.

BNBF – British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (website is in the link, and they have a FB page). They are the UK affiliate of the DFAC. They run a series of UK qualifers, a UK final, then they take a Pro and Amateur team out to DFAC Worlds. They award DFAC Pro cards at their UK Final.

NPA – Natural Physique Association (website is in the link, and they have a FB group). The NPA isn’t affiliated to an international federation. They have UK qualifers and a UK final, and sometimes then take a team out to the UIBBN competition.

Drug Free & Banned Lists

UKDFBA and BNBF are both 7 years drug free.
NPA is lifetime drug free.

They all use urine testing and polygraph testing. Although most of the “things you can’t take” are obvious (or ought to be!), some people are completely unaware of just how strict “drug free” is. So, if you choose to do all or any of the drug-tested bodybuilding organisations’ comps, it is 100% your responsibility to check the banned list OF THAT ORGANISATION and be certain you are in the clear. The information for each organisation’s rules and banned lists are on their website. If you can’t find it, contact the organisation representative.


All 3 associations have classes for men, women, teens, juniors, and older competitors (Masters). They all have Novice classes and weight classes. Some have Bikini and Men’s Physique. Some have Masters Figure as well as open Figure. Some of their women’s classes will be split by weight. Some have beginners’ shows and first-timers categories. The women’s categories tend to differ between organisations.

My (quick) advice would be:

– Choose the category your body is best suited to (or that you think your body will be best suited to, if you haven’t competed previously)
– Download the judging criteria, and/or contact the Head of the organisation to ask for the guidelines. Be sure you are clear about posing, footwear, whether there’s a posing routine or a T-walk (etc).
– If in doubt, ask advice. The organisation will be friendly and approachable and happy to help (if they’re not, find one that is!)

I’m very happy to chat more about any of this over message or email. I appreciate that it can seem overwhelming and confusing – like any new sport at first!

What To Do Next

Look at the Federations listed above, and their shows/calendars. Choose either by show dates and location, convenient to you (and your prep).

Mark your calendar. Train and diet. Keep in mind the judging criteria of your category. Put together a posing routine or T-walk to music.

Learn the poses you’ll need to do, and practice!

But more than that… do your research:
– make friends on Facebook with people who have done your category in your chosen organisation. Take a look at their competition pics and videos.
– look on YouTube for competition footage and competitors’ individual posing routines (or T-walks).
– see if you can get along to a show (ideally run by your chosen organisation, but anything will help!) Seeing a bodybuilding show before you compete is invaluable experience.

Then there’s stuff like posing suits/bikinis, tan… but that’s all for further down the line.

That was a whistlestop tour through the drug-free bodybuilding competition scene in the UK. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten. Official folk: if I’ve got any of the facts and information wrong, please comment/messsage me and I will correct it.

And if anyone reading this ever wants any advice, tips, or “where to go next”, please get in touch. I love the sport and love to help. If I’m not the right person to ask, I’ll try to find out who is!

Basic Information About Competing In UK Drug-Tested 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.

Bodybuilding prep update (11 weeks out?)

May 4, 2013

I appear to be wishing my life away! Every time I mention my comp on Facebook etc I say I’m 10 weeks out. I’m not… it’s 11 weeks.

I suppose it’s a good mistake to make – better that way round than thinking I’ve got longer than I really do have.


So – 11 weeks out tomorrow (unless deemed not ready in which case I’ll do a later qualifier).

I’m still training really heavy and low (for me) reps – for example, today’s session:

Conventional deadlifts: 100kgs (8 reps), 110kgs (6 reps, 3 reps), 100kgs (6 reps)
Sumo deadlifts: 80kgs (10 reps), 90kgs (10 reps, 10 reps)
Glute bridges: 60kgs (3×10 reps)
Pulls ups
Standing calf raises

Heavy, compound lifts will remain for another three weeks or so, and then I think things will change to higher reps, more volume and probably more supersets etc to bring in a bit of a cardio/conditioning element (since I don’t do any actual cardio, other than twice-daily powerwalks with the dog).

In terms of diet, I’m carb-cycling, with my high carb days seeing me eat more carbs than I did at any stage last year (including – gasp – a bowl of porridge just before bed, yep carbs well after 6pm 😉 ) There’s loads of variety, from oily fish to red meat, whole eggs, white potatoes, nuts, poulty and game. About the only thing missing from the diet which might surprise you is dairy. We took it out a few weeks ago and I don’t miss it.

I’ve got a good weekend of bodybuilding-related events planned: I trained this morning with my friend Sophie, who’s a powerlifter (and fellow journalist), I’m seeing a lot of fellow competitors tomorrow, and then on Bank Holiday Monday I’m seeing a load of local bodybuilder girlfriends for a bit of posing and routine practice (and probably a good chat over a coffee, too).

Tomorrow is BNBF posing club/meet at Body Bionic gym in Thatcham – these are held every month (and there are others held across the country too) – a great resource for posing practice, feedback, support, Q&As and advice from other competitors and BNBF Pro bodybuilders. It’s brilliant to catch up with everyone every four weeks and so useful to be able to get regular responses from people who only see me at “club” – four weeks is a long time in prep, so I’m always hopefully that people will have positive and constructive feedback about my progress between meets.

Bodybuilding prep update (11 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.

Bodybuilding prep update (16 weeks out?)

April 4, 2013

Morning! I thought it was about time for a contest prep update 🙂

I had a face-to-face catch up with coach Vicky Bradley yesterday – she hadn’t seen me for a few weeks and was delighted with the changes. We speak (text/whatsapp/tweet/instagram/facebook – haha!) most days but of course seeing me in the flesh is different.

I’m currently either 16 or 18 weeks out from my first show, depending on which qualifier I do. I’ve had my wibbles and wobbles (of confidence, as well as glute-fat 😉 ) but I’m starting to think I’ll be in good shape for the earlier of the two.

Vicky calipered me again yesterday, and I do my measurements: in 12 weeks of working with her, I’m down approx:

We think about 7% body fat from Vicky’s calipering.
5.1cms hips
8.2cms waist
5.9cms chest/back

Here are comparison pics two weeks apart (although the most recent of these was taken three weeks ago now)

I’m still training the same split
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. Still no cardio (other than two fast dog walks every day – which are getting longer now there are more daylight hours).

My training has changed (at least once) since I last blogged about prep – still low reps (or what I call low reps anyway!) but with a bit of a conditioning element in there now, supersets, walking lunges, weighted steps ups etc. Every time my programme changes, the specific exercises I do aim to correct an imbalance, fill out a slightly lacking area or bring an area up so the final “package” I reveal on stage is as complete and as “Physique category” as possible.

My shoulders seem to have taken on a life of their own 😉

Diet has changed a little bit: we are now carb cycling and we’re about to really go for it, with much more carbs than I’m used to on training days. This is partly as a result of a total diet-wobble I had a couple of weeks ago, where I careered off-piste without Vicky’s blessing (or knowledge). Not good, but (there’s always a positive!) we did discover than I’m pretty carb-tolerant. After two days of over-eating, one of which involved a family party, and undisclosed amounts of cake, brownies and mini-scones (very nice they were too), I put on…. 0.5kgs. So, we’re going to be playing with more carbs, and different sources of them. Now’s the time to do it – if it’s doesn’t work, we can change again.

As I said to Vicky today, I feel as if the next 2-3 weeks will see some exciting changes in both my fatloss and my shape. I don’t know why I feel that way but I do! It’s exciting. This period of prep – when there’s months and months to go, but you know you’ll wake up one day soon and only have 4 weeks left – is a funny time. But I’m definitely seeing very good changes and I’m really excited to get closer and closer to competition condition!

A couple of pics from a week ago: posing in the gym with Figure competitor Karen (right of the pic) and Physique competitor Kathy (left). I love this pic, we’re so smiley! We’d just had an awesome deadlift session together – I’d never met either lady before but have emailed and chatted to them both online for over a year now. Brilliant training partners!

And lastly, Karen and I did a bit of posing practice after training and I borrowed her Figure shoes for a bit. Once I’d got myself upright (and stayed there!), I tried out a few Figure poses. What do you think? Shall I switch divisions? 😉

Anything in particular you want to know? Let me know & I’ll attempt to answer!

Bodybuilding prep update (16 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.

NPA British Final 2012 photos

November 9, 2012

Sorry for being AWOL – I’ve been moving house 🙂 I still don’t have broadband or a phone (<— self-employed person's problems) but I’m making do with dongles.

Anyway, 2 minutes ago I realised that I’d promised you a second blog post about the NPA British Final (my write-up is here) once I’d got the official photographer‘s pics. Well, he sent them ages ago, but I forgot.

Here they are! Enjoy 🙂 (I think you click on them to make them bigger if you want) And all the very best to the British Team who are preparing to step on stage at the INBF/WNBF Worlds today and tomorrow in Atlantic City.

I’ll be back soon with a blog post about breakfast. Yes, it’s the off-season, which means eating and baking and cooking oh my!

NPA British Final 2012 report 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.

NPA British Final 2012 report

October 31, 2012

Hello! I owe you a show report – Sunday was the NPA British Final, my last comp of the year.

Well, guys, I don’t really know what to say because… I came last. Yup! 6 in my class (Ladies Physique 55kg+) and I came 6th.

There it is. There’s no point sugar-coating it, or giving it all the “yes I came last but think of all the people who didn’t even compete!” or any of that balls. 6 of us in my class, and I placed 6th.

Obviously it wasn’t what I wanted, hoped for or (honestly) expected even right up until the moment my name was called (perhaps I’ve got reverse body dysmorphia, where I think I look OK when really I look shit haha!) But hey, it is what it is, and if this “annus horribilis” of mine has convinced me of anything, it’s that, really, it’s not a big deal. Not a bodybuilding result, not anything really! Has anyone died? No. Then we’re OK.

Despite a disappointing and upsetting result, I had a great day, and I’m happy to tell you a bit about it. I’ll also post some of the pro photographer’s pics (Fivos Photography) when I get them (regardless of what I looked like, the photos will still be fantastic because Fivos is the man!)

As with all my comps this year, my sister joined me for the weekend, making it a wonderful weekend away. The hotel we’d been recommended by the NPA was lovely! We hunkered down for the evening, sis with her room-service dinner and me with my tin foil parcels of cold turkey breast, and she popped a couple of coats of tan on me during Strictly Come Dancing.

I slept pretty well and was very pleased with how I was looking in the morning. I know I didn’t write much during the weeks between the UKDFBA comp and this one but that’s partly because I dieted SO hard and did a lot of extra training (mostly cardio) in a bid to come in with better conditioning. I didn’t have the time or energy to blog much and didn’t have a lot to say. Anyway, I really felt as though those two weeks of hell, fish and cardio had paid off: I looked tight and lean and was drying out nicely. I was really happy with how I was looking and felt I’d continue to improve throughout the day of the comp, too.

At the venue I checked in, weighing in a smidgen heavier than at last year’s NPA Final (57.1kgs, and they split Ladies Physique into under 55kg and 55kg+). There were 5 of us (and 4 in the lightweights) and the other 4 ladies were imposing names. I knew it would be a fantastic contest – as it should be, this being a British Final!

Then came the news that one of the favourites had weighed in a smidge over the cut-off, so – joy of joys! – she and her washboard abs would now be in our class. One more competitor, and what a competitor! I knew this would make our class even tougher, but I didn’t feel outclassed, I knew I probably wasn’t challenging for top 3 (I’d had so much to do getting condition back on track), but felt quite happy at the idea of battling it out for the other spots. And nothing would stop me from giving it 100%, after all, first place is there to be taken and nothing’s decided until they call the results!

A happy twist of fate happened when I found myself in a little dressing room with 7 times NPA British Champion, Carol Streeter. There was only room for one other person and I got lucky when I knocked on the door before anyone else. So, for the rest of the day, I shared the company of this lovely and inspirational woman who was a joy to be around. Thank you Carol for the chat, the posing tips and the feedback 🙂

On we went for “prejudging”, the bit in plain bikinis where you do your quarter turns (symmetry) and compulsory poses. I’d had a sneaky look at the other ladies, of course, and realised that I wasn’t the leanest (but also didn’t think I was the un-leanest), nor was I the biggest (but I wasn’t convinced I was the smallest either), and I felt happy about my symmetry and balance. In short, I still felt that I probably wouldn’t be troubling the top ladies but that the bottom half of the placings were all to play for.

Prejudge went well, I felt as if I hit my poses just fine and was certainly posing very hard! I’m told we were onstage posing for 15 minutes, which if true is ages! I was sweating and aching and shaking – a good workout!

We were all sent to the back of the stage, before the judges called us forward in turn for our “call out”. Everyone was called forward and arranged around the woman in the middle (first to be called out). Name after name was called… and then mine. Last. Now, people say it doesn’t matter where you are in the call out but I think it does. If the judges want to see you, they’ll call you first/second/third so you’re right there in the middle being compared side by side with the others. Then they stick the ones they’re not so fussed about out on the end. I was out on the end. I felt gutted, but knew there was no point acting defeated whilst I still had time on stage. Besides, I was enjoying myself! So I continued to pose as hard as before – harder, in fact. I don’t think I’ve ever posed that hard! Someone should set up a camera in the back of the stage sometime because I’m sure the faces we pull when we’re facing the back, doing our rear poses, are hilarious (mine certainly must be!)

We were sent off and I felt… I don’t know. In some ways I felt deflated because I gathered from my call out (and the fact that I’d tried to make eye contact with the judges and hadn’t noticed their gaze lingering on me at all) that I hadn’t made an impression. But I’d felt so good up there, and was personally pleased with how I was looking. Perhaps I’m deluded! Oh well.

I watched some of the show with my family and friends, chatted more with Carol and her husband and enjoyed the show, before it was time to get ready for the night show (sparkly bikinis and individual posing routines).

My routine went by in a flash and I was worried I hadn’t done it justice, because it seemed to be over before it had begun, but I got some great feedback on it and people said they really enjoyed it. Phew, cos I really enjoy it too!

We were asked to do a couple of poses (not the whole lot as we’re sometimes asked to do at the nightshow) before the fun of the posedown – always a laugh and no different this time! I was still feeling great and dared to think I might be in 4th or 5th place, although to be perfectly honest I had no idea at all.

We lined up at the back of the stage and 6th place was called.


Oh, hi! I came last!

Hey ho. I can’t tell you how I felt, not shocked or upset but just… sad, really. I haven’t yet asked for judges’ feedback (if any of you are reading, I’d welcome it!) but will do so because I would love to know where I went wrong. I’d like to think that I was just the “worst of a good bunch” – it was certainly a very strong line up of fantastic women, and perhaps I was just the weakest of a very good bunch. But, of course, I’d love have some detailed feedback so I can improve. It’s the only way!

How do I feel now? Well, I move house/office/life in three days time and have work to finish up, a house and office to pack, and an awful lot of emotional goodbyes to do. I don’t feel that I have the time or emotional “space” to think much about how I’m feeling about the result of the comp. I feel tired, very very tired. This year has sucked a lot from me, and I do feel that competition prep has taken, and taken, and given very little. I’m hoping that once I’ve moved, and settled, and drawn breath, I’ll be able to look back and assess where I went wrong, what I could have done differently (if indeed I could have done anything differently!) and what I could change for next time. And, of course, what I can learn from it all. Because there’s a lesson in everything. I just need to find it.

Thanks for reading. Photos to come!

(Puppy says he doesn’t care that it says 6th place. He can’t read anyway!)

NPA British Final 2012 report 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 on show-eve-eve

October 26, 2012

Dum de dum.

The night-before the night-before a comp is weird. Kind of boring. But sort of exciting! Drags on f-o-r-e-v-e-r and then OMG it’s 9pm how did that happen?

In fact, it’s a bit like Christmas-Eve-Eve (don’t tell me we’re the only family to call it that?) Just like the 23rd December, the day before the day-before-a-comp:

– is boring
– but actually quite exciting
– makes you anxious to just get on with it (yes even the eating exciting treats aspect!) but can’t yet and if you do you’ll ruin the main day so you just need to get a grip and wait a bit longer
– starts off with you waking up and think “oh this day will go on forever”, then all of a sudden it’s 8pm and you haven’t wrapped presents/made canapes/shaved yourself all over and put a base coat of tan on*

(*delete as applicable)

So, an update on me. Well, I’m sitting here with my base coat of tan on – done by my good self. I never was much good at art or painting, and nothing’s changed. All I can say is, thank goodness this is a kind of “stain” base coat, which I’ll lightly shower off tomorrow. And thank goodness I have my sister, aka this year’s bodybuilding-comp support crew wunderkind, who stepped up to the plate without so much as a twitch of hesitation. She’s a master tanner, unflappable chauffeur and wonderful room-mate for hotel stays. Love you, sis!

Sunday is the NPA British Finals (click here for my report on last year’s Finals, where I placed 3rd in the Ladies Physique heavyweight (55kg+) category). How do I feel? Exhausted. Since my less-than-stellar performance at the UKDFBA British Open (5th out of 6! Reprazent!) two weeks ago, I have been dieting, cardioing and training myself harder than I thought possible. Normally, I’d have started my carb-up by now (Friday morning). Not this time. This time I’m taking it right up to the line, preferring to come in “a bit flat” than “a bit fat”. We know I pump up well, anyway. But this does mean that I’m still – still! – eating white fish (and that’s about it).

However, to keep the Christmas analogy going, only 48 more hours and I can delve into the box of Roses and plate of mince pies (so to speak).

It’s OK, really, I can do it. But man am I exhausted!

Those of you friends with me on Facebook will remember my update the other day where I said I cried three times that day. Yeah, that’s carb depletion for you! Once was when my dog ran off, rather than coming back to me, during our walk, and I had to walk oooooh about 3 minutes extra to retrieve him. I just could barely do it. And cried! The second was when I went for a sports massage and realised it was to be the last time I’d see my friend Diksha who does the massage. Yep, I cried! The third time is a bit personal and highly embarrassing but suffice to say I was walking through the centre of the town where I live… crying.

Oh dear! I have also had moments of fun and happiness – “carb-deplete euphoria” I call them – most notably whilst on the stepper at 6:40am. Why? Who knows.

To conclude this ramble of a post, I’ll just give you a top tip I learned by experience this week. Yes, it’s great to do your final cardio session. And, yes, it’s only polite to finally take your weighted vest home from the gym (where the gym manager has kindly allowed you to store it all year). After all… er… it possibly needs a wash. However, it’s not so great to unload the 10x1kg weights, put them at various locations about your person in your coat pockets, and then stagger home loaded down with 10kg extra plus your bag, all whilst severely depleted.

I almost cried… but not quite 😉

As always, I’ll be tweeting from the comp on Sunday from thefitwriter Twitter, if there’s a connection. Otherwise, I’ll see you on the other side! Then we’ll get talking off-season, goals and 2013!

Random thoughts on show-eve-eve 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.

Let’s have a countdown

October 7, 2012

Hi! I’ve got all sorts of blog posts stashed away in my brain (and in my drafts folder) but I never seem to have the time or oomph to finish any of them. I will try harder! In particular, I want to write about the fine art of finding – and being – an awesome training partner (in honour of my own current training partner, Ms Helen M, who is celebrating her birthday today. The celebrations started at 09:30 this morning in the gym and included such birthday classics as: lateral raises, posing practice, and cold sweet potato. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, little Miss!)

Anyway, in the absence of that any many other blog posts, I thought I’d have myself a little countdown. Who doesn’t love a countdown?

Those of you subjected to my daily Facebook, Twitter, and non-bodybuilding-forum updates will be used to this by now. In fact most of you could probably tell me what I should be doing on any given day, thanks to my endless numerical countdowns.

For the rest of you:

5 days til the UKDFBA bodybuilding comp (eek!)

20 days til the NPA British Finals

aaaand last but by no means least

Uh… yeah. 26 days til I move house. It’s not so far, just to another county, 100 miles or so I guess but… still.

Packed anything? Nope [ ].
Set up broadband, phone, any other utilities? Nope [ ].
Cancelled all that stuff for this place? I’ve made a start [X].
Enlisted small army of family to help move on the day and unload the other end. Check! [X]
Decided where I’m going to eat for Sunday lunch with my sister the day after I move. Oh yes! [X]

So, apart from the whole “Two Comps and a House Move” vibe my life has going on at the moment, things are trucking along OK. As per the above, I am just a few days out from my next bodybuilding comp, have started my carb deplete and am now doing my final few training sessions before a long-awaited and much needed rest towards the end of next week.

I love peak week, in a funny kind of way. So I’m looking forward to this coming week. I just hope I can navigate all the other stuff along the way!

Let’s have a countdown 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.

NPA South East championships 2012 – show report part 2

September 14, 2012

Last Sunday, I competed in the NPA (Natural Physique Association) South East Championships, a qualifier for the NPA’s British Final. Part 1 of the report is here.

“Oh sh*t”, I believe I said to my sister. Because over there was Chiara, the lady who placed 1st at the BNBF Finals last year (winning her BNBF Pro Card in the process) when I placed 2nd. The last person I expected to see, and pretty much top of my “competitors likely to make me say “oh sh*t” when I’m not in my best condition” list. ;D

However, that’s the nature of this sport: you never know who’s going to turn up on the day, and you never know what they’ll be looking like, either. I reminded myself that, even though I wasn’t as lean as I wanted to be, I’d improved a lot since last year, that the class was anyone’s to win, and that my main goal was to qualify and move through to the Final.

Backstage, I found myself a corner and popped my feet up. My Mum came to find me, and told me that loads of friends and family had arrived. I had a massive support crew, most of whom had never been to a bodybuilding competition before.

My sister was flying back and forth tanning me up, taking pics of me posing so I could see how I was looking, and generally keeping me smiling. We were giggling like mad when she was doing my Dream Tan: you have to slap it on, almost smacking the competitor with your palms. She’d smack my tan on (“slap! slap slap slap! slap! slap slap!”) and pause for breath, at which point we could hear Fran next door being Dream Tanned up by her trainer Ian (“slap slap! slap slap! slap slap slap!”) It sounded like two woodpeckers trying to out-peck each other in the woods. My sister started taking her tanning responsibilities very seriously. “Ian is slapping a lot more slowly than me!” she fretted. “Am I doing it wrong?” “He’s got more people than you to tan up,” I told her. “He’s just conserving his energy. Plus he’s dieting for the Worlds. Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job.”

Before long I was tanned, in my bikini and ready to go and pump up.

On stage, I found myself in the middle thanks to my number – a great place to be. I felt really good, confident and very happy. I just love being on stage, and the fact that I had so many supporters made it even easier for me to smile. The judges put us through our 1/4 turns, then our compulsory poses. The head judge reminded the crowd that you don’t need a big class for it to be a tough one. I got the impression that things were pretty close, and I worked as hard as I could. I’d forgotten how much posing “for real” hurts! My lower back was aching and my legs were shaking even before the judges asked us to go through the poses a second time.

We got shuffled around (so the judges could compare us as they wanted to) and went through everything one more time. I was working as hard as I could and trying to remember everything, but found it very hard to tell how I was doing. Although the three of us were competing with each other, there was a really friendly atmosphere on stage. It’s hard to explain, but you know it when you experience it! Chiara bumped elbows with me during a double bicep pose and whispered “I’m sorry!” At one point, when we turned to the back of the stage, we all started huffing and puffing with the effort, caught each others eye, and smiled.

We were sent off stage to prepare for our individual posing routines, and chatted to each other, cheered each other on and shared water. It was nice! I’ve met and competed with both ladies before and it was genuinely a pleasure to be on stage with them.

My routine went well – I remembered it all for a start! – and people seemed to enjoy it. I stood backstage watching the others, shaking a bit with effort, excitement and nerves, and wondering how I’d place. I really had no idea at all. I knew Chiara looked good: she carries more muscle than I do, and it’s thicker, denser muscle. She’s shorter than I am, too, so all that muscle is packed down onto a more compact frame. And of course she’s shown how good she is by winning a Pro Card with another federation. But… I felt good. By no means did I feel sure I’d won, but I dared to think that I could have done.

After we’d all done our routines, we were called back on stage to go through the poses one more time and then do a posedown. I got a sense that the judges were having a bit of a tough time coming to a decision, but before long we were told to line up to hear the results.

Third place was lovely Fran.

This is it… this is it… have I won?

Second place… Nicola Joyce. I’d taken second to Chiara again, and I felt disappointed but not surprised. I could see why she’d won, and was happy to take second place to such an accomplished competitor.

We posed for our group photo and then Fran and I left the stage whilst Chiara had her winner’s photo. I felt OK. I would have loved to have won but, honestly, as soon as I knew Chiara was in the class I knew it would be a big ask. Just one question remained: had I qualified for the Final?

I sought out the head judge and he told me that yes, I certainly had. Phew! Mission accomplished, then, even if it wasn’t quite in the most decisive way!

The rest of the day was great fun: chatting at length with Fran and Chiara backstage, cheering on the Figure ladies who competed a little later, sitting with family, friends and my bodybuilding buddies and watching the rest of the show.

I ended up the night going out for dinner with my sister, something we haven’t done in a long time. I felt good: I’d made it on to the stage after a very difficult period in my life and, whilst I hadn’t won, I’d placed 2nd and qualified for the Finals. Done, and done.

The professional photos in this post are from official show photographer Fivos Averkiou photographer.

Thank you so much to my sister for everything (not just the excellent tanning) and to everyone else who came to watch – I really appreciate it!

NPA South East championships 2012 – show report part 2 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

NPA South East championships 2012 – show report part 1

September 14, 2012

Last Sunday, I competed in the NPA (Natural Physique Association) South East Championships, a qualifier for the NPA’s British Final. I did this show last year (the report of the NPA South East 2011 is here) and have very happy memories of that day: I won, and loads of my family came along to support, and it was a great day all in all!

My goal for this year was to qualify, whether or not that meant winning (usually the judges will put 1st and 2nd place in each class through to the Final). Obviously (and not so secretly!) I really wanted to win, but – as ever in this sport – I simply couldn’t predict what would happen. For one thing, I had no idea who else was in my class. I didn’t even know if anyone else was in my class at all! In fact, I had a horrible feeling I was going to be the only one… ! And for another thing, I was very aware that I wasn’t in the kind of condition I’d intended on achieving way back when I started dieting for the season. Prep hadn’t gone as smoothly as I’d expected and, as a result, I could have done with a good few extra weeks dieting. Such is life.

I pulled it together really well in the final three weeks, but couldn’t catch up and, as a result, knew I was going in to this show carrying more body fat than I wanted to.

Having said that, I was pleased with how I was looking: bigger than last year (in the right way!), fuller and with a much nicer shape. My posing had improved a lot, and I had a great new routine which I couldn’t wait to perform. I had a new (to me) bikini and a lovely bit of bling for my hair (made by my clever friend Lizzie – see her website for bodybuilding stage jewellery here).

My weekend started with a panic when the salon tan I’d booked went tits up. Long story but suffice to say I ended up driving to Kent ghostly-white and hoping my lovely sister would be willing and able to tan me up. She sure was! We spent a somewhat hilarious evening which gave new meaning to the question “are you close to your sister?” ;D

As an aside, I found this photo earlier. Seems my little sister was getting her practice in as my stage tanner as far back as 1985! 😉

Compared to the view I had of her tanning me up this weekend. Tee hee!

As always, I slept pretty badly the night before the comp: nervous, excited, ready to get it done and eager to step on stage! But soon the rest of the household were up and we were on the road.

We turned up at the venue and that’s when I saw her…

(to be continued)

NPA South East championships 2012 – show report part 1 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.

NPA British Final – last show of my first year

October 30, 2011

So, the season is over. I’ve competed in my final bodybuilding competition for 2011. It was a long time coming (my competitive season started in the first week of July, and of course dieting for the first show started long before that). I feel a mixture of emotions now it’s all over, mainly a real sense of contentment in what I achieved and how I achieved it all.

This time last year, I had just finished a pretty full-on triathlon season, done several bike sportives and a half-marathon. I was just starting a personal body-transformation type challenge, based on weight training and nutritional tweaks. The idea of competing in bodybuilding hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Fast-forward 12 months.

First place, BNBF Welsh qualifier (and Best Presentation).
First place, NPA South East qualifier (and Best Presentation).
Runner-up, BNBF British Final.

And – the subject of this blog post – 3rd place, NPA British Final. (Photos are here.)

It’s been quite a year.

I had a few goals for this Final. In an ideal world, I wanted to place, to not come dead last, to get a trophy to show to my long-suffering, ever-supportive family. But honestly? My main goal, over and above all of those, was to enjoy the day. I simply wanted a completely positive, happy and fun end to the season. And I knew I wouldn’t find that in a first-place finish or a trophy. I knew it had to come from my own attitude and from the atmosphere of the show.

Happily, I got it. From the moment we turned into the car park and I saw Anna Millington (against whom I’d competed at the BNBF Final), who spotted me and waved madly through the window, to the moment we left at the end of the night, the NPA Final was nothing but happy for me. And that means so much.

But let’s back up a bit. My class – ladies Physique (aka women’s bodybuilding) – was going to be split into two weight classes: U55kg and O55kgs. At my first show of the season, I’d weighed in slightly under 55kgs, and at my NPA qualifier I’d been bang on 55kgs. A few weeks ago, I’d thought I’d be able to diet aggressively and come in just under the cut off, therefore being the biggest in the lightweight category. However, as the show got closer, I realised this probably wasn’t going to happen. I’d been dieting for an extremely long time and my body (and my mind) had started to run out of oomph! So, as it was, I weighed in at a fraction over the cut off. My worst fear had come true: I was going to be one of the lightest, if not the lightest, in the heavier of the two classes.

Oh well! It was what it was and I really didn’t mind. Both classes were extremely competitive and quite honestly I wouldn’t have liked to choose which one to go in. Rocks and hard places spring to mind! Michael from the NPA gave me the opportunity to go away and “try again” but I knew that, realistically, I’d have to drop one or two internal organs down the toilet in order to come in under 55kgs and really I wasn’t that bothered. I’d weighed in over the cut off, so that’s where I would compete. I could only do my best anyway.

I was in the weigh-in queue with two of the other O55kg competitors and we chatted, laughed and joked the whole time. We followed each other upstairs to bagsy ourself a dressing room and the lighthearted, amicable atmosphere only got better from there. I truly had a ball with these ladies (and the others who later joined us in the dressing room) all day long. Despite it being a British Final, there was not an ounce of tension in the air. We shared food, makeup and tan, glued each other, glazed each other and chatted all day long. It was absolutely lovely – and, if any of those ladies are reading, I’d like to officially thank you now for helping make the day such a happy and positive experience.

We were on relatively early in the running order, so just about had time to finish off makeup, glue ourselves into our suits and spray ourselves with glaze before it was time to eat some sweets and get down to the pump up area. The U55kg ladies were on before us, and all three of them looked razor-sharp.

I was first out, and led our group of four onstage for the prejudging. Ahhh…. this is it…. the final time onstage for this year. I felt so relaxed and happy – possibly too relaxed, because I came off stage unsure that I’d worked hard enough. I was shaking and sweating from the exertions of posing, but I felt so happy that I couldn’t tell whether or not I’d done myself justice. I do remember being put through the 1/4 turns and compulsory poses at least three times, and being moved about in the lineup three times.

I went to join my family in the auditorium, watched some of the other classes and then watched the phenomenal Helen Stack (WNBF Pro) do her guest posing spot. She was truly inspirational to watch.

After an interval (I wasn’t hungry or particularly thirsty, but I could have killed for a simple cup of tea!) it was time to go and change into our sparkly bikinis, because it wouldn’t be long before the nightshow, where we’d do our individual routines. Once again, we were able to watch the U55kg women from the wings, and they all looked amazing. I wouldn’t have liked to be judging that class!

As usual, I had no inkling of where I might place in our class of four. I was 100% certain I had not won – I felt as sure as I could be that Anna M had won. She was in incredible shape. Other than that… I really couldn’t have told you. 2nd, 3rd, 4th? Who knows! I quite fancied coming 2nd or 3rd, because that would mean a trophy, but by this point I was really having such a lovely day that I was happy just being there. Backstage had been like one big party all day long: bodybuilding friends gathered together to put on our gladrags one last time and have fun posing onstage. Competitors and spectators both had baked cakes or bought sweet treats for friends, and you couldn’t walk through the auditorium without someone handing you a thoughtful little foodie gift.

Before long I was being announced on stage and I walked on, waved and paused for a moment before lowering myself into my first pose. I just wanted a split second to think to myself “this is it, this is the last time I’ll do this routine and, in about 5 minutes, my season will be over”.

My music started and I began my routine, turning one move into “blowing a kiss” (directed at my family; I’m not sure they saw!) I messed up two of the moves – I couldn’t believe I did that! – but got back on track. I finished, bowed and smiled, thanking the judges and the audience before running offstage to watch the other three do their routines.

Then we were all back onstage for the posedown. I was determined to have fun with this bit! In my previous three competitions, I’d either been too scared or not known what on earth to do, typically getting stuck on one side of the stage and just doing a side-chest pose about a bazillion times. Between us, we’d discussed the fact that we all wanted to have a lot of fun and put on a show, and we really went for it. Back to back, busting out rival side-triceps. Face-to-face, popping a quick most-muscular. Spotting someone else doing a rear-double-bicep, dashing over and trying to out-do them. It was such fun and we were actually laughing out loud on stage, which perfectly summed up the atmosphere we’d enjoyed all day in our dressing room.

It was time to stop laughing and start lining up at the back of the stage. Results time.

Best Presentation and 4th place were announced.

I relaxed, safe in the knowledge that I’d met all my goals. I wouldn’t be last, I would place (if we call “placing” 3, 2 or 1) and I would get a trophy.

3rd place: me!

I stepped forward, elated, relieved and… satisfied. That may seem a weak word to describe the feeling of coming 3rd in a British Final but it’s perfect for how I felt. Contentment, happiness, a sense of peace. 3rd was just right. The last few weeks of this prep hadn’t been perfect, I’d struggled to keep pushing and my focus had shifted from a burning desire to win to a sincere wish for a positive end to a great season. You know when something just fits? Well, 3rd place felt a perfect fit for me.

So, there we have it. 3rd place at my second British Final of the year. And I feel great. 🙂

What’s next? That’s probably the topic for a future blog post. I know I have a long way to go in this sport, and that’s fine by me. That’s what I want. I love that this sport is about the long-haul, the patient approach, the long-term gains. I already have a very vivid, very precise picture in my mind of how I want to look next year. I’m not sure how I’ll get there, but I know I will, and I’m excited to see it!

Thank you for reading.

NPA British Final – last show of my first year 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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