Ever Seen A Snowman Sissy Squat?

December 12, 2015

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I have! Today I squatted with Buddy the Elf and Frosty the Snowman aka my friends Miky and Jamie. A load of us went over to the fantastic Ripped Gym in Harlow – home to one of our own (WNBF Pro Mark Oakes) for the annual Christmas “natty meet”.

Our community of natural bodybuilders have various gym-meets throughout the year, sometimes organised by the gym owner, sometimes by the bodybuilder who trains at the gym.

Date and venue are set, word is sent out, and whoever can be there turns up to train, chat and have something to eat afterwards. It doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or new, competing or off-season, retired or yet to compete. You just have to want to train and have a bit of a giggle with the good folk of natural BB.

Training partners/trios are usually arranged beforehand via Facebook. And so it was that I ended up arranging to train legs with Buddy Miky and Frosty Jamie.

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Miky and I have never trained before. Jamie and I have, although not in the gym. We did a 60 mile sportive in the Summer. It was pretty hot, very hilly, and a big ask! Jamie had to get off his bike and have a little sit-down outside somewhere rather prophetically named “Hellfire Caves”.

Today was slightly less punishing on the quads…. but only just 😉

Ripped Gym in Harlow is an amazing gym, huge and packed full of equipment. I swear you could be there for 6 hours and still not have time to do a set on every different bit of kit. I trained there back in February but there was still lots I wanted to try out today!

Here’s what we did

(I’m sure you can spot the bit where the guys said “are we done now?” and I said “yes, oh no, ooh, can we just do a few sets on […]?”)

Back squats 4 sets (I worked up to 70kgs) then 1 set paused squats (lower weight)
Plate loaded hack squats 3 sets 10-12
Barbell SLDL 4 sets 10-12 ish
Superset: lying hamstring curl (both legs), standing hamstring curl (single legs) <<< I love this bit of kit!
Sissy squats
Barbell hacks (only 1 set – I was taught how to do them properly – all I can say is ouch!)
1 x triple dropset on the leg press (cheered on by Jamie telling me “You’re a reindeer! You’re STRONG! ;D) )
Seal rows 4 sets

My legs are officially ruined!

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(Just in case you think I’ve had a particularly transformative off-season, I should point out this isn’t me on the seal row. It’s multi-titled Champ Robert Rodney).
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Then upstairs for a bit of posing (had forgotten how tiring it is and how much it makes my legs and back ache!)
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Then to Five Guys for a PWO meal. Sorry, Five Guys fans, but I was underwhelmed. It was OK but just OK. The company was great though 😀
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Thanks to Mark Oakes for organising today’s meet (herding cats?) and to Michelle at Ripped Gym for the warm welcome.

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Ever Seen A Snowman Sissy Squat? 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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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.

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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.


How Does It Make You Feel?

October 28, 2015

Full disclosure: this blog post is asking a favour.

For a fledgling idea of a work “thing”, I’m really interested to hear your thoughts and feelings on something.
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How does it really make you feel? Being at a bodybuilding show, when you’re not competing?

Could be that you’re off-season for a year. Or maybe you’ve official retired from the sport, and you’re there to support a mate, catch up with friends, or do official stuff like judging.

Doesn’t matter. Whether you’re new to the sport or you’ve got posing trunks older than the guys in the Junior class, whether you’ve competed once or 100 times, whether you’re on a year out or out of it for good.

I’d love to know what kind of thoughts and emotions it brings up. Good ones, bad ones, predictable ones and unexpected ones. And anything in between.

Obviously this question goes out to people who compete (any federation, any category) or who have competed in the past (doesn’t matter if it was once or 100 times, last year or decades ago).

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How do you feel beforehand? Do you have any negative feelings about being at the show when you’re not “in shape”? Do you feel put off? Do you think it might inspire you to compete again (and is this in itself a welcome thought, or a negative one)?

How about when you’re there, seeing people up on stage?

And what about when you’re face-to-face with people you’ve competed against in the past, and people who have been a judge, or people you know spectated when you were competing?

Do you feel like a fraud, think you have to justify your current look? Or do you feel proud at your past achievements and happy that this is all just part of your bodybuilding journey? Or something altogether different? (I’m not trying to lead you in your responses, just giving some idea of the things I want to explore.)

And finally how do you feel on the way home, and in the days after the show? Inspired? A bit depressed? In a glass case of emotion? 😉

I’m fascinated to know. I’ll tell you why at some point.

Get In Touch

You could comment here, or on the Facebook post. I’m sure it’ll spark some interesting discussion.

But if you’d rather keep your feelings private, please email me nicola@nicolajoyce.co.uk I’d rather you felt able to be completely open.

Rest assured anything you tell me will be kept completely confidential. This isn’t for a work commission. It’s research for my own personal work project, and I won’t ever use your words.

Photo credit
Photos in this blog post are from the archives of bodybuilding and sport photographer Fivos Averkiou of Showshoots – thanks Fiv!

Chat with TFW on social media
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How Does It Make You Feel? 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.


My off-season training and eats

October 13, 2015

Now I’m back in the groove of blogging, let’s talk bodybuilding.

Even though – as explained in my “comeback post” 😉 – I don’t have any definite plans for competing again, I’m still training and (mostly) living like a bodybuilder. Just not one that’s prepping for a show.

I’m in the gym 4-5 times per week, and still doing a BB-type training split. I experimented with a DUP-style training approach for a while (bench, squat and deadlift) but felt restricted and missed the variety and volume. I also limited myself to just one leg session per week for a while, but started pining for a separate hams/glutes session.

So, basically, I’m back to the same split as when I’m competing. The only difference now is that I’m a bit more flexible and intuitive. I always know which “bits” I’m training, and usually know what my main lifts will be, but I play it by ear after that. And if I end up training with someone, I’ll change things about to make the most of having a partner.

Here’s a sample week:

Mon: legs (squats/quads)
Tues: back
Weds: chest & triceps
Thurs:
Fri: shoulders & a bit more back
Sat: legs (hams/glutes)
Sun

I’m terrible about training arms. I find it really boring. I know, what a bad bodybuilder. I don’t mind training triceps to be fair, but bicep training bores me to death. I’ll usually tag along with Some Bloke in the gym (because almost every Bloke In The Gym seems to love training biceps). I also don’t really train calves although I know I should. I rarely train abs in the gym – I go boxing twice a week and we do a lot there, and I think my abs get a decent workout from deadlifts too.

In terms of cardio, I do a fair bit just because I really enjoy it. Don’t forget, I work at home and sit on my arse all day long. And I come from an endurance-sport background. So I actually like working up a sweat and doing huffing-and-puffing stuff.

I walk (fast) with the dog twice a day. I don’t count this as cardio, but I know some would (walking the dog before breakfast = “fasted LISS cardio” in bodybuilder-speak 😉 )

I then go boxing twice a week (Tues and Thurs) which is most definitely cardio, trust me! I try to get out on my road bike 2-3 times per week for 1-2 hours (although this is currently down to once a week given the short daylight hours). I run hill sprints, or flat sprints on the footie pitch out the back of my house… “sometimes”. At one point I was doing it twice a week. I really should get back to it. If my sister, or my friend Lou is reading this… let’s get a regular sprint session in the diary?

I do NOT go on my bloody cross-trainer! I put it in the shed when I moved house and have not re-assembled it.

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Current favourite sessions in order of bestest-most-favourite:

1) hamstrings (currently loving SLDL with dumbbells)
2) squats (currently loving/hating front squats)
3) back
4) shoulders

And least fave:
– chest (because my weights are trash and it frustrates me)
– biceps (because boring)

And the food side of my off-season/not competing bodybuilding life?

I try to eat “well” but I also refuse to impose any kind of restriction or rules on myself. Partly because I am living life, and not dieting for a show, and there’s much more to life (IMO) than eating to a set of rules.
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(I had birthday cake on my birthday this year for the first time since 2010.) But also partly because I know I’m still recovering (mentally) from several years of pretty restrictive dieting. I know not everyone is affected by the rigours of dieting but I was! And it’s taken me a while to get to a good place re: food and food behaviours, and it’s still a work in progress. I don’t want to upset the good balance I’ve manage to achieve. And I know that if I am going to grow and make physique improvements as a bodybuilder, I need to eat and not diet!

So I have moved away from the “bodybuilder” style of 6 meals a day, and I try to eat 3-4 times a day (basically breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack usually mid-afternoon). In other words, like a normal person.
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What’s probably not so “normal” is my meal choices. I still eat bodybuilder-type meals, some of which people may find a bit weird. Breakfast is often fish and veg, or meat. I don’t do cereal, toast or breakfasty stuff. I just don’t want to, I got out of the habit when I first started bodybuilding, and I like my way better 🙂

My lunches and dinners are some combo of meat, fish (I genuinely like fish – so would you if you lived on the coast and had access to the fresh fish I can buy straight off the boats), veg and spuds. It doesn’t have to be spuds, but I like them.
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I try to eat carbs with every meal, because I’m just trying to get my body used to a nice steady balance and consistent intake. No high/medium/low carb days and certainly no low-carb eating. Just a reasonable balance.

Bodybuildery foods I do not eat:
– oats. I don’t like them and they don’t like me *burp*
– asparagus. I like it but it’s so expensive and I don’t need to eat it.
– protein powder. I rarely need to. I just come home after training and eat my next meal.
– egg whites. At least, not just egg whites. I might use them to bulk up my eggs, but I no longer eat just the whites.
– nut butter. I don’t get the hype, and can’t remember the last time I had it.
– rice. I like it, but it’s a faff to cook and I just never really think about it.

Bodybuildery foods I do eat:
– eggs, broccoli, white fish, chicken, potatoes (although these days I usually go for the humble white spud rather than sweet pots), spinach and other leafy greens, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, coffee!

Things I have enjoyed reintroducing to my kitchen:
– fruit (I am still loving the joy of the simple Braeburn apple), bread, milky coffee, pork, lentils (yes, really), ice-cream, spaghetti, cheese (halloumi is a current fave).

Well, I feel like that was a pretty boring post. I’ve also realised that I’ve got out of the habit of taking photos “for the blog”, sorry about the wall of text (and recycled Instagram photos!)

Please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about! Next up I’d like to tell you about my boxing sessions, or the bike events/sportives I’ve been doing, or perhaps (!) something about copywriting and work.

Whaddya reckon?

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My off-season training and eats is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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


How to get motivated

December 2, 2012

I’ve been in a bit of a funk. The usual post-comp blues, the familiar awkwardness of transitioning into “off-season” and – “New for 2012!” – divorce, house move, relocation of my business. Yup, lots of changes all at once have made for an unsettling time.

For a few weeks now I’ve been aware of an little niggle. Not an injury, but a feeling. A little bit lost, a little bit awkward, a little bit lacking in direction. It’s not a feeling I enjoy and, whilst I recognise without doubt that I need a bit of the relaxation and flexibility which comes with off-season, sometimes “too much” of a good thing can be as uncomfortable as “too little”.

I know I’m not alone 😉

So, how do us Type-A personalities find that elusive balance between too much structure and pressure, and too little? How do we get motivated again after a little downtime (and a lot of upheaval)? Well I can’t tell you what to do but here’s what’s worked for me 🙂 Hope it helps.

Planning ahead
Like most of you, I find that food prep, meal planning, structured grocery shopping and lots of batch cooking helps with the diet side of things. Food prep and portioning out meals is one of those things which seems like a complete ball ache… til you do it, then you remember how much you enjoy it! Set aside an hour or so twice a week to cook up loads of lovely healthy meals and then you can have great quick-grab meals (and snacks) for the week.

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My current favourite lazy approach is to “chop stuff up and put it in a baking tray”. You can’t really go wrong. It can be as simple as opening a few bags of pre-chopped veggies (fresh or frozen) and cutting up meat or fish to mix in. Or if you’ve got a bit more time, mix up your favourites. Yesterday I make a huge tray of chopped brussels sprouts (!), Bramley apples and butternut squash. Yum!

Setting goals
Dunno about you, but I need goals. For a few weeks, I didn’t have one. I didn’t know if I’d compete again, nor when. Then one day I woke up and got excited about it. I’ve already set my goals for next year and, whilst they may well change, just having goals written down makes me feel instantly motivated, excited and driven.

Accountability
A huge one for me. Being accountable to someone makes me much more likely to develop and stick to good habits (which ultimately is what it’s all about). My sister and I have set up a private little accountability challenge: we each picked three things we promised to do (or not do) every day for a month, then a reward. Then we each picked a forfeit for the other person, just in case… (Mine is to go to a Zumba class!) Find someone to be accountable to. It helps if you know they’re as serious about it as you are, and will apply the gentle but consistent pressure you need.

Support
I can’t do this by myself. Sticking to a healthy diet and consistently training hard, let alone competing, is tough. All those choices, all those decisions, all those bad habits to break and good habits to maintain. It’s hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise (not even yourself!) Surround yourself by one or more people who truly support you and who know how to talk you down/pick you up when the going gets tough. Only you know if you need cuddles or kicks up the bum.

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Just get on with it!
This one underpins all the others. You really do just have to start. Now. Not in January, not on Monday, not when you’ve finished your cup of tea. Now. Start in your mind, and the rest will follow. Success breeds success, good habits follow good choices, and the whole thing tends to spiral outwards from that first move. So just take it. Get up and go to the gym, or go and prep some healthy food, or get outside for a run. Whatever you need to do: do it, then do it again…

How to get motivated 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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