Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic

June 2, 2014

I’m shattered!

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


That’s not why I’m shattered though.

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


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

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

Before I left:
I received the following ominous whatsapp

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

A few recent training sessions

May 5, 2014

I don’t often post specifics of my training split or actual sessions so thought that’s what I’d do today.

I’m doing my own “prep”, including training, at the moment.

I follow the same split every week (training the same body part/s on the same days) but sessions will change. I realise some people might think this isn’t the optimal approach but I love trying new things and love to pack a lot into my time in the gym. I’ll usually base sessions around one or two key compound exercises, and then do accessory work. I like to start with lower reps (heavier weights) and then move on to things like supersets and dropsets. I’m a bit of a volume junkie.

Here’s my current weights split:
Mon: off
Tues: back, bit of chest, calves
Weds: legs (quads focus)
Thurs: shoulders
Friday: biceps, triceps, calves
Saturday: chest, bit of shoulders
Sunday: legs (hams focus)

Abs get added in at the end of a few sessions a week, as I have time.

Here are a couple of recent sessions (weights are in brackets)

Legs (hams focus)
1) Lying ham curl (drop sets)
1×12/12 (60, 50)
1×12/12/12 (70, 60, 50)
1×12/12/12/12 (70, 60, 50, 40)
2) Lat pulldown 3×20 (35)
3) Barbell regular deadlifts 4 sets 8-10 reps (90, 110, 110, 110)
4) Barbell stiff leg deads (60) superset with dumbbell stiff leg deads DBs (2x30kgs) – 4 sets, 12 reps/12-15 reps
5) Lying leg curls 3×15 (60)
6)Plate loaded leg press 4 sets 12-15 reps (150, 200, 250, 280kgs), then a 60-rep dropset
7) 7 sets 10 reps adductor machine (50kgs)

back and chest

1) T-Bar Row – 5 sets 8-12 reps (40, 50, 55, 55, 55)
2) Incline DB bench press – 5 sets 8-12 reps (2 x 17.5kgs)
3) Close grip underhand lat pull down – 4 sets 8-12 (pin 5 – whatever this is!)
4) Flat bench dumbbell flys straight into flat bench DB press – 3 sets 10-12 reps (2 x 15kgs)
5) 3 sets inverted rows superset single arm dumbbell row (25kg)
6) DB pull overs (I use a plate)
7) Giant set:
Bent over dumbbell row 12 reps (20kgs)
Press ups – to failure
Cable lat pull down (overhand/wide grip) 12 reps
Seated pec dec – 15-20 reps

A few recent training sessions 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.

10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single

April 24, 2014

Just a bit of fun in today’s blog post, and one for all my single fitties!

It occurred to me last night, as I stirred my blended broccoli and tuna “soup” (don’t knock it til you try it – delicious – I can’t get enough!) that bodybuilding contest prep/dieting/whatever you want to call it is perhaps simpler (if not necessarily easier) as a singleton.

So, big up my fellow singletons (and do let me know what you’d add to this list).

10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single

1) You can make meals which look like babyfood (or the result of babyfood) without anyone asking what it is, why you’re eating it, or commenting that it looks disgusting. You can see that it looks disgusting. You just couldn’t care less.

2) You can stink your house out doing something like…oh, I dunno…. roasting 2kgs of brussels sprouts at a time (I hear some people do that kind of thing) and nobody cares. The dog seems to positively enjoy the oleracea odour.

3) You can get up and do cardio at 6:30am on a slightly squeaky piece of home cardio equipment, whilst watching a chick flick on Netflix. It’s fine, you’re not disturbing anyone.

4) You can wear gym kit all the lifelong day! Even “lightly worn” stuff…. 😉

5) Tired? Done a high volume squat session today? Fancy going to bed at 8:30pm? Then off you go. Snores will not disturb your slumber.

6) Want to look muscly? A bit weird? Veiny? Then you go for it. (Sure, you might be alone forever but hey… remember the 2kgs of brussels sprouts!)

7) Your cupboards will not be full of biscuits or breakfast cereal (or anything that’s not in your contest diet plan) unless you put them there.

8) We’re all a little (or a lot) selfish when prepping for a bodybuilding show. Most of us are self-aware enough to know it, but when you’re single, it’s far less of a problem (and carries far less potential for guilty feelings!)

9) Your cheat/treat meals can be completely designed and dictated by you to suit your wildest dreams (and your macros.

10) Too tired to wash your hair? Again? Well… it is a bit grim but never mind. It can go another day I’m sure.

Bonus 11) And this last one is a bonus extra from a male bodybuilder friend of mine (one for my male readers, if I have any…) Single and not getting any? Perfect! Dieting male bodybuilders tend to suffer from a drop in testosterone levels, and a coinciding lack of interest in sex. No partner, no pressure. Although… surely it’s all extra cardio, right?

Hope you took this in the spirit in which it was meant 🙂 Do you have any to add to my list? Or perhaps you’d like to suggest items for a counter-argument: why is it better to *not* be single whilst prepping?

10 reasons why bodybuilding prep is better when you’re single 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.

Dealing with DOMS

April 18, 2014

Reader question time! Let’s talk DOMS.

I was asked recently:

“How you deal with leg DOMS? THE “worst of all” DOMS… how do you get back up off the loo when your glutes are screaming in pain? What do you eat post work out on leg day, have you got any tips for recovery, etc? I know some people say a black coffee before and after training reduces DOMS, others say taking a regular dose of magnesium for 1-2 days after helps, others say pineapple or tart cherry juice with PWO shake. It goes on and on…”

First up, what is DOMS? DOMS stands for “delayed onset muscle soreness”, so it’s a fancy way of talking about that muscle soreness you get a day or two after a training session, race or event.

DOMS can feel like soreness, stiffness, tenderness or even weakness in the affected muscle. It’s caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibres (caused by the training you did) and the subsequent repair to the tissue as the muscle hypertrophies.

You know when you think you’ve got away with it? And then, perhaps 48 hours later, bam: crippling soreness, making it difficult to do such handy every day tasks as walk down the stairs, crouch down to get something out of the freezer or (as the reader mentions) get back up off the toilet.

That’s DOMS. It’s not the sole domain of bodybuilders and strength athletes (although you could be forgiven for thinking it was 😉 ) I’ve had DOMS from swimming, cycling, running, martial arts training and… er… Pilates.

Dealing with DOMS

Here’s what I do to minimise DOMS (apart from just ignore it and hope it will go away – which it always does eventually! Although I have had DOMS last a full week in the past…!)

Eat up: if you want your body to repair itself, you need to give it a helping hand by actually feeding it. Yes, even if you’re dieting down for a show or shoot. So prioritise your post-workout meal and make sure it’s sufficient in macronutrients (carbs, protein) and micronutrients (eat real food to maximise your chances of getting anti oxidants, vitamins, minerals in). As an example, after a “big” training session (legs, back, anything involving deadlifts…) I’ll have a protein shake and a bit of fruit (pineapple is good – anti inflammatory) on the way home from training, and then a wholefood meal about 90 minutes later (usually potato, sweet potato or rice, some green veg, and white fish).

Hydrate: again, you can’t really expect your body to deal with damage, lactic acid, toxins etc if you don’t keep it hydrated. Ideally you will be well hydrated all the time, but definitely up your water intake if you think you’ve got DOMS coming your way. It will help! I aim for 3-4 litres a day as standard (easier than you’d think) and will add a litre or so to this on “bigger” training days and the day after.

Magnesium: magnesium supplementation/therapy doesn’t help everyone but it definitely helps me. If I think I’m due a dose of DOMS, I will also have a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate heptahydrate) if I can be bothered (I find baths terribly boring).

Ice: DOMS is due to inflammation. So, ice it! It might feel counterintuitive when you’re already sore but I promise it will help. I have been known to sit atop a 1kg bag of ice at work after a gym session. Feels lovely on sore glutes and hamstrings, let me tell you!

I hope that helps, maybe gives you some new ideas to try.

Have you ever had awful DOMS? Are there body parts you never get DOMS in, no matter how hard you train? How do you deal with DOMS?

Dealing with DOMS is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

Training update: the countdown has started to 2014 bodybuilding competitions

April 15, 2014

A few people have asked for an update about training, competition prep, and generally “where are you in your off-season/prep?”

I find it tricky to blog about “prep” when I’m so far out from competition, but I know I love reading about other people’s training, nutrition, mindset etc, so hopefully whatever I end up blogging about here today will be of interest to someone (oh, hi Mum! 😉 )

ukdfba nicola joyce

Am I competing this year?
You bet! I have goals firmly in place but don’t want to share all of them here just yet. One thing I am happy to share (because it’s obvious) is that I will be competing at the UKDFBA bodybuilding competition in Leamington Spa in September.

If we use that “A” goal as our marker, I am 24 weeks out. Actually, no I’m not: I’m 23 weeks and 5 days out. Because, let’s not fool ourselves, there is a difference!

As of this weekend just gone I am into “under 24 weeks of prep” territory. To some, that might sound like ages. To others (me included) it seems like long enough (if things are going well) but, at the same time, really not very long at all. 24 weeks to diet down to best-ever stage leanness. 24 weeks to continue working on size and shape, symmetry and balance. 24 weeks to make some noticeable changes to certain body parts. Oh and 24 weeks to design and perfect a free posing routine, improve compulsories posing and fine tune stage presence.

If we say “a little over 5 months” rather than 24 weeks, it all seems a little more pressing… 😉

As anyone who’s prepped for a show will know (in fact as anyone who’s prepared for any time-specific and very detailed goal will know!), 24 weeks goes by in a flash. I know full well that I’ll be “20 weeks out” before I know it, and from there time will only seem to speed up.

I’m not working with a prep coach this year. I felt it was time for me to take charge of my own training, diet and prep approach and I feel confident that I can do it, if not better than anyone else, certainly as well as anyone else could. I may be wrong; we’ll see. One thing I know is that thanks to the help, guidance and education I’ve received from previous prep coaches and various bodybuilding friends and mentors over the past few years, I feel I have a fair bit of knowledge. And thanks to lots of reading, journalling, data gathering, monitoring and navel-gazing on my own part, I feel I know my body pretty well.

Before this post gets too long, I’ll briefly answer a few questions people have asked me recently:

What stage of prep are you at? (See above – 24 weeks out although I may do a show or two before UKDFBA… maybe…)

What does this mean diet and training wise? Am dialling in my diet slowly but surely, tracking my intake, planning my meals and sticking to a plan. Training is 5 days a week (lifting) and some cardio (as well as my twice daily power/dog walks). I’m not feeling any changes in strength or energy (yet) so am lifting very heavy and using quite a bit of volume, just because I feel it’s what gives me the results I want.

How is it different to this time last year and the year before? What have you going to keep the same? What are you going to change? The main difference I guess is that I am working by myself, no coach. I would say that I have taken aspects from my 2011 prep and my 2013 prep (we don’t talk about 2012 😉 ) and come up with an approach which I think will suit my body (because it’s a different body, certainly to 2011!), my lifestyle and also how I like to train. My diet is very similar to last year (so far) because it worked and I enjoyed it (thank you, coach Vicky Bradley!) although I will tweak it as I go along, as and when things need to move along a bit.

I’ll be back soon with another update, I’ve realised that there is a fair bit to say I guess, if people want to read it! I’ve had some great training sessions recently with visiting female bodybuilding pals – I’m so sore from this weekend just gone that I had to physically roll sideways out of bed this morning – so perhaps I’ll detail those for you. Or a day’s eats? I had homemade burgers for breakfast today! 😉

Do you think 24 weeks sounds ages, or like no time at all?

Hope your prep, training, gym visits, and sport-specific activities are going well. Whatever it is that you do, I hope you enjoy it. Cos, ultimately, that’s what matters!

Training update: the countdown has started to 2014 bodybuilding competitions 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.

Learn from the Champs: natural bodybuilding Q&A with best of British beef

March 25, 2014

There must be something in the water. Because Britain seems to produce a huge amount of very, very good natural bodybuilders. And, because the sport is so small and friendly, these people walk amongst us 😉 Such is the family feel of our sport, I’m able to call various World Champions, British Champions and multi-titled bodybuilders “friends”.

Last weekend, there was a natural bodybuilding training meet at Future Fitness gym in Coventry. I couldn’t go (prior engagement) but the event was filmed in two parts for NMTV.

I watched the Q&A section this morning. It’s beyond motivating. If you’re into natural bodybuilding, want to find out more about what goes into the mindset, training, diet and off-season approach of champions, or just need some fire in your belly for your next gym visit, give this a watch (the link is below).

The video features
Richard Gozdecki NPA British 2010 winner, UKDFBA 2011 winner (and WNBF Pro Card), Pro Debut 2011 at WNBF Pro Worlds – HW winner & Overall, WNBF Worlds 2012 HW winner
Gavin Gibson NAC Novice British 2008 winner, NPA SE HW 2010 winner, UKDFBA LHW 2011 winner, INBF amateur World Champion 2012 & Pro Card winner – now competes as a WNBF Pro
Matt Argall NPA Midlands 2012 overall winner, 2012 & 2013 NPA British winner, UIBBN 2012 World LW Champion
Steve Howarth perhaps the most decorated Masters Champion in British natural bodybuilding: 5 x amateur British titles, 2 x amateur World titles, and won DFAC Pro card in 2013
Mark Oakes 4 x British titles (NPA and ANB), 3 x overall British titles, 2 x UK titles (1 of them an overall), 1 World UIBBN Title, and now a WNBF Pro with one WNBF World title (2013)
Nigel St Lewis BNBF Novice British winner and NPA Novice British winner (both in 2011), NPA British HW winner 2013, UIBBN World HW Champion 2013
(I hope I got all of that right!)

and they answer questions relating to mindset, training protocols, contest prep, dieting, the logistics of work/life/training, how their approach has changed over the years, and what’s next.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you to all the guys for taking the time to be part of it, and to Mark for facilitating (and to Toby for filming and editing).

You can catch the rest in the NMTV series here.

Learn from the Champs: natural bodybuilding Q&A with best of British beef is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

Training update: shoulder session & biosig at Shaping Change

March 21, 2014

Kitchen 2
A few weeks ago, I won a session with Chris Heron of Shaping Change in London (thank you, Twitter!) Part of the prize was a biosignature assessment. I wasn’t sure how meaningful a biosig (body fat/skin fold) test would be at this stage of the season (ie, not started prepping for competitions yet) but I thought if nothing else it would give me some interesting data points: where I’ve gained fat this off-season, and how much lean tissue the test reckons I have. I don’t need anyone to tell me I am “not-lean” (I have mirrors!) but what I would like to know is my lean mass – and how much of it I can hang on to when I do start dieting down.

When Chris did the test, I was about 30 weeks away from competing. The furthest out I’ve had a biosig in previous years is 8 weeks.

The results I found most interesting:

lean mass estimated to be 54.2kgs (safe to say I probably won’t be a Lightweight competitor on stage…)
The umbilical (belly!) skinfold was my “least-lean” area (I could have told you that!) but, looking on the bright side, at least I will be able to watch those numbers tumble during prep!
However, my quadricep skinfold was the same now (months away from competing, and not yet dieting at all) as it was with 8 weeks to go from my first comp last year. How strange!

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 15.09.04Here’s what Chris said:

“At this level of body fat and so far out from competing, I would give the following general advice:

1. Start eating cleaner, cut out all the bad stuff.
2. Start the day with a meat & nut breakfast, no veggies.
3. Eat 6 small meals per day.
4. Take a cocktail of NAC 2-Plex, Glycine & Vit C to help with your hamstring measurement.
5. Eliminate sugars.
6. Hydrate… drink 3 litres of water per day.
7. Keep your cardio HIIT style.
8. Try some insulin sensitising protocols. I like a fenugreek cleanse using fenugreek seeds, linseeds & liquid chlorophyl with 500mls of water or waking. Freshly grind the seeds.”

As for the training – ay caramba! Chris asked what would be most useful (since the Twitter prize could have been won by anybody) and I asked him to really put my shoulders through hell. They’re a focus for me this year and I often feel a bit uninspired about training them. Well, after this little beauty of a session I felt… numb 😉 And motivated, inspired and full of ideas for my own training!

Shaping Change shoulder training session

6,12,25 for shoulders plus assistance work

5 sets/circuits of 6, 12, 25 reps as follows:
[numbers after the exercise are reps, and tempo. Minimal rest between exercises (just enough time to get the equipment) but 2 minutes rest between sets/circuits]

A1: Seated overhead military press 4-6, 40X0
A2: Seated dumbbell Arnold press 10-12, 30X0
A3: Seated barbell behind the neck press 20-25, 2020
(bar must touch the traps and up to full lockout)

B1: 10kg plate front raises – only go up and down on my commend – to failure and beyond!

4 sets of 8-10 reps at 2020 tempo as follows:
C1: Seated cable reverse flys
C2: Bent-over multi-grip single arm reverse flys
C3: first set was “teapot” laterals with dumbells (slight tilt at the top) – 15+ reps followed by “partner-assisted” lateral raises
second set was “down the rack” side laterals (10 reps with each pair of DBs – 50 reps total) followed by partner-resisted lateral raises to failure third set was seated dumbbell “L” type laterals, followed by “partner-assisted” lateral raises

Hope you followed all of that?! If you need the short version: OUCH!

Thanks so much Chris for your time, advice and ideas. Training at Shaping Change was a great boost and has given me lots to think about.

You can find Shaping Change online, follow them on Facebook or like them on Twitter (maybe you’ll win your own prize!)

Next up: a report from my first (last? only?) Strongwoman comp!

Training update: shoulder session & biosig at Shaping Change 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.

Getting started (or starting over)

February 11, 2014

I’ve been away from the gym for a week or so (I injured my back… no, not lifting weights, but congrats to the few people who gave it some variation of “it’s because you do too much exercise”… 😉 )

Being injured is pretty humbling.
Overnight, those things I do with barely a second-thought (putting a loaded bar on my back, walking out, and squatting; sitting under a vertical leg press loaded with plates and unclipping the safeties…) seemed terrifying. Impossible, even.

It gave me an insight into how it might feel to be a complete newbie to strength training. And made me realise why people respond the way they do when us muscle-heads talk so easily about lifting big weights.

It’s not the norm, it’s not easy, and it’s not second-nature. It just becomes that way over time.

Being away from training – particularly due to injury – opens your eyes to this. And returning to training puts you back, if not back to square one, then certainly back to a place where you need to think, rather than just “do” out of habit.

So, as I prepare to finally get back into training (hooray!) I thought it might be useful to write about how to get started, or how to start over. After all, social media is great about giving us people’s “fitness journeys”, “before and after” transformation photos, and the A-Z. Rarely do we hear about the B, C and D. The less glamorous, more workaday aspects of forming new habits. The important bits which build momentum… and enable people to get all the way to “Z”.

Start simple
There are dozens of approaches you could take to training and nutrition when you start out. It’s highly unlikely you’ll choose the absolute optimum one first time. It takes a while to get to know your body (and mind). So just get started. Make it very simple. Don’t ask too many people for advice (they’ll all give you a different opinion!) Read, research and listen, but don’t give yourself a case of paralysis by analysis. And don’t sweat the small stuff. Get a basic, simple training plan in place (from one trusted source) and make common sense changes to nutrition, lifestyle, sleep and stress management.

Get into a routine
Keep your gym bag packed and by the door. Keep your sports kit where you can see it (lay it out near your bed if you’re an early-morning exerciser). Have all your supplements and shaker bottles within easy reach. Get yourself into a routine so that, over time, going to the gym or going to training, eating well, going to bed at a reasonable time (etc) become second nature. When I had my little hiatus from the gym, obviously I got out of the habit of picking my gym bag up, checking my training plan and heading out the door (via Waitrose for my free pre-workout espresso LOL – it’s all part of the “routine” 😉 ) I had to actually think back and walk through my little routine because I thought I’d forgotten it (!) Needless to say, a regular routine comes back quickly if it’s something which was previously well bedded-in!

Make it easier to do than to resist
Become aware of your areas of resistance. Do you find it hard to get up in the morning to train first thing? Or is it really hard to get home from work and then have to go out again to get to the gym? Do you find it hard to eat well in the evenings? Make it difficult to make poor choices. And make it much easier to make the better decision. Keep healthy food in the house which you know you’ll actually like eating, and keep it at eye-level so it’s easier to grab than the stuff you’re trying to cut back on. Find a training partner so those early morning sessions become more fun. Go to the gym on the way home from work. The best training routine is… the one you feel you can do (and enjoy). Don’t make it more difficult than it has to be!

Wish me luck with my return to training! 😀

Getting started (or starting over) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

What would you ask Brad Schoenfeld?

January 24, 2014


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

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

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

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

Here’s the agenda:

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

2. Hypertrophy Program Variables: Applying the Mechanisms to Practice

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

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

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

What would you ask Brad Schoenfeld? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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

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