thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4

August 17, 2011

Hi all! Just a very quick one – remember when I was interviewed by the BBC about triathlon, whilst coaching open-water swimming down at Dorney?

The interview finally aired last night as part of BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight show. You can listen again here I believe. (Tuesday 16th August) I think it’s towards the end of the programme – I haven’t had a chance to listen yet myself!

Here’s the relevant section of the show

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4 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.

Coaching, cold water and the BBC

May 14, 2011

(I’ll wait to see if anyone Googles that exact combination of words!)

Phew, what a day. Lying in bed with my laptop on my knees and typing this is about all I can manage right now.

(Shortly after this was taken, clouds rolled in and wind picked up – brrrr!)

As long-time readers of the blog will remember, a few weekends a year I coach open-water swimming (I do this for triathlon coaching company in partnership with event organisers Human Race). Time rolls around quickly, and here we are at the start of the triathlon season again, so it was time for me to zip up my wetsuit, put on my coaching hat (it looks just like a swimming hat but contains top tips and handy hints) and step into that cold water.

And, maaan, was it cold. I mean, it actually was cold, but it felt even colder. Not surprising really since I’m probably sitting at anywhere between 5-10% less body fat now than I was last year. And, as any Channel swimmer knows, subcutaneous fat makes a big (gooood!) difference when it comes to feeling at home in cold water.

I was in a wetsuit, of course. A wetsuit which was so baggy the other coaches were laughing at me. Yes folks, heavy weight training will not make a woman bulky. The baggy wetsuit didn’t do much to protect me from the cold water. Brrr!

Despite the cold, it was a great day. I truly love coaching and feel it’s a real honour to take people through what is often their very first time in open-water. And I got to see my coaching buddies again, and chat with Bill Black, perhaps one of my favourite people in triathlon. (He always seems to find new ways to introduce us to our coachees: this year I was “that little fish…”)

Last year, I finished off my days coaching at Dorney with a 20+mile bike ride home, having also ridden there. Not this year (no such long cardio for me, certainly not with 7 weeks to go til my comp). Today had a rather unusual ending: being interviewed by the BBC! This is not something which happens to me frequently. Or, ever. But on Thursday I had a call from a nice young woman called Charlotte, a BBC news reporter who works for Radio 4. It seems the BBC are putting together a feature or series of features about the explosion in popularity of triathlon in this country. They found me online via this very blog, decided I’d be able to be vaguely useful to the feature and came along to interview me. Happily, I was decked out in triathlon kit, soaking wet from lake water and set against a backdrop of a supersprint race.

I don’t know where the clip will be used (Charlotte said it could be on Radio4, on TV and/or online) but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. I just hope I was useful to them – I was seriously so cold that I was having trouble speaking (you know when you want to say a word but your mouth won’t form the correct shape?!)

A few people have challenged me with the idea that bodybuilding is a vain sport, and others have suggested I’m vain for working towards a bodybuilding show. I can’t answer for the sport in its entirety, but I’m hoping my willingness to be filmed whilst wearing a wetsuit and woolly hat and without a scrap of makeup on my face (which is tinged blue and chapped from the wind) answers the second challenge. (And remember when I wrote that piece for the Observer book? My portrait photo for that one… yep, me in a swimming costume (!) standing in a lake. In April). Or perhaps bodybuilding allows me to indulge the small scrap of vanity I have left after Channel swimming and open-water triathlons have taken their toll?

Right, I must go. Richard of Richards TransRockies is here because he and my husband are doing some mega-long off road sportive tomorrow. And there’s Eurovision to watch. I hope you had a good Saturday. πŸ™‚

Do you think bodybuilding is a vain pursuit? Do you think it’s possible to engage in a vain sport without being a vain person? Do you find that once you’ve typed “vain” several times you start to doubt that you’ve spelled it correctly?

Coaching, cold water and the BBC is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off

April 21, 2011

In my capacity as an age-grouper triathlete and triathlon feature-writer, I’m often asked the best, easiest and quickest way to get a triathlon wetsuit on and off. When someone asked me the question on Twitter today, I thought – why not write a quick “how-to” blog post. The open-water training venues are opening up very soon and the first triathlons of the season won’t be far behind. And I daresay this glorious sunshine will tempt a few of you into the open-water. But it’s a bit chilly to go without a wetsuit just yet (don’t be fooled by the air temperature!) And why swim without a wetsuit when the event you’re training for dictates you wear one?

So, here they are: my top tips for getting that skin-tight triathlon wetsuit on – and then off again!

Getting your wetsuit on

Remember a couple of things: firstly, no prizes for being the fastest person to put their suit on. Secondly: yes, it really should feel that tight (it will loosen off a little once you’re in the water, which is all that matters).

The clock doesn’t start ticking til the starter sets you off on the swim. So you can take as long as you like. Leave yourself plenty of time and find a cool spot (it’s amazing how hot and sweaty you get struggling into a wetsuit). Take your secret weapon (thank you to my triathlon pro and super-speedy swimmer pal Richard Stannard for this tip):

Yes, the common carrier bag. Put the carrier bag on one foot, like a sock. Slide that foot into the suit (the leghole, obvs). Take the bag/sock off, repeat on the other side. You should now have the suit on both legs, up to about the knees.

Pull it up. The zip should be at the back. You now need to make sure the groinal area of the suit (I know groinal’s not a word, but how I wish it were) is right up into your groin. Do this by inching the suit up, from below the knees if necessary, in tiny steps. Don’t yank and pull at it – therein lies a future of rips and tears to your suit. Use the pads of your fingers to pinch a bit of suit, and pull it up a few inches…and repeat all over the legs until the groin is in the right place.

Now check there are no rucks or folds behind your knees. This+swimming=ouch.

OK now check the time. Is your wave nearly ready to go? If so, proceed to the next step. If not, leave things here for a while. You really don’t want to be walking round for ages completely zipped up into your wetsuit on a hot day.

Put one arm and then the other into the suit (different arm holes). Then repeat the process you went through with the legs, but with the arms, making sure the suit fits right into your armpits. This is really important. So, inch the neoprene up in tiny bits from the wrists until it fits properly. Get someone to help you if necessary, don’t feel shy to ask, after all you need to keep your strength for the triathlon and it can be exhausting getting a wetsuit on!

Once your arms and legs are in and your groin and armpits are aligned with the relevant bits of the wetsuit, it’s time to zip up. Again, don’t do this if you have a long wait for your swim, it’s just not worth getting overheated.

Ask someone to help you zip the suit up (you may need to breathe out and draw your shoulders together right back behind you). They’ll need to press the velcro flap down over the top of the zip. Get them to hand you the end of your zip leash (if that’s what it’s called?) so you’re confident you can find it on swim exit.

Now just a couple of things to do to really check your suit is fitted snugly. Bend forward at the waist and grab any spare neoprene around your stomach. Yes, it really is neoprene and no I will not believe it is your belly. You are a triathlete! You have trained!

Ease any spare neoprene up, over the boobs (if you’re a lady…) and onto your upper chest/shoulder area. This is really the only area where you want any ‘spare’ neoprene. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene in that dent in front of your shoulder/under your collarbone? That’s OK. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene anywhere else? This is not so OK.

Check again for folds and creases in your elbows and behind your knees – get rid of them.

You’re ready to go (assuming you have your hat and goggles on). Enjoy.

Getting the wetsuit off

OK so you’re out of the swim. Time really does count now so it pays to practise getting your wetsuit off as fast as you can. What makes that super-tight wetsuit come off quickly? The layer of water inside. So act quickly before the water drains out. Here’s the drill.

Stand up out of the water, pop your goggles on top of your head, and start to run/walk towards transition. Immediately, reach behind you for your zipper leash and pull.

As you run/walk along, take one arm and then the other out until the suit is flapping around your waist.

Get to your bike and roll the suit down to your knees. Then lift one leg and the other until you can pull one foot free. Use that foot to stand on the other leg of the wetsuit, so you can pull the other foot free.

You’re done!

If you struggle with this technique, experience dizziness after the swim (me too) or feel a bit flustered, there’s no shame at all in just sitting down by your bike and pulling your suit off whilst you sit on the ground.

Hope that helps!

Do you have any tips or personal experiences to add? Please do!

Edited to add: My friend Dick (yes, really) has alerted me to the fact that “groinal” is, in fact, a word. Thanks, Dick!

How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Giving it a tri

February 27, 2011

I hope you’ve had a nice weekend. I had lots of family over today, including my Auntie Rose, who has decided to take up triathlon. Now, it’s terribly rude to talk about a lady’s age but, if I tell you that I’m 33, you can probably work out for yourself that my Auntie is not quite a teenager. So I think it is fantastic that she is training for her first triathlon.

Auntie Rose and my little sister 20+ years ago yesterday πŸ˜‰ – sorry both of you, ha ha!

Auntie Rose is no couch potato – she’s a good swimmer and plays tennis (very well, I’m told) regularly. But triathlon is quite a challenge for anyone.

Before lunch, she picked a few products from my cardboard boxes of items I’ve kit tested for magazines (PRs, if you want them back, please just ask – Auntie Rose has only borrowed them). And, over lunch, she picked my brains about the mysteries of brick sessions, transitions, race belts and lock laces.

I’m thrilled to be able to help her out and can’t wait to cheer her on in her first race. And I’m delighted to have someone else sporty in the family!

I’ve asked her if she’ll do a few guests posts on this blog as her training progresses. If there’s any part of the learning curve you’d like her to write about, please let me know.

Did you take up a particular sport later on in life? Would you ever consider doing a triathlon?

I’ve got an exciting day lined up tomorrow with one big bit of kit to test and a talk to give at an industry event. I also owe you a blog post about fitness kit I’ve tested this week – some interesting stuff! I’ll blog again soon…

Giving it a tri is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview

November 12, 2010

This week I was asked by the website Essential Writers to talk a little about my journalistic niche: sport and fitness. The interview is now up on the Essential Writers site; if you’re interested in how to get into sports journalism or just want to read what I have to say about the job, the perks and the challenges, head over and have a look.

Here’s an extract:

It’s difficult to untangle my career as a sportswriter from my own adventures in sport and fitness. In fact, I don’t think I’d be doing this job had it not been for one, rather special, sporting achievement. This is how it happened:

I made the decision to become a freelancer when I was made redundant and moved out of London. It seemed like as good a time as any to pursue a career in writing (something I’d always wanted to do). Initially, I took on copywriting clients, but knew I really wanted to write features for sport and fitness magazines.

I just needed a way to get my foot in the door. At the time, I was just a few weeks away from swimming the English Channel (the first of two successful swims, as it would turn out). If I couldn’t pitch a first-person piece about swimming the Channel, it was unlikely I had what it takes to be a freelance writer of sport-related features…

Thanks to Essential Writers for inviting me to be part of their specialist genres pages.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

How a swimming journalist works

November 8, 2010

Whilst the majority of my work days are spent at my desk researching, sending pitches, looking for case studies and writing, my work as a triathlon and swimming journalist does take me to some less-typical “office spaces”.

Remember the time I had a coaching session in London’s Serpentine Lido with Keri-Anne Payne’s open-water coach and then wrote up my notes from this deck-chair in Hyde Park?

Or the times I conducted interviews with Liam Tancock and Bill Furniss on the side of a swimming pool whilst in a towel (me, not Liam or Bill)?

Not to mention that one time I interviewed top triathlete Tim Don. He was in an ice-bath, in his pants. He said it was OK!

Last week I had a couple of bits of triathlon kit to test for 220 Triathlon and Triathlete’s World, so took myself to Hampton Lido (I know! It’s heated: what’s happened to me? Well, you try and find a body of open-water in Berkshire in November. Not easy.)

Here she is: 36m of heated loveliness under the crisp November air

After testing some great goggles and a really exciting yet-to-be-released wetsuit (keep your eyes on 220 Triathlon and Triathlete’s World for the reviews!), I went up to the lido’s roof cafe to write my notes.

Bypassing the array of giant muffins and cookies the size of my face, of course (since I’m currently on week 6 of 8…)

And this was my peaceful view.

Do you sometimes get to work somewhere other than your office? And do you have an interesting view from your desk?

How a swimming journalist works is a post from The Fit Writer blog

Where can you find my byline this month?

May 28, 2010

My name’s not The Fit Writer of course. That’s just something I use when I’m promoting the copywriting services I offer to fit pros.

My name’s Nicola Joyce and, as well as being a freelance copywriter, I’m also a freelance journalist. Not the “standing outside court reporting on scandalous cases” type, nor the “being sent to Iraq* to report on global atrocities” type. (*thank goodness) No, I write features for consumer magazines, the type you’ll find in WHSmiths, supermarkets, and service stations. I specialise in writing for sport and fitness magazines, or for titles in other sectors about fitness, health and well-being.

Here’s where you’ll find my byline this month:

I thought this commission was an April Fool at first. For one thing, the commissioning Editor rang me (this rarely happens) and, for another thing, it was completely out of the blue (this really rarely happens). Anyway, they asked me to write a bit of box-out copy to accompany a feature they’d already commissioned, and of course I was completely delighted to do so. I mean, come on, Good Housekeeping? It’s an institution! I think I turned this around in under 48 hours (including getting expert comment).

My family are very excited. Finally, I’ve got a piece in a magazine they actually read! (Nothing against the other titles I write for but, well, let’s just say my Dad’s not a Men’s Health kind of a guy, and my Mum’s not keen on the idea of doing a triathlon any time soon….) Oh – yes – the reason I realised it wasn’t an April Fool was the commissioning Ed rang me on March 31st. A day later and it might have ended quite differently!

Good Housekeeping box-out copy

What a lovely mag Coast is. A while back, I made a list of “magazines I’d love to write for”, and Coast was on it (of the others, one is no more – Observer Sport Monthly *sob* – and I’m still working on the rest πŸ˜‰ ). I first wrote for them a couple of years ago when they kindly asked me to review a swimming holiday for them, island-hopping between the Scillies (the ‘hopping’ being swimming!) What a fab commission that was. Since then I’ve covered a few other hands-on things for them which involve getting cold, wet, exhausted or all three. I love it really and I think they know that. Here’s me spending a few days with the RNLI beach lifeguards, learning just how tough it is to qualify to do the job. (Swimming) hats off to those strapping lads and lasses. I’m actually not sure I would have qualified if it had been a real test!

I’ve written for Sportsister before (and have something in the pipeline for them at the moment) but was really proud when they approached me to ask me to write their “Getting Started” guide for open-water swimming. I’m a bit of an open-water specialist but, still, I’m always chuffed to be recognised as such. Sportsister is a great magazine – available online too – giving really useful information for women across a range of sports.

Getting started guide for open-water swimmers

I write regularly for Triathlete’s World (sister publication of the hugely popular and successful Runner’s World). You’ll find me in their current issue, holding forth on the topic of swimming goggles. Don’t laugh! If you swim, it’s a really important thing to think about! (My favourite goggles, since you ask, are Zoggs Predators. I won’t swim the English Channel without them.)

Here’s the opening page:

Goggles group-test

Always dear to my heart, 220 Triathlon were the first to take a chance on me when I jumped feet-first into the world of freelancing back in 2004. If they’ve ever regretted it, they’re too polite to say so. I’ve written regularly for them ever since, mostly doing one-off and group kit tests. Sure enough, this month I’m there reviewing the most expensive triathlon wetsuit in the world!

Wetsuit review

I write regularly for Women’s Running, which has a loyal following. Here’s my feature about fitness bootcamps and whether or not they can specifically boost your running fitness.

Body Fit is a new launch and, if you haven’t checked it out yet, I urge you to. It’s an all-round sport and fitness magazine for women and takes a good look at nutrition, training and performance. Good stuff. I contributed the article below to the launch.


Not my byline, but I contributed to the feature as an “open-water swimming specialist” (that’s what Men’s Fitness called me!) Here I am with some handy hints on getting that pesky triathlon wetsuit on and off

Top-end wetsuit testing

May 4, 2010

I quite often get asked by magazines to test sports kit sent to them for their review pages.

Testing wetsuits

Today I had to test a wetsuit and goggles – nothing unusual about that, apart from the fact that they were the most expensive wetsuit and goggles I’ve ever touched, let alone tested!

I had Blueseventy’s new carbon fibre goggles, the Carbon Race, and 2XU’s top-end wetsuit, the Project X. Mike Trees of 2XU kindly let me use his Berkshire wetsuit testing facility (I fully intended to go to the lake, but my drive back from Aviemore yesterday was a lot longer than anticipated and I was a zombie this morning).

I can’t reveal the results of the test – that would be somewhat unfair on the magazine which will be publishing the review on their kit pages in a few months’ time – but can reveal that I had a great time as these photos show! The wetsuit testing facility is a lovely little pool and I had a lot of fun bouncing around against the current which felt a bit like swimming in a choppy sea (my favourite).

Project X's catch panels

As an added bonus, I got to meet Mike and Rieko’s teeny tiny little 5-week old baby daughter, who was as good as gold despite my journalistic gate-crashing! So when do we see her in the water, Mike? πŸ˜‰

Sport and fitness journalist’s favourite commissions

May 4, 2010

When you spend your time writing about sport and fitness, every commission’s a good one. But some turn out to be extra-fun. I think these are my favourite commissions…(so far!)

1: Swimming between the Scilly Isles for Coast magazine
In July 2008 I went to the Scilly Isles (by helicopter, no less) to take part in a holiday which involved “island-hopping”… by swimming between the islands. The water was beautiful, but cold. I’d never been to the Scillies before and I was blown away by how stunning the landscape, beaches and wildlife was. On the final day of the trip, I got to swim with seals which was something I’d always wanted to do.

Swimming with seals in Scilly

The article appeared in Coast magazine

2: Swimming around Malta for 220 Triathlon magazine
In April 2008, 220 Triathlon magazine asked me to go on a long-distance swimming training camp in Malta. I was training for my second Channel swim at the time, so I jumped at the chance. Mind you, this was a tough way to get a commission! Over the four day trip, I clocked up more than 12 hours of swimming in the seas around Malta and Comino.

Long-distance training in Malta

The article appeared in 220 Triathlon magazine and you can read it here

3: Training with an Olympic athlete for Triathlete’s World
It’s not every day that you get to train with an Olympic athlete. And it wasn’t until I stepped onto the track at Loughborough University that I realised quite what a silly idea this was (although hopefully it made good reading!) Tim Don is a World Champion Triathlete, who’s represented GB at the Olympics. I’m…er…not! I do triathlon, but at around half the speed that Tim cruises at. Half of this commission took place whilst jogging round the track with Tim during recovery intervals, with the interview being conducted whilst he was sitting in his pants in an ice-bath. I love my job!

Interview with Tim Don

The article appeared in Triathlete’s World magazine.

I need to keep number 4 hush hush for now, as it hasn’t been published yet. Suffice to say it involved spending time with lifeguards… You can read the article in July’s issue of Coast magazine πŸ™‚

Lifeguarding for Coast magazine

As well as copywriting for sport and fitness brands, I write regularly for sport and fitness magazines. You can see some of my journalism portfolio at my journalism website. I’m always available for commission – seals, ice-baths and sea-swimming pose no problem! πŸ˜‰

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