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
Fri: shoulders & a bit more back
Sat: legs (hams/glutes)

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.

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.
(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.
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.
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?

Here’s where you’ll find me:

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.

29 reasons to lift weights (audience participation post)

February 29, 2012

Happy Feb 29th! In honour of this extra added bonus day of the year, I thought I’d come up with 29 reasons to lift weights.

It’s a bit of audience participation: you get to fill the leap-year inspired bonus spot with the top reason of your own. 🙂

Lifting weights…

1. Builds lean mass, which is healthy, metabolically active, and looks good.
2. Will make you look better than if you don’t lift weights.
3. Helps build a stable, injury-free structure (so you’ll be able to get up out of a chair in old age without going “oof”)
4. Makes you feel awesome (at the time, afterwards, or both!)
5. Turns you into a bona-fide badass.
6. Can transform your physique, whether you feel you’re overweight, carrying too much fat, too skinny or not shapely enough for your liking.
7. Teaches you new things (not something we encounter often as adults)
8. Helps you reach sport and fitness goals, whether that’s to compete in bodybuilding or get better at endurance or team sports.
9. Helps you learn about how your own body works and what its limits are (or aren’t!)
10. Might surprise you: you’re capable of a lot, you know!
11. Is sociable: there are a lot of local folk down at the gym and they’re there most days. They’re nice!
12. Enables you set goals… then smash them to bits.
13. Cranks up your metabolism so you can enjoy more of the food you like.
14. Gives you an excuse to buy new gym kit, clothing and gadgets.
15. Improves your posture.
16. Gives you a pert round booteh, smaller waist, perkier “pecs”.
17. Boosts testosterone, giving you more energy and focus.
18. Helps you sleep better.
19. Gives you an incredible sense of achievement.
20. Builds and enforces mental toughness which you can carry over into other areas of your life.
21. Proves to you just how strong you are – not just in the gym.
22. Helps with body composition (in other words, gives you a helping hand in the battle against excess body fat)
23. Improves self-esteem (you just lifted *how much*? Look at you!)
24. Shakes up your training routine.
25. Has been proven to help offset diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
26. Makes your clothes fit better (as well as making you look better without them on).
27. Gives you a great conversation starter (“This is Sarah, she likes making her own jam, and this is Amanda, she likes deadlifting her own bodyweight…”)
28. Gives you a quick-blast option for raising the heart rate, burning calories and blasting body fat, even when time is tight.

And 29….what’s your reason for lifting weights? Let me know in the comments!

29 reasons to lift weights (audience participation post) 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.

Blogs to check out: strong ladies

June 14, 2011

Howdy ho.

I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m not sure many UK blogs have circulated this info so I might reach a few who haven’t yet checked out these links.

Bret Contreras, Alli McKee and others recently blogged about female lifters/bodybuilders/generally strong and really rather fabulous women who inspire them. I had most of them on my Google reader already but some were new. Thank you, Bret and Alli, for the heads up.

If you’re into weightlifting and strength and conditioning, looking for some inspiration, or interested in learning more, do check out these links, as well as Bret’s post (lots of videos) and Alli’s post (generally a great blog!)

Elsbeth Vaino
Molly Galbraith
Marianne Kane
Rachel Guy
Nia Shanks
Jen Grasso
Neghar Fonooni
Jen Comas Keck
Cassandra Forsythe
Kellie Davis

To these I would add Kelly Rennie’s blog – and recipes page. Kelly is a huge inspiration to me and, after a chance encounter recently, is someone I’m happy to call a friend. I also just interviewed her for a forthcoming feature in Muscle & Fitness magazine – keep your eyes peeled for the article in print.

On the topic of recipes, I have a post planned inspired by a generous donation of new protein powders sent to me by the good folk at All savoury stuff. I love me some sweet flavoured whey and casein but sometimes you just want something savoury.

Gosh, I can tell I’m tired. Even I wouldn’t want to read that last paragraph. 😉 Sorry, everyone! Here’s a picture of my dog to liven things up. He’s showing you all how to stretch out after a few consecutive mornings of cardio. (Joob, I promise you I took this photo long before you posted yours – how similar, though! 😉 )

Oh, and I think I may have come up with my post-bodybuilding competition challenge this morning. However it was at about 6am and I hadn’t yet had any caffeine so, you know, I might change my mind.

Do you have any blogs to add to the list? I’d love to know – leave a comment!

Happy reading!

Blogs to check out: strong ladies 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.

Why lift weights?

April 13, 2011

Regular readers will know I’m currently doing a great deal of heavy lifting of weights as I prepare for a figure (bodybuilding) comp. I’m often asked about the benefits of weights (over cardio), particularly by women.

I think this picture (stolen from a friend of a friend’s Facebook page – thank you!) explains it more clearly than words can.

Nifty, hey?

Do you lift weights? Do you care about the number on the scale?

Why lift weights? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Setting specific strength goals for the next four weeks

March 9, 2011

My coach is great at sending motivating emails. Without fail, she seems to always hit exactly the right note, the perfect balance between excited enthusiasm and the push I need.

This week, she said this (amongst a lot of other things!):

“Sooooo, about 112 days to go!

That’s roughly 8-10 sessions of each muscle group left in your ‘building’ phase. Every workout counts!

Really go after those painful reps, the last few that are almost tear-jerking. Think of the (other competitors) that want to kick your ass – especially when you’re doing things like heavy deep squats and just want to stop (or cry). Knowing you didn’t hold back and leave any reps undone can be the difference between 1st place, or not placing – literally!”

See what’s she’s done there? Numbers, specifics, dates…it’s all there now in black and white. 112 days. 8-10 heavy sessions per body part.

So, with that in mind, I’ve set myself some short term goals. I’ll soon start cutting my calories in order to get rid of bodyfat, so it’s not realistic to set big strength goals for further down the line. Therefore I’m setting them for the next four weeks, whilst I’m eating loads and bursting with energy!

Here they are:

I’ll revisit this list over the next month and let you know how I’m getting on.

Deadlift – 80kg for 8 reps
Squats – 85kgs for 10 reps
Pull-ups – 10 wide grip from dead hang (not sure I’ll get this one but will try!)
One-arm row – 25kg dumbbell for 8 reps
Dumbbell chest press – 25kg dumbbells (if someone can help me get them in the air!) for 8 reps
Single leg press – 115kgs for 12 reps both sides
Clean and press – 35kg for 8 reps

I’ll use this coming week’s sessions to test where I’m at and then I’ll take it from there. Most of these goals represent around a 10% increase.

Setting specific strength goals for the next four weeks is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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