2 x World Champion!

November 24, 2014

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I’m back at my desk after a week away in Boston, where I competed in the WNBF/INBF World Championships as Team UK’s amateur female bodybuilder. I’m delighted to tell you that I won, thereby retaining my World title (blog posts about last year’s INBF Worlds are here and here) – and can now say I am a “2 x World Champion” (even if it feels a bit weird to say so!)

Like most sportspeople, I place significant amounts of pressure on myself. I’m very competitive and expect a lot of myself. With many things in life, the further you go, the more you need to achieve in order to fulfill your own expectations (even if those expectations are of yourself). Sport is certainly no different.

That’s why this World blog post will be a little different to last year’s. I’m just as happy, just as excited, just as proud of myself. I had just as wonderful a time out in Boston with the rest of Team UK, and feel just as privileged to have been given the opportunity once again.

But, this year, my pride and pleasure at winning are joined by seeing where I need to improve, how I want to move forward, and where to go from here.

First of all, a few words about the experience of going abroad to compete as part of the UKDFBA‘s Team UK.
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Once again, being part of the Team was absolutely fantastic. Last year was one of the best times (if not the best time) of my life and this year did not disappoint. The team were all great people (I knew some of them already but there were lots I hadn’t ever met or hadn’t really spoken to), the UKDFBA’s planning and organisation was flawless, our accommodation was really great, and we had some great opportunities to bond as a team (Team training at local Gold’s gym, for example). I come away from Worlds 2014 – as I did from last year’s Worlds – with solid friendships, amazing memories, and having been part of something very special.

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Onto the comp itself

As already mentioned, I won my class and thereby retained my World title from last year. Last year there were only four competitors (split into three LWs, one HW – me – and then an overall which I won). This year there was just one open class of three (no over all) which I won. πŸ™‚ Cheery wave to the other two ladies, if they’re reading this! It was great to meet you and share a stage with you πŸ™‚

I am of course delighted to have won, it feels great (if a little surreal!) to say I “retained a World Title” and to say I am “2 x World Champion”. But I’ve got mixed emotions, too, which weren’t present last year. I guess this is what makes competitive bodybuilders what we are! And what keeps us hungry, keeps us pushing forward, stops us ever settling for mediocre, average, for “just OK”.

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As much as I am over the moon to have won, I’ll tell you now that I wasn’t completely happy with how I looked. I did not look as good as I did at the UKDFBA UK show, and I wanted to look the same (or better!) I’d been really pleased – shocked, even – with how I looked at the UKDFBA show this year. But I was heavier, less lean, less conditioned at Worlds and I am disappointed and cross with myself for that. I know why – my diet and mindset weren’t 100% in those weeks between UKDFBA and Worlds. I did diet, of course, but it wasn’t perfect enough for me.

I need a little more think-time before I could tell you why this was. I know that I was so hugely focused on UKDFBA (and the goal of winning there and taking the Pro Card on offer), that when I came 2nd (especially when it was on a tiebreaker) I had a mental wobble. I don’t think I fully appreciated at the time, but a couple of weeks later I saw it had affected me more than I realised.

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None of that is an excuse, and I know that to be a successful bodybuilder I will have to develop ways to prevent things like this affecting me, and to refocus very quickly and turn my attention fully to the next goal regardless of how I am feeling. It’s unlikely to be the last time I fall short of a goal – this is sport, after all!

A note on the Pro Card thing

Pro Cards are only on offer at Worlds to class winners when there are five or more in the class. A lot of people have said they were sorry that a Pro Card wasn’t on the cards again this year for me. But to be perfectly honest with you? I don’t feel I deserved it. I do want to be a WNBF Pro – it’s my ultimate goal in this sport. But, based on how I looked at Worlds, I don’t feel I’m ready (in terms of physique or mindset). Not quite. Nearly… but not quite. The fact that I have “missed out” a few times now by a whisker kind of confirms what I feel: that I am very very nearly there (but not quite), that I still have lessons to learn and improvements to make. I don’t want a Pro Card until I’m ready for it.

My next steps?

A very good, very constructive off season. I may or may not take a year off competing. Either way, I’ll be training hard and heavy, making improvements to physique, mindset, my knowledge about training, diet and my own body.

Stay tuned for a blog post about what to do if you develop horrendous edema/water retention after spending 5 days celebrating in an American city after coming off a long bodybuilding prep diet and then get stuck on a middle seat on a night flight between two large sleeping men (I will come up with a catchier title, promise!)

Thanks for reading!

2 x World Champion! 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.


You ask, I do my best to answer: part 2 (INBF Worlds Q&A)

November 18, 2013

Here’s part two of you ask, I do my best to answer! (INBF Worlds Q&A) – thanks for your questions!

“How did you manage your food and water intake on the plane? I was surprised that you were allowed to bring your trophy back in your hand luggage – she’d make a good club if you were so inclined!”

It actually wasn’t difficult at all, thank goodness. I prepped all my meals up until we got to arrivals, and just ate those in departures or on the plane (had to refuse all plane food, including little packets of mini pretzels with the drinks, and had to hope nobody near me minded me eating turkey and broccoli out of a tub!) No food could be taken through the other side, so I just had to make sure I’d eaten it all. I then had quick-grab foods (oats, whey) in my hold luggage so I knew I’d have some sustenance if they journey to the hotel was longer than anticipated (it was – I was very glad of that whey!) Water was a different matter – you can’t take that through departures – so I just made sure I drank a lot before going through, and then bought a couple of bottles for the flight.

I didn’t ask about the trophies; I just carried them! I thought there was a chance of an upgrade πŸ˜‰ (there wasn’t… but the flight attendant did bring me a glass of champagne!)


“What do the judges look for? Do you have a tick list of things you need to work towards in the gym?”

The judging criteria is clearly set out (for every federation) and, for women’s bodybuilding at least, doesn’t vary too much even when you consider that this is a totally subjective sport. You do have to remember that the judges can only judge what’s in front of them on the day, and can only compare the physiques which are up there. And some will prefer size over condition, some will value condition over mass, etc. But, in general, bodybuilding classes are judged against the following criteria:

Round one (quarter turns) – symmetry (top to bottom, left to right, back to front)
Round two (compulsory poses) – muscularity and conditioning
Round three (posing routine) – this isn’t always scored but can make the difference when it’s otherwise a tough call.

Then of course, as you hint in your question, we all have things we want to improve upon in the gym. I do always ask judges’ feedback after shows, and most of them get back to me with some suggestions. I’ve had good feedback from Worlds about my presentation, posing, confidence and condition. One suggestion was to put more size and density on my shoulders. Personally, I’d like to build more thickness and density in my chest, and build a bigger bum (bum and shoulders tend to disappear when I’m dieted right down). More back is always good, too, for folk like me with not much in the way of a waist!

“What sort of turnout from competitors was there? Were there people from all over the world? Was there a big audience – had people travelled to support the finals?”

There were athletes from eight countries: USA (who don’t need to qualify or be selected to compete), and UK, Canada, Barbados, Australia, Switzerland, Italy and Japan. It was hard for me to tell what size the crowd was as I wasn’t able to be out front watching for much of it (and people tend to come and go) but the auditorium was huge and I could sense a lot of people out there. Most of the countries brought large teams of athletes, coaches and supporters and there was cheering in plenty of different languages!

“How did the atmosphere at a US show compare to the UK? In my head it should have been all glamour and spotlights πŸ˜‰ “

The atmosphere was definitely busier, and more intense than at any UK show I’ve done, but this might have been down to it being Worlds rather than a qualifier or British. The atmosphere in the amateur ladies changing room was definitely down to the sheer number of women (and amount of sugary snacks being consumed!) Tee hee.

I had my hair, make up and tan professionally done and am so glad I decided to do so. Not only did it kill that awful dead time of hanging about, but it was fun! The ladies were upbeat, excited, and really got me pumped up in to a great, positive mood. And having my hair and make up done made me feel like a superstar, which I really needed. I needed my attitude and belief in myself to step up to the highest possible level, and having hair and makeup really achieved this. It was a lovely treat to myself and just added to my feelings of “wow” about the whole experience of competing at Worlds.

I also booked myself a mini photo-shoot backstage with Reggie Bradford and again I am really glad I did so. Not only are the shots a fantastic memento of such a special competition, but the it added a sense of extra glam to the whole day.

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“What I find quite incredible is how you have managed to sculpt your body over the years to perform several different functions, from triathlon, to channel swimmer to bodybuilder… In these days of body dysmorphia, I think you are an example of how our bodies are tools to make perform how we see fit. It is sad that impossible and unrealistic images are portrayed as something to aspire to through all the photoshopping and airbrushing done by the media. You are an example of how being in control reaps rewards.”

Well, thank you. I haven’t really thought of it like that but I’d be delighted to think that I am an example of that. I do believe that we can all do exactly what we want with our bodies (although competitive success isn’t guaranteed of course). Where the mind goes, the body follows. That’s the difficult part: knowing why you want to achieve something, setting goals, sticking to a plan and following through.

Like the lady who asked this question, some of you will know me from years back. Yes, I have swum the Channel (and similar swims), taken part in triathlons and other land-based endurance events. And now I’m competing as a bodybuilder. Different energy systems, different training, different nutrition, different mindset (and different levels of bodyfat!) But all me underneath it all.

So, yes, I do believe that our bodies are tools which we can persuade to perform as we wish. Very precious tools, and ones to be celebrated, but they are (or can be) at the beck and call of our brains. If we want them to be!

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You ask, I do my best to answer: part 2 (INBF Worlds Q&A) 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.


You ask, I do my best to answer! (INBF Worlds Q&A)

November 17, 2013

In my previous blog post, I asked if you had any questions about the INBF Worlds, my prep, off-season, and my plans for future comps (or anything else relevant).

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Yes, it’s a lazy way to get a blog post out there. I plead jetlag!

Here goes:

“What does getting a Pro card mean or do?”

Bodybuilders compete as amateurs or as Pros. A Pro was once an amateur but won a certain level of competition (usually a national Final, or the amateur bit of a World level comp). Turning Pro doesn’t mean you can jack in your day job and earn a living wage bodybuilding (we wish!) “Pro” denotes the standard and level at which you compete, not that it’s your profession. Pros compete for prize money, whereas amateurs don’t, but even if a Pro was to win every single comp he or she entered, it would barely be enough to cover the cost of flights and accommodation for competing. There are a few exceptions: in the IFBB, those at the very top of the tree do make a living from competition winnings, product endorsements, sponsorships and putting their name to supplements, clothing, etc. In reality, become Pro for a UK bodybuilder actually means you have less choice of where to compete (because you can only do Pro shows, and – at present – there are very few in Europe). For me, it’s something to aspire to, it shows progress and achievement, enables you to be judged against an ever-higher standard of competition, and is one way of marking ongoing progression through the sport.

“This might be a bit personal, but are you older than a lot of competitors? The reason I ask is that your blog reads a lot different…”

I’m 36 (and a half). And thank you – I think! The blog didn’t start out life as a bodybuilding blog, or even a competing/racing/sporting event blog. It’s just my blog, and bodybuilding is one part of a big life. So, at the moment at least, lots of it is about bodybuilding. It hasn’t always been that way (have a dig back through the archives for triathlon, channel swimming, cycling races and even stuff about the business of writing πŸ˜‰ ) I’m glad you enjoy reading it at the moment πŸ™‚

“I want to know everything about the comp – what was the backstage atmosphere like, what was the process that you had to go through to prove you were natural? PS some of the guys on your team are ridiculously good looking, phew!”

Ha ha, I have no idea what you could possibly mean about the male competitors on Team UK! Ugly mugs πŸ˜‰ Some of them proved very popular with the other ladies in my changing room… tee hee. Backstage was a lot larger than any comp I’ve done in the UK, although not necessarily any more well-equipped. There was plenty of space, plug sockets, toilet cubicles and room to pump up, but no mirrors (people brought their own) for example. In my experience, there’s always positives and negatives about every backstage area. I guess it’s because BB comps are held in so many different kinds of venues, from theatres to civic halls. This one was in the auditorium at a big University.

The atmosphere was really friendly πŸ™‚ It’s not always the case, sadly, particularly when it’s a top level comp. It often seems to follow that the higher the stakes, the tenser the atmosphere. I’m really pleased to say that this was not the case at the INBF Worlds (not in my experience, anyway). The atmosphere in the amateur ladies dressing room was… manic, frenetic, highly-strung, often hilarious, and a giggle. Imagine the largest, strangest sleepover you’ve ever been to. It’s like that. Only with bikinis. Beauty treatments, fake tan, talk of junk food, sharing makeup, high emotion, even a bit of singing and booty-shaking. It was all there. I made some new friends (“let’s take a selfie! OK, now tag me on Facebook!”), got some great advice on exactly which chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels to buy from Trader Joe’s, and enjoyed myself immensely.

To compete in the INBF and WNBF, athletes need to be 7 years drug free (some drug-free Federations are lifetime natural). Athletes are tested by urinology and polygraph. “Drug-free” is assessed against the current WADA (World Anti Doping Authority) banned list. When people think about drugs in sport (particularly bodybuilding) they automatically think of steroids (often used as a blanket term I think!), growth hormone and other exogenous hormones, and “stuff you inject into yourself”. In reality, there’s a great deal more on the banned list, from certain stimulants/”fat burners” to certain diuretics. Fun fact! Caffeine (in certain quantities) was on the prohibited list until 2004.

“What next?”

Well, I have had three goals for the last couple of years in this sport:
compete in America [tick]
win a World title [tick x 2]
– get Pro Status/”Pro card” [ ]

So, 2014 will be the Year of the Pro Card. I will compete with the UKDFBA again here in the UK, with a view either to earning Pro Status here with them (as the winner of my class did at the UKDFBA comp this year), or to go over to the INBF Worlds with their UK team again, win again, and this time earn Pro Status by doing so. Usually, the winner of the overall would be offered Pro Status at the Worlds. It didn’t happen this time, because there weren’t enough people in the class (last year there were 9). So – come on ladies! And I’ll see you there! πŸ˜‰

That’s enough for now – part 2 coming soon!

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos a mini-shoot I did on the day of the comp. I’m really pleased with them, they’re a great memento of a fantastic experience πŸ˜€

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You ask, I do my best to answer! (INBF Worlds Q&A) 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 World Champion… me… really?

November 13, 2013

Yes, really. It still feels bizarre to type “World Champion” and “me” in the same sentence, but it’s true, so I’d better get used to it πŸ™‚

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This is just a quick post after the INBF World Championships last weekend. Partly because I wanted to get a blog post up before too much time elapsed, but mainly because I still don’t know where to start when it comes to writing about the entire experience.

Perhaps you can post any questions in the comments; it might help me know how to tackle the task of writing about it!

To cut a long, wonderful, memorable story short:

I went with the UK Team to compete at the WNBF and INBF Worlds in the USA last weekend. The INBF is the amateur half of the federation (the WNBF is where the Pros compete). I was the only amateur female bodybuilding competitor on the UK team (there were 12 of us in all, including male and female Pro athletes, a female amateur figure and fit body competitor, and male amateurs across the age and weight classes).

I weighed in at 124lbs, which placed me in the heavyweight female bodybuilding class (they split us at 118lbs).

On the day of the competition, shortly before going on stage, I found out I was the one and only HW competitor 😦 I was disappointed (and saddened) because I wanted some competition, and didn’t want to be on stage by myself. It’s a long way to go, and a lot of prep, to “win by default”. But I can’t control who doesn’t turn up on the day, and who doesn’t compete in qualifiers and national finals, and who doesn’t get selected for the other countries’ teams.

So I went on stage as the only HW competitor (they did end up putting the LWs and me on together, so at least I was on stage with others, although we were still being judged as two separate classes).

So, yes, I won the World HW title too, but I was the only competitor.

However, the real competition of the day for me was the over all. I would be up against the LW winner later on in the day to contest the over all and to push for the World title. I’ve never competed in an over all before, never gone back on stage for a second time against just one other person, never been in the position of knowing it’s either me or her who will get that main title.

I did it… and I won! I can’t remember the moment when my number was called, but I can remember feeling joy, elation, disbelief, excitement, relief and… I dunno! Everything! πŸ˜€

Winning the over all meant I became the INBF World female bodybuilding champion for the year. πŸ˜€ It’s been my dream, my goal and part of what I’ve been working towards for the last two years of my time in this sport. The other part – WNBF Pro status – is now next year’s focus πŸ™‚

That’s enough for now, jetlag is pressing on my eyelids and telling me it’s time for bed.

I’ll be getting official stage and backstage “mini photoshoot” images shortly and will share some with you.

In the meantime, if you do have any questions about the comp, the build up, the weekend with the team, my plans moving forward or anything else, please do leave a comment. It might help me write a better post-comp review when I have more energy!

Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for all your support, enthusiasm, interest, good lucks and congratulations.

A World Champion… me… really? 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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