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How to Juggle Competing with a Demanding Career feat Holly Davage

How to Juggle Competing with a Demanding Career feat Holly Davage

Scrolling through Instagram, it is easy to fall under the illusion that every single bikini girl is an online coach or personal trainer who eats, sleeps and breathes the bodybuilding lifestyle. This can be disheartening for those pursuing a career outside of the fitness industry, as you may be led to believe that this is the only way to be successful in the world of competing. 

Holly Davage Bikini Competitor Irish KOMPAK

However, I can tell you this is absolutely NOT the case. There are plenty of competitors who are also full-time career women, have kids, or are focused on studying for their degree. Taking myself as an example, I am a full-time Clinical Research Scientist, where I am responsible for coordinating clinical trials for children with Cystic Fibrosis. This is a very demanding job both mentally and physically, and I am on my feet all day long. In addition to this, I am currently enrolled in Mac Nutrition Uni where I am studying to become a certified nutritionist. I spend most weekends travelling over and back from the UK to attend talks seminars to further my knowledge in the field of nutrition and exercise, as well as posing workshops, training sessions and various industry events. All of this while learning to drive and being on prep (currently 6 weeks out from my first show of the season!).

It may seem crazy, but I thrive off being busy. In this scenario, planning and organisation is key to ensure you optimise your time and you don’t go crazy!

UKUP Bikini Competitor Bodypower

Here are my top tips that I implement in my daily life that you might find helpful:

Writing Lists

It may seem obvious, but do not underestimate the utility of a simple to do list. You can use an app like Wunderlist, the notes on your phone or an old-fashioned pen and paper. I like to keep both a daily and weekly checklist. Writing down tasks make them appear much less overwhelming and instantly gives you a feeling of control

Meal Prep

Every Sunday without fail I will meal prep for the week ahead. It may take an hour or two, but it’s an investment in time as it will liberate you of slaving away in the kitchen cooking up meals every evening. It’s such a huge part of my routine that I could do it in my sleep at this point! Generally, I will roast sweet potatoes, chicken breasts, and vegetables such as asparagus, mange tout and fine beans. Simultaneously, I will fry up 5% beef mince and turkey mince in two pans, while cooking some brown rice or black bean pasta (my current go-to… so high in protein!) in a pot of boiling water.

Once everything is cooked, I will divide everything into Tupperware boxes to make enough meals to do me for the week. The first three days of meals will be stored in the fridge, while the rest will go into the freezer to be defrosted and reheated towards the end of the week. 

Planning Your Training

As a busy person, you need to be realistic with how often you can train and what work capacity you can cover from. The bikini girls you follow on Instagram may train 6 days per week and do 1-2 hours of cardio every day, but this does not mean that you should. According to the Muscle and Strength Pyramids by Dr Eric Helms, Andrea Valdez and Andy Morgan, the most important priority of training is adherence. If you are finding it hard to stick to your training schedule, it will make prep (and life in general) a lot more challenging than it needs to be. Figure out a training frequency that works for you, that fits into your life, that you can recover from, and most importantly, that you enjoy!


Once a realistic training schedule has been put in place, you will need to figure out the best way to incorporate your prescribed cardio into the week. We know by now that fasted cardio is not superior to fed cardio for fat loss, however, if getting up before work to get your treadmill time in before work suits you, then do it. Just be aware that it will not lead to greater amounts of fat loss compared to evening cardio. On the other hand, if you are not a morning person and prefer to complete your cardio post training, then that’s fine too! It may be slightly less optimal for performance/muscle preservation compared to splitting your training and cardio into two sessions throughout the day, or even performing them on completely different days. However, remember my previous statement that adherence is the foundation of the training pyramid. The only thing I would recommend avoiding if possible is completing your cardio immediately prior to training, as this can contribute to fatigue and lethargy, resulting in potential decreases in performance during your session.

Staying on Track at Work

To easily stay on track, and to minimise the desire to help myself to the abundance of office sweet treats, I ensure to keep my desk drawer fully stocked at work for anything I may need. For fat sources, I keep a jar of peanut butter in the cupboard in work (chicken and peanut butter is the best combination, you must try it if you haven’t already!), as well as some dark chocolate. In the fridge I keep feta or another type of cheese if I want to switch up my fat sources (and ensure that I am getting enough calcium in my diet). I also keep a stash of emergency protein powder and pre-workout if I need a boost pre-session. To minimise mindless snacking when sitting at my desk, I stock up on Pepsi Max, sugar free syrups and sauces, flavour drops and coffee capsules. This has the added benefit of saving money, as I am not taking regular trips to the coffee shop to fuel my caffeine habits!

Schedule in Down Time

This is a very important point that is often neglected. For me, if I do not schedule in some planned downtime, then I will not relax, and will instead find something to do to keep myself busy or occupied. Relaxation time is just as important and productive as all the other duties and errands you have set yourself for the day. Adding downtime to your to-do list and/or your diary will help you to feel like you are still accomplishing something on the list and will ensure that you do not forget to take time to yourself! Currently, my favourite thing to do is to sit down with my mum at the end of the night with a cup of tea and my bowl of oats to watch Love Island – mindless, which is perfect for shutting off from the world and your responsibilities for an hour!

Don’t Sweat It!

You may aspire to be Wonder Woman in your everyday life, but at the end of the day we are all only human. We all make mistakes. We snooze our our alarms and miss morning cardio. We get home late on Sunday evening and have no energy to meal prep. We forget our Tupperware in the fridge when running late for work. We binge-watch Netflix series when we really should be doing something more productive. We have ALL been there. In these circumstances, do NOT get hung up on it. Learn to forgive yourself, accept you are not a superhero and move on. Everyday is a fresh start, and it’s ok not to be perfect. As long as you try your best and you never ever give up, then you will succeed. 

I hope this has helped you in some way. If you need tips, advice or just someone to chat to, do not hesitate to send me a message! My Instagram is @hollydavage and my inbox is always open.

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