FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: 2014


Saturday, 27 December 2014

A week of (mostly French) Christmas running

Christmas makes me happy. 
Running makes me happy. 
Marathon training makes me hungry.

Good job it's Christmas then.

One half of the Christmas Dinner Dream Team - cooked for 13 :)

This week is the first official week of training for Brighton Marathon 2015.

I'm attempting the Intermediate plan from RunLounge / RunBrighton as did the Beginner's this year and was advised to step it up a notch.

I ran my first marathon on three runs a week as didn't wanna push it with my knees, but I'm hoping I'm now strong enough to cope with the four or five weekly runs - especially with the extra strength training I've been doing with Love Life Fitness (more on that later).

We've been in France for Christmas and I've been loving the quiet country lanes instead of the busy streets of Brighton to bosh out the miles. I've also loved the excellent level of Christmas bingeing that's been happening in between runs - a PB in many ways.

Oh, and I got the BEST present from my Secret Santa:

A photo posted by @fitbits_tess on

So a week of Christmas running looked a bit like this:

Run 1: A ploddy run commute 

Not much to say about this one - I ran the nearly two miles to work, it wasn't comfortable and I didn't like it, waaaaaaah. Check out my AWESOME pacing consistency. Why can't I keep a steady pace dammit!!

Run 2: An easy Christmas Eve run

After a whole day of sitting on my arse on trains and ferries to get to Droux for Christmas, I was itching to get out to turn the legs over, so went out with my sis-in-law for a nice easy paced 5k

We ran down to the village of Droux and along the old railway track before coming home to refuel on chocolate, bread, cheese, wine and everything else you should be gorging on at Christmas. 

Run 3: A Christmas Day progression run 

After waking up with a belly full of wine and food I kinda knew this run wouldn't start off very easily. On the plan was a 30 min progression run - 10 mins easy, 10 steady and 10 threshold. I did the same loop as the day before and it took me a good half of it to warm up and get comfortable. 

By the end though I was flying, sort of, in a not-quite-threshold-but-the-best-you're-gonna-get-at-Christmas kind of way. I totally made enough room for the mountain of food I packed away that afternoon.


Run 4: The one with the donkeys

Boxing Day was a day off for running but I did do the bodyweight circuit that Amy had given me to do while I was away. On paper it looked like an easy-enough session but by the third repetition I was more than ready for another glass of wine. 

Today's run was the long run - 80 mins slow and steady - I was a good girl and used Garmin Connect to map out the route before setting off, wrote down directions and made sure everyone had their phones on in case I got lost and needed a Cote du Rhone delivery to the side of the road. 

I ran down to Droux and towards La Brousse along a very busy and not-made-for-running main road. This bit wasn't good fun at all, there were loads of cars and although I was on the grassy verge I decided there and then not to run that way again. The numerous French drivers doing 60mph past me seemed to agree as they honked their horns aggressively. 

My calves were also screaming at me for the first few miles and I had to keep stopping to stretch. Anyone else had this? It's a new one for me, not sure what to do other than foam roll and stretch it out?

Happy to turn off onto a quiet country lane

Once I turned off the main road towards Villefavard it was all lovely country lanes and quaint French villages so I relaxed into a comfy pace again, stopping to check the route and take photos/stretch out the angry calves. 

I met a couple of friendly French donkeys too, which slowed me down a bit as I stopped to say hello:

I got back tired, hungry and achey but glad I could tick the session off as done, despite the pain and extra Christmas weight I was carrying. 

I'm pretty convinced that once I'm back home and not eating / drinking like a pig it'll be easier to bosh out the miles for the coming weeks. 

Have you ran this week or written it off to enjoy the break? 
Who else is marathon training for a Spring race? 


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Friday, 12 December 2014

Building a stronger me

I've been saying it for years - I want to be a faster, stronger, better runner.

I love running but it's bloody hard work and there's a lot of room for improvement.

Yes, I'm relatively fit, but I'm not very strong. I have muscle imbalances and joint issues that cause me pain and discomfort on almost a daily basis in one way or another. My knees, although they are so much better now I've been to physio and addressed some issues, have been a problem ever since I started exercising, (and no, Mr GP, I won't 'just stop running', as helpful as your advice was all those years ago).

My hamstrings are so tight I can't touch my toes, I get muscle cramps if I sit for too long and my ankles used to give way for no apparent reason. Two weeks before the marathon this April I developed a hip injury which although is much better now, the joint is still tight and needs exercising.

Basically, some of me is broken 

I'm very quad dominant. My calves are rock solid too. I've cycled everywhere since being a kid, always had a set of wheels (or two, or three at uni) and have never shied away from hills, rather just sit back and get on with them.

But my hamstrings and glutes are so stupidly weak it's embarrassing. Yoga is particularly entertaining. I've also lost much of my core strength since moving away from bootcamp and doing more running, cycling, swimming and other training, even though it's pretty integral to these things too.

I had a body fat analysis last week - 36% body fat, boys and girls. I weigh 60kg and more than a third of that is fat. I got a bit too comfortable after my boxing fight and it's all got a bit wobbly. Must stop refuelling with pizza and beer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm fat, and I'm not telling you all this to have a right old moan - I'm telling you because I love being fit and healthy and I'm excited for what 2015 will bring but there's only so much I can blag while carrying certain weaknesses.

Running two marathons next year might just tip that threshold.

The Masterplan

So, it begins.

Project get-off-the-sugar-and-sort-your-legs-out starts now. I realise that a) the project needs a better name, and b) Christmas is not a great time to be abstaining from the sweet stuff. I'm all up for indulging at this time of year, and don't worry, I still will - it's just I just had a choice about whether to start now or in January and I chose now because there's no point putting it off.

Here's what I'm doing to build a faster, stronger me:

Strength & conditioning 
How can I expect my body to cope with the impending winter training if I don't make sure I'm strong enough to manage the load I expect of it? My amazing physio, Tom Goom, of The Physio Rooms in Brighton, has taught me lots about preventing injury for runners and given me the tools to get stronger.


Weight training 
Comes under the above category really, and I've been faffing about with weights on my own for too long now. I need some structured training - say hello to Brighton personal trainer Amy Jordan, of Love Life Fitness. I started training with her this week and for the next few weeks we're gonna sort me out good and proper.

Getting up for 6:30am gym sessions has its benefits:

Brighton Pier sunrise - Tess Agnew

Weight training for runners

This week alone I've finally had my first go at playing with barbells after wanting to learn the clean and press for so long. I was more than a little excited when we moved over to the pull up machine too.

We've done body weight and weighted squats, lunges, barbell upright row and shoulder press, bench presses, leg raises, deadlifts, russian twists with the medicine ball - basically lots of stuff that I've been avoiding because I'm not strong enough or I'm scared of my knees hurting.

Give me a few months, just you wait.

Magnesium supplement 
This was recommended to me by Rachel at Body Optimum when I first went to see her after Weight Watchers stopped working for me a couple of years ago. Alongside the clean eating nutrition plan she advised me to get some of this stuff to ease my muscle cramps and top up my low stores. It's also great for exercise recovery.

I cannot recommend this stuff enough if you've got a magnesium deficiency. I didn't know I did have until I saw a nutritionist - symptoms were muscle cramps and restless legs when still, and generally low energy and poor recovery during and after exercise.

Magnesium supplement for runners

Clean(ish) eating 
I'm no stranger to eating clean. I'm a pro at a good old dabble - I'll behave for a few weeks and then have a binge to reward myself, so can never stay 'clean' for long periods of time.

This time it's gonna be different. I'm going clean(ish). 80/20 and all that.

I'll try to eat a nutritious, balanced diet, upping my protein intake and decreasing my grains to one portion a day. I'm gonna start the day with one of my beasty clean eating breakfast recipes.

Clean eating breakfast recipes - egg & veg muffins
Healthy egg & veg breakfast muffins. Recipe here.

I'll get my fill of healthy fats and get the majority of my carbs from a mix of fresh vegetables. I'll keep sugar to a minimum (apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when I'll eat ALL THE CHOCOLATE).

I'll get off the booze in January but for now will enjoy December for what it is and make sure I'm eating clean to compensate for any alcohol. No more refuelling from a long cycle ride or run with pizza and beer.

Well. Maybe only if over 60miles.


Are you weight training to build strength for a particular goal? Am I the only one who finds lifting heavy weights really empowering? If anyone else has found weight training has improved your running please share below! xx

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Winter marathon training

I'm sat here in my bespoke fleece onesie, (that's right, kids, actually got one made for me --> #shortpersonproblems), with achey legs from today's long ride and an almost-unbearable excitement bubbling away in my stomach.

Tomorrow, boys and girls, is December 1st. This means marathon training starts this month. And like last year,  (although without the accompanying terror), I'm wayyyyy too excited to get stuck into some proper, structured winter running.

I can't wait to see my training plan from Run Lounge (do I go for beginner again or intermediate this time? I'm scared to do too much and risk injury).

I'm excited to get up in the dark for the next few months to bosh out some winter miles in the wind, rain and cold with the RunBrighton crew.

RunBrighton winter marathon training

I'm excited to shovel peanut butter on toast down at stupid o'clock and tape up my knees in prep for the slog ahead.

I'm excited to break in my shiny new trainers on the track, road and trails as I tick off the sessions on my weekly schedule.

RunBrighton winter marathon training

I'm excited to come back from the Sunday long run exhausted, drained and elated from what I've achieved, and jump (or strategically lower myself) into the hottest and bubbliest bath in the world before getting right on the legs-up-the-wall/ice/foam roll recovery.

Legs up the wall yoga pose - marathon training

Marathon training - foam rolling and gels

I'm excited to soak up everything I can from running blogs, running magazines, other runners, running websites coaches and training days.

Brighton Marathon Training Day

Brighton Marathon Training Day

Basically I can't wait for running to take over my life again and make me feel my fittest, strongest and more disciplined and focused than I've ever been with any other sport.

Is it wrong to crave structure?

I'm gonna do all my strength and conditioning exercises, keep up the swimming and cycling as cross training and get right on the weights to build a faster, stronger me to reach that finish line at Brighton Marathon in April.

I'm definitely gonna get a PB (anywhere under 5:07) and will try my hardest not to bonk in the last few miles. In fact I'm gonna smash 5 hours and work bloody hard to get nearer 4:30-4:45.

I'm telling you now so I can't get out of it.

Tess Agnew - Brighton Marathon

Brighton Marathon 2015, I'm coming to get you.

And when I'm done with you - Fort William, I'll see you in July.*

*I may have accidentally-on-purpose entered after eyeing it up for months wondering if I can do two in one year... 


Anyone else about to start marathon training? Who's excited?! 
Let's hear your goals... 

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mountain biking the South Downs Way - Brighton to Eastbourne

The 6am alarm went off on a wet and moody November morning. Our kit was laid out, waterproofs packed, bike lights and flapjacks at the ready. I was bouncing round the flat like a kid at Christmas.

Our instructions were clear:

- Meet at 7am at Brighton Pier
- Cycle to Ditchling Beacon via Stanmer Park
- Join the South Downs Way and continue as a peloton to Eastbourne
- Regroup at Eastbourne Pier for a finishers photo
- ABSOLUTELY NO SMILING (we already broke that rule at the start)

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way

The planned Brighton Triathlon Race Series (BTRS) 100 mile South Downs relay from Winchester to Eastbourne had been postponed due to heavy rain all day in Winchester, so instead we set off as a peloton to complete the final 35ish mile leg of the course together as a group, starting from a less-rainy Brighton.

I was entrusted with what would've been the baton for the full relay - six raw eggs still in their box - our task was to get the eggs and all of us safely to the finish line at Eastbourne Pier.

We had aimed to make it in time for a pub lunch but five very leisurely aid station stops with a fair bit of regrouping en route along the slippery, chalky hills meant it took a while longer.

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
The Pier To Pier Peloton baton

No such thing as bad weather... 

It was what a lot of people would call a wet and miserable day. A perfect day, for some, to bury themselves under a blanket with the cat to watch a DVD. But not for us. That was Sunday's plan of action.

A thick and eerie mist shrouded the hills up on the Downs and wet, sticky mud (along with a fair amount of cow shit) sprayed up as we ploughed through on our bikes.

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
To the Pub!

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
I hope that's just mud... 

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing a dog poo ON TOP OF a cow pat - quite a work of art, I'm sure you can imagine. I'll save you the photo...

Cycling into Mordor

For most of the route we couldn't see the tops of the hills until we were there, and on some parts, we couldn't see more than five feet in front of us it was that foggy. It was like cycling into Mordor.

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way

If Carlsberg did aid stations... 

At approximately 10k intervals we took full advantage of the excellently stocked aid stations and refuelled on tuna sandwiches, crisps, snacks and hot tea and coffee.

The BTRS SAG Wagon went ahead to each checkpoint and set up ready for us to arrive. I don't think there is anything better than a nice mug of hot tea after boshing some hardcore hills in the rain I can tell you!

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
BTRS Kurt and his excellently stocked aid station! 

Hills, hills, hills

And there were certainly more than enough hills for everyone to tackle... one of which is known as Cardiac Hill; the reasons for the name made clear as we started the never-ending climb. It was one of those hills that just kept on going - started really steep but then levelled out to a steady incline for about 100,000 miles. (True story).

About half way up, one of our team mates, Fabrice, gently got off his bike and declared 'I do not do suffering, I am French. I do pleasure' before walking up the next section of the hill. I don't blame him - it was a proper beast.

BTRS Mountain Bike Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
Some of us at the top of Cardiac Hill :) 

Another beasty hill was just after the fourth aid station (I really need to get good at remembering routes and locations - I can't tell you any more about where it was!). A loooong, chalky climb through fields of angry cows seemed to go on even longer than Cardiac Hill and was very much a head-down-get-it-done kind of hill.

Every time we turned a corner it Just. Kept. Going.

Had it not been such a cloudy and misty day I assume we would've been rewarded with spectacular views across the South Downs, but even without the views it was an amazing ride with some brilliant people, and honestly the most fun I've had on two wheels in a long time.

With a permanent grin plastered on my face, I tackled the hills, ploughed through puddles, let the brakes go on the not-so-chalky downs, tried to get some air on the forest 'jumps', destroyed the Nutella sandwiches and laughed with everyone for 35 miles.

My Garmin ran out of battery just after 22miles so I uploaded Chris' stats (which also ran out just before 29 miles and reckons we did 103mph at some point, which would've been interesting!

We made it to Eastbourne just as it was getting dark - so no time for a pub lunch, but the eggs were still in tact, smiles still on faces (sorry Kurt) and only two punctures and a tyre blow out to fix along the way (sorry Colin!) 

BTRS Mountain Bike - Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
The finish! 

BTRS Mountain Bike - Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way
The P2P baton still in tact!

Sensible rehydration took place immediately:

BTRS Mountain Bike - Brighton to Eastbourne - South Downs Way

Massive thank you to Kurt at BTRS for organising and supporting such a fun ride - even though we didn't get to do the full relay we've now got a fully planned and supported event to enjoy when the weather's a bit better and I can't wait to do the full distance! 

Do you like mountain biking, or are you more of a roadie? Or are you just getting into cycling to mix up the running or other exercise? 

More importantly have you ever seen a dog poo on top of a cow pat?


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Sunday, 16 November 2014

A half naked PB at Brooks Brighton 10k

I'm not sure what I love more about running at the moment - the dedication of training and drive to dig deep all the way to the glory of a PB or the amazing support and friendship I've found from various running groups, clubs and online communities over the last year or so.

Going out and smashing a run is one thing, but sharing that experience with others - seeing each other in to the finish, cheering each other on or picking each other up when our confidence falls; posing for team photos; getting stuck for hours in endless conversations about pacing, shoe porn, races, training woes and triumphs, PBs, chafing and all things in between - it really is magic.

People are magic.

Brooks Brighton 10k 2014 - BOSH run

I used to run alone all the time, use it as 'me time', to de-stress and clear my head. I'd turn up to a race, run it and go home. I didn't know about BOSH or #ukrunchat or Arena80 or RunBrighton.

I didn't know you could volunteer at races or run free weekly 5ks at your local park.

I had no idea about the Sweatshop Run Community or Hove57 Run Club, or BTRS, and I certainly didn't know about the thousands of other runners all over Brighton and beyond who are just as passionate (and maybe obsessed) with running as I am.

Brooks Brighton 10k 2014 - BOSH run

To share something you feel so passionate about with others who feel the same way is just awesome. This is what running's ALL about.

I can't be the only one who feels like this, surely?

This year has been just amazing for me in terms of running and fitness - and I'll bang on about why in another post but for now I just wanted to tell you that I love running and I love people and I love Brighton and I love my new shiny 10k PB (53:15, thankyoupleashe).

A half naked PB...

Brooks Brighton 10k 2014
Thanks to fellow BOSHer Nick Jones for the photo 

I wanted to go for a PB at the Brooks 10k but didn't wanna tell people in case I couldn't do it. I've only just picked the running back up after my boxing fight and haven't specifically trained for a 10k PB so I was nervous to announce my intentions to the world.

A friendly nudge from a fellow BOSHer on Twitter did the trick...

Saying it out loud turned it into a proper goal, and suddenly I was really excited but still terrified of failing. Even though it's just a personal challenge it's always hard to deal with the disappointment of not making it - so to ease the pressure and just 'go with it' a bit I toyed with the idea of going 'naked' and not wearing my watch.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is almost as hard a challenge as running the PB itself - I'm such a stats whore and couldn't bear to not have the race to look back on afterwards, so I did wear it but put a wristband over it and tried my hardest to ignore it throughout the race. Half naked, if you will.

My previous PB is 54:54 so to get under that I had to run anything under 5:30/km for the whole time. I must've looked at my watch about five times in total - which might seem like a lot but for me that's a massive improvement on the 20-30+ times I would've probably looked had it not been covered up.

It didn't really matter anyway as the bloody thing stopped recording about 1km into the race and I didn't notice until nearly half way through. So I've only got the last four miles of it, but really, who cares - check out my pain face:

This was only 2km in - mayyyybe a little too fast... 

Brooks Brighton 10k 2014 - Tess Agnew PB
Sprint finish to PB glory

All I know is that that race was proper hard work. I went out too fast and tried to hang on for dear life but ended up slowing a bit in the middle. There were so many people I knew running their own race and going for their own goals it was great to all be in it together. Everyone ran hard today.

I've never ran so hard that I thought I was gonna throw up before though and those last two km were touch and go I can tell you!

Brooks Brighton 10k 2014 - Tess Agnew PB

The sprint finish nearly killed me and I had to take a couple of minutes after finishing to catch my breath and regain composure before staggering back to my amazing supporters in the finish line funnel.

I'm so chuffed I got it, and even more chuffed it's a decent PB as I thought I'd only be able to shave a few seconds off. Next stop - sub 50! (Totally leaving that until next year though!)

Sign up for the Brooks 10k 

Are you part of any running groups, clubs or online communities? Do you love sharing running with others or are you a solo runner? 


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Friday, 14 November 2014

A dark and dirty date up the Downs

It was dark. It was dirty. It was brilliant. 

It's not the first time it's happened - I did it last week as well, and I'm not even sorry. 

My name's Tess, and I'm an early morning endorphin fiend. 


Whether it's an pre-work run, cycle ride, yoga class or gym session, working out in the morning sets me right up for the day, and today was no exception.

The alarm was set for 5am. Kit laid out, lunch prepared and work clothes at the ready. Me and my wheels had a date up the Downs and it was gonna get dirty.

This week's route started in Stanmer Park, taking in the woodland trails before dawn to test out our lights and see what it's like to ride in the dark. There is method in this (what some might call) madness. 

BTRS South Downs Relay

Next Saturday 22nd November I'll be joining my team of four to ride the 100 miles of the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne on a mountain bike. The relay is just one of the many events as part of the Brighton Triathlon Race Series (more on this awesome group later) and to be honest I signed me and Chris up before realising how hard it might actually be.

That doesn't mean I'm not bouncing off the walls with excitement to get out there and get it done though, obviously. This is my I'm-gonna-bloody-do-this face:

We'll be setting off from Winchester at 8am sharp, our teams of four split into pairs to each take turns riding 15-18mile sections of the course before passing the baton to the other pair. When we're not out on the trail we'll be in the van driving to the next checkpoint to meet our team mates and take over the next leg.

It's expected to take between nine and 12 hours to cross the finish line in Eastbourne, and I bloody hope we make it there before the pubs close! I'm hoping for the best pint of beer to ever have passed my lips...

Endorphins ahoy

So me and my team mates have been setting our alarms to get some practice in before the big day, riding some of the course and testing out kit and lights etc. to make sure we're ready.

Last week we did just over 12.5 miles and rode some pretty tough hills amidst probably the most breathtaking sunrise I've ever seen in Brighton.

It was a beautiful, cold and crisp morning, with a gorgeous mist settling on the valleys below us and I spent the whole ride beaming from ear to ear, proclaiming my love for the world to John and Cat, as well as to every single cow that we passed.

It was just. Brilliant.

I'm not gonna lie, it was bloody hard work, much harder than I thought it'd be, and I'm glad we've got out to get a bit of practice in so we know what we're letting ourselves in for.

But that sunrise though...

Dark and dirty

Today's 14 mile ride was just as awesome for different reasons. We got up and out an hour earlier to do some in the dark. Starting off in the pitch black, we rode through Stanmer Park's winding woodland trails as it (actually very quickly) got light and turned into a mild but moody day.

It was muddy, and slippery, and great fun, with lots of forest tracks and cattle-filled fields to navigate. I rode through every single puddle with glee (although did regret having wet shoes afterwards - damn adult brain!) We didn't get a sunrise this time, but instead were treated to a sky of moody clouds and a gentle breeze. It was so peaceful up on the hills - with nothing but our breath and occasional moos from the cows we passed.

I honestly don't think there's a better place to live in the UK than Brighton - an eclectic and vibrant city nestled between a gorgeous seafront lined with chalk white cliffs, and a never-ending landscape of beautiful, rolling countryside.

Honestly, what more could you want?!

I'm really looking forward to this relay, even though I know it's gonna be a bloody long day. I'm excited about the challenge; I'm excited about the great group vibe we'll no doubt have along the way; I'm excited (or maybe not?!) to find out who gets to tackle the last leg into Eastbourne over the Seven Sisters ending with the beast that is Beachy Head.

I'm excited about the peanut butter sandwiches and hot tea I'm gonna pack and bring with me. I'm excited about the endorphins, but I haven't quite figured out how I'm gonna make my Garmin last the whole time so tech sweats are imminent when it runs out (any tips, lemme know!)

It's gonna be EPIC!!!

Are you a sucker for a challenge? Which type of cycling do you prefer, road or mountain biking? Mud or no mud?

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