FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: October 2014


Sunday, 26 October 2014

When cycling goes wrong

You know when your head wants to do something but your body just says no? Yeah, that.

I should've known that after a week of running, climbing (more on this later) gymming and finally biting the bullet and getting back to the boxing gym, my legs would laugh at me for trying to bosh out a hilly 35 mile ride against the wind.

"Eh? The clocks have gone back and she's set another bloody alarm to 
'make the most of it' instead of having a lie in and rest day? Nah mate, not on our watch."

We woke up after an early night (rock n roll, kids, rock n roll) mostly full of beans and sort of raring to go. Well, Chris was - I was tired and of the opinion that 'it'll be fine once I get into it.'

Which sometimes is enough to get me through, but not today. 

A cyclist's paradise - Velo Cafe, Brighton

We headed down to Velo Cafe for the 8.30am meet up and set off at 9. Before I go into why it went tits up today, I must tell you about Velo.

For those of you not in the know, Velo is an awesome new cycling cafe at The Level in Brighton, that does midweek and weekend road and mountain bike rideouts for all levels. I say new, but it's been going for a year now and if you're a cyclist and in/near Brighton you HAVE to come down.

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

The midweek rides cost a fiver and you get a proper sexy homemade pizza or pasta dinner* at the end of it included in the price and can rehydrate with a nice pint of Dark Star bitter with your new cycling friends.

* "proper sexy" taste classification awarded by yours truly after vigorous testing

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

The weekend rides are free as there is no food included, but of course you can come back and scoff what you like for the going rates. (Why hello there, homemade sausage roll and scotch eggs). They also have a calendar of events, bike service packages and offer free workshops and one-on-one tutorials so you can learn to service your bike yourself.

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

Brighton's beast

On the menu today was an 'about 35 mile' circuit from the cafe along the coastal road to Newhaven and up to Lewes before conquering the beast that is Ditchling Beacon and enjoying the descent back into Brighton. 

I've done the Beacon before but only once, on the Tour of Britain rideout with the Velo crew - and after that we went on to do Bear Road too (another monstrous incline for you non-Brightoners), so I wasn't scared of failing this time.

I also wasn't prepared for just how tough it was.

Last week me and Chris nailed the long Sunday ride with some strategic planning that was in no way cheating at all. It was bloody marvellous. 

This week the route was the same to Newhaven, and the wind direction was apparently the same too - LIES, ALL LIES!!

Legs said no

As soon as we set off I knew it wasn't happening. My tyres were too flat, the wind was against us the whole way and I was absolutely knackered within 20 minutes. I was huffing and puffing along at the back, wondering how the hell I was gonna pull another 30 odd miles out the bag and make it up one of Brighton's beastiest hills in one piece.

I *hate* failing - if I start something I have to finish it, and I love to work my ass off towards a goal; throwing everything I have into it.

Today I learned a lesson though - bailing on a ride, run, gym session or whatever when your body is just not having it is not failing at all. It's actually pretty sensible. I peeled off just after Kingston with a few of the group and left Chris and the others to go and do the Beacon. I just didn't have it in me.

I forgot that the way home was also another three miles into a deceivingly ferocious headwind along a dual carriageway which was pleasant, but by that time we were laughing at how ridiculous it all was so it didn't matter.

The Velo Cafe, Brighton - cycling

We got back to the cafe and refuelled with coffee, cake and sausage rolls (was a bit too early for a pint of Dark Star!), swapping stories and expletives at the weather, waiting for the others to come back. Despite the mega hard work, it was an epic ride and a stark reminder that winter cycling is gonna be just a little bit different from the balmy tropics of the beautiful summer that we've had this year.

I'm not putting my bike away though - I want my sausage roll, dammit.

But, I will definitely have a rest day tomorrow, I promise!

How have you found running and cycling in this changing weather? Do you plan rest days or do you wait until you crash and burn like I did today? 


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Sunday, 12 October 2014

The fight of my life

"Are you ok? Can you see properly? 
Don't worry if you feel sick - that's just the adrenalin leaving your body."

Just another normal Sunday night then. 

An experience "like no other" is how it was promised on the website, in the first meeting, and all throughout training. When I came back from the gym battered, bruised and in tears from being punched in the face too many times, I reminded myself of this, and looked forward to the climax of fight night with anticipation, fear and determination to learn more and get stronger. 

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - you were everything you promised and more. 

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

Feel the fear. Then do it anyway. 

I started the eight weeks training maybe a little too confident in my own fitness and ability - after all, I'd been a regular boxerciser for a number of years - how hard could real boxing be? Quite bloody hard, it turns out.

But what an incredible experience.

As the weeks went on I took everything I could from the two free weekly sessions, extra classes and PT, and walked into that ring last Sunday with my head held high, ready for the fight or flight reaction in my body to decide how it was gonna go.

I was excited, terrified, and proud to have got to this moment, determined to soak up every single second, win or lose.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton
Blue corner
Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton
Red corner

Nothing like it

Everyone at the gym said that stepping into the ring for the first time is the most amazing experience in the world - there's nothing like it. They weren't wrong.

All day I'd been bouncing off the walls, so excited for everyone to arrive and the fights to start - my fight was last, so we were closing the show. As the day went on and I watched my new friends battle it out in the ring, the nerves started to take hold and the adrenalin pumped through my veins.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton
The stage awaits... 
Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Mark West
Me and my trainer, Mark West 

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling
Me and my opponent sussing out the ring beforehand

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew
Watching the other fights - nail biting stuff!

When the time came to warm up I felt like the day had disappeared so quickly - was I ready?




Yes. Ish...


I haven't practiced this combo, I haven't warmed up enough - is 15 minutes enough? What was that thing Mark taught me to do if I get pushed onto the ropes? I need to practice slipping more. I can hear the crowd, everyone's going mental. Amy's gone out there. She's doing a bloody victory entrance dance already - what am I gonna do to look cool dammit?! Just walk out, head held high. My music's playing. This is it. 

Bowl it out there. You got this, whatever happens, the moment's yours.

Fighting my heart out

My opponent, and new-found friend in training, dominated me from the first punch. Within five seconds of the bell ringing at the start of the round she'd landed a hefty combination of punches to my face and backed me against the ropes.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

I realised then that this was much different to the sparring I was used to, and knew I had to fight my heart out.

By the end of the first round I was absolutely knackered. My strategy to go for the defence in the first round and let her knacker herself out didn't go to plan - she was coming from all angles, and I had to attack back. I had to give it everything.

We both did.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

A week previously, another boxer at the gym told me to completely relax in the one-minute breaks between the rounds. He said to let my body go completely floppy and let myself recover as much as possible.

I didn't have to try, it was all I could do.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew

By the time the second round came the crowd were going mental, all eyes on us. I couldn't believe it was actually happening, it was like slow motion. I slipped and got in close to land some combos to the ribs and body, and she used her reach to dish out some stonking head and face shots - I still need to work on my head movement.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew Pocket Rocket

Every time she got me in the face or had me up against the ropes I got really angry and came back at her with everything I had. I did manage to crack a few in the face which I was pleased about but definitely had more success with getting in close and going for the body shots.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew Pocket Rocket

The crowd support was just amazing and every time one of us was going at it the roars from the room got louder and spurred us on. It's an incredible thing to have the whole room watching just you and no one else, everyone cheering and screaming and whooping when one of you lands a punch.

Ours was the last fight so the atmosphere was electric.

Just, electric.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling
That's my mate in the corner with her arm in the air - I must've been doing something right! 

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling
Maybe this time not so much - spot my husband's clenched fists next to a worried Carla!
At the end of the second round I was dead - I had nothing left to give but knew I had to go out fighting and that there was no time to rest. We spent a fair amount of time circling each other and staring each other out (basically grabbing a breather - thank God we let each other do that!) before moving in for another attack.

Looking at the official photos, we got pretty good at symmetrical synchronised attacks, which is quite funny:

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

Third and final round on video 

The third round was, for me, my best one. By that time I knew I'd lost but was so pumped and determined to go down fighting that I went all out until the final bell. Which, by the way, took a bloody AGE to come.

I was knackered, out of breath, my chest was tight, and I was counting the seconds for it to end but at the same time not wanting it to come so I could try and claw it back.

I can honestly say I've never been so knackered in all my life, in ANYTHING I've ever done. The marathon's got nothing on this - it was six minutes of absolutely every trace of my inner soul - I left everything I had in that ring. I had nothing left in me.

Do what scares you

I'm a total sucker for a challenge. I love to push my limits and try things that scare me - this whole experience has been equally terrifying as it has been exhilarating and rewarding, and I am begging you to give it a go for yourself. Just once. 

I'm gonna hopefully continue boxing and will definitely fight again at some point but will get some more training in first. 

There are White Collar events all over the country, happening right now and all throughout the year. Find your nearest one on the website or Facebook page (there's a separate Facebook page for Ladies White Collar Boxing).

If you wanna see how badass the other Brighton girls were you can view all the photos from the Brighton fight night here

Ultra White Collar Boxing

You get eight weeks FREE professional training, get to meet a bunch of amazing people and raise money for Cancer Research, and have an experience you will NEVER forget. Ever. 

I highly recommend taking up extra classes and PT sessions if you can afford it to be the best you can be - eight weeks from beginner to the ring is not long at all and it will fly by. 

Especially if you go and get married in between it all and miss a few sessions! 

Win or lose, it'll stay with you forever.

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Brighton - Tess Agnew and Amy Stribbling

Go on, you know you want to...

Would you ever consider doing a white collar boxing event? Do you already do boxercise or boxing training/body combat or similar and want to progress? What do you do to challenge and test yourself?


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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Stoptober - stop smoking now - I dare you


1,363 days.  EDIT: 1,886 days now, (29/9/16)!

As I write this, that is the number of days since my last cigarette. After 10 years of chugging on 20-30 Golden Virginia roll-ups a day, not being able to go more than half an hour without one, coughing and wheezing my way up the stairs and dreading the thought of any exercise in case I got out of breath  - I finally broke free.

It's 1st October, which means the beginning of Stoptober. This is an opportunity for you, if you're a smoker wanting to break free, to give it a bloody good go.

Give it everything you've got, don't hold back - for 28 days, I dare you.

FitBits | Stop smoking - nhs quit smoking - Stoptober

That's it. If you can do it for one month, you can do it forever.

You have to want to do it though. So many times I 'tried' because I knew I had to but didn't really want to. Then one day, I did. And it was the best thing I've ever done. It changed my life, and it'll change yours too.

I'm about to bore you with my story so if you're not currently or have never been a smoker I'd probably head over to something more interesting like this or this.

The darkest depths of the ashtray 

It was Christmas 2010 and we were at Chris' mum and dad's house in Limoges. We had to keep going outside for a fag and it was freezing cold and annoying - we were so used to just lighting up in the house wherever we were - in bed, on the sofa, at the dinner table, riding our bikes around town.

We knew we should stop but never really put the effort in for long enough. I'd been smoking for 10 years and was a much more dependent smoker than Chris - he could smoke 20 one day and have nothing for the next two. I couldn't go more than half an hour without one and when I ran out and had no money I used to re-roll used fag butts from the ashtray. I called it going to Butlins.

Occasionally I'd treat myself to a pack of 20 if we were on a night out.

FitBits | Stop smoking - nhs quit smoking - Stoptober
Pissed in Prague - 18 years old.
Literally no idea why we had a massive kitchen knife,
think we were cutting lemons behind the youth hostel bar. 

One hell of a wake up call

The proper wakeup call for me came in my last year of university, in the final weeks leading up to my dissertation deadline. I was well behind and had been feeling proper shit for a good while, but put it down to being really unhealthy, drinking and smoking loads, eating crap, working and studying hard.

What started with a general but progressive lack of energy quickly turned into terrifying breathlessness, dizziness and severe anaemia - after multiple misdiagnoses (one doctor sent me away with cough medicine), and bodged blood transfusions which gave me massive bruising,  I was finally admitted to a specialist unit in the early hours of my 21st birthday when I started coughing up blood.

I spent two weeks in hospital enduring very traumatic and invasive treatment for Goodpastures syndrome - and was forced to give up smoking, much to my dismay. I didn't want to quit, I had to. I couldn't breathe walking to the kitchen let alone sucking on a roll up, but I carried on smoking right up until that day - even though I was literally coughing my lungs up as soon as I lit up.

I'm telling you this to set the scene a bit - I'm not proud of this, it's just the way it was. 

The doctors said they couldn't be sure of the cause of the Goodpastures.  It's a really rare disease and not much research has been done on it, but they did know that smoking has been named as one of the triggers.

Getting back on it 

My recovery took about six to eight months, and during that time I was completely smoke free. I started to do a bit of exercise, joined a gym, went swimming and rode my bike around town. I felt great, but something was missing.

I didn't want to quit smoking. It was forced upon me. I wanted to go out with my uni friends again, get drunk and sit around smoking and laughing together.

FitBits | Stop smoking - nhs quit smoking - Stoptober

My first cigarette since going into hospital eight months previously was outside a club in my hometown with my best mate.

It was the BEST BLOODY FAG I'd ever had, and it was a (gradual) downward spiral from there onwards. Within a few months I was right back to square one, lying to my loved ones and sneaking out for crafty tokes before finally 'coming out' as a smoker again, much to everyone's disgust and worry that the Goodpastures would come back.

I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't stop. I wanted to be myself again.

FitBits | Stop smoking - nhs quit smoking - Stoptober
Some people draw fruit bowls and portraits of loved ones. I drew tobacco pouches. o_O

Letting go for good 

I didn't try to quit again until that Christmas at Chris' mum and dad's. We decided that when we got back home we'd go down to the smoking clinic at the doctors and give it a proper go. I honestly didn't think we'd really do it, but Chris was adamant so I decided to see how it went.

The smoking clinic was a revolution - I dunno why I'd never asked for support before. Each week we had a one-on-one appointment with the nurse, and talked it through, chose the treatment method (nicotine replacement, cold turkey, Champix - electric cigarettes didn't exist at the time), checked our carbon monoxide levels to see if we'd smoked.

We were assured that if we had, it was not a reason to give up quitting, but merely a blip in the process.

FitBits | NHS Stop Smoking Clinic - Stoptober

Chris went cold turkey (the jammy bastard), while I knew that nicotine replacement in the way of patches, gum or an inhalator just wasn't gonna cut it, so I went for Champix, which at the time was a new medicine to help reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and reduce cravings and enjoyment of smoking. It's been around a few years now and has helped many people successfully quit smoking.

It is by no means a magic wand though - you have to want to quit and still put a lot of effort into doing so.

FitBits | NHS Stop Smoking Clinic - Stoptober

The support was just amazing, and completely free apart from the weekly prescription cost. A fraction of the £20 a week I was spending on feeding my habit.

We were given a Quit Kit with help, information and resources on what to expect from the journey ahead, free email and text support and were never made to feel rushed in the weekly appointments. I took full advantage of the text support and let the nurse know when I'd had a tough day or felt particularly stressed or tempted to give in.

Find your local Stop Smoking Clinic here.

Never stop quitting

I'll never look back. I know I can never have another cigarette as long as I live, and I'm completely OK with that. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I can't faff about having 'one or two' with a beer as I know I'd get right back on it.

I don't want to smoke ever again, I've got too much to lose. It was the best thing I ever did for my health and I'm glad I did it on my terms, when I was ready, instead of when I was ill, even though it was stupid to start up again.

If you're thinking about quitting, have tried before (or not), and are serious about breaking free, just give it everything you've got. Try your absolute hardest, stay true to yourself and get down to your local Stop Smoking Clinic to get the right support.

I promise you, once you've done it you'll feel invincible.

Do it today. Do it now. Do it forever. 
I dare you. 

Find out more about the support available and sign up to Stoptober to
 start your journey to a happier, healthier you. 

Have you quit smoking or have you tried before? 
How did you do it, and how do you feel about smoking now?  


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