FitBits: October 2015

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

5 PRODUCTIVITY HACKS YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE


My life is a busy one, with lots (of currently very exciting) things going on.

I'm one of those people who has trouble sitting still. My mind is often frantic with plans, projects, ideas and 100 different things on the go. I have little time for rest and I like it this way - we only get one life, we need to fill every day and soak up as much as we can.

As Sophie would say - one life, live it.


Spinning so many plates all the time can sometimes be overwhelming but I've been trying to take some time out to really organise and plan my life - at work, in fitness, for this blog and at home.

Forcing my brain to focus on one task at a time has been, shall we say, educational, but doable by, doing some brain training to improve my cognitive flexibility and working memory, courtesy of Weight Watchers' BrainBoost campaign.

BrainBoost is all about building a stronger, more focused mind to stay productive and make healthy food choices throughout the day, even when that day's been hectic and you're tired. You can find out your eating typology and life hacks for healthier eating on the BrainBoost website.

I've been practicing my hacks and seen some steady improvements in my general ability to just get shit done recently - I'm focused, more energised and stronger at resisting the urge to procrastinate.

Because, let's face it - when the internet throws things like this at you, it's hard not to stop drop and play.




You clicked through and clicked on 'make it rain', didn't you. Yeah you did. :)

Anyway, on that note, enough bouncing cats - here are my infinite pearls of wisdom on how to be more productive.

Go forth and produce, my pretties!


1) Pomodoro Chrome Extension 


The Pomodoro Technique is basically a lifesaver for me. A time management method that splits work into intervals of 25 minutes productivity with a five minute faff-break for watching important cat videos, making tea, checking Twitter, etc.

The thinking behind it is that short bursts of focus intercepted with regular breaks is better for mental agility,  rather than trying to slog it out for hours on end.

I've installed the Strict Workflow Chrome extension which blocks social media and other sites I tell it to when in work mode.


















You can get a surprising amount of work done if you just focus solidly for 25 minutes. Try it!


2) Get into bed with Google 


Like literally in bed. Google is the one. Thank the Lord for its presence.

I honestly don't know how I'd cope at work without good old Google planning my day out. I create and share documents on Drive, block out timeslots on Google Calendar for tasks and colour code for each client so I can see at a glance what I'm doing that day. 

I used to write endless To Do lists on paper but could never go back now that Google Calendar is so engrained into my working day. I also have a colour coded Google doc and spreadsheet for my weekly training schedule and monthly budget. It's ace. 

Download Google Drive and Docs apps and you can access your work whenever and wherever you want.


3) Limit open browser tabs 


As I write this I've only got six tabs open over two browser windows, which is pretty good for me to be honest.

I used to have so many tabs open I'd spend half my life flicking between them trying to remember what I was doing so now I limit myself to five or six. 

Focus on one task at a time and rely on Google Calendar to remind you what's coming up next.  

Don't keep opening new tabs for stuff you'll get to later. The likelihood is, you won't. Just one task at a time and a filled-in Calendar with alerts set up is all you need.  


4) Exercise in the morning 




This might just be me, but I love an early morning workout. If I get my run, gym session or swim in before work I arrive at my desk energised and full of endorphins, ready to take on the day. 

Going to bed early, prepping food and getting kit / work stuff ready the night before is definitely the one. Once the initial disgust at the situation passes, getting up early to workout really is the shiz. Just make sure you take enough food with you (see next point) to work to sustain you 'til lunch - don't learn the hard way!

I've had an unintentional week off from morning workouts after an awesome inaugural Bright10 last Sunday, and whilst it was nice to have a few lie ins and chilled mornings, I'm gagging for a pre-work gym sesh or run.


5) Keep your blood sugar steady 



And the most offensive office-snack award goes to... 


This is something I'm not always that good at but is a work in progress. It's amazing (and actually pretty simple) how what you eat and drink affects your energy levels and productivity throughout the day.

How many times have you had a big carby lunch or treated yourself to a slice of cake in the office and felt really sleepy in the afternoon?

Or started the day with a sugar fix instead of eggs and got massive cravings or hunger pangs mid morning?

I'm actually quite the connoisseur in offensive office snacking, much to the dismay of my colleagues. On good days, when I'm organised and have packed my food, laid out my kit and made my morning workout, my meals and snacks keep me on a nice level ground until hometime and I'm never really hungry.

On bad days though - it all goes to shit. No one needs to see hangry Tess. No one.


This post is a collaboration with WeightWatchers. Self-confessed addiction to pointless cat websites and tips are my own :)


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How do you stay productive throughout the day? Any other tips or hacks to share? 


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Sunday, 18 October 2015

RACE REPORT | BRIGHT 10

**WARNING** Euphoric, endorphin-filled Tess on the loose. Post may contain unhealthy levels of running love. 





 



We all know that running is awesome. 

But what makes running even more awesome? 

Running with friends, that's what. 



Today's inaugural Bright10 was an exciting new addition to the Brighton race calendar, drawing a huge crowd and lots of noise on social media. Mixed opinions have been aired about 'yet another seafront run', with some - me included - questioning why they'd pay to race a route they run in training almost daily.

That question got answered for me today, and I'm hoping it did for many others too.  





 

Smells like team spirit


There are two reasons that make running in Brighton so special - the scenery, and the community. There really is nothing like running a race where every other person shouts your name, gives a thumbs up, screams 'BOSH', 'come on', or pushes you not to give up.

When every mile you pass is accompanied by the cheers and praise from your 'team mates', on the sidelines, and alongside you on the course.

When you're overtaken by your peers, but then they stay at the finish line to watch you cross.

And then feed you cake. All the cake.

The amazing BOSH marshall team 

BOSH tent - CAKE!!! We raised £166 for the Stroke Association.






Brighton is awesome, running is awesome, but people are magic. To be part of so many amazing support networks and friendship groups across various 'families', clubs and communities is just priceless - you can't put a value on it.

It's what will keep me in Brighton for as long as my life will let me. (Even if house prices never come down and we never have enough money to buy). Chris said to me after today's race, he can never leave Brighton. I'm right here with him.

Today was one big jolly. A supermassive BOSH family outing. BOSH isn't the only community I'm part of - I've met so many wonderful people through BTRS, bfit, boxing, parkrun, cycling groups and more, and events like this bring everyone together like one big family Christmas.

Facebook's got a lot to answer for...



Chat first, dig deep later...


The fast, flat route of the Bright10 steers refreshingly clear of the famous Madeira Drive, and instead takes over Hove Lawns to host the (brilliantly equipped) race village and start/finish line. As the starting gun went off this morning I was busy fannying about with my earphones but I'm so glad I put them away.

I ended up running a comfy but steady pace gossiping with friends the whole way round. Friends on the sidelines shouted into megaphones to 'get on with it and stop gassing', but I was quite happy with the distraction.


Another perk of friends on the sidelines - free photos!





We stuck around 9min30/miles for the first half and when I mentioned I was well on course for a 10 mile PB at around seven miles, they picked up the pace and pushed me on. This is why running with other people is great. I would never have pushed as hard had I been on my own, probably deaf to the awesome atmosphere and sideline support from Leftfield pumping through my earphones.

I wanted to start slow and build up for a strong finish and the splits tell exactly that story. What they don't tell you, though, is that the last mile was punctuated with me hyperventilating, 'it's too fast', 'this is fast for me', 'this is more than threshold pace'.

"That bloke in the yellow top - that's where we're going",  I was told. "Then the girl ahead in pink".

It's funny how you can find just that little bit extra when someone's pushing you to dig deep. 




We came in at 1hr32 on my Garmin (not sure on chip time yet), about eight minutes faster than I thought I was capable of, with a nice strong finish. Having never raced 10 miles it was an unknown distance, and now it's done, my dream of a sub-2 half at Brighton Half in February (another amazing party race) seems more than achievable.

I love it when my body does what I ask it to :)


Mr Speedypants came in at 1:15:15 :)




I won entry to this race through BOSH earlier in the year so not only do I have friends to thank for the atmosphere, support, and finish-line cake, I have them to thank for the entry too. Would I pay for it next year, even though I run the seafront every week?

Definitely. You wouldn't not go to a party all your friends were at, would you?

If you're into running and want to never race alone again, join BOSH Run on Facebook :) 
And sign up to the Bright10 next year to join the party!

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What makes running special for you? Do you run alone or with others?




Wednesday, 14 October 2015

RACE REPORT | COLOR RUN BRIGHTON 2015

They call it the Happiest 5k. They're not wrong, really.

The 5ks I tend to run these days seem to be a grit-my-teeth, push-my-hardest PB attempt or hungover parkrun, which doesn't always turn out to be fun at all, if I'm honest. Rewarding sometimes, yes, but not necessarily fun. 

The Color Run is different. (Still hurts my brain to use the American spelling, but I'm soldiering on). You can't really call it a race - it's not timed, and there's not a pacer in sight. This is the second time I've done it, the last time was in 2013, the year it first came to Brighton.

It's refreshing, and fun, and silly, and awesome. It reminds me why running is great, something for all the family to get involved with, whatever your ability. 

Last Saturday it felt like there were a million people all lining up together for a right old jolly, there were no pre-race nerves, no serious elite athletes limbering up and checking Garmins, no judgement, no pressure, no reason not to smile. 

Families and runners/walkers of all shapes and sizes came to play, (maybe a few too many actually, as it was very crowded for the first couple of kms). I kinda also wish it wasn't so crowded so that everyone could run through the colour stations rather than shuffle through in an orderly queue, as it's much more fun getting pelted with colour at full speed, but hey ho. 

The post-run rave at the end was a delight, as ever, although I realised that sadly I'm no longer down with the kids so didn't know much of the songs played, apart from the choruses, when I joined in and clapped like they do on Strictly. 

You know I'm just gonna vom a load of wicked photos at you now don't you... 

FitBits | Brighton Color Run 2015


FitBits | Brighton Color Run 2015



FitBits | Brighton Color Run 2015

FitBits | Brighton Color Run after party 2015
FitBits | Brighton Color Run after party 2015

FitBits | Brighton Color Run after party 2015

FitBits | Brighton Color Run after party 2015
FitBits | Brighton Color Run Tess Agnew 2015


FitBits | Brighton Color Run 2015
Would I do it again? Probably, but I'd make sure I could get to the front of a wave so I could actually run the course instead of shuffling through the colour stations :) 

Visit thecolorrun.co.uk to find out more about the events across the country. 


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Have you done Brighton Color Run (or another near you)? What did you think? 




Monday, 12 October 2015

REVIEW | WEDGIE-FREE RUNDERWEAR

Right then. I hope you've had your dinner, as it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. I've been writing this blog for a couple of years now and I'm ready to talk about... my pants.

Whether you want to read about it or not is another matter, of course... but don't try and tell me you've never had to urgently attend to a wedgie half way through a run.  



What do you do for running underwear? 

Do you, like me, go for the big comfy pants that you can tuck your belly (and house) into? Do you go minimal and opt for a thong, or maybe even commando because you're sick of faffing about adjusting your pants every time they decide to disappear up your bum. For the men who are reading this, do you wear boxers under your running tights? Or pants or again, nothing?

It kinda ruins my vibe if I overtake someone all smug in a race but then let them see me reclaim my knickers from the abyss. 

Going commando is fine as long as you've got the right kit, i.e. either shorts with built-in pants or leggings that are sweat-wicking, breathable, with a proper gusset and thick enough to not be see-through.

No one needs to learn that the hard way... 



I was kindly sent a bra top and knickers set from Runderwear to put to the test (which I have, at parkrun, for intervals, yoga, the gym and er... a swim)*.

Here's my verdict:

The Good 

  • The knickers are nice and big (if you like that kind of thing). 
  • The first time I wore them I was two seconds away from my parkrun PB. Magic pants? Definitely... 
  • They're really comfy - the seamless design means no wedgie problems and everything's nice and snug for the run. 
  • The technical fabric is moisture-wicking and breathable so you finish the run nice and fresh. 
  • I love the fit of both the knickers and the bra, and love the blue branding. 
  • Both pieces feel really good quality. 

The Bad 

  • The bra top, although really comfy, is nowhere near supportive enough for me to run in, although was fine for yoga, gym (minus box jumps!), and even a swim! Runderwear do state on their website that women with a bra size of above a B cup should wear a supportive sports bra underneath the crop top. Wish I'd read this before heading out for intervals last week!
  • At £16 for the knickers and £25 for the crop top, they're not cheap, but if you're the right size on top it's not too unreasonable to pay this for a sports bra.



*I didn't mean to swim in public in my underwear, by the way. I just can't for the life of me find my swimming costume, and wasn't up for missing my Monday morning swim! It was also the first time I've ever worn anything remotely like a bikini in my entire life in public, so I'm actually pretty happy with that!

Disclaimer: I was sent the bra top and knickers set from Runderwear for free to review. Wedgie confessions and accidental swim test were my own. 

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What underwear do you wear to run in? 
And where the bloody hell is my swimming costume?!


Saturday, 10 October 2015

THIS GIRL CAN | AMBASSADOR FOR SUSSEX

I'm really excited to be partnering with Active Sussex as This Girl Can Sussex Ambassador. I've written about TGC before when Sport England first launched the campaign at the beginning of the year. Since then it's really taken off and inspired lots of us across the country to not give a damn about what anyone thinks and just get active.

This is the perfect opportunity for an endorphin-fiend like me and I can't wait to embark on some new-found fitness escapades across Brighton and Sussex, hopefully inspiring a few people to get stuck in along the way.




Every day, I'm reminded why I love keeping active so much. For me, it's about more than losing or gaining weight, slimming into those size 8 jeans, or general health and wellbeing.

It's about the mesmerising early morning sunrises and sunsets under the chalky clifftops of Brighton. Those things you'd never normally see unless you were out running or cycling at that very moment in time.

A video posted by @fitbits_tess on


The supermassive dose of endorphins that flood my system after a tough run, gym or swim workout.

Exploring new places, new feelings and reaching new goals.



Stepping out of my comfort zone to achieve the once unachievable, from my very first bootcamp class to my first marathon and triathlon.

It's about living life and feeling alive - not just existing from day to day. I spend my money on experiences, not things. Unless those 'things' are bikes or active wear...



n+1


It's about community, and friends, and people to share these experiences with. Get over that initial fear or awkwardness of going to a class or group for the first time, and you'll never look back.







It's no secret that I'm totally besotted with Brighton and Sussex and everything it offers for a self-confessed endorphin-fiend. 

The South Coast of England is a beautiful place; with the vast rolling hills of the Downs, the woods, beach and the brilliant white cliffs overlooking the sea - it's a runner's and cyclist's paradise.


FitBits | Longman10 race over the Seven Sisters |ThisGirlCan Sussex

Brighton's full to bursting with running clubs, cycling and triathlon groups, and fitness classes/communities, most of which I've already wrapped myself up in. 

But what about the other stuff? 

The handball, rounders, hockey or rugby? Dodgeball, kitesports or lacrosse? 

This Girl Can (and this girl will...)


Being This Girl Can Sussex Ambassador means I get to uncover all of these awesome clubs, groups and communities, and have a go myself. On numerous occasions people have said to me they 'don't know where to find local clubs' or 'don't know where to look for races and events'. 

I didn't know half of the sports mentioned above even happened in Sussex, so it's about time we started shouting about them. 

Over the next few months I'll be making my way around Brighton and beyond to find different ways of keeping active. I'll be blogging about it here and on the Active Sussex website, and we'll also be making videos of some of the activities so you can get a real look inside. 

Watch this space! 


Watch me try skateboarding at Brighton She Shredders with Active Sussex and This Girl Can! 


Watch me try synchronised swimming with Active Sussex and This Girl Can! 


Head to activesussex.org out more about Active Sussex and local clubs in the region, and more about Sport England's This Girl Can campaign here


What do you love about keeping active? Are there any sports you'd like to try but haven't done so yet?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

WINTER TRAINING GOALS (PLAYTIME)

Now that the London Marathon has put me out of my misery for the third time, I feel like I can get on with my life and properly plan my winter training playtime.

I LOVE autumn and winter training. I love it when the seasons change and the air gets crisp, I love it when the trees coat the ground in a crunchy blanket of orange and red. I love wrapping up warm in my winter running gear and braving the elements up on the Downs.

These are the best seasons to run in, no doubt about it.

Just look at that sunset. I didn't have to stay up past 10 for that badboy, that was 6:30 last week. Autumn rocks. Fact.


FitBits | Brighton beach sunset | copyright Tess Agnew




I decided to make 2016 a marathon-free year after my strong finish at Brighton this April, but entered the London ballot anyway because, well, it's basically the law. And if I had got in, I would've jumped at the chance to run it, obvs.

But, not getting in is fine. Now that I can keep my no-marathon promise I can start working towards what I want to achieve in the next few months, which I can basically sum up in three words: lean, fast, strong. 

I want to get my body fat down, get my running nice and fast, and my body fit and strong.

Strong body


I've reinstated my #gymwanker status with gusto and am back at the gym for strength training two or three times a week; one of those sessions training with Amy, at Love Life Fitness.

She's been putting me through my paces with some right beasty pre-work sessions, and it's great to be making muscles again. 

Concentrating on my swimming over the summer meant I neglected weight training and as a result have replaced 2.5kg of muscle mass with chub. That might not sound like a lot, but I can feel it and I don't like it.


FitBits | ThisGirlCan Tess Agnew


My body fat percentage is 34%, which is just ridiculous for someone my size. Time to change. I want to get strong again and lose some of this fat I've been carrying around so I can smash some PBs this autumn and winter and go into next year ready to smash some more.

I've never actually got it below 30% because I always lose my way a bit but without a marathon to train for and long runs to fuel (and refuel from), I'm excited to regain a bit of focus and try to be consistent for once.

FitBits | body fat analysis Brighton





I get my body composition analysed by Rachel at bodyoptimum.co.uk in Brighton - she's given me the initial goal of getting it down to 28%, and then we'll go from there. Put the cakes down Tess. Except on Fridays, cake's always allowed on Fridays. (80/20 til I die). 

Weekly training for the next few months will include:
- BTRS Trail series Sunday runs (challenging courses of five, 7.5, 10 and 16 miles through Brighton's trails and clifftop roads)
- Arena80 track sessions. Gonna finally join a run club and get to regular track sessions.
- Minimum three gym sessions per week (one with Amy)
- Two BTRS coached swim sessions (really looking forward to this)
- Sweaty Betty yoga class each week
- Long winter rides and turbo sessions
- Boxing bootcamp and climbing with hubs when we can fit it in! 


FitBits | Brighton Gym
True story...



Playtime


For me, October onwards marks the start of 'running season', when all the good races come out to play and I get to dance around the roads of Sussex like a lunatic.

Coming up in the next few weeks:

Color Run Brighton - 10th Oct
Bright10 (10miler)   - 18th Oct
Brooks 10k              - 15th Nov (PB attempt)
Brighton Half           - 28th Feb (PB attempt)

I'm not gonna race all of these. Obviously, the Color Run is there to be enjoyed no matter what the time, and the Bright10 is gonna have to be at a comfy pace, whatever that may be - it's been a while since I've ran that far so just hoping to finish well.

Brooks is the annual 10k PB attempt so I'll race the shit out of that one, obvs, as I will for the half :)


Brooks 10k target - 4mins 15s to shave off!


FUN FUN FUN!!

Strong mind 


As well as training my body I'll be focusing on building a stronger, more focused mind. I've been taking part in the latest #BrainBoost campaign with Weight Watchers, and have been given some life hacks to improve my working memory and cognitive flexibility, which you can read about in this post.

Basically the idea is that by training our brains to develop core skills, we can be productive and focused for longer, helping to make better food choices later in the day as well as first thing in the morning.

Find out what type of eater you are and get your life hacks to train your brain on the BrainBoost website.

FitBits | Weight Watchers Brain Boost
At the #BrainBoost event last month, using the mindfulness app. Pretty impossible to shut off in a room full of people! 

I've been adding up my shopping over the past couple of weeks and this week I very nearly got it bang on, only a few pence out. It's still really hard to keep track of everything as I go around, especially as I can't at least write it down, but I'm a little feeling more focused and productive so it must be doing me some good.

What I haven't been so great at is practicing daily meditation and switching off from technology every night before bed. I'm still taking my phone to bed and am online right up until the light goes out, so definitely some work to do there. I need to get to bed earlier too, (heard that before haven't we!)

Funny how the hardest thing for me to 'fit in' is time out and sleep!



*Disclaimer: I was approached by Weight Watchers to take part in the Brain Boost campaign and have been compensated to write about my experience. All words, thoughts, confessions of crap maths and inability to chill the feck out are my own.




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What are your autumn and winter training goals? How do you make time to balance sleep, rest and time out - from technology, and training?


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