FitBits: June 2016

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The benefits of walking to work




While I was off sick patiently waiting for my broken bones to fuse back together, I did a lot of sitting on my arse. And I really do mean a lot.

The most exercise I got each day was the two minute walk to the shop to pick up chocolate/pizza/chips/cake/anything with a satisfyingly high enough comfort-food rating, or if I was feeling really energetic, the very careful and ultimately achey walk to the doctors wearing my sling.

Hubs was working away for most of the weeks I was off, and I couldn't comfortably use a computer to do a big online shop. Carrying heavy bags home from the supermarket was obviously out of the question, so I (quite happily, actually) succumbed to a life of sugary, fatty, processed food and a non-stop Breaking Bad binge.

Of course this couldn't go on forever.



I've been back at work for just over two weeks, and because I'm still not allowed to ride my bike I've had to start walking into work. Anyone who knows me will know that for as long as I've had a job, I've travelled there on the wheels. Walking takes too long and I've long been an advocate for how easy Brighton is to navigate by bike.

You can literally get anywhere in 10minutes if you put enough effort in. Even quicker if you're on one of those pesky e-bikes that used to saunter past me on my daily hill climb mid-commute.

But guys... here's the thing. I'm totally loving my walk-commute! Sure, it's a slower pace than riding in, but that doesn't make it any less of a workout. In fact, now that I'm feeling like my bones won't disintegrate with every step I'm pretty much powerwalking every day.

Literally marching up the hill like a toy soldier with the tunes I love to run to banging in my ears.


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There are so many benefits of walking that 
I never took the time to realise before:


1. Easy does it: low impact exercise


Compared to running, it's nice and easy on the joints, and a lovely way to ease back into exercise after a break. Or start exercising from scratch.  

There's so much traffic on the roads right now, we don't need any more cars polluting our planet. 

Use your legs as much as you can, while you can. Even if it's raining. 



2. Builds cardiovascular fitness


I needed an introduction to getting active again after such a long time off, and walking to work every day has given me that. It keeps bones strong, is great for building cardiovascular fitness and helps boost circulation. 

It's just as easy as running to work up a sweat - just walk faster. Power-walking at a brisk pace can be as effective as an easy paced run - and with less impact. My daily march up the hill that I used to sail up on the road bike absolutely kills my calves so I know it's a good workout. 


3. Thinking time 


Oh Brighton, I adore thee :)


I love my cycle-commute, but you can't switch off at all, not for one second. You have to be totally focused on the road and what's happening around you, especially with all that traffic about. (Why don't more people use their legs to get to work?!)

With walking, you can adjust the pace to as slow or fast as you like, stick your earphones in and let your mind wander. (Apart from when you're crossing the road, of course - don't be a dick...) 

I've been able to really clear some things up from the day at work, and take the time to soak up the vibrant, buzzing atmosphere of Brighton's beautiful streets on the walk home from meeting friends in town. 

It's a different pace, but it's fine. 



4. Catching up 

I've only recently embraced the joys of hands free. When cycling I don't wear earphones as I need to concentrate on the road, but walking home is the perfect time to make those calls I've been meaning to every day but forget about by the time I get in. 

Also, it's now socially acceptable to be wandering down the street talking to yourself. I've also noticed lots of people walking aimlessly along, head down, eyes engrossed in their phone. This makes me sad. 

Look up, people. If you must use your phone when on the move, get your hands free out and call a friend, or call your mum. I know she'd love to hear from you. 



5.  Don't mind me, I'm just high...




Never thought I'd say this, but there comes a point during my nice brisk walk to or from work where I get a little high, like I do with running. 

It's mostly dependent on what tune I'm listening to, and how late I am, but most of the time any stresses I carry with me soon melt away and I reach my destination on a wave of energy and good vibes. 

Eugh, I know... she's so Brighton. 


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How do you get to work? Do you like walking?


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Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Caledonian Sleeper: an overnight adventure from London to Scotland

Caledonian Sleeper train review - London to Edinburgh


I've been doing a lot of sitting on my arse recently - you'll have probably seen why - and one of the various places that's played host to said arse these past few weeks has been the Caledonian Sleeper train, from London to Edinburgh. 

Luckily, my sis-in-law's hen do fell very near the end of my six-week hiatus from real life, so rather than faffing about for hours getting to, and waiting at the airport for an 80-minute flight, I thought I'd treat myself to the overnight train. 

Not just any train mind you - the Caledonian Sleeper train to Scotland. 


Caledonian Sleeper train - friendly staff


Caledonian Sleeper train - food and whisky menu | FitBits Tess Agnew


 

Seduced by the romanticism of the railway and the novelty of having the option to get horizontal and actually be comfortable on an overnight journey - not to mention the promised 6:30am wake up call of hot tea and Scottish shortbread - I upgraded my ticket from the reclining seats to a standard cabin.

As far as decisions go, it was a pretty epic one. 


How often do you get excited about a journey? As in looking forward to the actual process of going somewhere, rather than just the end point? Sure, we've all got excited to fly abroad for a holiday, or drive a long way to a family wedding - but can you remember the last time you actively enjoyed a journey for the journey itself?

More specifically, a train journey? (Ask anyone in the South East that question right now and you may well get punched in the face). 



Caledonian Sleeper train - Standard Cabin | FitBits Tess Agnew
Standard Cabin

Caledonian Sleeper train - First Class cabin sleepover pack | FitBits Tess Agnew
First Class sleepover pack

At £110 one way, the ticket wasn't cheap, but was around the same price for a flight the same weekend, and a whole lot more comfy. From start to finish, I literally had the best experience. I was greeted and ticked off the list at the door of my coach by a lovely member of staff, and directed to my cabin. 

The standard class cabins are twin bunk beds, with a foldable table each, two plump pillows, duvets and a shared sink and clothes hangers. You get a towel, eye mask and free magazine (which smells really nice, btw. The first thing I do when I open magazines with nice paper is smell them).  

The beds are comfy and as well as the main light you get a dimmer light for each berth. If you book a Standard Cabin as a single passenger, you may have to share with a stranger, but they always match sexes and try not to put you with any axe murdering weirdos. 

If you have two broken bones and the air conditioning in your coach is broken, the lovely attendant will move you to another coach. And if you flutter your eyelids and make noises about making sure you still have the lower bunk because of your broken collarbone, you get moved to First Class :) * 

First Class






* Broken bones do not guarantee moving to First Class.  Do not go out and break bones. 


The First Class Cabins are wicked. You get a whole room to yourself, so no bunk bed, a brilliant sleepover kit with an eye mask, flannel, hair and body wash, moisturiser and (wait for it...) PILLOW SPRAY. There's also a little more room to swing a cat. (Incidentally, you are allowed to bring your cat, but please don't swing it). 

If you're lucky enough to not have any broken arms and book First Class in the first instance, you get a full English breakfast included and priority booking in the Lounge Car restaurant for dinner.  




That's right. LOUNGE CAR. 

You can order haggis, neeps and tattis (as long as there's some left and all the First Class peeps haven't nabbed it!), enjoy a wee dram of whisky or a cold beer, or get a take out dinner back to your cabin if there's no space to sit down. 

This was the (very friendly) conductor telling everyone to calm down after a (very friendly and fun) stag do burst into the car behind me:







The staff are the most wonderful train staff you'll ever meet, the food is brilliant, atmosphere great, cabins comfy - it really is the perfect journey. 

Me and hubs have been meaning to do the sleeper train for ages as we love Scotland, but I've never had the chance until now. Next time I book I'll bring him with me and it'll be up to Fort William - or maybe even Inverness as we've never been that far into the highlands before. 

To book your sleeper train to Scotland, visit sleeper.scot.

This post was not written in collaboration with Caledonian Sleeper, I just had the most epic experience that I paid for myself and wanted to share with you!



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Have you ever travelled by sleeper train? 
If not you must!


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Friday, 3 June 2016

Why closing Little Stoke parkrun is a GOOD thing






Yes, you read the headline right. Cancelling Little Stoke parkrun is a GOOD thing. 
We all need to remember that.

I'm sure I won't be the first person to have an opinion on this. Nor the last. Runners across the country, including former Olympians Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes, have been supporting the campaign to keep Little Stoke free after Stoke Gifford Parish Council voted to charge runners £1 each to use the park.

That might not seem much but it’s a matter of principle – parkrun is, and should always remain, FREE to all. It represents everything that’s great about running – community, inclusivity, health and wellbeing. We run parkrun to feel part of something. To push ourselves to achieve more. To be healthier, and happier. To bring people together, and build a better future for us and our children.

Over 8,000 parkrunners this week were first timers. Running participation has increased hugely over the past few years, with one million more people running every week than a decade ago. parkrun is helping to change the world into a healthier place.

After much discussion from both sides, this week the final decision from the Council was to revoke permission for the event -  much to the huge disappointment of parkrun and its many thousands of participants from Little Stoke and beyond.  

Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer for parkrun, said on this week’s parkrun news page:

 "Over the past 12 years parkrun has grown from 13 runners in one park to 150,000 runners at 900 locations around the world, every week. Key to this success has been our determination to remove as many barriers to participation as possible, with cost being one of the most critical.

 Stoke Gifford Parish Council's initial request for us to charge our runners £1 per week went completely against our most fundamental principles and, as a free event, their subsequently revised requirement for parkrun to contribute financially to the maintenance of the park is also something we are unable to do.

 From the outset, and despite significant efforts from many people inside and outside of parkrun, we were unable to convince them of the true value that a parkrun event provides to its local community.”

This is so backward.


Part of the Council’s rationale behind charging parkrunners was that the extra runners should contribute to the upkeep of the park.

As parkrun is an organisation “with paid directors and staff” and is “sponsored by national companies”, it should pay. Local football clubs pay to hire use of the pitch – why shouldn’t parkrun contribute to the maintenance of the park?

The official statementfrom the Parish Council states it has only recently shelled out £55,000 from public money to resurface the carpark, and with the additional 300+ runners per week will shortly have to replace / repair the footway at an estimated cost of £60,000.


Right… bear with me while I climb up onto my soapbox here, but:


  1.  The national sponsors and investors who contribute to parkrun are what allows it to be free – covering staff costs, running costs, etc. Each new parkrun costs £6k to set up – new teams raise £3k and parkrun funds the remaining £3k back into the event for setting up websites, equipment etc. There is no profit for parkrun. (Thanks to a friend who recently help set up a new parkrun in Brighton for this info).

  2. After extensive and incredibly unnecessary research into the lifecycle of pedestrian-only asphalt footways in the UK (I’ve got a lot of time on my hands at the moment, don’t judge…), the average footway will last around 25-30 years. So that’s £60,000 every 30 years, already contributed to in council tax by the thriving and close-knit community of healthy, happy parkrunners using the park. 


What about other park users? Dog walkers? Families, children, those practicing Thai Chi or slack lining between ancient oak trees? I’m sure they all pay their council tax too.

Maybe we should have single-file coin turnstiles at the gates of all open spaces, just in case, you know, anyone thought this was a free country, and our green spaces were there for us to enjoy.

I understand that the Parish Council might be strapped for cash right now, but they’re looking at this all wrong. The benefits of 300+ people running in the park every week far outweighs the potential ‘damage’ from overuse and cost of upkeep.


If they REALLY have to charge, how’s this for a solution:

Since its beginning in 2012, an average of 187 people take part at Little Stoke each Saturday across 173 events, and another 76-ish children aged 4-14 on Sundays across 94 Junior parkruns. The parkrun website states there are 6,745 runners per year, adults and juniors. Multiply that by the number of years it’s been running (five including 2012), and you’ve got 33,725.

If everyone who’s ever ran Little Stoke (juniors included, get that pocket money out...) gives £2 each for every year it's been running so far – not every week, just once, right now – that’s £67,450. £60k of that can go into the Parish Council’s pocket to pay for the resurfacing of the path, £6k can go to parkrun to set up a new event.

The £1,450 change can be spent on a shit load of cake every week for everyone after they’ve scanned their barcodes in. And in 30 years, when the path needs resurfacing again, the children of today's Little Stoke Junior parkrunners can join other runners to throw their tenner into the pot. 

Sorted.

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What do you think about the closure of Little Stoke? Would you pay £1 per week for parkrun?

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

This Girl Can't - a lesson learned in mountain biking

FitBits | Numpty definition - mountain bike fail - Tess Agnew


Well that wasn't in the plan.  


Never in a million years did I see it happening, not even when I rode as fast as I could, on my brand new bike, trying for the first time ever, to pump nice and hard into the fast and flowy descent on Forest of Dean's signature blue trail. 

Me and my trusty hardtail have ridden the Verderer's numerous times and never parted company, not once. Even on the more technical, rocky descents at Bike Park Wales and Afan, when I was hanging on for dear life with borderline carpal tunnel syndrome, I never came off. 

But the new wheels in my life - my beautiful, silky smooth Specialized Rhyme full sus - is an absolute beauty and boy does she fly. 


The thing is, I don't, do I?

 

Van life



You have no idea how excited I was to see what this bike could do. After a couple of years' battling it out on the hardtails me and hubs gave into temptation and finally upgraded our trail toys. 

We're just turning 30. Most people have kids or buy a house, we bought more bikes. n+1 and all that. You can't go mountain biking when you've got a sprog to feed, can you. (Fully aware that you also can't go mountain biking with broken bones either, but humour me here). 

Anyway, it was the early May Bank Holiday, we were on our way to Wales with the new wheels for a weekend of camping in the van - life was good. Afan, Bike Park Wales, and finishing off with Forest of Dean. 

Van life rules, by the way. Freedom. Just get in and go. Take your bikes, pack the stove/grill and electric coolbox, get some beer, head to the hills and you're onto a cracking weekend.

 

Go hard or go home - in an ambulance


I was always gonna ride hard - go hard or go home, in fact. 

Ugh. 

Well I went hard and then I went home - with 26 segment PRs on Strava, a broken left collarbone and broken right wrist for my efforts. They don't give trophies for those do they?

The moment I realised my collarbone was fooked

Oh yeah, and I got a chipped tooth from stacking it the previous day at Bike Park Wales on a difficult rocky trail we'd never ridden before, aptly named, (wait for it...) Rim Dinger. 

That was just a little fall though, a rookie error on a challenging cambered section - I looked where I didn't want to go, knowing it would be a trip over the handlebars if I did. 

You know the rest. 


Don't look at me like that. I know what you're thinking. 


Take it easy Tess, calm down, why do you need to go so fast? Can't you stick to the easy trails? 

could, yes. I won't though. You wouldn't either, not really. And anyway, the trail I broke my bones on was the 'easy' trail - graded blue. I just got cocky on its lovely fast, flowy descent, with its flat out corners, big berms and rollovers. (ROLLOVERS, Tess, the clue's in the name).

I didn't do much rolling over. I pumped into them all, nice and hard, and somewhere in the air after the last one remembered that I, Tess Agnew, am an absolute numpty and cannot jump a mountain bike. 

Yet. 

If you wanna see where I stacked it check this video from someone else's GoPro, I've cut to the rollovers





Cut to a minute or so later and a concerned hubby ROLLS OVER the rollovers to find me lying on the floor muttering gibberish to myself with my bike half way down the ditch (see top left photo for my 'what's going on 'ere then?' face).

He sorts a makeshift sling, picks up my bike and gets another rider behind us to help push my bike down to the trail centre and call an ambulance. 

I can hereby confirm that walking down a fast, flowy descent section of one of my favourite trails is, um, a bit, well, meh


A lesson learned



The bike was fine, by the way, I think. Haven't had her checked out yet, booked in for service in a couple of weeks, but can't see any damage apart from maybe a slightly buckled back wheel.

I, on the other hand, am not fine, and have been sat on my arse for a month, making good friends with Walter White and co (Did the whole thing in 7 days, and the whole of season five in one day o_O) 

It's been two weeks since the operation to fit a plate in my clavicle so got another four-six to go before I can get hopefully back on the road bike. Mountain bike will be a bit longer - and when I do, it'll be pootling across the South Downs Way, not throwing myself down the trails again just yet. 

Think someone needs some skills training first...


It's actually pretty good, that gas and air - this was before I noticed...

I wanted this post to be about how great mountain biking is in south Wales and FoD but got a bit preoccupied with my epic fail. 

Don't worry though - I got back to the trails 3 months later - click here for a tour of the trails in Wales :) 



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Have you ever had any gnarly accidents? 
Would you get back on the bike?

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