FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: January 2017


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Brighton Marathon Training Weeks 3-5: She Said, He Said

<<   She Said, He Said: Week 2

I didn't want to bore you with a week-by-week training diary so we'll do these She Said, He Said updates every 2-3 weeks. (I turned it around to be She Said first, are you proud? #feminism innit). This post's a bit long, soz. You can bugger off if you like, I won't hold it against you. 

For anyone who's not read these posts before, they're basically both mine and Chris' accounts of training for this year's Brighton Marathon. 

He's a beginner in marathon terms, but is naturally a fast runner so is training with the 3hr 15 RunBrighton training group He's also not proving me right at all about how hard he'd find it, annoyingly, but he is a tree surgeon so is obvs already very strong. 

As you may know, this will be my third Brighton Marathon, and I'm aiming for a 4hr30 ideally, but anything under 4hr55 would be a PB so I'll take whatever comes. 

Read about popping my marathon cherry here, and the second time when I finished strong and felt like superwoman here

Turn-point photo with the 4hrs30 RunBrighton crew


She Said: Weeks 3-5

Last week was a funny old week for me. On the plan it was a cut back on the midweek runs - there were still three runs on the plan, but all at an easy pace, instead of intervals or progression run. I took the term 'cut back' to an extreme and ran zero times until the weekend, and then had a right old binge in the running and cycling stakes. 

Read more about Saturday's binge and why I've set myself some benchmarks for running and cycling fitness. 

But I did get to bounce around a Zumba class, start the week with a dollop of zen and a good old stretch at Monday AM yoga on my MoveGB trial. If you ever need a pick me up by the way, get yourself to a Zumba class - it's where my fitness journey started!

Running in a winter wonderland

Sunday's long run was a tough and hilly affair into a the most beautiful winter wonderland I've ever seen with the RunBrighton crew. Freezing cold, we marched into the hills on a crunchy carpet of frost, with the sun on our backs. 

Just perfect. 

It was the kind of run that makes you glad to be alive, whether you run, walk or crawl! 


Week 4 (w/c 9/1/17) - the one with the angry uterus

Week 4 was a full one training-wise, with two PT sessions, a 40min steady run and beasty continuous hills session on the Saturday. Let me just say right now I really HATE continuous hills, it's such an evil session. 

For those of you not in the know, you basically pick a hill, and run up and down it continuously, at threshold pace (including down at threshold pace), for a set of 6-10min intervals with 2min jog (or in my case, walk/stand and pant) recoveries. 

Booooooring. And hard. But worth doing if you want to build good leg strength and cardiovascular fitness. What a bummer. 

Continuous hills face... 

There was also a forced rest day due to first day period pains - I got angry and wrote this to mark the occasion. 

The long run was 2hours along the Adur with 3x10mins marathon pace segments at the end - and I got to double figures at last! Although, not sure if I would call the pace we were doing in those segments 'marathon pace' just yet, but we'll see!

Week 3 (w/c 2/1/16) - the throw yourself into routine one

Week 3 seems so long ago I can't even be bothered to write about it but I'll give an upshot as I like to look back on these posts and see what I did. It was the first week back after Christmas and I threw myself head first into training, relishing the routine. 

It looked like this:

Tue: PT legs AM / Progression run PM 15/15/15 (legs hated me for the run!)
Wed: PT upper body 
Thu: Easy/steady run 40mins
Sat: 45mins continuous hills (3x10mins effort / 2mins jog recoveries) EUGH. 
Sun: RunBrighton long run - the one with the hills!

Now we're coming to the end of week 6 and next week we're in Barcelona for half of it so gonna have to do the long run there - EXCITED!! 


He said: Weeks 3-5

It was a cold and frosty morning, in the bleak mid-winter, but the sun was shining over us RunBrightoners. Sunday's long run was very hilly, but relatively doable, and definitely enjoyable. 

I was glad the ground was frozen as I wore normal running shoes instead of trail shoes like everyone else in my group. There were so many steep hills - I really enjoy running on the Downs.  

The hardest thing I've ever done 

I've also started training with a PT, which was very difficult. The hardest thing about the first session is you don’t know how fit you are until you do it. I swear the PT is a horrible, ex-army sadist who wanted to test me. 

We did circuits and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve done bootcamp in the past, but that was nothing compared to the six station circuit training I had to do without a break. 

Three times. 

All in all it’s only 18 minutes of exercise but it completely and utterly knocked me for six. 

And I had to pay £50 for the bloody privilege. 

I didn’t have the strength after to take my t shirt off and put my swimming shorts on, I had to sit in the changing rooms shaking to recover for a few minutes! I did one length of breast stroke and thought, 'd’you know what, I’m going for a jacuzzi’, and sat in there for half an hour. 

I’ve since had two more sessions, not as hard as the first but still pretty intense. I would never tell him it wasn’t that hard in case he ramps it up again. But I will say, at the moment it’s hard to fit it in with the running as bookings are random depending when he’s free so it’s difficult to have a routine. 

Hills, hills, hills

The long runs up the Downs have been really nice. 

Running up Snakey was fine, no problem at all, just slow the pace down and crawl up it really, it’s just another hill. I like running hills because it adds another dimension. I find running on the flat boring, so I’ll have to get used to it for the marathon which is mostly flat...

We've had lots of miserable weather on the long runs apart from last Sunday, but at least it gives me a chance to bust out my new Gore jacket which keeps me nice and dry. 

We're getting clever and bringing hot tea for after the long runs...

I’ve been doing the midweek intervals, and PT, and swimming. I’ve got problems with my calves so haven’t done too much running as I feel my body still needs to recover from the long runs, and when busy climbing at work using tree spikes it’s affecting my lower legs, so running is enhancing the pain on my shins. 

Fuelling at breakfast

We’ve been sent some protein breakfast cereal and drinks from Fuel10k, and have been testing it out pre and post runs, plus for work. 

The Quark yoghurt pouches I’ve been using as a snack at work, which gives me a boost when climbing trees. I like the Protiflakes cereal, and the breakfast drinks are good, they’re quite thick and obviously very sweet, and porridge pots are always a winner for a quick breakfast before work. 

Tess loves the granola but says we can’t buy it as she'll get addicted to the sugar. 

I’ve been practicing using gels on the long runs, they’re very sickly sweet. I’ve also learnt the sticky way that you must remember to squeeze it all out of the packet before you put the empty wrapper in your shorts. 

I'm glad I haven’t bonked yet on the long runs, but there's still time. 

Oh, and a few days from the end of Dryathlon, and doing fine. Life has got a little bit more boring, definitely less interesting.

But the end is in sight, and so’s a nice cold beer...


What are you training for right now, or are you hibernating?

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Setting benchmarks: why it's ok for exercise to be hard

Today's been a binge of all my favourite things: running, cycling, eating and now, writing. Some of which were very hard, others easy (foooooood), and all of them soon to be followed by sleeping, as we have a 2hr10 long run with the RunBrighton crew tomorrow. #prayfortess.

It kicked off with a freezing cold and very difficult parkrun, where I tried to keep up with the 27min pacer and failed miserably. The midweek runs on the marathon plan were easy pace this week but with some travelling for work meetings and my body being quite tired, I chose to go to yoga, the gym and to Zumba instead, for a bit of chill time and fun to pick me up.

The face says it all... 

Side note: I'm trying out MoveGB for access to hundreds of classes, gyms, fitness centres across the city and the yoga was part of this. Stay tuned for a post on what else I get upto on the membership and how it works!

So anyway, by this morning I was gagging to run, and having checked the weather the night before (a balmy zero degrees and gorgeous sunshine), was really excited for a gorgeous crisp winter's day parkrun. I knew I'd be nowhere near my PB at the moment, but I was gonna try to run it fast anyway, so tagged along with the 27 pacer to see how it went.


In short: it went brilliantly for the first mile, and tits up at the third mile when I let him go as I just couldn't keep up. My 5k PB is 25:58 from 2015 and I got into the 26's that March but have been nowhere near since, mainly because I broke my bones last year so was out for a few months, but also because I haven't tried hard enough.

So this is my benchmark. 27:50 on Strava app, and 28mins parkrun time. 


The ride was something I did out of impending FOMO if I didn't get involved. I have this problem frequently. Chris was meeting his mate for a ride up on the Downs and on a day like today I couldn't resist, I had to get back outside.

We drove to Newhaven and picked up the South Downs Way at quite possibly the biggest bastard hill in the history of the world - affectionately known as Cardiac Hill amongst locals. For those of you not aware, it's the hill that takes you to the top of the Downs at Southease, just after the railway crossing if heading towards Eastbourne from Brighton.

I haven't ridden up this hill in a long time, and it showed. We did a lot of South Downs Way riding at the end of the summer when I was back on the bike post-injury, but we came from Eastbourne to Brighton, so got to ride down it, not up.

View from the top

Despite the puffing, panting, swearing and sweating, it did get done, and wasn't toooooooo bad, until you get very nearly to the top and the gradient kicks up a few notches, just to punch you in the face a bit more.

Once we'd reached the top we were treated to gorgeous panoramic views of the South Downs, a carpet of undulating green against the clearest blue sky and crisp winter air. Bloody lovely it was. But hard work. I haven't cycled much since starting marathon training, apart from my daily commute which is only a couple of miles each way, and I felt it.

The hills just kept going, and I was dreaming of food and a nice hot bath for afters. I also had freezing cold feet, as always when I cycle in the winter. I've been saying for years that I need overshoes, but never actually get round to buying any so I'll deffo get onto that pronto!

I might've muttered a few swear words on the climbs out of earshot of the boys who were ahead of me, but even though it was a really challenging ride, it was brilliant and I'm really glad I did it.

I've been putting off going for a long ride as been out of practice, and as with anything fitness-wise, you have to keep a good base or yes, it's gonna be hard to get back into it. We've got the London Revolution and I've got Ride London this year, both deferred due to my broken collarbone, so we need to make sure we fit the rides in too.

So this is another benchmark. Up to 15 self-contained mid-ride mutterings of 'fucking hell', 'for fuck sake',  'Jesus Christ', 'I've got a bloody long run tomorrow, what am I doing?' etc. on the South Downs Way. 

I'm hoping that after a few more weeks' marathon training, Benchmark 1 (parkrun 28:00) will be something I can improve on as my running fitness increases. I normally peak around end of Feb / March, in time for a Brighton Half PB, so will have another go then, if not before.

Benchmark 2 (sweary ride up on the Downs) will be something I'll work on over the coming weeks alongside marathon training and make sure I get out on the bike for a few more long rides, maybe fitting in some mid-length road rides before work, and on Saturdays when I fancy a break from running.

It's OK for exercise to be hard, you're only ever improving on yourself, and if it wasn't challenging it wouldn't make you feel so great.

Don't be scared of that first ride, run or session back in the gym. Use it as a benchmark to progress from. The only way is up!

Or down, if, like me, afterwards, you collapse on the sofa for the rest of the day eating filth :) 


What's your benchmark you're trying to improve on this year?

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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Strong body, strong mind - focusing on wellbeing for 2017

I've thrown myself heart first into 2017. Last year was a difficult one for me, for many reasons that I may or may not write about properly, but let's just say that realising I had high blood pressure, being treated to my first panic attack, breaking my collarbone and wrist (silly Tess), and losing my precious, brave Yaya (Greek for nan) along with various other personal events that went a bit tits up meant I had a predominantly stressed and strung out 2016.

My bones are fully healed now, and as I try to not dwell too much on the bad stuff, being a sucker for a fresh start, I'm loving the clean slate and renewed motivation that a New Year brings, however artificial it may seem to some.

Over the past few months I've bought various colouring books and self-help guides, read hoards of articles online on how to focus on what matters and give just enough fucks to get by on what doesn't, and this month also went to a brilliant wellbeing event with Brighton Digital Women.

What I've really realised, and what I think I knew all along, is that I'm happiest when I make being healthy and active a priority, whatever life throws at me.

When running makes you feel invincible... 

For the past few weeks I've been really working on getting stronger, in my body and my mind, and ticking off my winter training goals to make the start of 2017 a healthy and happy one. Actually now that I've just re-read my goals I'm pretty chuffed to say I'm smashing them.

I'm motivated and excited to train, and feeling inspired again, in more ways than one. I've been working with Brighton PT Amy Jordan from Love Life Fitness to get strong for Brighton Marathon and to rehabilitate my shoulder, and I'm chuffed to say that after a five week block of focused training my shoulder no longer aches for no reason and I'm lifting in the gym again.

Nothing that would put a seasoned Crossfitter to shame, but it's all relative and for me, it's more than hard enough right now to build back up slowly.

Making time for regular, consistent training has really helped. I've got a goal. Marathon training is so much more than just training for an event. It's what gets me up in the morning, for a 6am PT session or intervals run. It's what drives me to eat well(ish), train smart, prioritise sleep and look after my body. It gives me drive to keep pushing myself even when sometimes I really, (and I mean really), can't be arsed.

I'm loving training with Chris, it's so nice to be able to share the journey with him rather than me writhing around on the foam roller alone. At least now he understands why I'm bellowing into the night as my legs cramp up after the long run :) (Stay tuned this week for the latest He Said, She Said marathon training update) 

Away from training and with a bit of help from the lovely Linda at Now & When Life Coaching & Hypnotherapy, I've realigned my priorities in life and am making space for reflection and growth, choosing to walk away from stress. Changing habits are hard, especially when they're engrained into your persona, but once you take a step back and define what's important to you, it really is quite simple.

Make time to do the things you love, focus on the people you love, be in the places you love. 

My physio Tom shared this graphic on Twitter earlier, asking us to share how running has changed our lives or helped overcome adversity. Like Jenny Baker - who's just written a book titled Run for Your Life, detailing how she kicked cancers butt with running. 

Running's given me a lot of things, you can see my response in the tweet below.

I'd love to know what running and being active has given you or how it's changed your life? (Hopefully it's not given you reeeaaally crampy legs like I've got from this morning's long run, but of course if you ran today, it is a possibility!)

Share how running's changed your life below or on Twitter using the #runforyourlife hashtag. Don't forget to tag @tomgoom and @runningjenbaker in your tweet!


What are you focusing on for 2017?

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

9 things to hate about periods

OK, let me start by firstly apologising to any male readers, and also any females who might think this is a massive overshare, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years and to be quite frank, the novelty has most definitely worn off. 

Periods. Nine reasons to hate them. Feel free to add your own in the comments if I’ve missed any - we’re all girls here. Unless you’re a boy. In which case… I hate you right now. 

The belt of pain 

From the belly button down to just above your knees, the Belt of Pain comes in force, occasionally drifting up to your boobs, and has a party in your intestines. 

Smacking you monumentally in the uterus on the first day, (oh God, first day pains), and concentrated of course around your temporarily leaking lady bits, the Belt of Pain makes its presence known with repetitive and relentless stabbing motions. 

You’re never alone when the BOP is in town, pissing all over your parade. 

The unwanted guest at a party

The crimson wave has a tendency to turn up at the most inconvenient times, despite your best efforts to give it the swerve. Weddings, parties, summer trips to the beach, at work when you’re in a long client meeting, the one time you wear that nice dress you bought. 

It’s the guest no one invited and it’s eating all the food. 

Always needing the loo 

Like ALWAYS. And I’m not just talking number ones here. (Sorry boys, girls poo too). Everyone knows you suffer bloating and cramps when on the blob, hence the Belt of Pain reference above. 

But as if bleeding from your vagina isn’t enough, you’re treated to a few days of increased bowel movements (or not, as constipation can also happen - oh goody), increased appetite and weight gain. 

Lazy like Sunday morning 

(and Monday, Tuesday, repeat for 5 days…)

Apparently exercise while on your period is meant to alleviate cramps and lift your mood. 

Meh. I'd rather sack off the intervals and head for the hot water bottle, blanket, cat and cake combination. 

Wins every time.


Moody AF

A few days before, the stress, tension, mood swings and general anger and bitterness at everything swoops in and buggers off on loop like a seagull snatching a child’s ice cream. One minute you’re fine, the next you’re crying into the biscuit tin, or shouting at the kettle, or self-combusting over other people’s supposed idiocy when they just. don’t. get. it. man. 

Your mood might lift when your period actually starts - or it would, you know, if you didn’t have to bleed from your vagina and wrestle the Belt of Pain for five days.


Your jeans don’t fit, your boobs hurt, the last thing you wanna be wearing is a nice shirt for work as your bloated belly tries to make its escape. 

There is nothing in the world more suitable than pyjamas to be wearing at this precise moment, but you’ve gotta be an adult and sit at your desk feeling fat, uncomfortable, tired, in pain and stressed, whilst still trying to be productive.


It’s the expensive monthly habit you 

really could do without

So let’s just recap. You bleed every month, get fat, moody and stressed about the whole thing, need to poo all the time, oh, and you have to pay extra in tax for the privilege. 

Towels and tampons ain’t cheap, yo. Especially if you like the fancy ones with the compact, ultra smooth applicators. (Because literally, how do you even do Lilets?!l)

Not feeling fresh

Enough said, really. Scented pantyliners aren’t just for the older ladies, you know. 

The fact that we all still hide it 

OK, maybe not all of us, but how many people do you know, yourself included, who discretely take out a tampon and sneak off to the loo when at work to apply? Or how many of us still get embarrassed when we have to buy tampons from a male cashier?

Be honest. 

Side note: Probably stems from adverts like this - remember when the boyfriend mistook one for sugar? 

Incidentally, I thought I was over the everyday embarrassment, but a few months ago I was in my local newsagents, and the lovely friendly cashier came up to me, (as I was carefully picking out my two chocolate bars to cry into, orange super-flow tampons in other hand), and said:

“Full moon, is it?” 

I don’t know why I was mortified, but I was. 

I’m contradicting myself here because I’m saying I hate the fact that we still hide our periods, but at the same time, when I’m eyeing up the Kinder Buenos and have power walked through the shop to the orange box, it usually means I’m bleeding and angry, so it’s probably best to avoid making conversation, however topical. 


Ahhhh. OK. That's better. 
Rant over. Thanks for humouring me. Might be a total over-share, but if we don’t have a moan up about these things here then I’ll have to go and have a chat with the bloke in the newsagents and I don’t think he’ll really understand… 


Do you exercise when it’s your time of the month or do you go into hibernation mode? 

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Brighton marathon training week 2: He Said, She Said

FitBits | Brighton Marathon Training week 2 - RunBrighton - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Time for the second instalment of He Said, She Said* - training for Brighton Marathon from two very different perspectives - me... a third-time 'intermediate' marathoner, and the hubs, Chris... a first-time speed demon about to discover the true potential I've been telling him he has for years. 

*(maybe I should turn that title around seeing as my bit goes first?!)  


It's the first day of 2017, and the end of week two of 16 in the plan. We've started the year in the best possible way - running, chilling, eating. I've been in my pyjamas since I got out of the bath when we got back, and I fully intend every Sunday from this point onwards to happen in the same way. 

I've always said this is what Sundays were made for!  

Today's run was in the worst rain I've ran in for a long time. It was cold, and relentless, and came down in buckets. And it was BRILLIANT. 

FitBits | Brighton Marathon Training week 2 - RunBrighton - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

We both woke up hangover free after going to bed at 10pm (on New Year's Eve - rock 'n' roll, guys), and the first thing Chris said was 'I'm not really in the mood for this'. 

Other cracking one-liners that came from him this morning when he realised the weather forecast:

"20 mph winds on the seafront... you're joking?"
"Is it gonna stop raining?"
"What a miserable day for it"
"This is what we missed a NYE party for"

Ah, the joys of marathon training. He actually went on to do 12 miles in the time it took me to run nine and he loved it as much as I did so that's alright then.

I never *choose* to run in the rain, but when I do I always love it. I would never look out the window and think, 'oh I'd LOVE to get out there in that', but when you have a group to meet and a plan to follow, you bloody well do it. It's amazing what a bit of peer pressure and a marathon deadline does for your motivation. 

Today, after a bit of moaning for the first 45 minutes, I finally got comfortable - thank God. 

The week's training

It's been a good week of training, considering it's still been the holidays and I'm still balancing running and PT sessions with a fair amount of bingeing on chocolate (trying to get rid of our stockpile - I'm giving the last two unopened boxes away so I can get on with my life). 

I've been treated to some cracking sunsets and loved getting back to regular running. 

On the plan were two strength and conditioning / cross training days, four runs and a rest day. I've not done the days in the right order and I've missed the hills session (bad Tess - won't happen next week), but mostly, it got done:

MON (Boxing Day): REST
WED: 5km progression run 
THU: Steady 30mins run 
FRI: PT with Amy (more on this later this week) 
SUN: LSR 1hr40 - 9.3miles

It'll be a lot easier to do all of the sessions when we're back into a normal routine from Tuesday. I'll probably do the same as I did last time round, and ride to the gym in the mornings, dump my stuff, do my runs outside and ride to work. Or, if I'm really organised and have enough time, use my IAMRUNBOX to incorporate the weekly sessions into a runcommute. 

FitBits | Brighton Marathon Training week 2 - IAMRUNBOX
Taking the IAMRUNBOX for its first runcommute last month 

It's just logistics of packing work clothes, lunch etc. and the faff of having a rucksack for intervals and a progression run, and I haven't reminded myself what it's like yet. 

Hold tight!


After Christmas Day we started the weekly sessions, with massive hangovers, lack of sleep and no real routine. 

I did two out of three runs on the beginner plan plus all of the conditioning, but I’m disappointed that I missed the intervals run. I had to work that day (I'm a tree surgeon), and had four trees to climb on a bad night’s sleep so I chose work over running. 

My body was tired and I’ve always been told, if you’re tired, rest is sometimes more beneficial.

Hanging out with the fam in Hastings

I’m giving up alcohol for January so New Year’s Eve should’ve been a last chance binge on booze but instead me and Tess bummed about town and had a couple of drinks in the afternoon, before getting to bed at 10pm to get up early for our long run today.

I call that dedication to the cause!

FitBits | Brighton Marathon Training - Dryathlon
One of the final beers before Dryathlon

It’s still very early stages, I haven’t done a full week’s training with the long run at the end of it because of Christmas, but I’m looking forward to settling into a routine this week when we go back to work.

There's no choice of not doing it. It has to be done. If I don’t do it I’m letting myself and the people around me down who are sponsoring me. Also I get very stubborn so if I tell myself I’m gonna do something, I have to do it. 

FitBits | Brighton Marathon Training week 2 - RunBrighton - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Today when we woke up it was pissing it down with 20mph winds on the seafront. I ran 12 miles in 1:39 with the RunBrighton group. 

The out pace was very steady and comfortable, with the wind behind us, but at the turnaround we were bombarded with wind and rain all the way back, and we were off pace until we got back on the flat by the Marina. 

It was really, really raining and by that time we all just wanted to get back so we increased the pace by a whole minute per mile which felt good but obviously we shouldn’t be doing it on the long runs… towards the end I was counting down the metres! 

Back to work full time this week, just managed to work out how to set intervals on my TomTom, so let’s see how we go! 


Do you like running in the rain? 

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