FitBits: May 2017

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Finding the fun in fitness


I've been on a mission this past few weeks to find the real fun in fitness, and I'm glad to say it's been a stonking success!

I'm talking pure, unadulterated, jump-up-and-down-excited kind of fun - the sort where you don't realise how hard you're working out until afterwards and you bounce home like a kid on Tangfastics. (Cherries, always the cherries).

The mission commenced at the Virgin Sport Hackney Festival of Fitness & 5.5k last month, a couple of weeks after a difficult Brighton Marathon where none of my plans came to fruition thanks to the glorious bloody weather we had.

The Hackney 5.5k was to be my first bit of exercise since the marathon, but never mind the running - the festival village was WICKED. As a true festival fiend (I'd literally live on site at Glastonbury forever if they'd let me), I was in my element. They'd thought of everything - dance classes, yoga, fitness sessions, food and drink, chill out areas, walkabout entertainers, flower crown making and even a barbers doing free beard trims and haircuts!

Unfortunately they weren't taking any more bookings when I went to ask if they could tidy up my side shave. Top tip: don't let your husband shave the side of your head when he's in a rush / too scared to go to the edges.


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I arrived a little over an hour until the 5.5k start, which was just enough time to wander around grinning at everything before picking up my race number at the media tent and catching the end of the Thriller dance class.

Before I got into running, I started my fitness journey in a flurry of fun and frolics, with dancing, boxercise and fitness games, and Zumba was the first exercise class I ever went to. I LOVED IT straight away - just pure, unadulterated, don't-give-a-shit-what-you-look-like fun.

Joining the many others on the Go Fit Yourself to learn the steps to Thriller and Beat It with Fight Klub's Troy Dureh reminded me of those heady days, and that's what kickstarted my promise to rediscover more of that joy in the things I do this summer.

So, with that in mind, here's how I've kept that promise to myself over the past few weeks (and how you should get in on the fun too!) 


Zumba face 


After the dance classes at Hackney I booked straight onto the Brighton Zumba class that I used to go to a few years ago. I loved it just as much as I did back then and left dripping in sweat, 425 calories lighter, with a shake in my hips once more.

I didn't say anything about it being in time to the music, though, did I?!

A post shared by Tess Agnew (@fitbits_) on





Hitting the trails

Throw me down some singletrack and I'm the happiest you'll find me (as long as I don't break myself). After much faffing about we've finally taken the bikes to hit the Surrey Hills trails, getting some awesome guiding from Sean at Marmalade MTB - read more about our 121 ride last week here.

Two weeks in a row of mountain bike mayhem and we're ready to take our rediscovered flow to the trail centres in Wales this Bank Holiday!


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Fight Klub 😝

A live drum n bass DJ, MC, high intensity boxing workout and kickass venue with lights, lasers and loud beats. I literally cannot describe to you the immensity of this workout! 90mins of epic, jump up, YES MATE beats that rain so hard you just have to keep punching.

I love dnb anyway but never go raving any more unless at festivals really so this was just brilliant. Never mind the boxercise, I skanked my sweat-drenched heart out.

870 calories burned, thank you very much!


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Rugby!! 

A day after we had to put my beautiful boy Scabbers to sleep (Harry Potter cat no.3) I needed some serious cheering up so dragged my heartbroken self to have a go at rugby. It was pissing with rain, I hadn't played for more than 13 years, didn't know anyone and couldn't catch the bloody ball to save my life.

I had one of the most fun workouts I've had in a looooong time, and left soaking wet, caked in mud and full of smiles.

This week was week one of a four week beginner / returning players course at Hove Women's Rugby Club (every Thursday evening 7-8pm from now until 8th June, FREE!), and I have a feeling I'm gonna have to make some choices about which fitness escapades to fill my time with this summer...

triathlon or rugby? triathlon or rugby? triathlon or rugby...

A post shared by Tess Agnew (@fitbits_) on


In between all these shenanegins I've actually been able to run some pretty fast and comfortable runs which has relieved me no end as I thought I was doomed to a future of painful plods after the marathon.

It seems that sometimes, not training, not having any real goal other than to just enjoy yourself is the best way to exercise! I'm all up for this kind of fun for the summer until training for Beachy Head Marathon gets underway in August.

Until then, it's all about the smiles.


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What's your favourite way to exercise when you're after a healthy dose of YAY?


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Friday, 19 May 2017

Surrey Hills mountainbiking with Marmalade MTB





Video below 👇

There's a post in my drafts that I've not yet published about doing more exercise that makes my heart sing (stay tuned this weekend for it to go live). For me, riding my bike(s) has always brought me unparalleled joy, I've loved cycling all my life.

The kind of joy I felt as a kid, when my Dad bought me a new BMX for Christmas and instead of 'just' wrapping it up, he made finding it into one massive game - a treasure hunt around the house and garden following a piece of string to my prize (nice one Dad).

I've never let go of that magic.

Everything I need part 1

 

Practice makes badass


This year I'm determined not to break any bones and do myself out of a summer on the wheels. I can confirm that apart from devouring the entire Breaking Bad collection in the first seven days being a particular highlight of those boring, rested weeks, there wasn't really much else to be happy about.

So, if I'm to keep all my bones in tact this year, including the metal plate that's now stapled to my clavicle (BFFs forevs), I need to get better on the trails.

That means more riding, more practice, more punching fear in the face and not letting my accident stop me from doing what I (really, really) love. I need to work on that bit when the fear takes over on the steep bits, but it's a work in progress.

We ride the trails in Wales and Forest of Dean a few times each year, but that's not enough if we want to really get better, and be more confident, capable mountain bikers.

It's time to get some proper, regular practice - on trails that don't take four hours to drive to.

 

Hello Surrey Hills  

 


We live less than an hour away from the wonderland of singletrack delight that is the Surrey Hills, but had never ridden there until last weekend as we had no idea where where to start. The 'problem' with only riding trail centres in Wales and Forest of Dean is that we're used to nice waymarked, managed, graded trails, and visitor centres with maps, jacket potatoes and bespoke ale for refuelling.


We're not very good at turning up to the woods and finding the local trails, and we didn't want to suddenly come across any massive jumps or technical sections that we couldn't ride, so decided to do a Surrey Hills tour with mountain bike guide Sean from Marmalade MTB.

His awesome videos and photos from his group rides and 121s have been invading my social feeds for a few months now, so we were excited to finally hit the send button on a message to book in for ourselves.

Everything I need part 2




Now, before I go into the brilliant bike fit and guiding that Sean took us through I'd just like to share one top tip for anyone looking to book in with him. It's quite a simple tip really, but pretty fundamental to the cycling enjoyment of your day I'd say, and I'm sure anyone who exists in the world, ever, would agree.

Here it is. Are you ready?

TOP TIP: WHEN DRIVING FOR AN HOUR TO A MTB GUIDED RIDE, REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR WHOLE BIKE. 

We pride ourselves on our camping set up. We've pretty much mastered it to leave everything permanently in the van (sleeping bag, stove, tea, crockery, cutlery, etc), apart from food and bikes.

The idea is, when we take the van away, it's just a case of packing the food, ice packs, beer and bikes - everything else we need should already be in there.

So far so good?

What we didn't think about was the fact that Chris had previously borrowed my wheel when he had a puncture and we forgot to put his axle back on, so although we threw both bikes and all wheels in the back to leave, what we'd actually done was to drive to Surrey with no way of securing his front wheel. And didn't realise this until we'd all spent half an hour faffing about with the punctures that we didn't have the foresight to fix before we turned up.

So Chris had to drive ALL THE WAY HOME to get this crucial component, leaving me to have a proper bike fit with Sean and practice some bike handling skills such as track stands before we headed out on the trails.

Every cloud, and all that.

A proper bike fit 



We've had our full sus mountain bikes for a year now, and have never actually had them fitted. A few simple adjustments to the dropper seat post, break and gear positions, and suspension made my bike feel so much better.

Sean worked wonders:

  • Moved the break levers and gears out and adjusted the angle to minimise reaching and wrist flex 
  • Adjusted the seat post so that when the dropper was fully up it was measured for my seated position (much less faffing on the trails trying to get the right height up hill!)
  • Repositioned the seat post angle so I don't have to keep pushing myself back when I slip forwards
  • Made sure the front and back suspension had the right air pressure in (psi should be equal in kg to your weight - my front suspension was less than half of what it should be and I'd been riding like it for months!)
  • Adjusted tyre pressure (better to have lower pressure for the trails unlike the rock solid tyres I turned up with)
  • Showed me the 'attacking position' for good weight distribution 
It's about giving you as little to think about as possible when riding the trails so you can concentrate on your flow and not be faffing about getting comfortable again.

Makes total sense in theory, and once I got on my newly fitting bike, it made total sense in practice. 

 

Punching fear in the face? Nearly... 





Once Chris got back we did a 10 mile loop taking in the only waymarked trail on the Surrey Hills: Summer Lightning and headed to the pub for the all-important liquid debriefing 😆.

It was really helpful having Sean behind me giving tips on how to ride and also in front showing me the best lines on the harder sections. There were still a few steep and technical bits that I couldn't get over the fear enough to ride though so took the chicken runs and let the boys get on with it.

On the Sunday though I 100% got my confidence back on two other fast and swooping trails, Yoghurt Pot and Telegraphs, both of which you can see in the video above.

Lots of work to do to get over my post-accident fear it seems. I think I'm fine but then it stops me right at the top of a steep drop and proper mucks up my flow, and confidence for the rest of the ride.

Like I said though, it's all about practice practice practice, and we're going back for Sean's 20mile tour of the trails this Sunday, so to be continued!!!



If you fancy a guided tour of the Surrey Hills trails or South Downs get in touch with Sean at Marmarlade MTB. He also does bike maintenance workshops and bike fit too! We paid £60pp for our 121 guided ride, but you can join the monthly group rides for just £20pp. 

Not sure yet? Follow him on Facebook or Instagram and let him infiltrate your social feeds until you give in. 

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Do you like mountain biking? Got any tips for me to get over the fear after my accident?

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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

My first float | The Float Spa, Brighton


The irony of rushing home from an hour of meditation to get straight back on the Macbook to blog about it isn't lost on me, don't worry.

I started to write this down before I went to bed last night as I didn't want today's To Do list to barge right in and fill up my brain again. When I got home it was pretty spacious up in this head of mine, let me tell you. I left the mini headache that'd been threatening to multiply all day behind in the floatation pod, (is that what they're called?), along with most of the thoughts that had been busying said brain for what seems like forever.

I say most of the thoughts.

It was my first session, a work in progress.

I loved 70% of it. 

The other 30% was spent thinking about work, trying to make my eyes see in the pitch black (very difficult and didn't happen), and seeing how gently I could push myself around the pod with my fingers.

When your senses are deprived like that and you cannot see a thing, it takes a surprisingly long time for your toes to reach the other side.


 

How often do you just lie still, and do nothing? 


It's Mental Health Awareness Week and meditation is something I've always been fascinated by, but not very good at. I'm one of those 'ohhh I'm so busy' people. You know, the ones who claim to be full on multi-taskers, 100 tabs open at once, the self-proclaimed productivity ninjas, getting shit done with no time to do anything else, and 100% unable to just sit and do nothing.

After a difficult year last year and my first taste of what I realise now was probably chronic stress and anxiety (did you watch the BBC's 'The Truth About Stress' last week?), I went into 2017 making a few promises to myself:

1) Reclaim my time

2) Focus on my wellbeing

3) Prioritise my health and happiness

That means making time for yoga, exercise, hanging out with friends, seeing family, not being a dick to Chris.

Always, always always... making time to run, ride and write, because that's always been the best kind of therapy for me.





So what about a float? 


That'll fit in quite nicely, right?

I have to say, hats off to The Float Spa in the first instance, for getting their email marketing bang on. As a digital marketer things like that please me immensely.

An email landed in my inbox on my birthday offering me a discount on my first float, reduced from £65 to £45. I know what you're thinking - £45 to basically lie still and do nothing? Say whaaa?! 

I kinda thought that too, but then I tried it.

At the time the email was sent I was mid way through a glorious five hour ride along the South Downs Way, but I knew I'd take them up on it when back in the land of the living.



I booked onto a yoga class at the Float Spa for MoveGB's Big Day of Move to check out where it actually was and have a nose at the pods.

The yoga class was epic and the lovely Assistant Manager Sarah showed me round, putting me at ease (not that she needed to, I was fascinated by the look of the pods and knew I would have to do it).

I left with the One Float monthly membership (discounted to share with you guys how I find it, so stay tuned).


A date with yourself

This is what a post-float, chilled AF Tess looks like



Last night was the night. I was quite nervous throughout the day, hoping to God that I'd be able to actually shut my mind down and relax in there.

What if it's weird?

Verdict? It is weird. 

And lovely. And all-encompassing. 

But sort of hard work, if, like me, your mind won't shut the hell up. 

It can be everything you want it to be, or nothing at all, and very much depends on how much you surrender to it.

Someone summed the experience up pretty well in the guest book by reception: "Elevated and expanded." I definitely felt both of those things coming out of there. I was relaxed and refreshed but not in the same way as when I come out of a good Savasanah at yoga.

You get more involved in yoga, moving your body, focusing on your breath, holding poses in what can be quite intense practice. Savasanah is your reward. I crave it after a hard class.

But floatation is just that - surrender your body to the water completely, surrender your mind, and do nothing. There's no 'reason' to reward yourself with your relaxation, you just do it.




The light in the room has a motion sensor so goes off once you close the pod. I had the blue light on inside for a bit while the meditation sounds (waves, seagulls), eased me into the float.

The music goes on for the first five minutes and then nothing, pure silence, until five minutes before the end so you know when it's nearly time to get out.

Half way though the music I turned the blue light completely off and it was 100 times better. I took Sarah's advice on trying different arm positions, (Savasanah, up over my head like a baby, palms down), and explored different movements in the water.

Because it's full of salts and magnesium the water makes your body feel different. It holds you up and envelops you in a silky smooth cushion (much to my delight).

I managed to quieten my mind eventually and sunk into my subconscious for a while, which was amazing. Somewhere in between (not sure when, time has no meaning in there), I lost it and completely woke up, got a bit angry with myself and laughed at what I was doing before settling back down again.



Literally, if you think about what you're actually doing in there, it's quite hilarious. 

Oh, and you're naked, by the way, which is just as Britishly awkward as it sounds at first, but then you really don't give a shit.

Afterwards you shower and freshen up in the Vanity Room before enjoying herbal tea and homemade sorbet in the chill out area by reception, which is a really nice touch.

I could've stayed there all night but they had to close so I cycled home on a wave of calm with my brain basking in space that it rarely gets to feel.


What did I learn? 


1) You do actually float

This was one of my main concerns and as someone who most definitely sinks I'm still surprised by it now.


2) It's better with the light off

I spent a fair amount of time trying really hard to make my eyes see in the pitch black, but they just couldn't do it. It was literally a black hole in there, and much easier to get in the zone in the dark than with the blue light on.


3) You should go to the loo beforehand. Twice

I did go to the loo before I got in, on Sarah's advice, but towards the end, maybe in the last 10minutes (or seconds, who knows in there?!), I started to need the loo again and that would've been annoying AF had it been any earlier.





4) An hour is a LONG TIME

I've never done any sort of meditation for longer than the Savasanah at the end of a yoga class, which, is what, about five minutes, on a good day? Just like I train my body to run marathons, it looks like I'm gonna have to train my mind to shut down.

Anyone got a training plan for that?!


5) Surrendering yourself completely is amazing

The moments where I did fall into it mentally were incredible.

In the shower afterwards I couldn't believe how many muscles it takes to stand up. When I changed arm positions in the pod (from above my head to Savasanah), my arms felt heavy like lead. Doing star fish motions with my legs was really surreal, my feet took forever to touch.

Don't worry I wasn't trying to do jumping jacks in there, just exploring the movement and feeling of being held up like that. Like when you do a figure of eight in table pose (with your eyes closed for God sake), it's nice to just explore and feel what it's like to be present in your body.

6) I need to do it again. Right now would be nice 💙


My first float wasn't perfect, by any means. I couldn't hold the relaxation for the whole time and I did find myself wondering what the time was and ticking off To Do lists in my head. 

But the moments where I was able to (WARNING: floatation wanker phrase coming) give myself to it fully were incredible. 

Elevated and expanded? Fuck yeah. 

*Oh, and by the way, I had the run of my life this morning at 6am - related? Who knows... 


As well as floatation The Float Spa do yoga, meditation and mindfulness workshops, massage and chiropractic therapy.  I'm paying for my One Float per month membership on a discounted rate in exchange for writing about my experience. 


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Have you ever tried (or wanted to try) 
floatation therapy?

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