FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: November 2017


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Rise and shine - how to love your morning workout


If you can hack the early alarm, there's a special kind of glow to getting your workout done first thing.

But, let's be honest, it does kinda suck when it first goes off, especially when it's cold and dark outside. The snooze button will 100% come calling, but if you can refrain from hitting it and just make the first step to get out of bed, that's the hard bit done.

It's no secret that I'm a total morning endorphin fiend. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you'll have probably seen me getting my AM fix at the gym or on early runs and rides over the past few months, as I've finally found my mojo again and got into some sort of routine since becoming a freelance writer.

On a whole, evenings just don't fit for me workout-wise. I like my evenings for chill time with hubs, cooking and eating, going out, or blogging. Unless I'm at hockey training, of course, and then I'll suck it up like a good team player.

My exception to morning workouts:  
Read why I've joined Southwick Hockey Women's Team here. 


Reasons to love morning workouts 

There's a whole host of reasons to get your sweat fix in the morning:

1) It gets it done 

Simple as that really.

There's no better feeling than sauntering into work, flat white in hand, knowing you've already done your workout for the day. Or realising it's only 10am on a weekend and your miles are already clocked.

It means the evenings are yours, and no time for procrastination after a long day because you can do what you like with your workout already in the bag.

2) You have more energy 

There's something special about the fire in your belly from a morning workout. I feed off that fire all day, and am more productive, focused and energised at work.

Try it out and compare how you feel:

Keep track of your energy levels on a normal day where you don't exercise first thing. Note your hunger levels, tiredness and concentration / attention span.

Then, on another morning, force yourself to get up on that early alarm and head out for a pre-work run or gym sesh. Have your shower, get your coffee, and start your day nice and smug.

Guess which day will see you sailing through to lunchtime and beyond feeling alert, energised and more productive...

3) You have more space

Whether you're working out in the gym, or running/riding on the roads, the earlier you do it, the quieter it is. Which means more space to do your thing. I can sail down to the gym on traffic-free roads for my 6/7am PT.

When I have a session after 8am, it's another story.

Or you could just hit the trails and have all the space in the world.

4) You'll make better food choices 

I don't know about anyone else but I know I definitely eat better when I've exercised in the morning. Mostly because I don't want to ruin my hard work, but also because it's what my body craves post-workout.

This is where food prep and organisation comes in mega handy (see tips below), but if it's not gone to plan a fail-safe trip to Pret for the coconut and quinoa porridge and boiled eggs and spinach pot does the trick quite nicely!


5 steps to love your morning workout

So it's all very nice going on about the benefits of morning workouts, but how do you actually make them a habit?

People often ask me how I stay motivated in the winter months to exercise, how can I bear getting out of bed at five or six in the morning to run or hit the gym for a PT session.

For me it's a lesser of two evils - what would I regret more: the feeling of dread when the alarm goes off and dragging myself out of bed? Or the disappointment of hitting snooze and missing my workout, letting myself down. Also I look ahead to the wave of endorphins and great feeling I get afterwards - both of these are good incentives to ignore the chimp on my shoulder telling me to hit snooze.

I know the kind of person I am and after a day at work I find it so much harder to motivate myself to train, so it just wouldn't get done at all.

So that's why I try to suck it up and workout in the morning as much as I can - here's how:

1) Go to bed at a reasonable time!

Getting a good night sleep is the first step to your early bird transformation. This is something I'm very hit and miss with as I tend to do a lot of blogging at night, but I know it helps when I do hit the hay before 11pm.

Tonight I'm going by 10.30 - promise.

2) Say goodnight to technology

(She says, blogging just before bed... do as I say guys, not as I do 😂)

Try to put your phone down and out of reach at least 30 minutes before bed. Research shows that blue light from screens is damaging to the production of sleep hormone melatonin – something we all need for a restful sleep.

Not only that, you'll be more tempted to hit snooze with your phone under your pillow. Leave it outside your closed bedroom door and watch how quickly you're suddenly able to get up on the first alarm! (This is also helped along when your sleeping other half moans at you to get up!)

3) Lay your kit out the night before 

Or go one step further and roll up full outfits including underwear and socks in your draw so you can literally get up and go. The less time you spend rummaging around the better.


4) Prepare your breakfast and lunch the night before 

Fuel well for dinner and make your post-workout breakfast nice and convenient. Like these easy egg and veg muffins – proper yummy and perfect for on the go.

Like with your kit, the less time you spend faffing about in the morning the better - you want to get up, grab your pre-prepped stuff and go.

5) Plan your workout 

Give yourself purpose and book a class, meet a friend or book a PT session so you know what you're doing and can't back out.

Tomorrow I'm booked in for 7am spin with my MoveGB membership, and some mornings I meet my BTRS buddies for early runs and rides. Otherwise I hit the gym for strength and conditioning.

You might've seen on my Instagram that over the past few weeks I've been doing regular PT sessions with Brighton PT Pete Dudley. We're working on building strength for the various sports I do (including hockey - lots of changing position and running in a low position is having a right go at my knees!) and I'm loving the motivation it's giving me to keep pushing myself (and keep getting up on my alarm!)

I'm planning another post on why I have a PT and the benefits I'm seeing so keep an eye out for that.

I guess I might be a bit biased with all of this as this is definitely what works for me and it may not work for everyone with work schedules or family commitments. But it's all about giving it a go and finding your flow.

Whatever time you like to train, whatever you like to do, remember there's no right or wrong answer - but consistency is key if you want to see improvements. The challenge I have is just fitting it all in.

This is something I'm sure I'll find out next time I run (three runs one week and none the week after won't bode well for the run legs!)


When do you get your exercise fix?

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Celebrating Sussex at the Sussex Sport Awards

I'm still buzzing from an awesome night at the Sussex Sport Awards last Friday - and not just because of the amazing banoffee pie we had for dessert, although it's definitely a memory I'll treasure forever. #banoffeeislife.

***Special big ups to our table-mates Worthing Gymnastics Club who won Sussex Club of the Year (pictured above with inspirational Invictus Games star and soon-to-be-Paralympian Mike Goody)***

I was invited to celebrate my role as This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex and was featured in the Women In Sussex Sport presentation alongside some truly inspirational women.

I can't describe the pride I felt standing on the same stage that so many amazing athletes, volunteers, coaches and sports organisations in our county had done that evening.

Fix up look sharp

The 15th Sussex Sport Awards was held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton - in the very same room I fought my first boxing match in, and nearly fought my second. It was nice to be there without the tension and nerves that come with getting in the ring, I can tell you!

Inspirational women


Joining me for the Women In Sussex Sport presentation was Jan Sheward who spoke about her organisation Cancer United, a support group that fights cancer with fitness. The organisation uses its CU Fitter active recovery exercise classes to help people who have been diagnosed with, or are recovering from cancer, get their lives back and take re-ownership of their health and bodies.

After I spoke about the fun things I've done with Active Sussex to inspire more women into sport, ex-England boss Hope Powell shared her vision for the Brighton & Hove Albion Women's team since becoming Head Coach.


It was a really inspiring evening and such an honour to be invited. I love writing my blog and being This Girl Can Ambassador will always be a real privilege, but I do wonder if the constant surprise that anyone thinks what I have to say is worth listening to will ever fade. 

It's a strange thing, imposter syndrome!    

I started this blog because I wanted to share my story of how I got into fitness. I'm committed to breaking down the barriers to exercise to show that you really can start at any age, any ability, with any exercise history.

The key to finding the joy in exercise

The key to finding the joy in exercise is finding something that you love.

Something that's fun and silly, something that makes you laugh. Like trampolining, or skateboarding.

Or something that's challenging and rewarding, making you push your boundaries and achieve new things. Like running your first marathon or learning to swim as an adult so you can become a triathlete.

Something that let's you make new friends, learn new skills, get outside, and get out of your comfort zone. Like joining a new team sport.

Living an active life doesn't have to be about hitting the gym for hours on end (unless that's what you love doing, of course).

It's about lighting that fire in your belly that makes you come home beaming to your loved ones, telling them what a great time you had in that class, on that run, at that cycle ride, even though you didn't want to go in the first place - but made yourself do it anyway.

Find something that you can't wait to go back to.

Something you want to get better at.

Something that inspires you to try.

Try ALL THE THINGS until you find the above, and I promise you, you'll wonder how you ever lived your life any other way.

Find more information about sport in Sussex on the Active Sussex website
Find your nearest team sport here too, as part of Vitality's Women In Sport campaign. 


How did you get into exercise? 
And if you're starting out, what would you love to try?

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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Walking in Skye - The Quiraing


Few outdoor experiences have blown my mind like The Quiraing walk on the Isle of Skye.

In fact every single day of our Scottish highland adventure last month had me oooohing and aaaahing at pretty much every second breath, but this walk, guys. Just, wow.

Read about our first taste of natural mountain biking on Skye 

I've literally never seen landscape so magnificent than the Scottish highlands - to be fair I've never actually travelled to many places outside of the UK but Scotland wins my heart every time. And it seems the readers of Rough Guide agree too, having named it the most beautiful country in the world in a recent poll.

This trip was our first back to Scotland since our amazing honeymoon in 2014. We basically did the same thing - one huge road trip taking in the spectacular west coast - only this time in our van, driving door to door from Brighton.

Our trusty van carried us more than 1700 miles from sunny Brighton to the top of a very windy, wet and moody Skye and back again, taking in the Lake District, Loch Lomond, the Cairngorms and Dundee to see family along the way. 

We woke up at Staffin Bay and drove to walk The Quiraing :)

Chris was in charge of planning our mountain bike rides and walks, and The Quiraing was meant to be another route to ride, but 50-60mph winds soon put a stop to that so we walked it instead. Or I should say, tried to.

The wind was so ferocious at times it took all our strength to stand upright. There was no way we could've ridden that day.

Part of the Trotternish ridge in the north of Skye, The Quiraing is formed by a massive landslip over thousands of years, creating magnificent high cliffs, hidden plateaus and imposing pinnacles of rock. A narrow, winding path hugs the clifftop and takes you on a 6.8km loop around the most spectacular landscape you'll ever see.

Food for the soul

The drive there was almost as spectacular as the walk itself - another beautiful winding mountain road on Skye. When you've been on the island for more than a couple of days, a strange thing happens as you get used to being enveloped in such natural beauty.

It feels normal to share the road with only a handful of hikers, mountain bikers, sheep or wondering cattle.

To climb another ridge, cross another waterfall or gaze in awe at the never-ending wide open space that stretches out in front of you.

To feel so insignificant amongst such a rugged, majestic backdrop and carpet of green and orange.

To breathe in such clean, unfiltered, abundant air.

It makes you realise how truly amazing it is to be alive, and it's this landscape, this beauty, this country, that makes my heart sing so loud.

We will return to The Quiraing, mountain bikes in tow, next time to ride its ridge and soak up its glory once again.

Food for the soul. Get yours too on the Isle of Skye official website.

PS. here's a cheesy video I made that does it absolutely no justice whatsoever :)
(Pls subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to see more video-shaped ramblings)


Where in the world makes your heart sing like Scotland does to mine?  

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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Trying a new sport: hockey!

FitBits | Women In Sport with Vitality and England Hockey - Tess Agnew fitness blogger 

I'm still absolutely buzzing from last night. My bum hurts. And my legs. And my core, strangely enough. Didn't expect that one, but I'll take it.

Last night I went to my first hockey session with Southwick Hockey Club and LOVED IT.

It's been so long since I've played a team sport, it brought back happy memories of rugby training in the winter as a teenager. When I got home my legs were screaming at me like they do when I'm marathon training so it must've been a good workout - back on the magnesium and foam rolling I go if this is how it's gonna be!

ICYMI, I'm trying out hockey for six weeks as part of Vitality's #WomenInSport campaign.
I first blogged it here, and you can visit the Vitality website for more info and to find your nearest sports team here

Tips from the pros

Last week I was lucky enough to meet some of the England Hockey men's and women's team at Lee Valley Hockey Centre to get some tips and learn some skills before joining my local team yesterday.

I joined two other bloggers Lucy and Geraldine to learn the basics like how to hold and move the stick, how to pass, shoot and tackle. I wasn't sure what to expect on the day but I loved it then and I loved last night even more - I've never played hockey before, apart from literally a couple of times at school so this is all new to me.

FitBits | Women In Sport with Vitality and England Hockey - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
England players left to right: Sarah HaycroftHenry Weir,  Giselle Ansley, Adam Dixon, Phil Roper, Laura Unsworth

And you know I'm a sucker for a new challenge!

Vitality has just become the Official Wellness Partner of England Hockey, as well as title sponsor of both the grassroots programme, Back To Hockey and the 2018 Vitality Women's Hockey World Cup, taking place in London next summer (get your tickets here - it's gonna be a banger).

It's been a big week for the women's England team, with this news and also Alex Danson's much-celebrated captaincy being announced too. Laura Unsworth (one of the players at last week's session), and Hollie Webb have been made vice captains so big congrats to them also. It's a big year ahead for the sport, with the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April followed by the home World Cup in July.

So it feels like a good time to get into hockey, don't you think?! Big things are coming - and with the new Vitality partnership it can only bring more visibility to the sport in the lead up to next year's tournaments.

My first session with Southwick Hockey Club

My job then, as one of the #WomenInSport bloggers with Vitality and England Hockey, is to throw myself stick-first into the sport and share with you how I find it. To make new friends, learn new skills, get fitter and give myself a reason to get outside this winter.

And maybe score a goal or two? We'll see.

Need to learn the rules first...

I scored two goals in my second match! Read about that and my reasons to join a sports team here. 

FitBits | Southwick Hockey Club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I had such a wicked time at last night's training. Everyone was really welcoming and I learnt so much. It reminded me of rugby where we spent time practicing drills and skills to use in a game.

We did fitness (sprints - it's been a while!) and lots of passing, tackling and dribbling skills drills (is that what they're called?!) before putting them all to use in a game. I had absolutely no idea of the rules (must read up!) but learnt on the go as we played, and everyone was so supportive and friendly so it was such a lovely vibe.

It wasn't clicky like you might think some teams are - just everyone there together to enjoy a sport. Everyone helped each other out, shared tips with me and other newbies, and cheered the good tackles and strong passes.

FitBits | Southwick Hockey Club Women's team - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

When the coach asked at 8.30pm if anyone wanted to stay until 9pm my hand shot up - I was sold. So much so that I *may* have agreed to play my first match this Saturday with the ladies second team.

I have no idea what I'm doing and I only know about five of the team's names so calling for the ball will be interesting (although pass it to me at your peril!). I don't know much about the positions or anything yet but I do know that I can learn, so that's exactly what I'm gonna do! 

I drove home absolutely buzzing, the smile not leaving my face until I'd burst through the door to annoy Chris with my new-found excitement. (I do this a lot, he's kinda used to it). 

Stay tuned on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see how I get on for my first match and onwards for the next six weeks. I have a feeling I may have found a(nother) new favourite sport... what do I want for Christmas? More days in the week please!

Next hockey post: my reasons to join a sports team. >> 

Want to get involved?

Find out more about Vitality's #WomenInSport campaign and the other fab bloggers taking part. 

Fancy giving team sport a go - Find your local sports team on the Vitality website and find out more about hockey on the England Hockey website.

And watch the videos from other sports I've tried as 

This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex - let's break down the barriers to exercise and show how fun it really can be! 

Tess Tries: Trampolining 

 Tess Tries: Skateboarding
 Tess Tries: my first Breeze cycle ride
 Tess Tries: Synchronised swimming (way harder than you think!) 


Have you ever played hockey or another team sport? 
Throw your tips my way - I'm gonna need them! 

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Saturday, 4 November 2017

What type of cyclist are you?

What type of cyclist are you - Tess Agnew fitness blogger 
I'd never been asked this question before so I wasn't sure how to answer it. What type of cyclist am I? If I asked you what type of cyclist you were, would you know the answer? 

This week I attended an event titled The Secret Life of Cyclists at The House of St Barnabas in London. On the panel were ITV's Tour de France presenter Gary Imlach, cycling expert and presenter Rebecca Charlton and ex-Brixton Cycles co op member and cycling instructor Barnaby Stutter. 

The panel discussion explored the tribes and tensions surrounding modern cycling. 

Why is it dominated by middle aged men in lycra? Why is there such tension between motorists and cyclists, and what can we do to all just get along? 

What's a 'fixie mincer'? Who's in the 'high-vis' brigade'? And the big one: 

Can we create a truly cycle-first country like the Netherlands and change us from being cyclists to just 'people on bikes?'

A few interesting points came up during the evening, not least the first question we were all asked on the piece of paper we were given at the door:

What type of cyclist are you? 

I spent a fair amount of time faffing about asking people what they were writing before putting something annoying like 'an outdoor-loving, endorphin-fiend on the hunt for fun, flow and fitness'. It got read out wrong (journalist Stephen Armstrong, leading the panel, said 'endorphin friend' which still kinda works, I guess?). 

And then he asked the panel what 'full sus mtb' meant when reading out my kit list - it was that moment I realised there were few of my 'type' of cyclist in the room. 

I do find it strange when people only ride road or mtb and not both. 

FitBits | What type of cyclist are you? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I couldn't live without my trusty roadie, it's my commuter, my long ride steed, my tri and turbo bike, all rolled into one. It's served me well these past three years and I do really enjoy road cycling and the access it provides. 

A lovely rolling country lane on a sunny summer's evening, or beachside cycle lane with a tailwind behind me - have some of that, yes please. 

But mountain biking. Oh how I love thee. 

FitBits | What type of cyclist are you? Tess Agnew fitness blogger 

Pure, unfiltered joy. Back to being a kid again in the great outdoors. A special kind of freedom that lights up my soul and scares and excites me in equal measures. 

If you don't know what 'mtb' means, you're missing out, my friend. 

So I guess in my heart then, I'm a mountain biker who just happens to ride her road bike more often. 

Daily, in fact. I've always been confident riding on the road. Traffic doesn't scare me, I've been road riding since I was a kid thanks to taking my cycling proficiency at primary school. I like to think that as long as I don't ride like a dick I should be fine? 

FitBits | What type of cyclist are you? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Interesting stat from the evening: in the Netherlands 100% of children take their cycling proficiency, compared to just 10% in the UK.

Just think about that. What if 100% of children here learnt to ride on the road early on? Do you think more people would be cycling to work instead of making the two-mile journey by car right now? (That was another interesting stat - apparently most car journeys in London are under two miles!)

Mind you, saying that, London has seen huge cycling growth in recent years - stats like this are testament to that progress at least. And there's plenty of us cyclists in Brighton, even more now with the new Brighton Bike Share scheme. 

So... going back to the original question: 

What type of cyclist am I? 

Well then. 

I'm a cyclist who currently has three bikes: my trusty steed Giant Avail 3; my babe, my one, my only Specialized Rhyme (BFFs forevs); and my forgotten but much-loved first mtb: Specialized Jynx Comp hardtail. The latter currently sitting on the wall with Chris' Specialized Rockhopper (anyone want to buy either of these, we're thinking of selling?)

I'm a cyclist who rides at her own pace, not Mr or Mrs Speedy Pants powering up the hill in front of me. It's a sit back, head down, nice rhythm thing for me - but I'll still get to the top. 

The first time we rode Ditchling Beacon (2014) :) 

I'm also a cyclist who never really cleans her bikes. Not properly, anyway. And I pay a hefty price for it when I take them to be serviced. But then I got sent one of these, so that's all gonna change, right? (review coming soon btw, as soon as I, you know, clean my bike). 

I'm embarrassed to say I'm a cyclist who doesn't have a clue how to properly maintain any of her bikes despite the advent of YouTube, instead dutifully throwing money at various bike shops to fix problems for her. (Always choose an indy though, 'cause I'm nice like that). 

I'm a former broken rider who's so *very* nearly over the fear since breaking her collarbone and wrist, no longer riding like a dick and being a bit more careful on the trail. 

Oh and I'm a cyclist who this week finally signed up to the Brighton Bike Share scheme, for those moments when I decide to treat myself to a walk into town but then quickly come to my senses and need a set of (very heavy) wheels.  

Either way, whatever bike I ride, wherever I go, there's one thing that remains: my love for cycling as a sport, for leisure, for commuting. 

BFFs forevs. :)

Find out more on events at the House of St Barnabas

What type of cyclist are you? I'd love to know!

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