FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: 2018


Monday, 17 September 2018

London e-bike tour with Shimano

L to R: Lucy from PaddlePedalPace, me and Michelle from RideOn.

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A couple of years ago on my (much-missed) three mile EW cycle commute I used to occasionally get overtaken by people on e-bikes. It was only very occasionally as there weren't many around then, and it was usually on the nice big hill under the viaduct up to Seven Dials in Brighton that they'd saunter past me whilst I puffed and pushed my way to the top. I used to swear in my head at these people as they glided effortlessly into the distance - especially when it was raining.

"Isn't that cheating? That's not a 'real' bike. They're not even cycling properly."

I'll admit, I was a bit of an e-bike snob. But I'm a changed woman. We're seeing them more and more on our roads (86% of e-bike sales), and on our trails (14% e-mtb) - with market imports growing by 90% in 2017. According to stats from Shimano, the biggest e-bike category is city / commuter bikes, and let's be honest, that's got real potential to change the world right there.

Just imagine if we could get people out of their cars and on bikes to cycle to work? If we could get kids and their parents riding to school instead of driving? According to Sustrans, 11% of short car journeys are under one mile(!), 29% from under one to under two miles, and 60% are from two to five miles.

As a seasoned bike fiend with a lifetime love for the wheels, I find that hard to swallow. I cycle everywhere in and around Brighton, and have done everywhere I've lived including Hastings and Birmingham when I went to uni.

I've never cycled in London before though. Living in my beautiful Brighton bubble means I'm pretty spoilt with amazing seafront and city cycle lanes, winding quiet country roads and rolling hills of the South Downs. I've got the trails at Stanmer and some more flowy singletrack at the Surrey Hills, but I've never had the chance - nor have I really wanted to, thanks to the way the media portrays it - have a go at cycling in London. (Again, I'm a changed woman on that front too, btw, it's really not that bad).

Susie Chan & Lucy at PaddlePedalPace

We met Shimano at the London Transport Museum to learn about the new e6100 system. This is the latest premium e bike component system from Shimano, packed with high-tech features including Di2 automatic and electronic shifting which was an absolute game changer for me. The ride was incredibly smooth and effortless in places - lovely to just cruise around London and enjoy the bike tour without having to worry about what gear we were in.

The controls on the bike are easy to manage. You can switch between the different support modes to decide how much assistance you want from the motor (Eco > Normal > High or Off), and if you want to you can override the auto shifting to electronically change gears yourself (which is also soooooo smooth with not a 'clunk' to be found, btw).

One thing that I really loved was that it had a 'walk' mode, so if you find yourself pushing up hill or walking the bike home for whatever reason, you can press 'walk' for a bit of a boost on foot too. I rode the bike through all of the support modes including 'Off' which is still totally doable so no worries if the battery did run out on you. Not sure it ever would though - apparently it can last upto 170km on a single charge (on Eco mode), and charges to 80% in 2.5hrs for heavy users.

Overall the bike was a true dream to ride and it was such a great day. You know what I'm like - put me on a bike and everything's great, I'm very easily pleased where bikes are involved.

And this was such a fun day out on the wheels - not just because of not having to 'think' about cycling a new bike, but because it was my first ever ride in London and it was great to get taken round all the back streets past the best landmarks for a brilliant little tour of our capital.


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Thursday, 30 August 2018

6 lessons learned on my first Time Trial

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I survived my first hill climb Time Trial this week and I need to tell you all about it. But first, let me apologise. I realise that this little corner of the Internet - are we still capitalising Internet? - tends to morph into a full on cycling blog rather than generalised fitness blog over the summer as I delve deeper into my love affair with the wheels.

The love I have for cycling has been rampant since the long, heady days of my childhood, razzing my battered BMX round the pump track and into town, leaving it right to the last minute before my curfew to see how fast I could cycle home. My own mini TT and I didn't even know it?

So as mine and Chris' bike babies multiply all over the flat and into our tiny garden it's clear that my love affair is showing no signs of slowing down and therefore I apologise for yet another blog about cycling if you're not into bikes. The silver lining for you, however, is that the hockey season starts again tonight and autumn and winter is allll about trail running for me so do make sure you stick around for that, won't you ;)

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Becoming a 'proper' cyclist

This year, after many years of talking about it, looking into it and promptly doing sod all about it, I FINALLY joined a cycling club, with actual human cyclists who go on proper group rides. And lots of different rides there are too - Come And Try It rides for newbies and beginners, Steady Social rides at a steadier pace, pub rides, mtb rides and throughout the summer months, 10 mile and hill TTs, to name a few.

On our 'proper' club rides I've learnt how to ride in a peloton nice and close together, and now fully appreciate the beauty of proper hand signals to signify hazards like pot holes, drains, wandering pedestrians and rogue car doors. I've been on group road rides before but tend to bring up the rear (and a very nice rear it is too) so have a bit more space to see. With club rides, you ride so close together at a set pace - usually two abreast for easier overtaking - that you can't actually see what's in front of you - apart from your lovely club member's arse of course. So the dancing hands that sometimes look like bad renditions of the Bee Gee's Staying Alive are actually all very important.

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
It's not just the hand signals that I've learnt either. I've even started to learn the roads further out from my usual routes after going on these rides. That's right - Tess Agnew, paying attention to where she's going, instead of bimbling along on the bike gushing about how much she loves cycling. These self-navigation skills will come in very handy for some exciting things happening in the coming months so stay tuned for more on that.

And then in addition learning the hand signals, the rules of peloton riding, the different types of rides and knowing whether I'm hard enough to step up to the next pace group, there are the specific learnings from within each ride - hence today's blog.

I've never knowingly done a Time Trial before, or known much about it at all, so joining my new found bike buddies in a country road layby to pin a race number to my back and ride up a hill as fast as I could was an exciting (and slightly daunting) prospect.

Here's what I learnt:

6 things I learned on my first Time Trial 

1. #JFDI  

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I've wanted to do some racing for aaaaages - on the road and mtb - but have been too nervous to do so. How does TT actually work? Would I be fast enough? Have I got the right kit? Will they all be on TT bikes wearing sperm helmets? Do I ride there or drive there to save energy? How do I warm up? Will there be any other women there? And what if I come last?

Well, I found out the answers to all of those questions by employing the tried and tested mantra of the badass women's cycling magazine, Casquette: JFDI (Just fucking do it, for those not in the know).

How does TT actually work? Time Trials are organised events - either informal club events with minimal entry fee or open events that require entry two weeks before - taking place throughout the spring and summer.

There various distances to race - 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles, or specific hill climb TTs like the one I did on Tuesday. Each rider must register and be given a race number to take part. You start from a held start (a lovely club member will hold your bike for you so you can be clipped in from the off instead of faffing with pedals), and everyone sets off in one-minute intervals according to your number. Ride the hill / distance, as fast as you can sustain without dying, then stop, get your breath back, cheer the others in and make your plan of attack for the next one.

You can read more about the history of Time Trial and what you need / don't need on the Brighton Mitre website.

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Would I be fast enough? I'd be as fast as I could go, which is exactly the same as what everyone else was doing, so yes. 

Have I got the right kit? I've got a bike, helmet, legs and lungs, so yes. 

Will they all be on TT bikes wearing sperm helmets? A couple, but I'd look stupid in a sperm helmet so it's OK. 

Do I ride there or drive there to save energy? Ride there with some of my Brighton Mitre CC chums :) 

How do I warm up? Ride there and then recce the hill with one of my lovely club members and HSBC Breeze Champion Alison Lewis. (Watch a video of my first Breeze cycle ride with Alison here). 

Will there be any other women there? There'll be one less if I don't go, won't there. REPRESENT!

And what if I come last? Even if you do, you won't notice as everyone goes in one-minute intervals from each other. You'll be overtaken, you might overtake, but technically the only one to come in last is the one who starts last - if they can't catch up with the others! Incidentally, I was second to last, and give zero fucks about this. 

2. Pace yourself! 

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

You'd be forgiven for thinking a TT is just thrashing yourself as fast as you can ride for a set distance. Strictly speaking, that's exactly what it is - but it has to be sustainable for the whole way. In running terms, I guess it's threshold pace, or a little more? Comfortably uncomfortable, as I used to call it. You're pushing it, your heart rate is up, legs burning and breathing hard, but you can hold onto that pace for the whole duration - without blowing out your arse.

I used to mess up my threshold runs when marathon training back in the early days before I learnt how to pace myself, but at least it was only an understanding that me and my legs had to come to. On the bike there's so much more to think about - which gear do you get into and when? Do you stand up on the inclines, and if you do, how long for? Should you brake for the corners or will you lose momentum? Don't hit that hole in the road. Watch that gravel. Don't ride over the poor dead badger, ffs.

There were moments in Tuesday's TT where I think I could've gone faster, upped a gear, stood up to push, got on the drops for the downward undulations. But there were also periods where I was blowing out of my arse, unable to get enough air in my lungs, legs burning that little bit too much to hold on or push harder.

So lots of work to do on the pacing front, it seems - but a challenge I'm happy to accept!

3. Bring food for afterwards 

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Even though the actual hill we rode was only 2.5miles long, there was a seven mile ride to get there, a full recce ride of the hill and then a seven mile ride home. Why I didn't bring even a little flapjack, banana or something for after I'll never know. No one needs to meet hangry Tess, not least Tess herself.

I've never been very good at fuelling, apart from that 4hr55 run of my life when I surprised myself and got my marathon PB, finishing strong with negative splits. Running a marathon is scary shit, and requires - or forces you into - research and practice. It's never occurred to me to practice fuelling/refuelling or pacing with cycling as it's never been about performance for me so this is a whole new (and exciting) territory.

With only three weeks to go until my first century ride at VeloSouth this is probably not a good thing to be realising but we'll see how it goes...

4. Bring something warm to wear afterwards!

FitBits | My first hill climb Time Trial - Brighton Mitre cycling club - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

You'd be surprised just how cold it is cycling at break neck speeds down the hill you've just climbed having cooled down at the top. When you're climbing and descending as part of a ride you don't notice the change in temperature so much but as we all had a sit down / vom / cheer at the top for everyone to come in (round of applause was the best bit for me), it got pretty cold pretty quickly and I had no arm warmers or layers to add back on before riding home.

Rookie error, now that the heatwave has gone and we're left with 'normal' British summer weather - I will be packing a bag to leave in the club van next week!

5. Bring pub money! 

I realise this is basically turning into a hindsight packing list but this one's really important guys. The first step to nailing this is actually reading the posts in the club Facebook group properly to know that everyone will go to the pub afterwards. Then you'd have the foresight to bring more money than the £4 entry fee for a post-TT beer!

6. Bring lights! 

Perhaps even more important than beer money (?) is lights. It makes me sad that at the end of August it's already that time but our balmy long and light evenings are already turning to chilly dark ones so if you want to stay alive on the roads, make sure you're seen!

This week I joined the millions of cyclists across the country ransacking draws, diving under the bed and checking old bags for the long-forgotten bike lights. Racing home to beat the dark was definitely good fun, but seriously guys - WHERE DID I PUT THEM?!

As my annual light witchhunt has been fruitless so far I'll once again skip merrily down to my local bike shop to restock for the coming months!


So there you have it: lessons learned on my first hill climb Time Trial. Now that I'm a fully fledged member of Brighton Mitre CC I want to join more of the road rides and next season also have a go at track racing at nearby Preston Park Velodrome. Cyclocross season is starting imminently too and a few members are already taking part in the first local event this weekend. I might not be ready to have a go this year but it's definitely something I want to try for 2019. And I'm gonna get on the TT events nice and early in the spring to do some benchmarking and build up my results.

Oh, and of course I'll carry on mountain biking as that's where my true love for cycling really lies. *Looks  at beautiful mountain bike* It's OK babes, mummy loves you. We'll be together again this Sunday for another dose of singletrack flow courtesy of Marmalade MTB, don't worry... 

If you're looking for a friendly, inclusive cycling club in Brighton, don't take as long as I did to join Brighton Mitre CC. Come and Try It rides take place on the first and third Sunday of every month and are open to non-members for two rides. Women get three months free membership and then it's only £20 a year so come join us! 

And if you want to read / watch more of my bike-shaped shenanegins step this way


Have you ever done a Time Trial? Any tips for my next one gratefully received! 

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

An Isle of Purbeck mtb adventure!

FitBits_Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

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Here's a general rule: if you want a happy Tess, put her on a bike in the countryside, let her raz around the woods, or take on the trails. There's literally nothing better than the freedom and space that mountain biking gives me. It's my drug and I want more now, please.

There are no secrets here, everyone knows I love cycling. If you follow me on InstagramTwitter or Facebook, you'll know I proper full on love riding my mountain bike and am always on the hunt for new adventures.

So when Marmalade MTB advertised another Isle of Purbeck day trip in the middle of this glorious heatwave I knew we had to go. Me and Chris were camping in the van when I saw it pop up on Instagram and I booked it there and then on my phone.

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The mini-adventure starts at the Boatyard Cafe in Poole for breakfast before boarding the ferry for the short crossing. It's the shortest boat crossing I've ever been on actually, at only five or ten minutes, and it took me to the most wonderful, happy-giving place you could ever ride your bike.

The boat (which takes cars, bikes, humans, maybe pets?) docks beside a gorgeous sandy beach - the kind that makes you go 'wow' if like me, you've only ever seen one for real a few times in your life. We slathered on the suncream and cycled up the road onto a bridleway that would take us high up into the Purbeck Hills.

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The heat was immense so we took a wee shortcut across the heath to begin the climb and limit time out in the open. It was at this point, after a bit of faffing adjusting my gears that we realised my cable had snapped and I could only get into my smaller ring. Luckily, this was the right ring to be stuck in, for all those lovely hills.

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The climbs were brilliant, by the way. I know I'm not the only cyclist to love a good climb - toughing it out to the top makes the descents all the more worth it, apart from anything else. For me though it's more than that, I actually enjoy riding the hills. The sweat that drips into your eyes, the breath you can't get into your lungs, the burn in your legs as you try to keep a good rhythm.

I'm feeling really strong on the bike at the moment - well, mountain bike anyway, need to get stronger on the road as it's only six weeks to VeloSouth - more on that later!

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Riding into the sea... 

So yeah, these climbs. Up onto the wide open plains of Purbeck with views out to sea from most sides. A glorious descent down to Corfe Castle to shovel in scones and snacks before smashing the climb back up and along to Old Harry Rocks. Beautiful Old Harry.

The words 'wow', 'stunning' and 'amazing' escaped my lips at every twist and turn on this ride. My legs felt strong, my lungs were full and so was my heart. I felt like I flew up the hills and soaked it all up on the descents.

The views were phenomenal and we stopped numerous times for photos and communal 'wow's' - something I was particularly happy for as I never get photos of me on the bike, and it's nice to have other people taking them as well as me!

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

FitBits _ Mountain biking on the Isle of Purbeck - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

After marvelling at Old Harry we descended back down to Poole and jumped on the boat for a post-ride beer right back where we started, on the very same table we had sausage sandwiches only a few hours before.

I don't know if it was the weather, the company, the strength in my legs, the scenery, or all of it combined, but it really was an incredible trip and such a mini adventure. One I'd never think to do on our own, not just because we wouldn't know the route but because we wouldn't think to drive two or more hours for a ride in a day.

But why not? It's totally doable and now we're looking at other places to ride for similar adventures.

I'm pretty sure we'll be back to Purbeck not just to ride but also to see the Castle and sit on that gorgeous beach. What else is there to see/do in that area?

Watch the video:

If you fancy a taste of these endorphins, find out more about the trip and other rides from the marvellous Marmalade MTB. 

* Disclaimer: We paid for our places on this incredible trip and it was worth every penny - book yours here

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Sunday, 29 July 2018

BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Earlier this month, for nearly two whole hours, I got to be 12 years old again. It was absolutely bloody brilliant and I can't wait to do it again.

Thanks to delayed trains it took me pretty much the same amount of time to get there from Brighton, and I arrived late and sweaty from the hot tube ride and 20minute power walk in the sun to Lee Valley VeloPark from Stratford station. (Why do I always forget how far these places are?!)

Luckily I wasn't *too* late to still get stuck in. The BMXercise session I joined is part of a series of events put on by Access Sport as part of its BMX Legacy Programme. Following on from the success of the London 2012 Games, the programme offers low cost youth and women's BMX sessions at tracks across London and now Bristol too, giving participants the chance to get fit, learn new bike skills, make new friends and gain confidence in a fun and inclusive setting.

My kind of fun! 

I was greeted by the lovely Harriet from Access Sport, who found me a full face helmet, bike and gloves to wear, all of which are available for hire at the VeloPark. This was to be my first experience of a full face helmet - and I'm not gonna lie, it did make me feel a little bit badass.

Being a regular mountain biker, I see riders in full face get up all the time, but they're usually doing the gnarly stuff I'm too scared to do, like the beasty black trails at Bike Park Wales and Forest of Dean. Which has got me thinking ahead to when my second full face helmet ride will be: back at Bike Park Wales next month for the Drop Zone course. It's about time me and Chris stepped it up a gear to finally learn how to do drops properly, and what better way to spend our fourth wedding anniversary mastering the art?

It's all part of my summer cycling goals, and I promise not to come home with any broken bones this time. Ain't nobody got time fo' that!

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark top of the starting ramp - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

So anyway, there I was, face fully in said helmet, on a mega light racing BMX with just one brake (who knew?), following Harriet out to the pump track.

It's the same track used for the London 2012 Olympics, but has been remodelled for public use so anyone can have a go, with the most notable change being the reduction of the starting ramp to a more public-friendly level (although I'd 100% LOVE to drop in on the Olympic one!).

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

There were two groups - one beginner, and one intermediate. I used to ride BMX growing up and as a teenager so had ridden pump tracks before, and along with my mountain biking experience I decided to join the intermediate group.

Pump, pump pump it up! 

With BMX, it's all about moving your body with the bike - so lots of pumping, leaning, and super-fast turns of the pedals when you get a chance to keep momentum. Pumping is a skill I need to master for mountain biking too so I was glad to get some practice.

We started on the flat practicing pumping on the bike to turn side to side without pedalling - so a mini squat each time, sitting back and pushing your legs whilst turning the handlebars to change direction.

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Once we'd got pumping on the flat nailed we headed onto the starting ramp to have a go at dropping in and pumping up the first jump. It was at this point, when I got a real sense of how big the track actually was, seeing the height of the starting ramp and how tall the next one was, that I wondered if I'd been a bit overzealous of joining the intermediate group! The beginner group were practicing on lower parts of the track and on the flat just next to us.

I'd ridden pump tracks before but never any this big, and I know from riding singletrack that the ups and downs can really throw you up into the air if you go fast enough, especially if there's a lip on the ramps. We all took turns to drop in and before it was my go I was pretty nervous.

It's a thing I get with mountain biking when riding a new section or route. If I've never done something before, my body doesn't know how it feels to do it, so I get scared. There's still a few sections of singletrack in Wales and the Surrey Hills that I still 'can't' do because my brain won't let my body find out how it feels to do them. It's a funny thing, fear, but something I work on with every ride.

Time to play

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

As soon as I rode down the BMX starting ramp and pumped up onto the first jump the fear soon went away, and after that, well - I felt like a kid again and couldn't get enough of that track, not even when I stacked it after misjudging a landing on a little jump whilst everyone looked on!

We took turns to drop in, pump to reach the top of the first ramp and turn around to pump as far back up the starting ramp as we could. The brilliant instructor Kelly was really good at explaining the best technique and how to move, suggesting to feather the brake on the way down (that means lightly touch the brakes on and off to slow you down), and pump at the bottom of the ramp to have enough oomph to get to the top.

After that we practiced jumping on the flat to get both wheels off the air. Like mountain biking, it's all about getting your feet in the right position on the flat pedals to bring the back of the bike up as well as the front. When it was time to test our jump skills on the track I went first to try a mini jump at the top of the first hill and promptly stacked it as I apparently decided to twist my handlebars whilst in the air. (Why?! God knows.) But it's OK, I got straight back up and was happy to give a demonstration on how not to do it - taking one for the team and all that...

A few more practice runs to pump and keep momentum on the first few ramps and then we had the rest of the session to ride the whole track and learn how to ride off from the gates. This is where the fun really started. We went off in pairs and in threes around the track, learning tips on how to look after momentum to pump round and ride more efficiently on the berms.

Riders ready, watch the gate! 

Some of us had a go on starting from the starting gates - which is brilliant by the way, and makes you feel like a proper badass BMX racer! I was thankful for all my trackstand practice I've been getting on the mountain bike as basically you need to push the bike up against the gate and stand on the pedals in a trackstand until it's dropped and you can pedal off.

The gate very handily talks to you and the traffic lights go from red to amber and then green when it's time to go. I was too busy concentrating on staying up right to really push off from the gate so didn't get the fast start but had the best time trying to catch up round the course.

BMX racing always looks really fast on TV but I've got a new-found respect for just how fast it really is now that I've had a go myself and realise how important pumping, pedalling and body position on the bike is for keeping momentum and driving you forward around the track.

FitBits | BMXercise at Lee Valley VeloPark - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

It was a hot day and we all had to wear long sleeved tops as a requirement so I spent the rest of the session in a sweaty mess as I razzed around the track time and time again trying to master each section.

I 100% want to do it again and am gutted I don't live nearer because if I did you wouldn't be able to keep me away! As far as I can tell we don't have a BMX track in Brighton but I've seen a few Facebook groups trying to start clubs and build one so will keep an ear out for news.

I'm gonna bring Chris up to the VeloPark track so he can have a go too, maybe after we do our Velodrome track taster for double the fun! BMX bikes and kit are available for hire from the Park and you can join any of the skills sessions on weekends throughout the year from beginner basics right through to manuals, jumping and more advanced racing skills.

The BMXercise sessions run are women-specific and fitness focussed, running throughout the year at different tracks around London and Bristol. They're geared up for beginners so if you've never ridden before don't be afraid to just turn up. I promise that whatever level you are, as soon as you get on that track you'll have the best time!

Find out more about BMXercise on the Active Sport website and all the bike-shaped fun available at Lee Valley VeloPark. 

*This post was not in collaboration with BMXercise - I paid (a very affordable price) for my place on this session and loved every minute! 


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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Escape to the sky - yoga on the i360

What if I fall? 
Oh but my darling, what if you fly? 

Yoga in the sky on the i360 with MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Pretty pleased with my excellent cycling tan :) 
I have a thing with opening paragraphs. Sometimes, I just can't find the words, and spend far too long trying, stuck in a cycle of writing-deleting-rewriting. This post is one of those occasions. How do I find the words to explain how utterly amazing it was to do sun salutations 162m above the ground with panoramic views out to sea? 

How do I describe the smile that crept on my face as I lifted my arms to the sky and rose up towards the clouds with them? 

Is there a way to make whoever's reading this know how invincible I felt in Warrior pose up there in that sky? 

Yoga in the sky on the i360 with MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga - Tess Agnew fitness blogger doing Warrior pose

More to the point, is anyone actually reading this?! Never thought about that one, did you Tess. (If you are reading this btw, thank you, please do let me know! 😂)

Elevated, expanded, all-encompassing

Yesterday morning I experienced something really special. I mean, yoga always makes me feel pretty spesh to be fair, but every now and then it turns it up a notch to send me riding a wave so high it takes hours to come back down. 

I took part in the first of a very special series of yoga events on the British Airways i360. Like many of my friends and other attendees at today's session, I hadn't been for a 'flight' until today, so was excited to see what it's like. And what better way to experience it than a strong and blissful yoga practice?!

For me, the location of my practice really drives how I feel. I can create more space in my body and mind if the studio I'm practicing in has that space to give me - and I mean that metaphorically as well as physically. Some of the best yoga sessions I've done have been outside, in a wide open space, like on the beach, with the sound of the waves crashing in and the sun on my back. Equally, I've had the most empowering sessions in tiny gorgeous Brighton yoga studios with roofs shaped like chapels. 

But never up in the clouds with sky high panoramic views of my beloved Brighton. 

Yoga in the sky on the i360 with MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
More of this in my life, please :) 

Escape to the Sky is a collaboration between Brighton yoga warriors MyEscape, Nine Lives Yoga and Holly Cooper Yoga, sponsored by Sweaty Betty Brighton, Positivitea and Yoga Clicks.These amazing sessions will be happening monthly starting August 25 (Bank Holiday weekend) and cost £25. Along with the sky high yoga classes there'll be brunch events and a series of special events including hen dos, yoga raves, day retreats and corporate wellbeing packages. 

That's right, kids. YOGA RAVE. Sign me up! 

Yoga in the sky on the i360 with MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga

This is just what this city needs. There's such an amazing wellbeing movement and community, with so much yoga, meditation and pilates classes in Brighton, but what was missing is this next-level experience. London, we see your rooftop yoga, and we raise you yoga in the sky! 

I honestly cannot describe to you the feeling of looking out to sea from that high up whilst immersed in my practice. Focusing on the glistening horizon and balancing so strong for Tree I could close my eyes and stay there. 

Yoga in the sky on the i360 with MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
It really was an experience to remember and if you're in Brighton - or visiting for the Bank Holiday - I urge you to come and get your feel good vibes right now! 

Sadly I can't make it as I'll be throwing myself down the mountain bike trails at Bike Park Wales but you can have my spot and I'll see you for the September one! 

Register your interest for the next Escape To The Sky, and follow MyEscape and Nine Lives Yoga on Facebook to stay up to date with news. 


Where's the most amazing place you've ever practiced?

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Monday, 16 July 2018

7 self care tips you need in your life

FitBits | 7 self care tips  - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

What does self care mean to you? Is it fuelling your body on a healthy diet of vegetables and lean protein, or finding an extra five minutes in your morning to meditate or sit down with a coffee before work? Is it saluting the sun at a beachside yoga class, or treating yourself to a walk to the office in the sunshine?

Or, is it grunting your way through a peanut butter and caramel cupcake after a hot and heady day at the office? So much grunting. That cake was GOOOOOD.

FitBits | 7 self care tips - eat cake - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Deckchairs and emergency sugar fixes - solves all sorts of bad moods 

For me, self care (or self love, being kind to yourself, whatever you want to call it), is many things. It's waking up early on a weekend to ride my bike, or sweating from my eyes at the gym for a banging lunchtime PT session. It's treating myself to a daily cycle commute on my beautiful road bike instead of lugging my heavy mountain bike round town (with double D-lock protection so this baby doesn't get nicked like the last one). And it's hanging out with the hockey girls on the pitch for another evening summer league match.

Read why being part of a team gives me all the feels

FitBits | 7 self care tips - join a sports team - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
The Southwick Hockey massif

But it's not all about physical activity. Sometimes I do actually slow down too, you know, and do things like booking an emergency floatation when things get a bit hectic, or swapping the Friday night pub visit for an evening round the campfire with my favourite.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I stop talking about how much I need to go to yoga and actually make it to a class or home practice. So for me, conscious self care - the kind where I'm actively aware that I need to do it rather than rushing around training all the time which comes naturally to me - is giving myself the greatest gift of all. Time.

FitBits | 7 self care tips - go camping - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
FACT: Stress is caused by not doing enough camping. 

The busy curse

The problem is I've never been great at doing it. I've always been that 'busy' person, 100 things on the go, with apparently little time to breathe. I live in my calendar, and my phone is my personal organiser for everything from my work schedule and appointments to fitness, fun, family and faffing about. EVERYTHING goes in my calendar, even tiny little reminders to buy milk or call mum or book the dentist. If it's not in there, it gets forgotten, end of, and don't even talk to me about the to do lists I've got going on in different notepads, apps and devices.

This past few weeks have been busy as I've been doing an amazing free Digital Accelerator course to learn the Adobe Suite and Wordpress to make myself a nice shiny new website for my freelance copywriting. The course itself is full time Monday to Thursday 10-5, with a study day on Friday and I've been fitting client work around this along with my usual fitness escapades (hockey, weight training, cycling and not enough yoga I can tell you!)

Whilst I'm loving the course and learning new design skills that will 100% benefit me in the future (and this blog too as I finally migrate to Wordpress), what I'm not loving is being stuck in a stuffy classroom during this heatwave, with 30 hot computers and sweaty bodies. I left the classroom today in a right old stress because I'd not been able to find a good Wordpress theme for my portfolio site (anyone got any tips please let me know!), and had trouble translating the horrific user experience that is the backend of 123-reg to set up my new site.

It's the first time I've been stressed at work in ages, actually, but it got me thinking about self care and how to step out of my funk so as not to let it drag me down for the whole evening.

So with that in mind, here's seven self care techniques you can use to reclaim that sense of calm. 

1. Eat cake

FitBits | 7 self care tips - eat cake - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
I honestly cannot put into words how good that cake was 

Or whatever else is your go-to comfort food. When I left the classroom today - early because I was in such a foul mood - I had the sole intention of locating the most badass, beautiful sugar fix I could find, and I'm glad to say I succeeded, thanks to Cloud 9 on London Road, Brighton. 

I rushed there so hard that when I got to the counter I had no idea what to order and spent 10minutes faffing about before realising the only sensible thing to do was to go for the peanut butter caramel cupcake. I'm not kidding, that was probably the best decision I've made all month. It was DIVINE. And just what I needed. No guilt, no scouring Pinterest for depressing infographics on how much exercise it'd take to work it off - just sit back, slow down and grunt appreciatively to myself for five sensational mouthfuls. 

2. Practice yoga 

FitBits | 7 self care tips - practice yoga - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Obviously. When your body is tight and your mind is frazzled, yoga is THE ONE and it gets me every time.

Read about that time I practiced yoga in the sky

I've been saying I need to do more of it for years, but have I made more time? No. Why? God knows. Probably that 'busy' curse again. Which leads me to the next point...

3. Turn your phone off 

This one's really hard for me, and something I need to work on for sure. I can't remember the last time I turned my phone off, can you?

I used to leave it outside the bedroom at night so at least I would get out of bed before checking my emails in the morning but I've slipped back into putting it under my pillow as I sleep. Mainly to not annoy Chris when my alarm goes off for 6am PT and he's getting up at 7. 

Now it's back to being permanently attached to me like a drip and it's gotta change. I've got better things to do than aimlessly scroll social media. 

4. Read or write something on paper

FitBits | 7 self care tips - read newspapers - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I've always loved physical print. It must be the writer in me. Since I was a kid I've always had a thing about magazines or kept diaries, but recently I've let myself forget the joy of putting pen to paper and turning a page. The only time I really make time to read a magazine now is when flying, and that's because the Internet isn't available. How sad is that? 

On the weekends I sometimes buy a paper and then promptly sit on my phone next to it, but this Saturday I actually managed to read the whole thing and it was really quite nice. Admittedly, I did get my phone out to take a photo, but for a whole hour I was engrossed, and that's what I miss. 

So I'm gonna stop saying I don't have time to read and make time. Watch this space! 

5. Book a wellbeing day 

FitBits | 7 self care tips - Anahata health clinic - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

A few weeks ago I went to a wellbeing day at Anahata Health Clinic in Brighton, and after a yoga class had an amazing and much-needed deep tissue massage. Why is it we never realise how much tension we carry around with us until someone tries to massage it out? My therapist Raquel did a blinding job for the hour and I floated away all loose and lovely, vowing to never let my shoulders get that tight again.

The Anahata clinic itself is hard to miss, with its bright red and yellow exterior complete with dragons to - in founder Deborah's own words -  'keep the bad stuff away'. The vibe and energy of Anahata is one of a relaxed home and comfort, focused on community and low cost treatments and classes. Like most converted corner terrace houses, it's deceivingly big on the inside and houses five treatment rooms, two movement studios, and 50 therapists offering therapies such as acupuncture, massage, reiki, life coaching and more.

To make wellbeing accessible for all, therapists offer low cost sessions throughout the week, with a 60 minute massage available for just £25 on Wednesdays with Raquel, for example.

Find out more about Anahata their website. 

6. Have a float 

FitBits | 7 self care tips - floatation therapy Float Spa Hove - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I've been harping on about floatation for over a year now. If you haven't tried it, you really must. It's quite the experience. For me, it's the only way I can truly shut down my body and mind and I always come out of it feeling refreshed and renewed. I don't think there's any other situation where you can fully surrender your entire body like that and just... be. Once the body lets go, it's easier for the mind to follow...
Read about the first time I tried floatation, and what happened when I did the three-day float challenge after injuring myself running. 

7. Eat good food 

FitBits | 7 self care tips - eat good food - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

OK so this kinda contradicts the whole 'eat cake' point, but if you do that one 20% of the time and this one 80% of the time you'll be just fine. When I came out of the F45 Challenge - read about my 8 week transformation here - I was feeling so lean and strong. I'd lost 4kg of weight and 2% body fat. I'm now trying to apply the principles of the plan into every day life but still enjoy some treats, but need to remember that they are just that - treats. To be honest, I'm kind of failing a little bit on the food front while I've been so busy but I'm sorting it aaaaaaaat, right? It's an ongoing journey for me, with some takeaway-shaped bumps in the road that I'm trying to get organised enough to swerve...

However you show your body and mind a bit of love, make sure you do it often. We're on the go so much nowadays it can seem really hard to just stop, but all you really have to do is unplug for a little while. The notifications, messages and bombardment of information will all still be there when you get back from your self care sabbatical. 

So go on, take some time to treat yourself. You deserve it. 


What are your self-care tips?

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