FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: January 2018


Saturday, 27 January 2018

The power of a positive mind for running

As a writer, I find words really powerful. They're my tools. My craft. They swirl around my head bringing meaning to my days. They also bring motivation, keeping me focused and on track to reach my goals - both in fitness and in life.

The words in the above photo make a lot of sense to me. I like to use it as a mantra whenever negative thoughts creep into my mind. Like for tomorrow's long run. I've told myself and everyone who'll listen that I'll try to run a nine or 10 miler, on tarmac, in prep for Brighton Half in just four weeks' time.

The tarmac bit is important in this 'training' cycle. I put training in inverted commas because true to my recent form of the past couple of years, I haven't been 100% consistent with my running - more flirting with it - and trying to do at least two or three per week since before Christmas.

The way my weeks have gone means those three runs have tended to be a bit of a binge over the weekend, with intervals Friday, parkrun Saturday and a long run Sunday. And up until now, those long runs have all been on the trail.

I was actually in a fair amount of pain by this point but I had a banging dnb playlist 
Lots of wet, muddy, hilly, glorious lung-busting trail. The best kind of running at this time of year, I think, and the kind of running that makes you thankful to be alive, and to be able to run at all.

It hurts, but it's OK - you know? 

So my Sundays have been mostly filled with runs of between six and eight miles on the trail with my BTRS (Brighton Triathlon Race Series) buddies as part of the Winter Trail series.

Tomorrow, because I mostly only ever get motivated to run if I'm meeting other people, I'm starting and finishing my run from the same place as my BTRS family. But I'm not running with them.  Instead, while they do their trail run, I'll be running the undulating clifftop road that heads out to Peacehaven and back, trying to clock 10 miles. I'll still get the challenge of the hills but get to test the legs on a solid surface and run in the new Brooks Glycerins that (thank God) arrived this week.

Positive vibes only

So, going back to my mantra - I'm changing the mindset I've had for the past week for tomorrow's run and instead of thinking I CAN'T do it, I'm telling myself that I CAN do the full 10 miles.

Here are the reasons I thought I COULDN'T, along with a few comebacks after giving myself a little talking to (positive vibes only, right?)

Doubt no.1 

I've missed a couple of runs this week due to a busy work schedule and very exciting trip to Manchester to meet British Cycling (more on this soon).  
So what. you've also done three solid gym strength and conditioning workouts this week, and a lovely fast 24mile round cycle commute so your legs are probably stronger than you realise, and fresh for running. 

Doubt no.2

My knees have been hurting recently, running's not 100% comfy yet. 
Probably because of those knackered trainers you've been wearing. Good job you've got new shoes now, and are working on S&C in the gym. Also, you know your body needs a good few weeks to get used to running again. Patience, my child.

Doubt no.3

I haven't done any long runs on tarmac yet and don't know how it'll go.
Er... well it's just as well you'll find out tomorrow then.

Doubt no.4

I haven't ran 10 miles since... *checks Strava*... bloody hell, last year's Brighton Marathon
See above. 

The power of the mind for performance

Winter Run Ambassadors Roshni, Lisa, Mara & me (wearing new leggings from Shockabsorber :) )

The power of positive thinking for performance is actually a proper thing you know. 

Lots of athletes work with sports psychologists to train their minds to believe they can achieve what they set out to do. Half of the battle with running in particular is in your mind anyway, any runner of any level will tell you that. 

How many times have you been on a run and wanted to stop? 

I'm channeling these positive vibes from a really interesting training evening I went to this week ahead of next week's London Winter Run.

Endurance sports coach Tom Craggs took us through a great strength and speed workout and shared some tips on how to use the power of the mind to stay focused and strong on race day (and I'm nicking them for tomorrow's long run and Brighton Half too!)

Apparently, what you think or feel about your training or event can have a real physical impact on your body. I say apparently, but I know it's true. And it's been proven in numerous studies, some of which Tom mentioned in his presentation.

That nervous tension you get to the start line - it can manifest in a good way if you channel it right. Or, it could overwhelm you and completely mess it up.

Think about elite athletes, they train day in day out, for hours at a time, for often seconds or minutes on the race or event day. When it comes, they stick to what they know, trust their training, pull out a few mantras of their own, and perform under pressure.

So what powers can we call on when it matters for us?

The power of disassociation 

There's no getting away from it - running hurts. It's not all neverending endorphin rainbows and smiley, happy sunshine sessions. So distracting yourself from the 'pain', or physical action of running helps. Paula Radcliffe used to count to 100 three times in her head and she knew that was roughly a mile.

To be honest I can't think of anything worse, so I'd rather think about what I'm having for dinner, or think of ideas for a new pitch, but it's about finding what works for you.

The power of visualisation 

Your expectation and what you visualise of what will happen on race day is probably what will happen. This makes sense to me because every time I've gone into a race thinking there's any sort of chance of getting a PB I've done it. Or whenever I've been really excited to race or do an event I've had the best time, and come out shining too.

And similarly, when I've stood on the start line after a week of worrying and knowing deep down that I haven't done enough, it's all gone tits up.

If you expect it to hurt, it will. But if you know you can run at threshold, or for long enough to get the result you want - i.e. be comfortably uncomfortable - you will.

The power of association 

En route to a banging PB: 2015 Brighton Half Marathon

Think back and remember good achievements and how it felt. The last time you ran a 10k or half marathon strong. When you found your flow in training and could've gone on forever.

Connect that memory to the feeling and take it with you into your run or race. I find music really helps here.
Read my other post: 

Tom suggested to keep a training diary to record not just the workouts you do, but also what you ate that day, how much you drank, how you felt, whether anything hurt, how your recovery was etc. I used to do this religiously a couple of years ago but have let it slip so will be looking at doing this as I finish my training for the Winter Run, Brighton Half, and onwards to the South Downs 80 mile sportive I want to do in April (more on this later!)

The power of affirmation 

Ahh, positive affirmations. Everyone loves a good mantra. Mine is the one in the pic at the top of this post. The other is feel the fear, do it anyway - but I don't think that works for tomorrow's long run.

When I was shitting myself about doing my first triathlon* I wrote about positive thinking and changing my mindset from doubtful, negative and questioning of my ability to positive, strong and reassuring really helped.

*Spoiler - I did it - read about my first triathlon here.


How do you stay positive through training and in events?

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

5 ways to beat the January blues

Monday January 15th is meant to be Blue Monday, whatever the hell that means. Are we all skint, fat and feeling down at how dark and cold it is? Or is this just another marketing ploy like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get you to buy shit you don't need and feel bad about yourself and your life when there's nothing actually wrong?

I actually love January. I'm a sucker for a fresh start and love setting goals.

I'm feeling motivated, inspired and excited to kickstart a new year and make this one my best yet - but I'm lucky because I know what I want this year and have set some goals to achieve it (still haven't written about my 2018 goals have I. Bad Tess).

And OK, I might also be a little bit skint and a little bit fat but I'm not sad at the cold dark mornings and shorter days. I love winter training.

Here's how you can beat the January blues and stick two fingers up to Blue Monday:

Release your inner child

The first time I went trampolining wasn't until I was 30 years old and quite frankly that was 25 years too late. If you're looking for basically the most fun you'll ever have as an adult, find a trampoline park, borrow / take your own child or another fully grown human being and JUMP AROUND.

It's the BEST freedom, you'll get an awesome workout, and leave sweaty, invigorated and full of beans for the rest of the day.

Watch the video above and read my post here about when I went to a trampoline fitness class with This Girl Can.

Get outside 

Especially if the weather's wet and wild. There's no better way to feel alive than to get battered from all angles by the elements. To have your breath taken away by both the scenery and the gale force winds that snatch the air from your lungs. 

Everyone loves a crisp winter's day but don't be afraid to get out for a walk, run or ride when it's stormy. Moments like that make the food and warmth that follows all the more welcome.

Read about when we walked the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye in 50mph winds. 

Get on your bike

I honestly believe cycling should be prescribed by doctors to improve mental wellbeing. In fact, all types of exercise, any way of moving your body. 

But cycling in particular - I don't think I've been happiest ever as when I'm riding my bike. 

There are a few rules in life:

If it's sunny, don your shades and ride your bike. 

If it's raining, put your waterproofs on and ride your bike. 

If it's cold, wet, windy, and you can't see more than two feet ahead of you - grab some mates, find the South Downs or similar trails and ride your mountain bike. 

Mountain biking doesn't care about the January blues. 

My first ever mountain bike ride was on a wet, grey, miserable winter's day, adventuring with a bunch of other lunatics across the South Downs Way from Brighton to Eastbourne. It was absolutely epic and you can read about that here

Read more of my mtb-shaped adventures below if you're looking for inspiration to get on your bike this winter: 

If road cycling is your thing don't let the winter put you off cycling to work. Remember there's no such thing as bad weather - just the wrong kit! 

If you're female and need help getting confident on the roads, find your nearest Breeze ride.

Get to the gym 

If you really can't bear to get outside you don't have to - take refuge in the gym and join the other nutters lifting heavy things and feasting on endorphins at 6am on cold dark mornings :) 

Book a PT to make yourself work harder and bust out your best gym face to show him it's working. 

(I'm working with Brighton PT Pete Dudley twice a week at the moment and loving the results - will blog this ASAP so stay tuned!)  


Take some time out 

You can't always be on the go - sometimes it's nice to snatch an hour or two just for you and no one else. Make a date with the mat and get to a yoga class - I say this every time I write about it but I 100% need to make more time for yoga and meditation. 

This beautiful space is Studio iO in Brighton - the city's most amazing place to practice. 

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day rat race that it seems we don't have time to switch off but really - we do - we just have to make time. 

Take your 'me time' one step further and try floatation if you really want to reset and recharge. 

Read about my first ever floatation

Remember - don't get caught up in feeling however popular culture is telling you to. Take ownership of your January and the rest of your 2018 - set some goals, take steps towards some dreams and go get what you want. 

The January blues is a trap - don't fall for it!


How do you beat the January/winter blues? 

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Thursday, 11 January 2018

How does exercise make you feel?

FitBits | How does exercise make you feel? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Someone in the office said I was 'dedicated' to fitness this week. It's not the first time I've been told that. I've been called 'disciplined' numerous times. Been labelled 'hardcore' more than once. 

"You're so good," they say. 

I often get asked if I ever sit still. Is there any sport I don't do, or anything I won't try? How do I stay so motivated to keep fit all the time? 

The truth is, I'm not always motivated. Sometimes I really and truly just 




But mostly I'll think of how I feel afterwards. I'll think of those endorphins, and that fire in my belly that stays with me for the rest of the day. 

I'll remember the awesome sunrises I've seen that were there just for me, and the silent, sleepy streets where just for that run, that ride, that bootcamp session or class, the city is mine and no one else's - even if I'm exercising with other people. 

FitBits | How does exercise make you feel? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I'll think of the group of friends I'm meeting and how I don't want to let them down, or the PT appointment I made (unless like today, I forget to set my bloody alarm and wake only when he texts me to see where I am!). 

I'll think of how much more productive, focused and energised I am once I've moved my body, even just for a little bit. 

FitBits | How does exercise make you feel? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

It's not just my body that loves exercise, my brain does too. I learnt to love exercise not because of the weight I lost, or the changing reflection in the mirror. 

I started to love it because of how it made me feel. Because of what it taught me about myself. 

It brings me so much more than the weight loss and 'perfect body' I was in search of when I started.

It's brought me self-belief that I can do anything I want to. It's brought me a sense of belonging - in my body, in my city, in my physical and online network of friends from Brighton and beyond. 

It's taught me to try, helped me to grow, allowed me to explore my real sense of self. 

FitBits | How does exercise make you feel? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Living an active lifestyle isn't something I'm 'dedicated' to, or 'disciplined' in - it's a part of me. It's who I am. And it has been since I changed my life in 2011 when I finally gave up smoking

I shared a tweet and Insta post earlier asking people how exercise makes them feel and we're all on the same page. View the threads here and here if you want to join the conversation. 

People said exercise makes them less lethargic, less prone to illness, it helps them reconnect with themselves and nature. Some said it helps their depression and alleviate anxiety. 

It calms racing minds, melts away stress, makes us feel awesome, shows us we're strong. 

It brings health, happiness and the best high you'll ever feel - you just need to find something you actually enjoy doing. 

I wrote the below when I spoke at the Sussex Sport Awards, but ICYMI, here's how you can learn to love exercise... 

How to love exercise

FitBits | How does exercise make you feel? Tess Agnew fitness blogger

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 (however big and wobbly it is) that makes you come home beaming about the 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. Like hockey does for me. 

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!


How does exercise make you feel? 

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