FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: March 2018


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Another South Downs Way adventure - my PlusBike Day Out

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

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Two wheels, rolling countryside, freezing cold blue skies and uninterrupted sunshine. Is there a better way to spend a weekend? Maybe, if it was a teeny bit warmer, so you don’t end up looking like Rudolph from the wind chill, but apart from that, I don’t think so. 

I’ve been wanting to share my PlusBike Day Out with you for a while and it’s finally time. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen my mini solo mountain bike adventure last month when I took my trusty steed on the train to Winchester to ride the part of the South Downs Way I’ve never done before. 

It was an adventure thanks to the National Rail Enquiries’ PlusBike tool, and I’ve teamed up with them to show you how nice and easy it is to jump on a train with your bike – or hire one at the other end – and enjoy a lovely cycle ride in a new place. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

The PlusBike tool is available within the National Rail Enquiries mobile app and online, giving info such as bike restrictions or reservations on trains (important for London at peak times), secure bike-parking facilities at stations, and also local bike hire where provided. 

As I had my own bike I didn’t need to hire one but this I thought was pretty cool as it opens up more places to explore on two wheels. 

The more we can make cycling accessible the better, right?

This ride was a big deal for me, for a number of reasons: 

1) It’s only the second ever time I’ve been on a long solo mountain bike ride (the first time was a birthday treat)
Which means I’m responsible for my own planning, navigation, timekeeping and feeding. Those who know me will know that apart from feeding, these things are definitely not my strong points, but in the spirit of being This Girl Can Ambassador, I can, and I did.  

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Adventure planning
2) It’s the first time I’ve ever been to Winchester and ridden this section of the SDW (Winchester to Petersfield)
What if I get lost? What if I can’t find the South Downs Way? What if I go off course and end up down a rabbit hole? Spoiler – I did go off course early on, but only slightly, and found my way back with the help of the OS mobile app – God only knows what I’d do if the internet ever ceased to exist. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
Lolz... went off course in the first 30mins - thank God for the OS maps app! 

3) There would be no one else to rely on to fix any mechanicals 
Usually I ride in a group or with Chris, and I’m embarrassed to say that for someone who truly LOVES cycling and has done since day dot, my bike maintenance knowledge and skillset is pretty minimal. I’ve been on a basic course but it kinda went in one ear and out the other, (I need to do things to learn, not just be shown them), so this was unknown territory for me. 


This girl CAN

At the start of this year I made a resolution that 2018 would be the year I learn to look after my own bikes. This is partly a money saving exercise – far too much of mine is going into the pockets of the very helpful staff at the bike shop down the road – but also part of my 2018 This Girl Can / JFDI manifesto. 

⤖ Tess can plan a mtb trip and get herself there and back in one piece (red nose and chapped lips included – oh glorious spring, where for art thou?)

⤖ Tess can change her own brake pads (with only a slight paddy in the hallway when she tries for too long to undo the wrong bolt).

⤖ Tess can change a puncture in the middle of the Downs (after half an hour of faffing about using the pump wrong before realising).

Tess can, and she did. And here’s how it went: 

A glorious, life affirming Saturday

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I was so excited about this trip. Some real me time just me and the bike up there on those hills, in glorious winter sunshine, with no one but a few other cyclists, walkers and a load of sheep for company. Self care done right :) 

I woke up for the 6:30am train and promptly missed it so was a bit delayed in getting to Winchester. No worries though - the sun was shining ALL day and I was in no rush. 

It was also FREEZING cold, and I was layered to the eyeballs. I had two buffs on under my helmet, one on my neck, two pairs of gloves, a base layer, my Liv thermal jersey (absolute BFF this winter, love this top so much). For once my feet were OK which made a change, but my poor reynauds-ridden hands were absolutely not. Ohhhh the cold. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

After a fair amount of faffing I rode from Winchester station to find the SDW via a lovely canalside National Cycle Route and began the first big climb. We’ve had such a wet winter I was worried about the mud and whether the Downs would be rideable but to my relief it was so cold all the mud had frozen solid so was actually a dream to ride. 

The route was a mix of fields, tracks and tiny country roads connecting cute little villages, with surprisingly not too many hills. I reckon this part of the SDW is actually the easiest in terms of elevation. The Eastbourne to Brighton leg is the worst, with the Seven Sisters, and Petersfield to Amberley the prettiest I’d say, with its gravel tracks and woodland paths.  

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Because it was so cold there was hardly anyone out there, bar a few walkers and three friendly blokes on fat bikes, one of whom kept falling off his just in front of me, helpfully showing me the line not to take through the icy mud ruts. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

After a brilliant day’s riding, I was surprised at my ability to successfully adult enough to get to my B&B in East Meon, which was LOVELY btw. If you’re ever walking or cycling the South Downs Way between Winchester and Petersfield, you absolutely must stay at The Longhouse. 

The owner Marjorie was so lovely and accommodating, drying my paper on the aga when I soaked it washing my bike, putting the heating on for me EVERYWHERE so it was nice and warm after my amazing hot shower, and even driving me to the pub and picking me up again for a much needed refuel dinner (and a massive glass of red). 

FitBits | The Longhouse East Meon B&B - South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
My own pack of biscuits in the room and made it back for the rugby :) WINNING.

The whole back wing of the house was the B&B with its own kitchen diner and I had it all to myself because no other nutters were out on the hills in that cold. In the morning – which happened to be Marjorie’s birthday! - I sat at her kitchen table and enjoyed a breakfast of homemade sourdough and jam, with eggs, bacon and mushrooms. 

When planning my trip I made a point of trying to find a nice little B&B instead of a soulless hotel. The South Downs Way snakes in and out of so many lovely little villages that it’s almost rude not to stop by for a taste of village life. At only £55 per night, I wasn’t disappointed, and you won’t be too – check out her website here

A faffy stop-start Sunday

FitBits | The Longhouse East Meon B&B - South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger 

Ha what a massive faff Sunday was. A stark contrast to the trouble-free riding I had the day before. I woke up to a hearty breakfast at Marjorie’s table and headed out to complete the final few miles to Petersfield. 

I had a choice – about seven or so on the road, or get back up on the SDW to ride four or five more miles and drop down into Petersfield. You’d think it was simple, but alas, no. 

The route was simple enough – ride out of East Meon up a farm track, big hill, then along the SDW and down to Queen Elizabeth Country Park onto Petersfield. But the very first track wasn’t that rideable, nor was the massive hill, due to huge ruts in the ground from motorbikes and farm vehicles, and by the time it was rideable it was so steep I couldn’t get going so I had to just lug my bike to the top. 

Add to that the icy mud had started to melt and was now really sticky and clogging up my wheels, chain and bike. Sunday faff no. 1. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Finally get to the top, ride a bit and think yeah, this is it, then – get a bloody puncture. And that was Sunday faff no.2. I fixed it, eventually, after half hour of getting angry with my tiny little pump not working properly. The prospect of a 90minute walk to Petersfield wasn’t that appetising so I was glad to finally get back on the bike and drop down the hill into Queen Elizabeth Country Park. 

Which, is GORGEOUS by the way, have you been? When I realised my handy work had not been so handy and the tyre was flat once again I stopped at the café for a sympathy cream tea, changed the tube and used their track pump to do a better job than my little one had just done. 

FitBits | South Downs Way Winchester to Petersfield - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

By the café there’s a host of bike and walking trails – including a couple of blue and red graded mountain bike trails which I didn’t realise until just now! There’s also an assault course, play area, and even a dog activity course. 

I’m definitely gonna go back there with Chris and test out their mtb trails, but for this trip I had to get back so took the National Cycle Route from the park to Petersfield and jumped on a train home.

Saturday on video: 

My PlusBike day out was a great mini adventure and has totally whetted my appetite for more. It was a big test for me to go solo and ride a new route, sort my own punctures and be responsible for my own navigation, and I finished the ride quite proud of myself :) 

Getting the train makes it an end-to-end journey and a bit more of an adventure than a loop ride. You have to get somewhere on your own steam. And, using the PlusBike tool opens up a new world of places to ride a bike, whether you take your own or hire one at the other end. 

Find out more info about National Rail PlusBike and plan your own day out at

If you like this video pls subscribe to my YouTube channel as I'll be making a lot more over the next year! 

ICYMI, catch up with my other SDW rides here:


* This post is in partnership with National Rail. I was compensated for my trip and time spent to write this blog, but all views and amazing bike rides are my own :) 

Where's your favourite place to ride?

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

7 reasons to train with a PT


It's a beautiful feeling, progress. When the fruits of your labour finally come into bloom and you start to see the result of all your hard work.

It's not a time to be humble. It's a time to tell the world. A time to crack out the guns for a gratuitous #flexfriday post.

A time to take video after video of you trying (and failing) and trying (and failing) again and again for the perfect pull up. Four-nearly-five with the resistance band on the door at home, one-nearly-two strict, if you're wondering.

A post shared by Tess Agnew (@fitbits_) on

A time to get your PT to take yet another photo of you doing exactly what you did last week, and the week before, only this time, with a heavier weight in your hands, or on your shoulders, or racked up on your legs.

However it starts to show, whether it's subtle signs of a new you shining through, like more energy in the afternoon, gritting your teeth for a new squat PB (60kg nice and deep last week thank you very much), or great big smack-you-in-the-face-obvious gains like your body shape changing, getting strong is 100% the most brilliant and best feeling.

And it doesn't just show in the gym - it happens in the everyday too.

Carrying heavy shopping home or to the car without having to take a break. Being able to hold downward dog for longer as a rest instead of having to come down into child's pose. Pushing the van for YET ANOTHER bump start on a freezing cold morning.

Being able to lift your heavy mountain bike off the wall rack with relative ease (I say relative - ain't nobody got a magic cure for being short AF), or swooping it up onto your shoulder to saunter up and over the bridge at the train station.

No thank you, kind fellow passenger, I don't need you to carry it for me. I did far worse than this at the gym this morning. 


These are the every day gains that strength training brings.

I've been training with a PT twice a week since September and I've never been stronger than I am right now. From the very second session (not the first - that was benchmarking), Brighton PT Pete Dudley had me lifting weights I'd never even attempted before.

The double figure dumbbells that were in the 'big weight' area, you know, where the big boys and girls are. The area I stayed away from until that day. The 11 or 15kg medicine balls, and the previously scary / alien squat rack with its mega heavy plates and uncensored mirror that tells no lies. (Note to self - hack squat directly in front of the mirror is not a good look). Moving on from the 8kg kettlebells onto 16kg and 20kg, for swings, single leg deadlifts and squat shoulder press.

I'm loving getting to know the new stronger me.

Finding out what I'm really capable of, pushing all the way to that last rep, sometimes to failure, because it's then that I'm able to grow.

Sometimes after a good leg session I can literally feel the strength building in my muscles. Does that make sense? Like actually feel it. And I'm not talking DOMS either.  Well, of course it's DOMS, but you feel strong rather than that omg-I-can't-move kind of DOMS.

Every session is hard AF and even training twice a week for the past five months I don't think we've ever done the same workout twice. Pete keeps it interesting and throws in some proper evil concoctions to keep my body guessing.

I walk out of the gym feeling epic most days, proud of what I've achieved and a fire in my belly that lasts all day - and I know for a fact that I wouldn't do this by myself.

So, on that note:

Here's my 7 reasons to train with a PT.

1) You'll work harder

There's no doubt about it. Training with a PT will 100% make you work harder than you would if you were alone, and you'll see the benefits quicker. Gym face allowed.

Even when we think we're disciplined and dedicated, if there's opportunity to do so, we often take the shortcut. It's human nature.

Think about the times you've trained in a class, with a buddy or with a PT, vs. training on your own. Can you honestly say you pushed as hard as you did when someone else was there with you? Did you really finish *all* of your reps right to the end of that timer, or did you stop a few seconds early? (If you did, amazing work - tell me your secrets!)

2) You'll be made accountable 

For me, having an appointment to train means I'll actually turn up (unless work deadlines get in the way, and I have no choice but to rearrange - but then I'll keep that appointment instead #freelancelife).

Knowing that you've paid money in advance helps too - and the image of someone waiting for you at the gym while you contemplate hitting that snooze button or 'missing your train' home from work will keep you motivated to think otherwise.

3) You'll be more consistent 

In fitness, consistency is rewarded. And consistency is something I've struggled with for the past couple of years. I know that back in the day when I used to go to bootcamp 4/5 times a week I was mega fit, and even able to bust out a 7:34 plank at Hillmotts one weekend (like I say, it was a while ago...)

When I run regularly and look after recovery, my marathons go better than ever and I finish nice and strong. But when I let things slip, they don't, and I drag myself to the finish. When I learnt to swim and trained for my first triathlon, my swimming and bike fitness went through the roof too, and surprise, surprise - through consistent, progressive training, I was able to reach my goals.

This past couple of years I've sort of lost my way a bit with my consistency a bit through work and life challenges, but I'm working now to get it back, and loving the journey.

At the moment I'm training twice a week with a PT, but I've also joined the new F45 studio by Brighton Station, to inject the bit of HIIT back into my life that was missing to fast track me to my goals. Next on the list to sort: food.

The improvements I've seen in my strength from just twice weekly strength training is already enough to motivate me to keep going (and increase my training load for faster progress) - so try to give consistency a go in your training, and see what you can achieve.

4) You'll learn new tricks 

Some of the things I'm made to do in the gym are hilarious. In a not-funny-but-bloody-painful-how-is-this-even-possible kind of way. The sort of exercises that make you laugh and cry simultaneously and you know will make you strong AF purely based on how difficult they are.

Stuff like:
- Single leg deadlifts on a balance board
- Kettlebell shoulder press on the bosu ball (turns your legs into Elvis)
- Single leg 'press' on the pull up machine. That's right, pull up machine. Great for glutes and a bigger range of movement than the leg press machine allows.
- Weighted lunge walks. The devil's exercise. 

These are the things I have a PT for. These and the supersets and triplesets and can-only-do-one-bloody-set.

These are the things that make you motivated to keep training and make it interesting every day!

6) You'll build confidence in the gym 

When you know what you're doing in the gym it's much easier to just get on with it. Now that I've been shown a range of exercises and know how to do them myself, I feel confident bossing it round the weights area on my own. I no longer gaze longingly at the squat rack, I get in there and rack my weights to get on with it.

I no longer avoid the heavier dumbbells or kettlebells, have no qualms setting up the different weights machines, and am no longer perplexed by the cable machine and its many mysterious tentacles.

Even if you don't train with a PT regularly, have one session, or at the very least a gym induction, to get to know the kit and what you can do with it. Then you can boss it round the gym floor too.

7) You'll progress safely 

A post shared by Tess Agnew (@fitbits_) on
After a recent crisis of confidence in my squats when I started to get knee pain I got scared to go low. We took it right back to basics, removed the weight and built back up slowly, making sure each squat was nice and deep. It worked - I'm now back up to 60kg with good form, nice and deep with no knee pain. Confidence restored.

It's these small adjustments and constant monitoring and encouragement from a PT that will keep you progressing safely towards your goals - even if that means going right back to basics sometimes to get it right.

This isn't the first time I've trained with a PT and seen the benefits. Looking back on my old posts when I used to train with another great Brighton PT, Amy Jordan, makes me realise that this is all just one massive work in progress. We're always striving for better, faster, stronger. Nothing's ever finished - you never reach perfection.

Next things to sort: better diet to cut some fat and give these muscles a real chance to shine, more sleep and get right back on the magnesium supplement.

Been here before, haven't we?! 

If you're in Brighton Pete trains clients at The Gym on Madeira Drive. 
Follow him on Insta


Have you ever trained with a PT? How do you stay motivated in the gym?

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Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why you should go cycling when you really don't want to


I didn't want to go cycling this weekend. Could. Not. Be. Bothered.

I tried really hard not to go too: 'it's too cold', 'the van's still in the garage', 'my bike's not ready', 'the trails won't be rideable'. Yep, believe it or not, as much as I love cycling, sometimes all I want to do is sit about in my pants eating pizza and scrolling social media (or actually writing one of the hundreds of blog posts I've got planned before they're all not relevant any more?!)

When we got the word from Bike Park Wales that our Drop Zone coaching was off and the park was closed due to the snow, (time to up our singletrack skillz - more on this later!), I pulled out all the stops to not go anywhere at all. And when the contingency plan of riding the nearby Surrey Hills was presented to me I tried even harder.

But having been my better half for nearly half of my life, Chris knows me well enough to keep pushing against my moaning, no matter how persistent, and just drag me outside anyway.

He knows just as well as I do, (and I think you do too), that the weather is never as bad as it looks once you bite the bullet and get out in it, and you always feel great once it's done, whatever exercise you're doing.

Knowing he was right to drag me out

You never regret a workout, right? 

Well you never, ever regret a ride (unless it ends like this, but I don't plan on doing that again any time soon!)

Anyway, Chris did drag me out, and I'm so glad he did - it was a beautiful, snowy, sloppy, muddy weekend of riding on some of our favourite Surrey Hills trails.

He saw my 'it's too cold', and raised me my favourite Liv thermal base layer, straight from the wash.  

He saw my 'the van's still in the garage', and raised me a hire van from down the road. 

He saw my 'the trails won't be rideable', and raised me a worse case scenario of a lovely woodland walk around the Surrey Hills if we couldn't ride. 

I've been really annoyed with the weather this winter, and that's really unlike me. We've had a really wet and windy few months in Brighton and it's stopped me getting out on the bikes as much as I'd like to. My lovely twice weekly 12 mile cycle commute to Worthing isn't such an appetising prospect when you wake up to 20, 40 or 50mph headwinds. And when it started snowing that really put a stop to any road rides.

I did get out last weekend for an amazing solo South Downs Way adventure though which filled my heart with joy.

Surrey Hills playground 

Before I share our weekend's adventures, let me just tell you a bit about the Surrey Hills if you don't already know. We've got Sean at Marmalade MTB to thank for introducing us to this amazing place that's an hour from our doorstep in Brighton.

Crisscrossing the North Downs around Holmbury Hill, Pitch Hill and Leith Hill you'll find an incredible network of fast, flowy, fun and rooty singletrack riding. Some of the trails are more accessible / obvious to find than others (we only know where four are off by heart - Yoghurt Pots, Telegraphs, Barry Knows Best and Summer Lightning - so ride those a lot when not with Sean or others who know the way).

Checking out the Marmalade MTB merch

Read about our first taste of the Surrey Hills on Marmalade MTB's Taster ride 

Unlike the trail centre riding in Wales and Forest of Dean that we're so used to, not all Surrey Hills trails are waymarked, and the uplift and visitor centre are replaced with long, lungbusting climbs and lovely village cafes, pubs and bike shops. (For the record, we don't use the uplift all the time at BPW, we mix up a few climbs with a few treats on the bus to the top).

Looking a bit clean before the sludge fest

Childhood vibes  

So this weekend was spent riding the trails we do know, with good old Barry producing the best flow in the snow. We covered just over 20 miles across the two days, with more than 2,500ft of total climbing and a record breaking amount of sludge, mud and mess on our bikes, bodies and faces. It was MEGA. 

Because of the snow and sludge we rode really carefully, not sure how grippy the trails would be. Some were better than others (Barrys was fine, Yoghurts a bit iffy in places, Summer Lightning well slippy).

We chomped on the legendary cheese straws at the Peaslake shop, drank tea from Marmalade MTB mugs, and swapped our usual van dwelling for an overnight stay at the Plough Inn in Coldharbour - which, by the way, I can totally recommend as a lovely place to stop if you're visiting the Surrey Hills by bike or on foot.

Our room was beautiful (with a roll top bath and very welcome amazing shower - bathroom goals), the food was incredible (moules mariniere, homemade scotch egg, chicken, leek and ham pie, venison steak) and the staff were so helpful, accommodating and friendly. The pie was made with real shortcrust pastry and not the filo cop out you get in so many pubs these days.

We had a banging breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on big chunky toast (me) and a full English (Chris), with our own cafatiere of coffee, and after we finished riding we washed our bikes round the back by the brewery (yes they have their own brewery).

Breakfast goals at The Plough

It was all such a treat and a really nice change from staying in our van which we normally do. And so nice to get out on the trails in the last of the snow, having fun getting covered in the sludge as it melted over the weekend.

Us and a few other riders had the trails to ourselves and those not cycling who we passed were runners, walkers, motocross riders and 4x4 drivers all out for a good play in the mud. It took me right back to my childhood, razzing my BMX round the woods getting caked in mud, not a care in the world, when the weather didn't matter and there was no such thing as sitting about on social media or watching Netflix.

Happy as a pig in...

Best weekend ever. 

So guys... don't let the weather stop you when you don't want to go for that ride, get out for that run, or go to that exercise class.

When your alarm goes off for that planned pre-work session, don't hit the snooze. When it's blowing a gale outside and you contemplate skipping that post-work group run or ride, pull on your kit and get out there anyway.

Especially when you really really don't want to. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself!


Have you been exercising this winter?

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