FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: June 2018


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Happy Bike Week! Why do the women of Brighton love to cycle?

FitBits | Bike Week 2018 - Tess Agnew This Girl Can Ambassador and fitness blogger

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YAY it's Bike Week! Time to celebrate all that's great about cycling (I know, as if I didn't do enough of that already). If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter you might realise that actually, for me, practically every week is Bike Week. For as long as I can remember I've loved to ride my bike. 

My childhood was filled with brightly coloured Universal BMXs (you know, the cool ones with the foam frame guards), and through college and uni I gained a mate's BMX, an old Peugeot racer and bright pink Chopper. Now, my much loved mountain bikes and roadie take pride of place in our flat (never, ever outside!), and take me on all sorts of wheely adventures from Brighton and Sussex to Wales, Scotland and beyond. I wanna take the bikes abroad this year, starting with the road bike. It's an alien world to me and I don't know the first thing about travelling with a bike, so any tips on how to get / pack a bike box, where to fly to and good places to ride are much appreciated! 

For me, cycling brings me a world of joy - just as much joy as it did when I was a kid. It takes me right back to my childhood, razzing around the woods at the pump track on my BMX, riding round and round the block as fast as I could go, racing other kids and slowing only when my legs were burning and my lungs could take no more. Doing three paper rounds before school so I could ride my BMX on clear, 6am roads, or leaving it right to the last minute to ride home from town in time for my curfew, just to see how fast I could do it.

FitBits | Bike Week 2018 - Tess Agnew This Girl Can Ambassador and fitness blogger

Nowadays, I still chase that lung burn, but most of my cycling is done for fun and wellbeing. It literally feeds my soul, and tops me up with happy. I love nothing more than being outside on the wheels, whether that's getting around town, commuting, on a long ride across the Downs or hitting the trails locally or in Wales. In fact Wales is my playground, and I wish it was nearer. If you're looking for some incredible mountain biking, Wales is your place. Read my write up of the mountain bike trail centres in Wales that I've been to so far. 

The most beautiful place I've ever ridden my bike is Scotland, my happy place. Not because the actual riding we did was the best - it was far from flowy in places - but because of the magnificent scenery. And I mean magnificent. That trip totally blew my mind. You can read about it here if you fancy a bit of Scotland porn. 

I love how challenging cycling can be, whether it's cranking up the gears and pushing hard on the road for the commute home (gonna get QOM on that Strava segment one day, I can feel it), or digging deep on a climb to get to the reward of the descent just that little bit quicker. I love scaring the shit out of myself down some flowy, rocky singletrack, but equally I love riding past queuing traffic knowing I'm gonna get there quicker, and I love that I can be anywhere I want in Brighton within 10mins on the bike. 

FitBits | Bike Week 2018 - Tess Agnew This Girl Can Ambassador and fitness blogger
The first time I reached the top of Ditchling Beacon :) 

I have to say actually, one thing I miss since becoming self employed is my mini daily commute. Even though it was just 2/3 miles each way to Hove I had my 30mins of cycling each day to wake up and wind down for a day in the office. Now that I work from home, in cafes and my amazing co-working space just 10mins away, I don't need to commute every day, and I miss the routine. I think I'm gonna have to sort that out with a 'commute' home maybe... ride to F45 or the gym, then go for a little spin before coming back home to shower and start work? 

Anyway, enough about my love afair with my bikes - we'll get a room, don't worry... 

What do the women of Brighton love about cycling? 

As it's Bike Week, I wanted to find out whether the women of Brighton love cycling as much as I do too, and what keeps them coming back for the ride. According to Sport England's 2015/16 Active Lives Survey, Sussex has a higher proportion of people who cycle regularly (14.7%) than the national average, with Brighton (18.7%) and Chichester (23.6%) topping the table. Brighton doesn't come as a surprise to me - we're actually very set up for cycling here, I think. Lots of well maintained cycle lanes, stretching all along the seafront and to Stanmer Park and Hove if you go the right way. 

In the mornings the seafront cycle lanes are heaving with all sorts of bikes, it makes me happy to know that I can get to Worthing 80% off the road if I want to.  

FitBits | Bike Week 2018 - Tess Agnew This Girl Can Ambassador and fitness blogger

To celebrate Bike Week and find out what the women of Brighton love about cycling, I set out for a ride around the city with the GoPro in hand. I spoke to women of all ages and abilities with all sorts of bikes. The answers are inspiring and confirmed everything I already knew about this wonderful sport. Seeing them get all giddy when they spoke about how it evokes childhood memories, brings them joy and makes them feel free reminded me of exactly why I love to ride. The fact that it also saves them money, keeps them fit and helps them get around the city nice and easy is a happy side effect. 

THIS, is why we ride....

What's next? 
I've got a big few months on the bikes planned so read about my summer cycling goals, including my first century ride at Velo South, and longest XC ride at the BHF South East Coast next month. And if you're still hungry for more, catch up on other bike-shaped blogs below: 


Visit This Girl Can and Active Sussex to find out more about cycling in Sussex, and check out Bike Week UK and Love to Ride Brighton to log your rides.

What do you love about cycling? 

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Strong is not a size - and my thighs are fine, thank you

FitBits | Strong is not a size - Women In Sport, British Weightlifting, This Girl Can - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Last night on the way to get picked up for hockey practice something horrible happened to me. If this was a few years' earlier, before I discovered exercise and had zero body confidence, it might've reduced me to tears.

If this was when I was at primary school, when kids used to call me 'fat bitch' for being a bit podgy, I would've cried and cried and cried.

If this was in secondary school and college, when I was still horrifically self conscious and used to wear big baggy hoodies and jeans in the height of summer so no one would see my thighs and my belly, then yes, I might've balled my eyes out. I used to hang out with my friends with jumpers and cushions over my belly when sat down because I couldn't bear for them to see my rolls. I made sure I constantly breathed in hard whenever I was standing up so I looked slimmer. I spent my summers ridiculously hot, uncomfortable and sweating like a pig because I didn't have the confidence to wear what everyone else was wearing. I hated my feet so much I didn't have a pair of sandals my 26th birthday when Chris bought me some lovely Birkenstocks. They lasted 5 years, he bought me my second pair this year and I love them just as much.

If this was just after I finished uni, when I was recovering from Goodpastures disease (nothing good about that one, I can assure you), and I'd put on nearly two stone from water retention, steroids and the cocktail of drugs I was on, I would've 100% cried right there in the street, and probably never stopped.

You're probably wondering wtf actually happened, right? Come on Tess - spit it out! Well it might not seem so bad now, saying it out loud, writing it sat here in this lovely cafe, no cushion on my belly and rolls on full show...

A couple of lads leant out their car and shouted:
"Put them away, skank!" 

They said something else too but I couldn't hear as they drove off. Initially I looked around to see who they were shouting at as I'm actually pretty happy with the way my body feels and looks right now because of all the weightlifting and hiit training I'm doing. I realised they were definitely talking to me because there were no other cars on the road and I was the only pedestrian. Walking to my team mate's car, in my shorts, t shirt, shin pads and hockey socks, minding my own business. Off for my second exercise session of the day, actually, but whatever. I'll put them away, shall I?

Now let me just say this right here, right now - THIS IS NOT OK. 

It's happened before, when I got back from a very hot and humid Bestival, wearing my festival shorts. These ones were high waisted and very high on the thigh. There were jiggly bits all over the place but for ONCE my thighs didn't rub together that much as I'd discovered the joy of bootcamp not long before so was actually at my slimmest.

We parked the car after the long drive home, and I walked straight up the shop for milk in my festival shorts. I did actively consider whether to get changed as this was now 'real life' and I surely the real world wasn't ready for these thighs just yet? I considered it, but not for long. I wanted a cup of tea and a shower, so I was brave, and walked up the shops in my shorts. I don't know whether it was the post-festival blues or the aggressive nature in which she said it (that's right, this time it was a she) - "eeeeeerrrr look at the state of those, put them away, fuck sake" - but the tears did come this time, along with the lump in throat, and as I power walked my offensive legs faster towards the shop I vowed never to subject the world to them ever again.

Again - THIS IS NOT OK. 

What gives someone, male or female, the right to shout about the way another person looks? What is it about my thighs that is so offensive to the human eye? Why did those lads feel the need to stick their heads out of the window to say anything at all, couldn't they have just kept the thought to themselves? And the girl after Bestival, she was actually pissed off her face and looking for a fight, but that doesn't matter, it still cut deep.

Words are powerful. But so are these thighs. 

FitBits | Strong is not a size - Women In Sport, British Weightlifting, This Girl Can - Tess Agnew fitness blogger
These thighs can probably squat those guys' bodyweight, and then both of them combined, given time. (I'm on 3x 12 65kg so assume my 1max rep would be higher than that)

These thighs can leg press 150kg for 3x 12, and box jump the red box (for the first time today - YAY)

These thighs can run marathons (not right now, mind, but they have done!)

These thighs have finished triathlons, carried me up mountains, cycled up multiple hills and beaten all the boys.

These thighs have brought me the greatest PBs I could ever dream of, and made me feel invincible after running faster than ever before.

These thighs have played new sports like hockey, and skateboarding, and trampolining, and rugby FFS.That's a point actually - these thighs played rugby for not just Sussex but South East England U18s before I went to uni thank you very much. 

FitBits | Strong is not a size - Women In Sport, British Weightlifting, This Girl Can - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

These thighs don't need permission to get air time. They don't need validation from anyone, and they definitely don't need me wasting any more of my time worrying about what other people think of them.

They're coming out to play, and so is the rest of me, and if you've got something to say, lads shouting out of car windows, let's go down the gym and I'll show you what they can do. You can show me what yours can do too, and then I'll pick you up and squat you.

Strong is not a size

FitBits | Strong is not a size - Women In Sport, British Weightlifting, This Girl Can - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

And like a sign from above, today is the launch of Women In Sport and British Weightlifting's campaign to encourage more women to lift weights - #StrongIsNotaSize, supported by This Girl Can (catch up on my escapades as a This Girl Can Ambassador here). I've been waiting for this to launch and tbh it couldn't have happened on a better day because after yesterday it's reminded me of exactly why we need more women in the weights area.

We need more women to experience the strength it brings, not just physical but emotional and mental. The confidence that comes with switching the focus of what your body can do, instead of how it looks. The freedom from self doubt and embarrassment. The empowerment of strength and sass all rolled into one, lording it round the weights area, sweat dripping from your red face, fitting in with the 'big boys'.

FitBits | Strong is not a size - Women In Sport British Weightlifting - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

Looking in the mirror and liking what you see, not because it looks good but because it feels good first. The changing body shape that comes with the fat loss and increased muscle definition is a happy side effect. It's the endorphins I do it for. I'm only ever here for the endorphins. And the confidence it brings me. The fire in my belly that I feed off all day as I bounce out of the gym after a great PT or solo session.

The power of being able to walk down the road in shorts or whatever the hell I like, and for once, not give a damn about what anyone thinks of me. That's priceless, that is.

That's My Strong. What's yours?

Get involved with #StrongIsNotASize by sharing your photos and stories on social, tagging Women In Sport, British Weightlifting and This Girl Can. 


What does Strong mean to you?

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