Ah, that’s better. Nice one 2017, you were much better than the total shit storm of 2016 in the world of Tess – thank you.
No broken bones, no bereavements, no losing my total sense of self in a rabbit hole of unrelenting stress and anxiety. No wishing my life away and living for the weekend.
No Monday dread. No toxicity. No worries.
Here’s why 2017 was the year I found myself again…
I got my wellbeing back
I kept my promise to focus on my wellbeing, and reclaimed my time, my health and fitness. I started realising what’s important to me early on last year but it took another 12 months to really do something about it.
So I’ve been riding a wave of awesome for most of this year and there’s really only one main reason for that – a reason that feeds into everything else.
The year I went freelance has been my best year.
There’s only so much daydreaming you can do. Only so much ‘on the side’ that your side hustle can be before you just have to answer your calling and take the leap.
Every time I reply ‘I’m a freelance copywriter’ to anyone who asks what I do, my heart expands a little more.
I’m now a published fitness writer, and had my first articles published for The Body Coach (two more blogs coming in the new year), Total Women’s Cycling and Bike Radar, with more pitching to do as we head into 2018.
I’ve used my seven years of digital marketing experience to write blogs for digital agencies, global email marketing companies and again for Google. I’ve rewritten a whole website in a new tone of voice, and regularly write email marketing copy for various clients, as well as social media posts, reports, straplines, concepts, and more.
To be paid to write is literally my dream and I’m living it right here, right now.
I got my confidence back on the bike
One thing that’s really made me happy this year is finding my flow again.
ICYMI, I decided to throw myself off my mountain bike and break my collarbone and wrist last summer. It was pretty shit, and even though I got back on the bike just three months after that fateful day, I was full of the fear and a shell of the rider I used to be.
It’s a funny thing, fear. You think you’re OK and then suddenly it smacks you between the eyes and puts you right back in your place. Something you found so easy before suddenly becomes the most terrifying thing in the world and you just can’t bring yourself to do it.
And it doesn’t even have to be a big scary drop. Although there is still a semi-scary one that I just can’t do in the Surrey Hills, but I’ll conquer that soon enough.
When I first got back on the bike, I was even scared of the swooping, flowy blue trails and lovely smooth berms that I so loved to ride. I remember shitting myself and clinging on for dear life riding Blue Scar at Afan last Autumn, and having to bail on Y Wal when I couldn’t do it.
This year Blue Scar became a warm up once again, and it felt great.
I rode my first black trail at Afan and came 6th on the Strava women’s leaderboard (the 23mile W2 – graded black for its length rather than scary drops and jumps), got comfy on the rockier trails, and found my flow in the Surrey Hills thanks to Sean from Marmalade MTB and his awesome bike fit and coaching.
I feel like I know my bike and can really ride it now. A good bike fit makes such a difference.
— T e s s A g n e w (@FitBits_) August 27, 2017
This year’s mtb adventures also saw me driving myself and my bike up to Coed y Brenin for the awesome women’s weekend (longest solo drive I’ve done to date!), and me and Chris even took our bikes to Scotland for two weeks of utterly amazing riding that will stay with me forever.
It was our first trip back to Scotland since our amazing honeymoon in 2014. We basically did the same thing as we did then – one huge road trip taking in the spectacular west coast – only this time in our van, with our mountain bikes.
A 1700 mile-round trip with my favourite human, from Brighton to the Lake District, Loch Lomond, Skye, the Cairngorms and then Dundee to see family. Bliss.
I’ve never seen landscape so magnificent. Never breathed air so clean. Never been happiest than when I was riding between those mountains, or sat cooking in the van with my fave after a wet and windy day in the great outdoors. (And it was VERY wet and VERY windy for pretty much the whole time).
Proper unfiltered food for the soul, and a much-needed break from work.
You can read about that, and other mtb adventures from this year below:
Mountain biking on Skye – a highland adventure
Not riding the Quiraing on Skye
Coed y Brenin Women’s Weekend
Surrey Hills mountain biking with Marmalade MTB
A birthday bike ride on the South Downs Way
I found where I belong
This is a bit of a defining moment for me actually. It’s so nice to be part of a team again and it’s been awesome learning a new sport.
I used to play rugby as a teenager but haven’t been part of a sports team since then and joining the lovely Southwick Hockey Ladies 2nds has reignited a passion inside me.
ICYMI, it’s been part of a #WomenInSport campaign with England Hockey and Vitality to celebrate the joys of team sport and encourage more women and girls to join a local hockey, netball, football or rugby team.
I got to meet some of the England womens and mens team, have learnt some great new skills and made a bunch of new friends. I was only supposed to play for six weeks as part of the campaign but I totally love hockey and am carrying it on into 2018.
Read why I love it so much and what I’ve learned from joining a team in the posts below, and find your local one here.
Vitality Magazine: 7 things we learnt from joining a sports team
I remembered how hard marathons are
When you run out of plans – freestyle. That was the name of the game for this year’s Brighton Marathon, and a few painful lessons were learnt along the 26.2 mile way.
For me, anyway. Chris smashed his, obvs.
This was my third marathon, the third time doing Brighton, and the hottest, hardest one ever. From about nine miles in I was reminded pretty harshly that you cannot wing a marathon. Looking back I wasn’t in the right place elsewhere in my life to dedicate myself to training properly, I was stressed and unhappy, searching for a way out of the hole I’d sunk into.
- Running in the same race with Chris (his first marathon) that he totally smashed with a 3:40 finish!
- The hottest day of the year totally didn’t help my running but it did bring out the best crowd I’ve ever experienced in a race.
- The ice pole given to me by a spectator when I was dying on my arse at mile 14.
- Finding my friend Sally also struggling at mile 20 and finishing the last six miles with her.
Read mine and Chris’ full Brighton Marathon race report here and watch the vlog below
I learnt to value myself
I’ve learnt a lot about myself this year, and there are a few lessons I’m taking with me into 2018.
I now realise what I am and am not capable of, both work-wise, in fitness and in life. Not only what I’m physically and mentally capable of, but what I actually want to do.
I’m learning to manage my RSI, and listen to my body when it asks me to rest. I’m learning how to meditate and take time out for me.
But I’m also learning that I am strong (more on this later).
I’m learning to appreciate the value of time – often over money – you never get your time back, but money can always be made and easily spent. I don’t have to take on every work project that comes my way. I can’t always focus 100 percent on training if I’m busy with work or have stuff going on in my life.
There are a few things I do need to make time for, like getting back to GoodGym now that it’s started in Brighton (i.e. not letting work get in the way), or carrying on with hockey, and getting outside more.
Stepping outside of my little bubble to make more time for family and friends. Prioritising self care and wellbeing and never compromising on my own health.
2018, I’m ready for you!
What have you learnt about yourself this year?