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<< ICYMI: READ ABOUT MY FIRST FLOATATION EXPERIENCE

"So Tess, what are you doing tonight, anything good?"


"Oh, I'm going to lie naked in water in the pitch black and listen to nothing but my heart beat for an hour. You?"

It sounds weird when you say it like that, but after completing a three-day floatation challenge at The Float Spa in Hove, I actually can't think of anything better to do on a rainy evening after work.

Have you tried floatation before? I've been dabbling with it since May last year, and am relieved to say that I'm finally starting to wrestle my subconsciousness (or is it consciousness?) into some sort of submission for nearly the whole hour. Sixty minutes is a long time to meditate, let me tell you.

The first time I tried it was enlightening. But boring. Peaceful, but noisy (in my head, not in the pod, you can hear literally NOTHING in there). It was hard work to stay in the zone (or zoned out?) for the whole time, and there's only been one occasion where I've managed that:

The day after Glastonbury, obviously. That was the best float of my life! I think I basically just fell asleep in there as soon as I closed the pod, and boom, an hour disappeared.

You might be questioning why the hell would you pay good money to lie absolutely still and do nothing, but trust me, you won't get it until you try it. It's pure weightlessness, requiring zero effort from you at all. Rest in its truest form.


Fun fact: Floatation is a type of therapy referred to as 'Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST)

I don't think there's any other situation where you can just fully surrender your whole body like that. The surrendering of the mind is the tricky part, but it's easier once you turn the light off and the soothing sea sounds ease you gently into the meditation (they play for the first and last five minutes of the hour to help you relax and let you know when it's time to get out).


A confession - This Girl Can't
So here's a confession: there's a specific reason I binged on three floats in three consecutive days - and it wasn't just because it was the last day of the Float Spa's 3-day-challenge. It was because I'm a massive pleb and proper hurt my foot on last week's 10 mile run (i.e. the one I wrote so enthusiastically about trying to convince myself I *could* do it - #thisgirlcan etc.)

This Girl Can? Well she did. She ran the 10 miles - here's the proof.
But This Girl Now Can't. She went and buggered her left foot didn't she, running through intermittent shooting knee pain on the last mile (because she promised herself she'd do 10 bloody miles) and then couldn't put any weight on it for the rest of the day.


George helping me rest hard while reading Charlie's story in Women's Running - ice pack out of shot

Come Monday and after 10 hours sleep I was in denial refusing to sulk (positive vibes only, right?) so worked from the sofa and booked a 4pm float to soak up some epsom salts and magnesium into those angry muscles after reading how floatation can be really good for helping to heal injuries.

It was the best decision of the day and while enjoying my post-float sorbet and tea, I excitedly booked the next two days.

Here's how my 3 day float challenge went, in both my mind and my body: 


Day 1 - MondayFoot pain: 9/10 
Less than yesterday's 10/10, but very painful to stand and walk on, with shoes and bare feet. Shit, this is full blown plantar fasciitis isn't it. No it's not. Everything's fine. Don't tell Chris he was right. Oh God I'm so embarrassed about yesterday's blog now.

Treatment: 
Ice packs (Hello Fresh is useful for many things, it seems!), spiky massage ball of doom, ibuprofen gel and tablets, minimal weight bearing.
Day one float.

Float 1 - 4pm:
Took a while to get into it but soon managed to let go for nearly the whole hour. Woke up from wherever I'd been about five minutes before the end meditation music started (or was it five seconds? Time means nothing in there). Foot still hurt when I got out, both on bare foot and also in shoes.

Felt awesome afterwards, like I could literally feel my body soaking it all in. Took a cheesy blissed out selfie and cycled home gently on a wave of calm.


Post-float bliss

But then while lying in bed about to go to sleep my right knee got proper angry (sharp, constant pain) and the left foot joined in with a dull ache so had to get up for some Voltarol.



Day 2 - Tuesday Foot pain: 7/10 
Woke up and pain a bit better. Still hurt when walking bare foot, but more comfy in running shoes (wore them for better support than Converse or Nike Airs). Still pain in shoes though. It's not PF. Chris is not right. 

Treatment: 
Ice, spiky massage ball of doom, ibuprofen, day two float.

Float 2 - 11:30am:
Easier to relax into it this time. Had a busy morning of work (started early) and rewarded myself with a midday float break. Fell into meditation earlier, and for longer, and on getting out of the pod noticed zero to minimal pain on bare foot. Can now walk properly with shoes on without limping (can feel it but it doesn't hurt like it did yesterday).

Carried that post-float calm with me for the rest of the day. And noticed at work that I wasn't using my wrist brace for my RSI. This is MASSIVE for me as I've been so dependent on it for the past few months.


Just realised I've done 2 solid days WITHOUT my wrist splint - and minimal pain! #RSI #amwriting #writingproblems pic.twitter.com/ijDRhGblmn
— T e s s A g n e w (@FitBits_) January 30, 2018


Day 3 - Wednesday 
Foot pain: 8/10 in the morning, a little more than yesterday, but eases throughout the day.
Also hurts when sitting in the morning, but only 3-5/10. OK when walking in shoes, but can definitely feel it's not OK to run.
Pain almost gone by evening.

Treatment: ibuprofen, spiky massage ball of doom, day three float.

Float 3 - 6.45pm 
I was looking forward to this all day, probably because it'd been a busy day in the office for a client and I was ready to shut down. Spent another whole day at work typing without my splint :) Can feel the RSI lurking, but not proper painful so no need to support with the splint - maybe this is strengthening it finally? 

My train got in earlier than expected so I pushed my 7pm float forward a bit. 


So ready for my day 3️⃣ #floatation @FloatSpa to conclude my 3 day challenge. 🙏🏼

Something switched today, I've been looking forward to it for hours 🙌🏼

Do you #float?#meditation #wellbeing #mindfulness #meditate pic.twitter.com/kU5t06NEoV
— T e s s A g n e w (@FitBits_) January 31, 2018



But when I got in the pod the music didn't start for a good few minutes, and I found it hard to start to relax as found myself waiting for it. 


For some reason my heart rate was quite high this time, and I found it very hard to slow it down (and quieten it!) to relax. I must've gone into meditation eventually as I woke up just before the music started at the end. 

Never had a float where my heartbeat was so loud - I think sensory deprivation must be the only situation where you can actually get annoyed at your own heart pumping. 

Wrestled the mountain bike home (new beautiful roadie is NO WAY getting locked in town) and went to bed early again. 


--------------------------------------------------------

When I left the spa on Wednesday evening I was pretty sad I wasn't floating on the Thursday. It's made me think about upping my membership from the one float a month to more to get real benefit from it. 

My favourite float out of the three days was actually the 11:30am one as it forced me to get lots of work done in the morning and then carried me through the day on a wave of calm. I think in the future I'll try more lunchtime floats, yoga and meditation around Brighton :)  

Foot update - it still hurts a bit, but nothing like it did. I pulled out of the Winter Run just to be safe and it was definitely the right decision. The pain almost went away 100% but then I volunteered at parkrun and walking some of the course made it hurt again. The pain has changed now from the dull ache on the heel and along the outer side of the foot to quick stabs up the back of the heel near the ankle - only occasionally. I can stand and walk bare foot but I know if I was to run it'd hurt. 

I'm hoping it's not gonna turn into full blown plantar fasciitis and I'll be back running in a couple of weeks and mayyyyyyy be able to still do Brighton Half. 

RSI wise, I'm in the midst of a revelation at the moment. After months and months of not being able to type without my splint, I'm pretty much pain free, as long as I take breaks and am mindful of my positioning. That means not using my right hand at all on the track pad, and moving my whole hand to reach keys instead of bending the wrist. 

I actually lost my splint last weekend - the cats have probably eaten it - but because the pain hasn't been bad I didn't have to look for it. So I've been typing mostly pain free without the brace for a whole week. MEGA. 

I don't even care about my foot now, the RSI victory is worth a hundred achey feet! :) 



If you're in Brighton (or Hove actually) and fancy trying floatation get down to the Float Spa in Hove.  This is not a sponsored post, I pay a discounted rate for my membership to write about my (honest - as always) experiences.



 
--------------------

Have you tried floatation? 

And have you ever hurt your foot like I have / do you get RSI? Any advice much appreciated! 

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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.


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How do you stay positive through training and in events?

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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
#ThisGirlCan: Tess tries... Trampolining - YouTube

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 

The Quiraing - the most breathtaking walk on the Isle of Skye - YouTube

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.


#ThisGirlCan: Tess Tries... Cycling - YouTube




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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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 

cannot. 

be.

bothered. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



Source: https://twitter.com/sport_england/status/93222847353135514


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

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.

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.


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How does exercise make you feel? 

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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.

You can view my portfolio here if you fancy a nose, and read more about why I love being freelance on the blog :)


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. 

🏆 Made it to 6️⃣th place in the women's leaderboard for W2 at Afan. Get in 💪🏽🚵🏼‍♀️ #thisgirlcan #aatr #mtb #walesneverfails pic.twitter.com/swLfguo1KG
— 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.


#WomenInSport Team Mates Train with England Hockey | Vitality UK - YouTube



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.



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.

Highlights: 

  • 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


The hottest, hardest Brighton Marathon 2017 - YouTube


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!

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What have you learnt about yourself this year?

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Find something that you can't wait to go back to.

Something you want to get better at.

Something that inspires you to try.
I think I've found it. 

Those are some of the words I've written previously on how to find the joy in exercise. You can read more of them here in my write up from the Sussex Sport Awards - but do come back, as I want to update you on my new love affair with hockey (again!) 


ICYMI: catch up on why I've joined my local hockey team

Sometimes, when it's cold and dark outside, or you've had a long day at work, or you'd rather just sit about in your pants eating food and watching TV (chill time goals), exercise can feel like a massive chore. 

And let's be honest, it kind of is. 



Beating the winter bluesOn Wednesday this week I really couldn't be bothered to go to hockey training. Like actually did not have an ounce of me that wanted to go. It was FREEZING cold, I was tired from two sessions of PT that week, one of them that very morning, and Chris was planning yet another banging dinner from Jamie's new book (will blog that soon btw, we're loving it). 

Getting home from work knowing I had to get changed and turn around to go back out again was grim. 


But I did it, for a few reasons:

1) I'm part of a team now, and don't want to let them down. 

2) We had a match on Saturday and having only started playing hockey a month ago I need all the training I can get!

3) I knew I'd feel better afterwards, like I always do after any sort of exercise.

That last point is something I always remind myself of when the chimp on my shoulder tries to make me sit about in my pants and insert various foody things into my gob instead of getting active. 

I went to training, and it was awesome. Dark, yes, cold AF, yes, but still awesome. I learnt an awesome backhand hit, and a few other tricks, and took them to my second match on Saturday to help my new team bring home a win against Worthing. 



Where I belong

I was so excited for the match, there was no dread this time of not knowing what I was doing like the first one. 

(I haven't actually written about that first match, have I. Summary: I had no idea what I was doing and some Benny Hill music in the background would've been a great accompaniment to my gallivanting round the pitch I'm sure). 

With four weeks' training and one match behind me I was excited to see if what I've learned had actually gone in at all and I could pull off some sort of real-life hockey player. I felt like I actually knew some of the rules this time, and understood the job of my position (centre forward), where I needed to be, and how it all works together with the rest of the team. 

Everything flowed, we played really well I thought. I felt like I belonged, everyone on both sides were lovely and it was basically just loads of fun. Now that I know everyone's names I can call for the ball confidently and it's good to actually have a bit of an idea what to do with it (doesn't always happen, but I did score two goals so YAY). 

Southwick 4 - 1 Worthing 😁  


Reasons to join a team 

If you're finding it hard to get active in winter, why not join a team and enjoy the host of other benefits that come with it. 

You'll be more motivated 
Having people relying on you turn up for training will make you do just that, even if it's cold and you're tired. 

You'll make new friends
Once you get to your first session you'll realise that everyone was new once, and will welcome you into the team instantly. 

You'll learn new skills
Or brush up on old ones - every time you go to training you'll pick up new tricks and practice set formations to use in a game. A collective weaponry that works brilliantly together with your new team mates. 

It gives you purpose
You'll have a reason to train, a reason to get active. You'll have a job to do within your team and you'll all work towards the same collective goal. 



You get Haribo at half time 
And who doesn't love Haribo?! 

You'll get fitter 
After all of the above, this is just a happy side effect. Getting fitter is easier when you make it fun. 


Sidenote: Read my other post on finding the fun in fitness if you're looking 
for more interesting ways to get active! 



Don't be afraid to be the newest, slowest, least experienced player - everyone has to start somewhere. And anyway, if you start at the bottom, the only way is up! 

Every training session, every game, every third, fourth and fifth slice of swiss roll you pack away at the post-match teas - an automatic PB! 




#WomenInSport Team Mates Train with England Hockey | Vitality UK - YouTube
 Get involved

Find out more about Vitality's #WomenInSport campaign and the other fab bloggers taking part, and catch up on my previous posts here and here

Fancy giving team sport a go - Find your local sports team on the Vitality website and find out more about hockey on the England Hockey website.

And come and join us at Southwick - new players always welcome! 


--------------------

Have you ever played a team sport? 
What would you like to try?

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I'm still absolutely buzzing from last night. My bum hurts. And my legs. And my core, strangely enough. Didn't expect that one, but I'll take it.

Last night I went to my first hockey session with Southwick Hockey Club and LOVED IT.

It's been so long since I've played a team sport, it brought back happy memories of rugby training in the winter as a teenager. When I got home my legs were screaming at me like they do when I'm marathon training so it must've been a good workout - back on the magnesium and foam rolling I go if this is how it's gonna be!

ICYMI, I'm trying out hockey for six weeks as part of Vitality's #WomenInSport campaign.
I first blogged it here, and you can visit the Vitality website for more info and to find your nearest sports team here


Tips from the pros
Last week I was lucky enough to meet some of the England Hockey men's and women's team at Lee Valley Hockey Centre to get some tips and learn some skills before joining my local team yesterday.

I joined two other bloggers Lucy and Geraldine to learn the basics like how to hold and move the stick, how to pass, shoot and tackle. I wasn't sure what to expect on the day but I loved it then and I loved last night even more - I've never played hockey before, apart from literally a couple of times at school so this is all new to me.

England players left to right: Sarah Haycroft, Henry Weir,  Giselle Ansley, Adam Dixon, Phil Roper, Laura Unsworth

And you know I'm a sucker for a new challenge!

Vitality has just become the Official Wellness Partner of England Hockey, as well as title sponsor of both the grassroots programme, Back To Hockey and the 2018 Vitality Women's Hockey World Cup, taking place in London next summer (get your tickets here - it's gonna be a banger).

It's been a big week for the women's England team, with this news and also Alex Danson's much-celebrated captaincy being announced too. Laura Unsworth (one of the players at last week's session), and Hollie Webb have been made vice captains so big congrats to them also. It's a big year ahead for the sport, with the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April followed by the home World Cup in July.

Vitality announced as Official Wellness Partner of England Hockey - YouTube


So it feels like a good time to get into hockey, don't you think?! Big things are coming - and with the new Vitality partnership it can only bring more visibility to the sport in the lead up to next year's tournaments.



My first session with Southwick Hockey Club
My job then, as one of the #WomenInSport bloggers with Vitality and England Hockey, is to throw myself stick-first into the sport and share with you how I find it. To make new friends, learn new skills, get fitter and give myself a reason to get outside this winter.

And maybe score a goal or two? We'll see.

Need to learn the rules first...

I scored two goals in my second match! Read about that and my reasons to join a sports team here. 




I had such a wicked time at last night's training. Everyone was really welcoming and I learnt so much. It reminded me of rugby where we spent time practicing drills and skills to use in a game.

We did fitness (sprints - it's been a while!) and lots of passing, tackling and dribbling skills drills (is that what they're called?!) before putting them all to use in a game. I had absolutely no idea of the rules (must read up!) but learnt on the go as we played, and everyone was so supportive and friendly so it was such a lovely vibe.

It wasn't clicky like you might think some teams are - just everyone there together to enjoy a sport. Everyone helped each other out, shared tips with me and other newbies, and cheered the good tackles and strong passes.


When the coach asked at 8.30pm if anyone wanted to stay until 9pm my hand shot up - I was sold. So much so that I *may* have agreed to play my first match this Saturday with the ladies second team.

I have no idea what I'm doing and I only know about five of the team's names so calling for the ball will be interesting (although pass it to me at your peril!). I don't know much about the positions or anything yet but I do know that I can learn, so that's exactly what I'm gonna do! 

I drove home absolutely buzzing, the smile not leaving my face until I'd burst through the door to annoy Chris with my new-found excitement. (I do this a lot, he's kinda used to it). 

Stay tuned on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see how I get on for my first match and onwards for the next six weeks. I have a feeling I may have found a(nother) new favourite sport... what do I want for Christmas? More days in the week please!

— Henry Weir (@HENRYweir_) November 7, 2017





Next hockey post: my reasons to join a sports team. >> 

Want to get involved?
Find out more about Vitality's #WomenInSport campaign and the other fab bloggers taking part. 

Fancy giving team sport a go - Find your local sports team on the Vitality website and find out more about hockey on the England Hockey website.

And watch the videos from other sports I've tried as 

This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex - let's break down the barriers to exercise and show how fun it really can be! 


Tess Tries: Trampolining 

 Tess Tries: Skateboarding
 Tess Tries: my first Breeze cycle ride
 Tess Tries: Synchronised swimming (way harder than you think!) 


Never miss a post! Get my ramblings straight to your inbox :)

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Have you ever played hockey or another team sport? 
Throw your tips my way - I'm gonna need them! 

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If you can hack the early alarm, there's a special kind of glow to getting your workout done first thing.

But, let's be honest, it does kinda suck when it first goes off, especially when it's cold and dark outside. The snooze button will 100% come calling, but if you can refrain from hitting it and just make the first step to get out of bed, that's the hard bit done.

It's no secret that I'm a total morning endorphin fiend. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you'll have probably seen me getting my AM fix at the gym or on early runs and rides over the past few months, as I've finally found my mojo again and got into some sort of routine since becoming a freelance writer.

On a whole, evenings just don't fit for me workout-wise. I like my evenings for chill time with hubs, cooking and eating, going out, or blogging. Unless I'm at hockey training, of course, and then I'll suck it up like a good team player.

My exception to morning workouts:  
Read why I've joined Southwick Hockey Women's Team here. 

-------------------------------------------

Reasons to love morning workouts 
— T e s s A g n e w (@FitBits_) October 27, 2017
There's a whole host of reasons to get your sweat fix in the morning:

1) It gets it done Simple as that really.

There's no better feeling than sauntering into work, flat white in hand, knowing you've already done your workout for the day. Or realising it's only 10am on a weekend and your miles are already clocked.

It means the evenings are yours, and no time for procrastination after a long day because you can do what you like with your workout already in the bag.


2) You have more energy 


There's something special about the fire in your belly from a morning workout. I feed off that fire all day, and am more productive, focused and energised at work.

Try it out and compare how you feel:

Keep track of your energy levels on a normal day where you don't exercise first thing. Note your hunger levels, tiredness and concentration / attention span.

Then, on another morning, force yourself to get up on that early alarm and head out for a pre-work run or gym sesh. Have your shower, get your coffee, and start your day nice and smug.

Guess which day will see you sailing through to lunchtime and beyond feeling alert, energised and more productive...


3) You have more space

Whether you're working out in the gym, or running/riding on the roads, the earlier you do it, the quieter it is. Which means more space to do your thing. I can sail down to the gym on traffic-free roads for my 6/7am PT.

When I have a session after 8am, it's another story.

Or you could just hit the trails and have all the space in the world.

4) You'll make better food choices I don't know about anyone else but I know I definitely eat better when I've exercised in the morning. Mostly because I don't want to ruin my hard work, but also because it's what my body craves post-workout.

This is where food prep and organisation comes in mega handy (see tips below), but if it's not gone to plan a fail-safe trip to Pret for the coconut and quinoa porridge and boiled eggs and spinach pot does the trick quite nicely!

-------------------------------------------

5 steps to love your morning workout
⏰ The 5am alarm for early morning PT does suck, but I *LOVE* getting my endorphins first thing. 🏋🏼‍♀️
Sets me right up. Thanks @ptpete1000 😊 pic.twitter.com/SGImgV7pIB
— T e s s A g n e w (@FitBits_) November 1, 2017

So it's all very nice going on about the benefits of morning workouts, but how do you actually make them a habit?

People often ask me how I stay motivated in the winter months to exercise, how can I bear getting out of bed at five or six in the morning to run or hit the gym for a PT session.

For me it's a lesser of two evils - what would I regret more: the feeling of dread when the alarm goes off and dragging myself out of bed? Or the disappointment of hitting snooze and missing my workout, letting myself down. Also I look ahead to the wave of endorphins and great feeling I get afterwards - both of these are good incentives to ignore the chimp on my shoulder telling me to hit snooze.

I know the kind of person I am and after a day at work I find it so much harder to motivate myself to train, so it just wouldn't get done at all.

So that's why I try to suck it up and workout in the morning as much as I can - here's how:


1) Go to bed at a reasonable time!

Getting a good night sleep is the first step to your early bird transformation. This is something I'm very hit and miss with as I tend to do a lot of blogging at night, but I know it helps when I do hit the hay before 11pm.

Tonight I'm going by 10.30 - promise.


2) Say goodnight to technology

(She says, blogging just before bed... do as I say guys, not as I do 😂)

Try to put your phone down and out of reach at least 30 minutes before bed. Research shows that blue light from screens is damaging to the production of sleep hormone melatonin – something we all need for a restful sleep.

Not only that, you'll be more tempted to hit snooze with your phone under your pillow. Leave it outside your closed bedroom door and watch how quickly you're suddenly able to get up on the first alarm! (This is also helped along when your sleeping other half moans at you to get up!)


3) Lay your kit out the night before 
Or go one step further and roll up full outfits including underwear and socks in your draw so you can literally get up and go. The less time you spend rummaging around the better.

BUT SRSLY: WHERE DID THAT OTHER RUNNING SOCK GO?!


4) Prepare your breakfast and lunch the night before 

Fuel well for dinner and make your post-workout breakfast nice and convenient. Like these easy egg and veg muffins – proper yummy and perfect for on the go.

Like with your kit, the less time you spend faffing about in the morning the better - you want to get up, grab your pre-prepped stuff and go.


5) Plan your workout Give yourself purpose and book a class, meet a friend or book a PT session so you know what you're doing and can't back out.

Tomorrow I'm booked in for 7am spin with my MoveGB membership, and some mornings I meet my BTRS buddies for early runs and rides. Otherwise I hit the gym for strength and conditioning.

You might've seen on my Instagram that over the past few weeks I've been doing regular PT sessions with Brighton PT Pete Dudley. We're working on building strength for the various sports I do (including hockey - lots of changing position and running in a low position is having a right go at my knees!) and I'm loving the motivation it's giving me to keep pushing myself (and keep getting up on my alarm!)

I'm planning another post on why I have a PT and the benefits I'm seeing so keep an eye out for that.


I guess I might be a bit biased with all of this as this is definitely what works for me and it may not work for everyone with work schedules or family commitments. But it's all about giving it a go and finding your flow.

Whatever time you like to train, whatever you like to do, remember there's no right or wrong answer - but consistency is key if you want to see improvements. The challenge I have is just fitting it all in.

This is something I'm sure I'll find out next time I run (three runs one week and none the week after won't bode well for the run legs!)

--------------------

When do you get your exercise fix?

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I'm still buzzing from an awesome night at the Sussex Sport Awards last Friday - and not just because of the amazing banoffee pie we had for dessert, although it's definitely a memory I'll treasure forever. #banoffeeislife.

***Special big ups to our table-mates Worthing Gymnastics Club who won Sussex Club of the Year (pictured above with inspirational Invictus Games star and soon-to-be-Paralympian Mike Goody)***

I was invited to celebrate my role as This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex and was featured in the Women In Sussex Sport presentation alongside some truly inspirational women.

I can't describe the pride I felt standing on the same stage that so many amazing athletes, volunteers, coaches and sports organisations in our county had done that evening.

Fix up look sharp

The 15th Sussex Sport Awards was held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton - in the very same room I fought my first boxing match in, and nearly fought my second. It was nice to be there without the tension and nerves that come with getting in the ring, I can tell you!

Inspirational women
 

Joining me for the Women In Sussex Sport presentation was Jan Sheward who spoke about her organisation Cancer United, a support group that fights cancer with fitness. The organisation uses its CU Fitter active recovery exercise classes to help people who have been diagnosed with, or are recovering from cancer, get their lives back and take re-ownership of their health and bodies.

After I spoke about the fun things I've done with Active Sussex to inspire more women into sport, ex-England boss Hope Powell shared her vision for the Brighton & Hove Albion Women's team since becoming Head Coach.

 

It was a really inspiring evening and such an honour to be invited. I love writing my blog and being This Girl Can Ambassador will always be a real privilege, but I do wonder if the constant surprise that anyone thinks what I have to say is worth listening to will ever fade. 

It's a strange thing, imposter syndrome!    


I started this blog because I wanted to share my story of how I got into fitness. I'm committed to breaking down the barriers to exercise to show that you really can start at any age, any ability, with any exercise history.


The key to finding the joy in exercise



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 that makes you come home beaming to your loved ones, telling them what a 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.

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.

Find more information about sport in Sussex on the Active Sussex website
Find your nearest team sport here too, as part of Vitality's Women In Sport campaign. 


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How did you get into exercise? 
And if you're starting out, what would you love to try?

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Few outdoor experiences have blown my mind like The Quiraing walk on the Isle of Skye.

In fact every single day of our Scottish highland adventure last month had me oooohing and aaaahing at pretty much every second breath, but this walk, guys. Just, wow.

Read about our first taste of natural mountain biking on Skye 

I've literally never seen landscape so magnificent than the Scottish highlands - to be fair I've never actually travelled to many places outside of the UK but Scotland wins my heart every time. And it seems the readers of Rough Guide agree too, having named it the most beautiful country in the world in a recent poll.


This trip was our first back to Scotland since our amazing honeymoon in 2014. We basically did the same thing - one huge road trip taking in the spectacular west coast - only this time in our van, driving door to door from Brighton.

Our trusty van carried us more than 1700 miles from sunny Brighton to the top of a very windy, wet and moody Skye and back again, taking in the Lake District, Loch Lomond, the Cairngorms and Dundee to see family along the way. 

We woke up at Staffin Bay and drove to walk The Quiraing :)

Chris was in charge of planning our mountain bike rides and walks, and The Quiraing was meant to be another route to ride, but 50-60mph winds soon put a stop to that so we walked it instead. Or I should say, tried to.

The wind was so ferocious at times it took all our strength to stand upright. There was no way we could've ridden that day.

Part of the Trotternish ridge in the north of Skye, The Quiraing is formed by a massive landslip over thousands of years, creating magnificent high cliffs, hidden plateaus and imposing pinnacles of rock. A narrow, winding path hugs the clifftop and takes you on a 6.8km loop around the most spectacular landscape you'll ever see.

Food for the soul

The drive there was almost as spectacular as the walk itself - another beautiful winding mountain road on Skye. When you've been on the island for more than a couple of days, a strange thing happens as you get used to being enveloped in such natural beauty.

It feels normal to share the road with only a handful of hikers, mountain bikers, sheep or wondering cattle.

To climb another ridge, cross another waterfall or gaze in awe at the never-ending wide open space that stretches out in front of you.

To feel so insignificant amongst such a rugged, majestic backdrop and carpet of green and orange.

To breathe in such clean, unfiltered, abundant air.


It makes you realise how truly amazing it is to be alive, and it's this landscape, this beauty, this country, that makes my heart sing so loud.

We will return to The Quiraing, mountain bikes in tow, next time to ride its ridge and soak up its glory once again.

Food for the soul. Get yours too on the Isle of Skye official website.

PS. here's a cheesy video I made that does it absolutely no justice whatsoever :)
(Pls subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to see more video-shaped ramblings)

The Quiraing - the most breathtaking walk on the Isle of Skye - YouTube


--------------------

Where in the world makes your heart sing like Scotland does to mine?  

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