A Weekend In Devon

I’ve been very lucky in recent weeks to have enjoyed trips to Portugal and France, and my instagram is enjoying the beautiful content too. Now, while I love travelling around Europe, I had an equally amazing time a little closer to home on a little jaunt in Devon with Girls Explore.devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Created by my friend Pippa, and her friend Hannah, Girls Explore is a community of like-minded women who simply enjoy spending time outdoors and want a lovely group of friends to explore with. When Pippa mentioned a weekend of surfing and hiking on the Devonshire coast, I couldn’t say no! What followed was one of the nicest, most enjoyable and relaxing weekends I’ve had in a long time.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, there was no set plan, apart from settling into the bunk house all 26 of us were staying in. St. George’s House is run by Christians but available for all to enjoy. As well as all the varied facilities on site, from volley ball, to table tennis and a full industrial kitchen, our stay with them included a surf lesson the following day.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Once I claimed my bunk, it was time to explore the local area with a couple of the ladies, on what I thought would be a little walk, which turned out to be a 15km trail from Georgeham to Puttsborough, around the coast to Baggy Point, into Croyde Bay and back to Georgeham…in flip flops! I’m glad we didn’t turn back however, as Baggy Point nearing sunset is a must see.

 devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The perils of having beautiful weather is that the surf is also minimal, so we woke up early the next day to catch what swell we could back at Croyde Bay, popular Brit surfer Andrew Cotton. We were split into two groups, beginners and improvers, and had a good hour and a half in the water. Despite the small waves, I caught a few and had a lot of fun.

Later on we hired paddleboards and had a little SUP session in the afternoon sun – absolute bliss.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The day ended with a beach stretch session led by yours truly! Possibly the most relaxing class I’ve ever taught, listening to the ocean waves as we breathed into each stretch was so calming. It also highlighted how much time I spend in a studio as I couldn’t stop saying ‘reach up to the ceiling’ despite the blue skies above us!!

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

On Sunday, we hiked the coastal route from Morthoe towards Lee. We intended to hike for 4-5 hours, but as the temperatures were soaring to 27 degrees already by 9.30am we decided to cut it short after 3. We still have plenty of time for stunning views, and a dip in the ocean to cool off half way through.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

I headed back to London feeling so calm, happy and more than a little sun kissed. Seeing the beauty that the UK has to offer has resulted in me wanting to explore more of what Britain has to offer. I’m very aware that my first two hiking experiences – The Alps and the Devonshire Coast under glorious blue skies – are probably not quite true of all hikes…but I can’t wait to explore the outdoors a little more in the future!

Where shall I hike next?

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A Trip to the Alps with Decathlon

Swapping my Sweaty Betty leggings and Barrecore grippy socks for hiking boots and shorts is not something I often do. In fact, it’s not something I’d ever done until a couple of weeks ago, when the lovely people at Decathlon invited me and the rest of their blogging community to visit their hiking brand, Quechua, in none other than the French Alps! Jumping at the chance to explore a new sport – exactly what Decathlon’s company ethos encourages – I prepared to hit the mountains.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

After flying into Geneva, Switzerland, and driving across the border to France, we arrived at Sallanches, a small town at the foot of the mountains. We collected our brand new Quechua hiking boots, courtesy of Decathlon, and bedded down, excited for the following day’s adventures.

The Hike

I’m sure I’m supposed to talk about the terrain (we followed good trails), the elevation (1,600m or so) and the nature (there were trees and wildflowers), but all I can remember is the view. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had views of the stunning Mont Blanc with only a few clouds passing by. A couple of years ago I fell in love with the rugged landscape of Iceland, that may have been over taken by these breathtaking mountain views.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

Aside from the views, we were testing the MH500 Waterproof Mountain Hiking Boots from the Quechua range and I was impressed with the comfort and quality. After a 5 hour hike, I had no blisters and no pain in the balls of my feet. My silly, weak ankles felt completely supported throughout and we even tested how waterproof the boots were by standing in a mountain stream – no wet feet reported, a success!

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

I was also wearing Quechua MH100 shorts and using the NH100 20L backpack. For me, being a total hiking newbie, they worked a treat. The shorts we comfortable, a decent length that I didn’t feel self-conscious (I’m not used to traipsing around with my legs out), and lightweight enough to keep me cool in the glorious sun. The bag I’m super impressed with, for £6.99 it has plenty of room for all the essentials, complete with front clips, which I’ve never really known what people use them for, until out hiking when I realised that the last thing you want is for you bag to be sliding around your shoulders.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

After a 4km hike up to 1,690m, we stopped for a well deserved lunch of french bread (obviously), cheese, ham, avocado, fruit, and a flask of coffee that our genius local guide Thibaut brought along with him. For me, the descent was the hardest part, not a surprise just 5 months after knee surgery. I spent less time gazing at the beautiful scenery, and more time negotiating the tree roots underfoot. Our host from Decathlon, Anthony, kindly lent me a hiking pole, stayed at my pace, and I made it down, albeit a few minutes behind the rest of the crew. Hot, sweaty, happy and very proud of myself.

A Tour of the Mountain Store

Despite my raving about the mountains, the main purpose of our trip to Sallanches was to visit Decathlon’s Mountain Store. Far from just being a shop to pick up your hiking and skiing gear, the Mountain Store is a cafe, restaurant, tourist information spot, ski pass collection point, and local meeting place before ascending into the clouds. Aside from that, behind the scenes, you’ll find a wealth of offices where everything you’d possibly need for negotiating the mountains is created; from idea and concept, to design and prototype creation.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

Each department has a dedicated team who work together like a small start-up company within the larger Decathlon world. The working environment is geared towards group productivity, with large co-working tables and relaxing breakout areas. What impressed me the most was the attention to detail in what they produce, which I think might surprise some people. Each product has a prototype made using industrial equipment right there in the vast mountain store, hidden from customer view. Products are then subject vigorous tests using specialised stress testing equipment, before being given to experts to field test out in the mountains. Any issues can be troubleshot and altered before being sent for mass production. Our main focus was the Decathlon’s Quechua brand of course, but we also got a peek at some of the Wed’Ze winter sport equipment too.

Not completely satisfied with making sport accessible for all, Decathlon and the Mountain Store are also making their way in terms of sustainability. Rain water is collected and processed, the roof is adorned with solar panels and they’re dedicated to giving back to the environment and protecting the beautiful mountains that surround them.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

I had an absolute blast with the Decathlon team, and a marvellous group of bloggers. If you’re not tired of mountain spam on my instagram feed, here are a few more photos to whet your appetite. Big thanks for Decathlon for the invite and their wonderful hospitality.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

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Review – Champneys Health Spa

Nothing says indulgence and relaxation more than fluffy bathrobes, relaxing music and the scent of aromatic oils floating through the corridors. Step into one of Champneys four spa resorts and you’ll be greeted by each of these things, as guests potter through the hotel and spa in flip flops and bathrobes, zen’d out from an undoubtedly sumptuous massage, with the echoes of panpipes and birdsong in the background. I am a lover of spa treatments, having been lucky enough to visit the original Sanctuary Day Spa in Covent Garden, and a Champneys Spa, with my Mum a few years ago. Escaping life for a day or two is wonderful, and throw in a massage or facial and you’ll be lucky if I can string a sentence together afterward!champneys, spa, health, review

Having not had a relaxing massage for a while, and having no clue as to what to ask for my birthday this year, I decided that a spa day was a great idea. I get a discount on stays at Champneys with my Vitality Health Insurance, and my lovely Mum covered the treatment costs as her gift to me. So on a dreary weekend in April, I took myself off to Champneys Henlow for a 1-night spa break.

My Stay

Set among woodland, the River Hiz and sprawling fields, where once there was an old monastery, now stands an imposing Manor House, home to Champneys Henlow. The entrance is as grand as the building itself with a sweeping driveway, complete with a fountain.

champneys, spa, health, review

I treated myself to a room upgrade, so my superior room had a little outdoor space with a gorgeous view of the weir. I was greeted with a large, comfy bed, a standard fluffy white robe, and a little selection of Champneys products in the bathroom. Although the room was large and very well stocked with everything I needed, the decor did feel a little tired and run down. The whole place is undergoing a regeneration, so perhaps the rooms are on the ‘to do’ list.

Included in the price of the room is three meals a day; a sit down dinner, a continental breakfast and buffet lunch. There are ‘light diet’ options for those who want it, but everything follows the Champneys philosophy of healthy, delicious and beautiful food.

My one small complaint with the food is that although there are pointers everywhere to allergens and special diets, I did find that with an almond and soy allergy, my choices were slightly limited. When I asked whether a dessert could be prepared without the soy cream, I was told that everything was already pre-prepared and it couldn’t be done (perhaps it was naive of me to think that a dessert could be made to order). I also struggled at breakfast, as the porridge and yogurt options were also soy or almond, with dairy milk only available for cereals. I fully appreciate the need for a wide range of milk options, but I definitely found it a bit restricted.

My Relaxation

When it comes to relaxing, the possibilities are endless at Champneys Henlow. I made a bee-line for the pool area with hot tubs, sauna, steam room, and of course a large pool for getting those laps in (what am I saying, I think I swam about 4 lengths). Next to the pool are a rows of comfy day beds, adorned with cushions, for whiling away the hours with a good book.

champneys, spa, health, review

Elsewhere you can find a large conservatory with beautiful riverside views, a cosy library, and a cafe with views over the pool. Plenty of space to have a nap, catch up with your girlfriends, or soak up the relaxing atmosphere.

As part of my spa break, I had 2 hours of treatments booked, a 1 hour full body massage, and a 1 hour body wrap with facial. Both were absolutely blissful, but I have to give an extra special mention to my masseuse, whose name escapes me. Having not long has knee surgery, my body is full of imbalances, tight spots and niggles, add to that the hypermobile joints, I sometimes worry with inexperienced massage therapists that they’re not sure how to protect my unstable joints while still getting deep into the tissue (I’ve almost had my shoulder pop out of it’s socket mid-massage before). Here, I had nothing to worry about, he took time to assess my imbalances, working on the secondary problems that have arisen since surgery, and I felt perfectly safe as he held my shoulders in place while releasing deep underneath my scapula. I’ve honestly never had a more detailed, beneficial massage and I felt amazing.

champneys, spa, health, review

Whether you want to escape the city for a day, or have a long weekend of pampering, Champneys comes highly recommended in my books. I left feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to face some new challenges. So next time you’re looking for a birthday treat for your, or a loved one, why not have a look at their website?

This post is in no way sponsored by Champneys. All views my own.

4 Things I Do To Help My Anxiety

I’ve never hidden the fact that I suffer with anxiety, and I think it’s super important to share what I’m going through with friends, family and followers, not only to get the support I need during the low periods, but also to celebrate the little wins that come with the territory. My anxiety rears it’s head in various ways, from middle of the night panics, or tears on Oxford Street when the constant over-stimulation becomes too much, to creating very-realistic-although-has-never-happened scenarios in my head, to sitting alone in my flat assuming that everyone I know is angry at me for some unknown reason.

I will also never keep it a secret that I have sought out counselling for my anxiety. My best friend has always reminded me of this… You break a bone and you go to hospital, get an X-ray, pain killers etc. So when my brain decides to attack itself, or my sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive and I spend days in the adrenaline fuelled ‘fight or flight’ against my own body, seeing a therapist and getting treatment should be an obvious option. It’s a stigma that needs to be addressed and removed from society.

lifestyle, mental health, anxiety,

(Photo credit – Emma Pharaoh)

Through the therapy, I was very lucky to get 10 sessions on the NHS, I’ve been learning some techniques and skills to help, and thought I’d share some of my favourites with you. I cannot stress enough, this is what works for me PERSONALLY, and might not for everyone. I share only because something I mention might strike a chord with you, and if my writing can help just one person make one small change, then I’m happy!

1. Write It Down

If I’m having intrusive thoughts that I can’t switch off, I have found that writing them all out helps to calm my mind. I might start writing in floods of tears, but as I get it all out onto paper, I feel a physical relief. I may never look at what I’ve written ever again, or if I do, it’s with a fresh perspective and the worries I had at the time of writing are either less intense than I remember, or more manageable.

During therapy, I became conscious of writing becoming a bit of a negative outlet, no matter how beneficial it feels at the time, so other way I use writing is as a daily positivity tracker. At the end of every day, good or bad, I write down three positive things that happened in the day. That way, even if it’s been a highly anxious day, I go to sleep with positive thoughts in my mind.

2. Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are very much ‘wellness buzz words’ at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to dive into the wealth of apps that are available for this purpose. The main ones I’ve come across are Calm, Buddhify and Headspace. I began my meditation journey with Headspace which has 10 free introductory sessions. Aside from these, there are lots of single guided meditations for specific purposes such as Sleep, Exam Stress, Sporting Competition and more.

meditation, anxiety, health, mental health, buddhify
A more recent discovery is Buddhify, who have kindly gifted me a complimentary subscription. This guided meditation app has so many options for all kinds of practise, from specific emotional states, to meditation for travel and sleep. I’m just getting to grips with it but really enjoying it so far. Head to my instagram to hear more about it.

3. Exercise

As someone who’s been through low periods, I know that sometimes the very last thing you want to do is go to the gym or to an exercise class. I’m not about to tell you that ‘exercise is going to help all your problems, so suck it up and go to the gym’, but if you’re feeling up to it, then exercise can help greatly. I noticed in the time after my knee surgery, that the point at which I felt better in my head was when I was allowed to start gentle exercise again. For me, it makes a huge difference. Exercise increases the production of serotonin, the happy hormone, in the brain, and can lift your mood in an instant. There are explanations for this based on neuroscience of course which I could write an entire post on itself. Take away the science for a moment, with exercise, be it gym, running or yoga, there is an element of distraction playing a part here too, which leads me on to my next point.

mental health, exercise, fitness, health

(Photo credit – Elle Linton

4. Find Some Distraction

Taking my mind to a non-anxious state is not easy, but I’ve discovered some things that work well for distracting my mind and letting me get on with every day life. The first is podcasts. Listening to podcast on my daily commute sometimes needs to be a necessity if I’m feeling overwhelmed. The type of podcast varies depending on the extent of my anxiety. Mostly I’m listening to something informative, or knowledge based, but if I’m really needing distraction and cheering up, then my go-to choice is comedy, and more specifically ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’. If you’ve not heard of it (Mum, if you’re reading this, it’s not as bizarre as it sounds) and fancy a laugh out loud tube journey, then tune into Jamie, Alice and James as they narrate Jamie’s father’s hilarious attempt at erotic literature.

anxiety, podcast, mental health, blogger, health

(Photo credit – Elle Linton

Other means of distraction for me are baking, taking an exercise class, or working. It may sound strange but give me a food diary to analyse, an exercise program to plan, or something similar and I’ll happily delve in and distract my brain. Whats often more of a problem with these distractions is actually starting them. When anxiety is high, the urge to hibernate with Netflix is strong (and actually doing this is OK too, without a doubt). I find that once I get past that initial ‘OK Tash, get off the sofa now’ phase, these distraction methods can turn around my whole day.

Whilst these 4 points are things that help me, remember that everyone is different, and anxiety appears in different ways for each individual. I hope that reading what helps me might give you some pointers for when you’re in a low mood, or maybe they can be suggestions for someone you know. You never know what might hit the nail on the head!

How I Get Fit with Decathlon

There are lots of reasons you might want to improve your fitness. Whether it’s for mental health, family fun, losing weight, getting into shape, feeling great in your body or simply because you love moving, the team at Decathlon are on hand to provide anything you might need for your fitness journey. Finding time for fitness is no mean feat when you’ve got a busy lifestyle with an increasingly long to-do list, so Decathlon and their blogger community, including me, are determined to help their customers incorporate sport and fitness into their every day lives. Since getting injured, I’ve noticed how quickly my strength has seemingly disappeared, and I’m making it a priority to get it back.

Incorporate Fitness Into Your Commute

Before it became clear I needed knee surgery, I was all set to start cycling to work with my beautiful new B’Twin road bike*. Cycling is a fantastic way to increase your cardiovascular health, and avoid the squash of the crowded tube trains. If your commute is too long to cycle, consider riding to a nearby station instead.

decathlon, sport, fitness, road bike

If cycling isn’t your thing, you can still make you daily commute active. It’s an old school recommendation, but getting off the bus or train one stop early, and walking briskly the remaining distance would be a great start to your day.

10 Minutes is Better than None

If you’ve just got 10 minutes to spare at home, then try a quick HIIT workout. High Intensity Interval Training takes short bursts of cardio, interspersed with short rest periods, and will get your heart rate lifted in no time. Try this little circuit below:

  • High knee runs
  • Star jumps
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Squat + side kick
  • Jump lunge changing

As many as you can for 30 seconds, then a 15 second rest. Repeat two or three times for a brilliant, but speedy workout.

Not wanting to miss out on using my new bike, I’ve invested in a turbo trainer so I can use it in the house. Right now, 6 weeks post surgery, I am only using it on a low resistance to get the mobility back in my knee, but I hope to move on to interval training on the bike very soon.

Revisit an Old Favourite

There are so many new studios and class around, particularly in London, and the choice can be overwhelming. Why not go back to your childhood and revisit one of your favourite sports or activities. I loved swimming as a child, and it’s always one of the first things I return to after injury. I’ve been using the app PayAsYouGym to find local pools I can drop into and get some lengths in. I set myself the goal of completing a Swimathon for Cancer Research at the end of April, which is a good incentive to get me training! Decathlon has a wide range of swimwear and pool accessories which I’ve been putting to good use.decathlon, sport, fitness, swimming decathlon, sport, fitness, swimming

Swimwear, towel & pool buoy from Nabaiji – Decathlon. Googles – Speedo.

decathlon, sport, fitness,swimming
Bikini from Tribord – Decathlon. Goggles – Speedo. Pool Buoy – Nabaiji – Decathlon.

Maybe you want to get back to dancing, martial arts, netball, football or whatever you fancy trying but maybe didn’t get the chance when you were younger, the possibilities are endless and you could meet a whole new friendship group! Decathlon have teams of expert staff who can help point you in the right direction if you’re needing guidance.

Check out my lovely Decathlon Blogger Buddies to see how they choose to get fit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try something new this Spring!!

*I was gifted vouchers from Decathlon towards to cost of this bike, all other products bought myself. No brand other than Decathlon is associated with this post.

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A Quick Kettlebell Circuit

Arrived at the gym at peak time all the resistance machines are taken, no space in the free weights area? Grab yourself a kettlebell, and follow my simple circuit for a quick workout with minimal space or equipment required.

* First things first, make sure you warm up with a 4-5 minute cardiovascular pulse-raiser, and some mobilising stretches for your shoulders, knees and hips.

  • Back Lunge with Overhead Press (bell in same hand as foot that steps back) – 10x each side
  • Side Lunge + Knee Lift (bell in both hands at your chest) – 10x each side
  • Oblique Windmill x10 each side
  • Single Arm Snatch – right side x10, repeat other side x10
  • Kettlebell Swings x10
  • Russian Twists x20 (not pictured)

Repeat the whole circuit two or three times depending on your time (and strength)!!

  • Finish with Turkish Get Ups (if you’re familiar with the technique) or Changing Single Arm Kettlebell Swings.

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