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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

kettlebell, workout, fitness, natasha wynn pt, personal trainer

 

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Finding Rejuvenation, Focus and Relaxation with Apex Hotels

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, for days or weeks, hotels should feel like a little home away from home. It’s not always easy though, with unfamiliar surroundings affecting your sleep perhaps, or a lack of your normal amenities resulting in disruption to your everyday routine. Does anyone else find that hotel stays can sometimes feel a whole lot less relaxing than they’re intended to be?! The team at Apex Hotels have teamed up with Registered Dietitian and wellness coach, Celynn Morin, and have been working hard at changing this, ensuring all their visitors spend their time away from home feeling rejuvenated, focused and relaxed. I was lucky enough to experience their Warmer Welcome scheme last month, enjoying a much-needed night away from busy London.

The Hotel

A 15 minute walk from Bath station, a surprisingly speedy 90 minutes from London, you’ll find Apex Hotel City of Bath. Walking into the lobby, you’re greeted not only by friendly reception staff, but also a variety of places to sit and relax before exploring the historic city. Once checked in and settled into your room, you’ll find a plethora of things to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

Nearly every hotel room in the world provides basic tea and coffee making facilities, and a mini-bar of crisps and chocolate, but the first thing I noticed about Apex was the different options available; a Nespresso coffee machine, a variety of teas, and in addition to the usual kit-kat and nuts, healthy snacks such as popcorn and nutritious energy bars.

A quick peek into the bathroom, and I was amazed to find not only a huge bathtub, but a large wet room style shower too! A good range of Elemis products is available for use during your stay, as well as a fluffy robe and slippers should you need them. However, I can’t talk about the bathroom without mentioning the very cool Apex Rubber Duck you can take home!!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

A hotel in Bath wouldn’t be complete without a little nod to Bath’s most famous historic artefact, and the underground spa at Apex didn’t disappoint. With a spacious pool, various massaging jets, as well as steam and sauna rooms, I could have easily spent my whole visit relaxing in the warm waters!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Rejuvenate, Focus and Relax

In every room, you’ll also find the main focus of Apex’s campaign to make hotels more wellness orientated. Designed and created with Celynn to go alongside Apex’s new podcast, inside each little booklet are tips and tricks to make your stay at Apex as beneficial to your wellbeing as possible. Here are some of my favourites from their ideas:

Rejuvenate – Keep On Moving – It’s easy to let your usual healthy ways slide a little when away from home, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from your fitness routine, it’s still helpful to keep active on your travels. If you’re travelling for business, the temptation to haul up in the hotel room and work until all hours of the night can be strong. Finding time to have a quick workout in the gym, or going for a walk to explore the city, will stimulate the blood flow, getting more oxygen to the brain, and actually increase your alertness, and you’ll be more productive!

apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @ cakevsscales)

Focus – Breathe – With so many distractions, staying focused in a busy hotel can be tricky. When everything a little overwhelming and the parasympathetic nervous system is overstimulated, taking a moment to simply breathe can settle things down, and help you find your focus again. Celynn recommends counting alongside some deep breaths. Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3 and so forth, up to 10. If needed, repeat! I use this technique to help me quiet my mind if I’m anxious, and I find it works a treat.

Relax – Time for Tea – I find that having a quiet moment with a cuppa tea is one of the best ways to relax, and with a wide selection of teas on offer at Apex, you never know, you might find a new favourite! If it’s sleep you’re after, then chamomile or red bush is going to be your best option. It’s thought that even the ritual of preparing a warm drink helps to wind down after a busy day, preparing the mind and body for rest, so you can wake up rejuvenated!apex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

The City of Bath

I’ve lived in the UK my whole life, and this was my first visit to Bath. It’s such a beautiful city and I’ll be sure to return one day. A gentle stroll from the hotel, and you’ll easily find yourself amongst the stunning buildings steeped in history. My favourite was the Royal Crescent and surrounding streets, not only because my favourite childhood musical, Oliver!, was filmed there, but because the sweeping architecture is wonderful.

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

(Photo: Katie @cakevsscales)

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcome

If you only see one thing while in Bath, I’d recommend the Roman Spa of course! For a reasonable £16.50 per adult, you can discover the history of the natural spa as you walk through the museum (audio tours are free), and walk around the ancient baths themselves. If you’re keen to mix the modern with the historic, then just around the corner is the Thermae Bath Spa, a luxury spa facility with both rooftop and underground baths. That’s on my list for next time!

https://www.apexhotels.co.uk/warmerwelcomeapex hotels, city of bath, rejuvenate focus relax, travel, wellness, warmerwelcome

So, a big thank you to Apex Hotels for treating me to a couple of days away from London. Not only did myself and the other bloggers have the most relaxing evening, but we also benefited from a morning wellness workshop courtesy of Celynn herself. I returned to London feeling like a new woman, ready to take on the rest of the week. If you’re keen to find a little more wellness in your life, whether you’re travelling or not, check out Apex’s new podcast series, with lots of helpful hints from Celynn.

I received a complimentary 1 night stay at Apex City of Bath in exchange for this post. All views my own. Photo credit belongs to me unless otherwise stated.

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3 Beaches in Portugal That Aren’t The Algarve

Whenever I tell people I’m visiting Portugal, their first thought is usually The Algarve, Portugal’s Mediterranean coast, popular with sun seeking tourists, nightlife and hotel resorts close to the action. Or they think Lisbon; the vibrant capital full of colourful culture, shops, and plenty to see and do. While both those places are beautiful and special in their own rights, I want to share with you my favourite places on Portugal’s Silver Coast, where the land is shaped by the wild Atlantic Ocean.
My love affair with Portugal is a fairly recent one, as my father retired there just over two years ago. Since then I’ve visited many times, in summer, winter and spring. He lives in a small village 15 minutes inland from the beach town of Nazaré, but whenever I visit, regardless of the weather, I make sure I spend a bit of time at each of these beaches below, simply watching the world go by and finding my calm happy place.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachSo, if you’re looking for a quieter place to spend you precious holiday moments, where the pace is slower, the views are phenomenal, and the whole place has less of a ‘Brits Abroad’ kinda feeling, then here are my recommendations.

Nazaré

Arguably the surfing capital of Europe, if not the world, I’m not joking when I say that 100ft waves have been witnessed and surfed on the infamous Praia Do Norte in Nazaré. Caused by an underwater ridge and high cliffs, whether you’re a surfer or not, these waters will simply blow you away. If you don’t believe me, check out this video and see for yourself!

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beachVisit in January and February for the epic waves and Big Surf competitions. The weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers, but you can also catch Nazaré Carnival, and one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the area.

Head over in the summer for temperatures that soar above 30 degrees, a refreshing sea breeze and plenty of little shops and bars to explore on Nazaré’s beach front promenade. My favourite is the Farol Gin Bar, named after the infamous Farol de Nazaré (Nazaré Lighthouse) where the best waves can be viewed.

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Looking South to Praia do Nazaré and Nazaré Town

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Looking North to Praia do Norte (on a calm, no surf day)

Sao Martinho do Porto

Head South along the coastal road, through cute villages and aromatic pine forests, and you’ll end up at Sao Martinho do Porto, a small coastal town with a lot of charm. Beautiful, white sand stretches around the bay here, and while it can get busy with locals in the summer, the water is calmer than at Nazaré and perfect for a paddle.

The beach front is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants and there are always activities in summer to occupy children of any age. If you’re an intrepid traveller, on one end of the bay is a large caravan and camping site where all you need to do is cross the road and you’re on the beach, ready for a picturesque sunset.

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The Southern End of the Bay

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Sao Martinho from above.

Foz do Arelho

Finally, a little further South, after stopping at what I think are the most amazing viewpoints in Portugal, you’ll arrive at Foz Do Arelho, and more specifically, Obidos Lagoon. This is my absolute favourite beach in the region, and I will happily sit there in summer or winter.

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Taking in the view en route to Foz.

With just one restaurant on the beach, Cais da Praia, serving anything from snacks to steaks, in the summer I’d recommend taking your own picnic, pitching up an umbrella and settling in for the day. If it’s not too busy, give Cais da Praia a visit too, as the staff are always friendly and the food is great.

In the wilder winter days, you’ll find kite surfers at one end of the lagoon, and I’ve been told, there are also flamingoes in the area. Being a lagoon that, at low tide, you could potentially walk to the other side of, the waters are calm (most of the time) and shallow.

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Obidos Lagoon

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As Dusk

I’d recommend hiring a car to explore Portugal’s Silver Coast. All of the places I mentioned can easily be reached in an hour or less from Lisbon airport. There are so many more beaches and seaside towns to explore in the area whether you’re looking for a surfer’s paradise, a relaxing soak in the sun, or something a little more local and touristic.

travel, portugal, wanderlust, lifestyle, beach

Sunset at Foz

So next time you’re looking for a mini break away and want something a little different, maybe have a look at some of these spots. Who knows, maybe we’ll be there at the same time!

This post is in no way sponsored by anyone! I just wanted to share my Portugal hotspots with you all. All photos my own.

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