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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How to Stay Sane When Injured

As you probably know by now, I am injury prone, and just had surgery to fix an ongoing problem in my knee. Throughout my career as a dancer, and now a fitness professional, I’ve faced various amounts of time off due to injures, and have slowly learnt to accept that when my body says stop, I need to listen to it. Being that my job has always been physical, time off often means a lot of time at home on my own, which can have a psychological effect too. Injuries can be so frustrating, but I’ve found some ways to stay sane when I can’t do the thing I love every day.Health, fitness, injury

Don’t Rush It

Hands up, who’s pushed an injury too far and needed to take more time off than was originally necessary. Yep, me too. As frustrating as it is, doctors and physiotherapists usually know what they’re talking about. If they say rest, then rest. By all means, smash out your rehab exercises, but don’t run before you can walk…literally.

Train What You Can

On the flip side of resting when you’re told to rest, do think about what you can do that won’t affect the injured part. For example, if you’ve broken your ankle, you can still do some light upper body work, maybe some core work too. If it’s a dislocated shoulder, then as long as you can keep your balance, get some lunges or squats in or pop into a static bike. Be cautious though, raising your heart rate can increase swelling in the injured area as blood rushes around the whole body. Keep an eye on it, and stop if you experience any throbbing or excessive swelling in the area.

Find a Non-Active Hobby

Take up something new, or dust off your old guitar, paint brushes, or knitting and practise something that doesn’t require physical exertion. You won’t just exercise your brain, but you’ll also find a means of distraction from pain, discomfort or boredom. If you’re really laid up, then something as simple as mindful colouring might be enough to stop the endless Netflix binge, just for an hour or two. If you can stand and cook, then try a new recipe, or bake a cake. You’ll be proud of your achievement, and who knows, you might discover a new talent.

Be Mindful

I don’t just mean be mindful of your injury, but be mindful of the world around you. If you’re forced to walk slowly, instead of being frustrated by this, take it as an opportunity to see the world around you as you walk. Take it all in, use all your senses and you might find a renewed appreciation for your local park, or even your daily commute. Practise meditation as well. If you’re stuck at home, potentially on your own, it’s going to be a time where anxious or negative thoughts are harder to dispel. Take 15 minutes each day to meditate, use an app if you need to, and you’ll find you can approach your injury and recovery in a more positive way.fitness, health, injury

I’m trying to apply all these things to my current knee injury, and it’s not easy! There are days where I’m grumpy, frustrated and bored, but that’s ok too. Life isn’t always calm, serene and blissful, but if you try and roll with the punches, be kind to yourself and accept what’s happening, you’ll come out the other side calmer and able to see the positives.

Photo credit: Elle Linton.

Preparing For Surgery – My Personal Guide

Despite my best efforts, unfortunately I’m no stranger to injury and injury related surgery. In my *almost* 32 years on this planet, I’ve been told my injury list reads like that of a 75 year old and I’ve had, as of yesterday, 6 surgical procedures. All bar one of those operations have been in the last 12 years. Through my own experiences, I’ve found a few things that have really helped me both before and after surgery. Now remember, I’m not a doctor, these are just my personal experiences and how they’ve worked for me.

Find Your Support Network

Firstly, you will usually be required to have a chaperone take you home from hospital, and that’s non-negotiable if you’ve had a full anaesthetic. Arrange this early on with someone you trust and who you are really comfortable with. You are going to be in the dozy post-anaesthetic phase, possibly feeling nauseous, in pain, and wanting to sleep or cry….or both. I’ve always gone to my Mum’s after each of my surgeries, there’s nothing better than Mum time, but whoever you choose, prepare them for a grumpy, soggy, cloudy version of you, possibly high on morphine as well.

Going back to before the surgery, it’s not required but you might want someone in hospital with you beforehand as well. My arrival time for this week’s surgery is an eye-watering 6am, but I know from experience that I won’t be taken into the operating theatre until at least 8am or 9am. Why so early? You might ask. Well there are potentially lots of people on the surgeon’s list that day, they all need their observations, a chat with the anaesthetist, a final check in with the surgeon, after-care explained (remember the post-anaesthetic brain fog), and to generally get comfortable. It can be a long, anxious wait, and unless you’re in a private hospital, you could be in a ward full of other people waiting too. Having someone with you to chat with will pass the time, and calm your nerves. I’m lucky enough to be having this done privately, meaning I have my own room with a TV, but company before the op will still be a welcome distraction.

After surgery, depending on what it is of course, you might need help at home with cooking, cleaning and maybe even showing and dressing. Grab your support network; friends, partner, colleagues, flatmates, those who you’re comfortable with, and ask them to be around in case you need anything. Don’t be afraid, don’t sit in pain, hungry and embarrassed to ask for their help. This is a time where you cannot do everything for yourself, despite being Miss Independent, especially if doing too much might hinder your recovery.

Plan Ahead

Most likely you’ll have planned all the technical things with your surgeon beforehand, but there are a few things I’ve found to be really helpful when I’m not so mobile and not so able to do things for myself.

Bulk cook food – Having a hearty chilli, bolognese, chicken stew or soup in the freezer is such a good idea. For the days when you perhaps can’t call on someone to help you, or you simply haven’t got anything to cook, popping a pre-prepared meal in the microwave is going to be a lifesaver. When your body is healing and recovering you need to be well nourished.

Clean the house – If you’re going to be on crutches, then you can’t be tripping over junk in the hallway or that pile of clothes at the end of your bed. If you can have a good tidy up before the day of the operation, and if your injury prevents you from doing that, then maybe treat yourself to a professional clean. Alternately, remember your support network? Pick the most ‘Monica-like’ and ask them to help.

Do your laundry – Bed sheets, clothes, dressing gown, towels. There’s nothing nicer than clean sheets when you’re not quite feeling yourself, so having all that done for when you return home will be so comforting. The same applies for your favourite pyjamas, and your comfy clothes. You’ll likely be living in these for a few days, if not more, so make sure they’re clean and ready.

Breathe

The thing I’m most worried about is the general anaesthetic. I don’t like being put to sleep, not having control and going into this empty dreamland. I’ve also had bad reactions upon waking before which make me more anxious about the aftermath. On the flip-side of that, having a local anaesthetic isn’t my cup of tea either, so I’m not sure which I’d rather.

I’ve been practising some breathing techniques to help me cope with the nerves before surgery, and at the moment of being put under anaesthetic. Also, my therapist suggest a little mindfulness and visualisation as well, to help calm my head on the morning of.

Take deep breaths – The more anxious we’re feeling, the more shallow our breathing becomes. Taking three deep breaths can help to settle nerves, filling the lungs with oxygen and calming the parasympathetic nervous system. Think of breathing in for 4 counts, and breathing out for 6 or 8.

Visualise your happy place – pick a place where you have always felt calm and happy. That could be your bed, childhood home, a bath, or holiday spot. Mine is my favourite beach near my Dad’s house in Portugal listening to the waves crashing. Just as the anaesthetist starts preparing to send you to sleep, have this image firmly in your head and you’ll be in that happy place for the whole time you’re under.

Don’t Rush Recovery

This is one I really have to pay attention to myself. Listen to the doctors, physiotherapists and specialists when they tell you to rest, and recuperate. Don’t wait until you’re in excruciating pain to take your painkillers, and admit to yourself that you’ll have to rest for a while. The effects of the anaesthetic can be long lasting in some cases, and feeling groggy, emotional and weak comes hand in hand with that. It can feel very frustrating, but know that it’s only temporary.

Now I’m back home with my Mum and enjoying some R&R, I can see how each of the points above helped me through the operation. I’m looking forward to getting back to my flat in a few days because I’ve got lots of food prepped, clean towels and a tidy house all ready and waiting for me. I’ve got lots of friends offering to pop over for company and food, and the cat is always on hand for a hug. My recovery will be slow and steady, but if I am good with my physiotherapy exercises, don’t rush things and look after myself, I’ll be back on my feet in no time!

The Wellness Gift Guide 2017

*Not a sponsored post, apart from being a Sweaty Betty ambassador, I have no connection to any of these brands.

It’s that time of year when your inbox is flooded with gift ideas….Gifts for Her, Gifts for Him, Gifts for Teens, Gifts for Your Loved One etc etc. But what about gifts for the wellness warrior in your life? Be it your yoga bunny bestie, your personal trainer partner, or simply someone you know loves to look after their mind and body, everyone deserves a treat this Christmas.

I’ve actually not started my Christmas shopping yet, which is unlike me, so in order to give myself a little kick up the backside, I’ve compiled a little list of some ideas for you, ranging from stocking fillers to more extravagant surprises. Take a look, and get shopping!

Treats up to £75

Flo 260 Massage Bar – £7.99

gift guide, christmas, massage roller

(tkmaxx.com)

Whether you want to admit it or not, rolling has so many benefits! For those who don’t love a foam roller, these handheld rollers are a great idea to get deep into those sore muscles. They might not thank you immediately (rolling is painful at times) but they will in the long run.

 

Kikki-K Wellbeing Diary – £21

gift guide, kikki-k, diary 2018, wellbeing

(kikki-k.com)

Not just dairy, but full of inspiration and prompts for a happy and healthy 2018.

 

S’well Bottle – from £25

gift guide, christmas, health, wellness

(swellbottle.com)

I am a massive fan of S’well bottles…I have two! Keeping cold drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot drinks hot for 12 hours, I have a traveller one for coffee and a bottle as above for water. They’re also completely leak proof and come in so many gorgeous designs!

 

Lululemon Run It Out Ear & Neck Warmer – £25 each

gift guide, lululemon, running, christmas

(lululemon.co.uk)

No-one likes cold ears, or a chill down their necks, so these Lulu warmers are a great idea for outdoor training. Buy one, or both for the matching set!

 

Sweaty Betty Gym Clutch – £35

sweaty betty, gift guide, gym, christmas

(sweatybetty.com)

If you’re lucky enough to have a gym just a stones throw from where you live or work, you probably don’t need a huge gym bag to fill with unnecessary baggage. This little clutch from Sweaty Betty is perfect for your gym pass, keys, phone, headphones, purse and maybe a little deodorant for a post workout spritz. I love the colour, and if you are gymming it further afield, then you can simply sling this in your main gym bag to make sure you don’t forget your essentials!

 

Sweaty Betty Velvet Padded Bra – £45

sweaty betty, gift guide, christmas, luxe

(sweatybetty.com)

I’m honestly not sure of the usefulness of a plush velvet sports bra, but I love it anyway! In fact, Sweaty Betty doesn’t even name this a ‘sports bra’ so I vote it gets worn underneath a fancy New Years Eve outfit for some comfort! Maybe this can be a treat for the lovely lady in your life?

 

Cowshed Knackered Cow Spa in a Box – £65

gift guide, cowshed, christmas

(cowshedonline.com)

I don’t know any health and fitness person who doesn’t like a night of relaxation and indulgence. In fact, if you want to earn all the partner / sibling / bestie / housemate points, get home early, run them a bath with this gift pack and treat them to a calming pre-Christmas night in…..hmmmm can anyone do that for me?!?!

 

Indulgent gifts over £75

Urbanears Plattan 2 Bluetooth Headphones – £85

gift guide, urbanears, christmas, music

(urbanears.com)

If like me, you’re (ahem, or the person you’re buying for) constantly listening to music or a podcast in the gym or while running, then the new Urbanears wireless headphones are going to be right up their street. Foldable, and with 30 hours of wireless time, they’ll never be stuck with awful gym music again!

 

Fitbit Alta HR – £129.99

gift guide, christmas, fitbit, fitness

(fitbit.com)

If chunky heart rate monitors aren’t your favourite thing, then the Fitbit Alta HR might be the best gift yet. The slimmest fitness tracker with heart rate technology, Fitbit have designed this in a range of attractive colours. Tracking exercise, sleep, heart rate and the usual steps etc. it’s a great gift for someone who’s either a fitness pro or just beginning their healthy journey.

 

Eastpak Stand Holdall – £200

gift guide, yoga, eastpak, christmas

(Emilie James / Eastpak)

Now this is a big indulgence, but since spotting it on the lovely Emilie’s instagram (@lovaine_james) I have been in love. Eastpak are moving with the times with this limited edition range, which also includes a gorgeous back pack. This weekend bag includes a yoga mat sling, making it the perfect gift for the yogi in your life. Not keen on the colour? It comes in a dark grey/black too.

 

The list could be endless, but I’ll stop there for now. Perhaps this will give you some ideas to share with your loved ones, or help you choose the perfect gift for the fitness fanatic in your life. And hey…..don’t forget your LOVELY personal trainer….treats are ALWAYS welcome. As is chocolate.

 

*As I mentioned earlier, no brand has requested these items to be featured in this post. All views my own.

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