Moddershall Oaks

I stayed at Moddershall Oaks as part of my recent UK staycation with my boyfriend and partner in crime, Fiann.  Moddershall Oaks is primarily a country spa retreat that also doubles as a boutique hotel. The spa is situated near Stoke, so after a long drive from London it was an absolute treat to settle right in!

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The centrepiece of Moddershall Oaks spa – the pool

I enjoyed a shellac manicure as soon as I arrived, and the manicurist was so lovely I almost wished I could have stayed chatting to her for longer! But dinner called.

The food at Moddershall Oaks did not disappoint. As soon as I leave London I always expect the term vegan to be met with disgust, confusion and often the offer of a fish dish. However, the restaurant had a specific vegan menu with multiple options for each course, rather than the usual pile of vegetables without any bulk. Fiann and I each had different dishes for starter and main, and both were spectacularly delicious – something I definitely wasn’t expecting!

Our room was beautiful – originally we were supposed to stay in one of the smaller ones (which was still very sizeable), but due to some spilled water we were quickly upgraded to the Bridal Suite, something I maintain must have been organised by Fiann! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful which made the stay all the more relaxing.

 

Breakfast in the morning could have done with a little more options for vegans, but they cooks helpfully agreed to make a vegan version of a cooked breakfast for me (mushroom, spinach, roast tomatoes on toast).

Sadly I never got to try out the hotel’s new wellness centre, Made. Faced with an entire day of hiking, I didn’t fancy fitting in another workout, but Fiann (ever competitive) headed over the moment we arrived at the hotel and said he was impressed, so it must have been really good. The centre itself opened in August and provides classes and activities for everyone, and is the first of its kind in Staffordshire. It’s great to see a wellness centre that places balance and wellness, rather than punishment and restriction at the heart of its ethos!

Instead of going to the gym, Fiann and I instead explored the spa on our second day. Our favourite part was the shared hot tub right outside our room. We got the whole thing to ourselves which was a lovely way to warm up and prepare for a long day of hiking ahead!

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Enjoying the hot tub right outside our room!

Moddershall Oaks was a really friendly, welcoming hotel that I would recommend to anyone wanting to stay in the area. It could do with a few more modern elements but the wellness centre is an amazing step forwards and really unique! I would 100% return in the future to enjoy the spa and try out one of their classes. Do let me know if you visit – I’d love to hear what you think!

How to get better sleep

We’re all pretty great at feeling sleepy, but actually sleeping well is a totally different matter! Do you struggle from time to time? Read this post to see just how important sleep is, as well as get some advice on how to do it better.

It’s no secret that you feel better when you’re not massively sleep deprived, but it’s also been proven that people don’t realise how much their lack of sleep is affecting them. On average in the UK, we get only 6.8h of sleep a night, rather than the recommended 8h for optimum health. The figures in the US and Australia are similar, reflecting a culture that shrugs off sleep as an irritating waste of time, rather than the necessity it actually is. The National Sleep Foundation found that for adults older than 18 years of age, between 7 and 9 hours of sleep on average is optimal for health.

When you think of risk factors for diseases, what do you think of? Poor diet? Smoking? Bad genes? I’m sure sleep pattern is not something that comes high up on the list, but poor sleep patterns have been linked to negative short term effects, such as depression, lost concentration and anxiety, as well as longer term impacts including increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The reason is simple: sleep provides time for your body to repair damage. Without this time, damage accumulates, causes poor life decisions (such as over eating and lack of exercise) and eventually can lead to negative long-term outcomes.

Sleep also gives us time to consolidate memories, strengthen neural pathways and process information – it’s why our dreams often involve events from the day, mushed together into some sort of weird nonsensical mess. There’s a theory that freeing our brains from the constraints of reality allows us to make connections we might not have made before, and process information that would have taken too long when awake. So those times you stay up until 3am revising for a test? Don’t. You’re far better working up until you sleep, then picking it up again in the morning. In my mind, it’s all very cool.

So how do we sleep? As someone who used to suffer from insomnia, I know how frustrating it can be when you are just unable to stop your mind from whirring. Sleep experts call good sleep practices ‘sleep hygiene’ – getting into a good bedtime ritual to prime our bodies for deep, restful sleep. Here are some of my top tips for a good nights sleep.

 

Take a hot bath
Weirdly, it’s not the heating that actually makes you sleepy – it’s the rapid cooling that follows a hot bath that makes you tired. Our bodies naturally cool off about 2h before sleep until around 4-5am, meaning that artificially inducing the cooling before you sleep can help send signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.

Have a hot drink
For the same reasons as a hot bath, having a hot drink before bed can make you sleepy. Certain herbal drinks, such as camomile and lavender are thought to help sleep. This is thought to be because they contain compounds that reduces anxiety and promote relaxation, slowing the nervous system and promoting deep sleep. Try not to drink too much before bed though! Getting up through the night can disrupt your sleep patterns. I usually have a tea in the hour before bed and swear by it to help me sleep!

Avoid blue light
The blue light emitted from your phone and laptop signals to your brain that it’s still daytime. This delays your natural body clock making it harder to fall asleep. Stop using your phone, laptop and TV at least an hour before you want to sleep. If you need to, consider adding a filter using an app like f.lux that reduces blue light on your screen after sunset. 

Limit yourself to 9 hours max
Plenty of people struggle to even stay asleep for this long, but I would easily sleep for 10h a night if I let myself. However, staying in bed for over 9 hours can actually harm your sleep in the long run. Forcing yourself to get up in the morning means that your body clock stays in check – if you allow yourself to sleep until you’re not tired anymore, you will end up going to bed later and later, meaning that when you do have to get up early you’ve restricted your sleep even further. Try to wake up on your first alarm – snoozing it only leads to more sluggishness. Winter may be a time of hibernation, but sleeping for too long won’t do you any favours. If you need to nap during the day, limit it to 20 minutes. Longer can affect nighttime sleep.

Don’t expect to be able to catch up on lost sleep in a night
A lot of people think that a bad night’s sleep can be recovered by sleeping more the next night, and while the evidence is not conclusive, studies suggest that this isn’t the case. The damage done by one bad night cannot be undone by one good night, and it often takes a few days to get back to normal. In addition, going to bed later disrupts your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock that tells you when to sleep and wake up), so it’s best to avoid significant amounts of lost sleep.

Exercise!
As anyone who has stopped exercising for an injury will know, exercise and sleep go hand in hand. Cut out exercising and a good night’s sleep goes too. Exercising tires out the body enough that falling into bed after a hard workout earlier in the day is just one of the nicest things. It also promotes the same cooling effect as having a bath and drinking tea does, but has the added benefit of decreasing the anxiety and stress that often keep us awake. However, avoid working out late in the evening – placing stress on the body late in the day can delay your natural body clock, making it harder to sleep, so try to end exercising at least 3h before bed.

Be comfy
Get a good mattress and a pillow that’s not too high. Nighttime discomfort can lead to light sleep. If you’re in a rented flat or a student where you didn’t choose the mattress, consider buying a good mattress topper (and take it with you when you leave!).

Fresh air
Linked to exercise, getting outside and some fresh air during the day can help get that ‘flop onto the bed’ feel at the end of the day (in a good way). I actually don’t know why this is, but it’s likely a mixture of getting exercise and getting natural light. Natural light inhibits melatonin (the hormone that sends us to sleep), meaning that when you go back inside, there is more of the hormone before bed to make you feel tired. This is especially useful in winter, when it is dark for a lot of the day.

Avoid caffeine
A little in the morning shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but avoid any caffeine past 3pm. The effects are long lasting – even if you don’t feel wired, the stimulant will keep on powering your body far past the point when you would like to sleep. Also bear in mind that caffeine can be hidden in lots of drinks that aren’t coffee, such as teas and fizzy drinks.

Limit alcohol
While alcohol may help you get to sleep, sleep quality is poorer and once it wears off you’re more likely to wake up. Dehydration can also be a cause of waking through the night, and alcohol makes this far worse.

 

Ironically, overthinking sleep can be one major cause for struggling to fall asleep and sleeping lightly. Try to get into a good routine early in life so that when you are under pressure, sleep is one thing that comes naturally to you. Sadly, for one of the most natural of behaviours, sleep is sometimes difficult to find, but hopefully with the information of how important it is, as well as some of the tips above, you’ll start prioritising it over another episode of Game of Thrones (other series available).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and tips for a good night’s sleep! Head to my instagram or comment below to let me know.

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It’s no secret to those that know me that sleep will always be a priority for me!

Rest days – why and how ?

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Put your feet up and relax – you’ve earned it!

For those of us who train hard, it’s often difficult to force ourselves to rest, especially if we’re not feeling overly tired or stiff. However, going without a rest day can cause injuries, exhaustion and other symptoms of over-training. A lot of us have the mind-set of all or nothing – it’s so hard to push ourselves to go to the gym everyday, that once we’re in a routine we don’t want to break it, and therefore taking a day off can feel like you’re falling behind. However, first hand experience has shown me that rest days are PART of an exercise routine, not just a day off. Here’s why:

Rest prevents injury

Our bodies are only built for a certain amount of strenuous activity. This level can be built up over time, but try to build it up too quickly and you’ll likely injure yourself. This is for a number of reasons, from the increase of tiny muscle tears that aren’t given time to recover, to the loss of form of a tired body. After intense exercise, our main muscle groups become tired and lazy, meaning poor form in further exercises. Poor form can lead to injury. On a side note, this is how I managed to get IT band syndrome on BOTH my legs only 4 months apart, putting me out for around a year off and on. Whilst I wasn’t training as much as others, the intensity of training was too much too soon, and caused my form to get worse, causing long term injuries. You really, REALLY don’t want this.

Allows the build-up of muscle

When we workout, we cause tiny muscle-fibre tears, that can thankfully be repaired by our immune system and adequate amounts of protein in our diet. However, this takes time and rest, and as above, without this tears can accumulate, leading to bigger muscle tears and injury. Rest days are needed to build back up muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissues. This is why it’s important to stagger muscle-group workout days, not working out the same muscle group for around three days after you last worked it out.

Better sleep

Interestingly, middle amounts of exercise help sleep a huge amount, but too much exercise can actually negatively affect sleep. Over-training increases the hormone, which is not only the stress hormone, but also the hormone that wakes you up in the morning. Having too much of it will wake you up in the night and keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep. You can find out if this is happening to you by measuring your resting heart rate (RHR) on a day you’re well rested and again when you think you might be over training. A raised RHR is a telltale sign that your body is on high alert, which could be due to over-training.

Better resistance to illness

Your immune system takes a hit when you’re tired, as it has to work extra hard to repair muscles and joints, alongside its usual job of fighting off millions of pathogens everyday. More rest gives your immune system a break too, meaning it’s better able to fight off any lurgies that are around.

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Nutrition is as important (if not more) on rest days as workout days. Pack in the protein! 

The reasons why you should rest vary a little depending on why type of exercise you do – lifting weights causes different issues to running long distance, but the essential point remains: rest is essential to progress. Rest days don’t have to involve hours of inactivity – getting up and walking around is important to keep muscles warm and your heart healthy. However, if your workouts are usually light to moderate intensity, rest days can involve a little more physical activity, for example yoga, pilates, a (very) slow and short jog or a longer walk. Food wise, you’ll need a little less food on your rest day but don’t be fooled: you may not be working out that day, but our bodies still burn more calories the day after a heavy session, meaning that you’ll require more food than if you had taken the whole day off.

 

Prescription for rest day:

  • Lots of protein
  • Slightly less carbs than usual
  • No intense exercise – a light jog at most, but don’t overdo it!
  • This is NOT a cheat day: using your rest day as a cheat day won’t do your body or mind any favours. Plan it like a training day and nourish yourself accordingly.
  • Stretch and foam roll

 

Finding out what works for you may take a bit of time and fiddling, but making sure you keep a track of how you feel will mean you can ace your rest day like any other day of training.

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Sleep is life