Browsing Category


Meet our ‘adventure playground for adults’ winner

9NINE adventure playground for adults

“It was so much fun – I haven’t laughed that much in ages.” Those were the words of Melissa Bond, who won a pair of VIP tickets in our ‘adventure playground for grown-ups’ competition.

The 33-year-old took along her husband, Cliff, to the Hackney-based event, which gave adults a chance to rediscover their inner child on a raft of equipment including a giant climbing frame, six metre tall slide, log swings, space hoppers and ball pits.

More than 3,000 people attended the sold-out weekend – hosted by seed food brand 9NINE – which aimed to raise awareness around the benefits of play on happiness and wellbeing.

And it certainly worked for this Bexley Heath-based couple, who have two boys aged four and six.

“Cliff and I hardly get any time together out of the house as I work most evenings and it can be tricky to find babysitters,” said Melissa, who runs her own fitness business. “It was lovely to spend some quality time together. Cliff had an absolute blast and it was great way for him unwind after work.”

So what was Melissa’s favourite piece of equipment?

Nine adventure playground for adults

“I couldn’t decide between the swings and the see-saw. I felt free on the swings and loved seeing how high I could get towards the sky.  The see-saw was lots of fun too, although with my hubby being a tad bit heavier than me he had to do all the work and nearly sent me flying on a couple of occasions,” she laughed. “We were also lucky enough to enjoy some of the 9NINE products. The seed bombs were soooo yummy!”

I was able to enjoy the moment

The busy mum also learned a valuable lesson from her adventure playground experience. “I need to take more time out from work and home life and plan more activities that involve play,” she confessed. “For once I was able to enjoy the moment and not let my thoughts distract me from what I was doing.”

Melissa also had some lovely words to say about our blog, which she discovered after 9NINE published our post on the competition.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying the content and getting loads of ideas,” she said. “As a wife, mum to two boys and business owner finding time to relax is a challenge. The more I learn about health and fitness, the more it is becoming apparent that rest and relaxation are very important for body and mind.”

Thanks for your kind words Melissa!

This was our second giveaway. Amanda Johnstone was the winner of our ‘summer skin care’ hamper worth over £100.

And the good news is this isn’t last of our competitions  – we currently have another very exciting one in the pipeline, so watch this space!

If you’d like our blog posts delivered straight to your inbox, just pop your email address in the ‘subscribe’ box underneath my picture.



Competitions, Fitness, Health, Wellness

7 reasons to give e-biking a spin

E-biking up Box Hill with Inghams Holidays

“We’re going to cycle up Box Hill,” our  chirpy, energetic PR sings rather excitedly. I laugh hysterically and shake my head. “You’re joking, right?” “Nope,” she answers, in an equally cheery tone.

I know Box Hill like the back of my hand as I went to school in Dorking, Surrey. Many a lunch hour was spent at the top of the summit overlooking the North Downs and many a night was spent at the bottom of it throwing shapes on the dance floor at the Burford Bridge Hotel, the home of Sixth Form dinner dances and various parties.

And I can confirm one thing.

It. Is. Very. STEEP.

And you know what? This is the very same location that formed part of the road race cycling event in the London 2012 Olympic Games!

Now, I’m as competitive as the best of them. And I’m certainly not one to make excuses despite the battering my health has taken of late. But I’m no flippin’ Olympian. “You don’t need to be,” the PR laughs. “We’ll be going up on e-bikes.”

This is music to my ears although I’ve never seen an electric bike before let alone ridden one. Ray Wookey, founder of Cycling Made Easy, an e-bike retailer in the UK, gives our group a quick demonstration.

Although electric bikes have a battery pack, you still have to pedal otherwise you’ll fall off. But it’s good to know that I have three ‘boost’ options to help navigate the trickier parts of the hill. I get to grips with my bike in the car park of Denbies Wine Estate and merrily pedal along before tapping the magic box next to my handlebars. Whoosh – there’s instant power. It feels rather exhilarating.

We file out of the car park and head straight to the base of Box Hill. My legs are burning within minutes of tackling the steep ascent so I tap the booster box – moments later I’m hurtling up the track at breakneck speed. It’s fan-bloody-tastic and in no time at all I’m admiring the view from the top.


Yes, I’m slightly huffing and puffing –  you still have to cycle – but I’m not drenched in sweat. No wonder then that Berchtesgaden in Germany, Kranjska Gora in Slovenia and Alta Badia in Italy are popular e-biking destinations. It really is a rather fantastic way to get about.

According to an Inghams Lakes & Mountains poll of 2,000 holidaymakers, almost two thirds would try a new activity on holiday. And nearly a quarter said they’d be motivated to return to a destination if it offered plenty of activities they hadn’t tried before. I’m with them on that one.

If you’d have told me at a month ago that I’d be cycling to the top of Box Hill, I would never have believed you. Bradley Wiggins I am not. But with an e-bike it seems anything is possible and I was left giggling like a schoolgirl all over again.



Below Ray Wookey, who sells E-bikes from his Cycling Made Easy stores in Coulsdon and Tunbridge Wells, talks us through the common e-biking myths and gives seven reasons why you should give it a go. 

E-biking is in fact very good exercise. The motor doesn’t do anything unless you are pedalling. Just like on a stationary bike at the gym, you can choose the level of physical effort you wish to put in, simply at the touch of a button. Of course, the advantage of an e-bike over a stationary exercise bike is that you can get out and about. E-biking out in the beautiful British countryside beats sweating it out in a gym. Our own research shows that people go out on their e-bikes between three and four times a week, which matches up to recommended exercise guidelines.

A reliable e-bike starts at £899 but most people will spend around £2000. This might seem a lot at first, but the cost of e-biking is front-loaded. Ongoing costs are minimal. Charging the battery from flat to full takes no more electricity than the amount used to boil a kettle – about 10 pence worth. As e-bikes are classed legally as bicycles, you don’t have to spend money on insurance, MOTs, nor will you have to worry about petrol prices or parking charges. Many of our customers have stopped buying train season tickets, because there are e-bikes which cost less, and are a more reliable way to get to work.

There are as many types of people who use e-bikes as there are bikes themselves. Young professional commuters like the convenience and money saving aspect, experienced mountain bikers enjoy the fact that they can cycle as aggressively uphill as they do downhill, and then there are many people who use e-bikes as a way to cycle together. With e-assistance, no-one gets left behind. You can always lean on the bike to help you keep up with more experienced riders.

Most people will find that an e-bike has a positive effect on their fitness. Cycling is a low-impact exercise anyway, and with adjustable e-assistance, you can take the pressure off your joints – especially your knees – and still get a cardio workout. You would certainly find you go out cycling more often on an e-bike than a conventional bike, because they help you overcome so many barriers.

‘Cheating’ is something often thrown at e-bikers. It’s only cheating in the same way that escalators are the ‘cheat’s version’ of stairs. Most e-bikers are not looking for a way to get out of exercising. It’s quite the opposite. They want to ride something that encourages them to cycle more often. It’s not cheating if you are choosing two-wheels to get your errands done, to get to work, to explore on holiday, or countless other reasons.

If you know how to ride a bike, you can use an e-bike. Changing the e-assistance levels is no more complicated than pressing up and down buttons on a little panel on the handlebars. It is probably more difficult to ring the bell. The computer systems inside the motor and head display do all the clever stuff. All you have to do is choose your power level and start pedalling.

Most good e-bikes are around 20kg. This is lighter than a Boris bike. There’s a lot of variation depending on the components on the bike. Full-suspension adds a few kilos, but sportier models will have lighter frames. The magic of e-bikes is that no matter how heavy the bike, they feel like incredibly light bikes when in motion, as the e-assistance handles the weight. Conventional bikes suffer under extra weight. Often cyclists will forfeit the convenience of a rack and panniers, the security of a heavy-duty lock, or the versatility of bigger tyres, because they’re worried about weight.With an e-bike, all these options are open to you. Weight simply doesn’t bother an e-bike.

For more information visit:


Fitness, Travel, Wellness


Patrick Beach, Virgin Active global yoga ambassador, has been working with the gym chain to demystify yoga and launched a new Calm by Candlelight yoga class earlier this year.  Rolling out across selected VA clubs in the UK, I popped along to Virgin Active The Strand to give the session a try [read review here] and asked Patrick, a former basketball player, why yoga became his passion.

I was so stiff from playing highly competitive basketball that, when I sat on the floor, I could barely touch my shins. I was just very tight all over. My mum showed me a few very simple hip stretches. I started to explore more areas of the discipline and tried different poses every day. I also began reading all kinds of books on yoga postures. That’s where I learned about handstands. The first time I tried one I completely crashed and was such a mess. Then I figured it all out very quickly. I found it so much fun to play around on my hands. Yoga also opens up my hips and centres me.

I’m not saying that being competitive is bad but before I was playing a lot of sport centered around being the best and beating others. Yoga was a complete shift from this, in my thought process and thinking, and it gave me a new sense of balance. So often people want to do things that they don’t really know how to accomplish then they let it go or stress about why they can’t do it. What yoga helps me do is actually figure out and align what I want to do in my mind with what steps I need to take to get there.

I’m a pretty even-keeled person, but before practising yoga I used to get stressed out quite a lot so I found it a brilliant way to not freak out about too many things. Also, to understand my responsibilities and the things I needed to be doing to align my intentions with my actions. This has helped me become a much calmer person.

About a decade.

This is such a funny thought because there is a yoga move for every body type. Also, there is a yoga style for every individual, so you can never be too flexible or inflexible. You can never be too strong or weak. You can never be too old or young. Not everyone is going to be the same and you don’t need to try and be the same. You just want the moves to feel good to you. The more you begin to understand that as a realisation, the easier it is to understand that yoga is for you just as much as it is for anyone else.


USE SAUNAS: heat therapy, in general, is a really good way to relax your whole body.

EAT GOOD FOOD: take time to prepare meals, allot a specific time to eat a full meal and do not rush.

SWITCH OFF: when I’m feeling wound up I’ll give myself a specific time to turn off my phone, TV or any form of technology.
It really helps the mind decompress.

MEDITATE: Take yourself away to a darkened room and sit upright with your eyes closed. Mini-meditation is a brilliant way to switch off and calm down your mind

PRACTISE: regular yoga and find the poses that help you mellow out

Fitness, Wellness


Candlelight yoga

Imagine a confused elephant attempting to wrap his trunk around one of his back legs. That’s me doing yoga. Quite frankly, I have the flexibility of a board. You’ll never catch me performing a graceful swan-esque pose on Instagram because I simply don’t have the skill.

So when Virgin Active invited me to try  Calm by Candlelight, a new type of class suitable for all abilities and aimed at those who lead a stressful lifestyle, I was intrigued. Created by the gym chain’s global yoga ambassador Patrick Beach, the part-physical, part-mental workout is intended to help people “switch off” with a focus on ‘restoration and rejuvenation’.

The promise of walking away ‘feeling so much better physically and mentally’ was irresistible as my health was all over the place. Some days I had energy and would operate at 65 per cent, other times I’d be in bed by 8pm utterly wiped out with intermittent stabbing pains all over my body. So, I only agreed to give the hour-long class a whirl under the premise that I could sneak out if things got too much.

It was a bitterly cold and rainy January evening as I made my way to the swanky Virgin Active gym on The Strand, London before taking up my position in a room full of lithe beautiful, twenty-something yogis. To say I felt out of place was an understatement but it didn’t matter. The room was dark. (Obviously Helen, it’s a Calm By Candlelight class)

“I collapsed in a heap and sent my block flying into one of the ladies next to me”

I inhaled deeply – not because we were told to, that would come later – but because beautiful silver lanterns had been dotted around the wooden floor and the space was so pretty.  I then spied a BLANKET among the blocks, bolsters and straps that had been placed alongside my mat. Things looked promising.

Patrick explained that we’d be using the props to help us maintain a series of postures that would concentrate on stretching and recovery. Against the soundtrack of his calming American lilt, we tuned into our bodies and became fully aware of our breathing before slowly easing our way into a number of poses. One, a deep hip opener named Pigeon, caused me to collapse in a heap and sent my block flying into one of the ladies next to me. Not the best start.

“Within five minutes someone in the front was snoring”

We were supposed to be melting into each position  – the ultimate aim was to unwind. And yet, I found it difficult to maintain the move for the recommended five minutes while everybody else seemed to be managing effortlessly. Was I too inflexible? Was my body simply not well enough? Neither, it would seem. Patrick came over and tweaked my alignment.  Immediately, I felt more comfortable and felt the benefit of the stretch. At the end of the class, we were instructed to lie down underneath the blanket and think pleasant thoughts.  Within five minutes someone in the front row was SNORING.  I felt mildly envious.

This class definitely calmed me down. I awoke muscles I never knew existed, didn’t stress my body in the process and also felt as though my posture had greatly improved. Although I initially panicked about being unable to properly maintain some of the poses, I was fine when Patrick corrected me. Before I became unwell, I’d play tennis, hit the gym and run a few times a week and occasionally do a Vinyasa Yoga class, an altogether faster and somewhat sweaty affair. Calm by Candlelight is entirely different. Adrenaline junkies might find this class too slow but the clue is in the title. The icing on the cake was snuggling under a blanket at the end of the session and letting my mind wander to a care-free place. I left feeling utterly blissed out…until I had to take the tube.

Calm by Candlelight classes are available at selected Virgin Active clubs throughout the UK


Fitness, Helen's Health, In the news, Wellness