Welcome and Keep Moving

Wondering how to keep fit and active during your time at KCL?  You might already have found a sport or activity that you love with a passion.  If so, that’s great!  You’ll almost certainly find a club or society where you can get involved at your comfort level.  If not, no worries!  It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment and find an activity to suit your level and approach and you can even set up your own society if it doesn’t already exist.  Read on for a bit of guidance and a few fun challenges to help you get moving at King’s.

Active KCL – Take Advantage!

Check out the wide variety of sports and movement-based activities on offer.  Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just looking for a way to keep moving with some fun activities in an informal setting, there’s something for everyone at KCL.

You can choose from club sport on the KCL Sport website, the gym, the many KCLSU sports societies and don’t forget Be Active; KCL’s social sport programme.  At only £25 for the year (free if you’re in halls) it’s a bargain and has something to bring out the inner active side of even the most reluctant sportspeople among you!

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No need to suffer through workouts you  don’t enjoy!

The new Active Wellness scheme is also there to support students experiencing mental health difficulties to implement a health and fitness programme to help optimise physical and mental wellbeing.

Keep Active Challenge: London on Foot

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Tempting as it may be to jump on the Underground to get around, take advantage of the autumn weather to scope out the local area around your accommodation and campus on foot.  Go exploring with some people from your halls or course and identify some nice cafes, pubs or eateries to unwind after lectures. Don’t forget to check if you get a student discount!

Discover some of London’s many parks and green spaces and maybe arrange to walk to campus a couple of days a week (weather permitting!) to kick-start your day with some fresh air and gentle exercise.  You could even book a free walking tour with Free Tours by Foot with some new acquaintances and get to know the city and your fellow students at the same time.

Keep Active Challenge: Being Healthy and Active Your Way

Take 10 minutes to peruse the vast array of sports and activities on offer.  Find one that suits you, your fitness level and approach to exercise and give it a go!

You might also like to check out our very own Wellbeing Coach Wilna’s blog post about her journey to  fitness and marathon running and the benefits it’s brought to her physical and mental health here!

Wilna running Wellbeing Coach Wilna getting into the running zone!



University Mental Health Day 2017 – Why I Run

We hope you are looking forward to University Mental Health Day tomorrow as much as we are! This year, the theme is ‘active mental health’ and our Wellbeing Coach Wilna Gracias ,who is organising this year’s event, was keen to reflect on the benefits that her passion for running has brought to her own physical and mental health.  To take part in UMHD 2017 and #moveit4mentalhealth, check out the timetable of events here.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Wilna running Why I Run – Wilna Gracias (Wellbeing Coach)

If you would have told the 15 year old me that the older me would be a marathoner, I would have laughed in your face.

Back then I was your average overweight teen that spent most of her time in front of a TV and/or on the couch doing homework.   In an effort to feel good about myself, I tried all the fad diets and extreme weight loss techniques out there (remember Taebo and sweat suits).  However, I failed after each attempt and each time was left feeling powerless.  I turned to food to soothe these feelings and hence added to the stress.

Fast forward to 2010. I’m living in New York City working as a social worker, and overall, feeling pretty accomplished.  They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere and to the outside world, I had made it. With two degrees under my belt and a growing career, I had it all.  Except for that feeling of failure and powerlessness that was associated with being overweight.  It crept up when I looked in the mirror, when I went shopping for clothes, and even when I made choices about what to eat.  I could no longer deny it or cover it up-I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin.  It was time to do something.  I chose to RUN.



I ran my first half-marathon in April of 2010 and haven’t stopped running since.  I’ve run over 9 half-marathons in 2 different countries (US and UK). I have also run 4 marathons with Team for Kids, including this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon just last week.  Team for Kids is a group of adult runners from around the world who add meaning to their miles by raising funds for New York Road Runner’s Youth and Community Services programmes. The funds raise provide low cost-health and fitness programs to kids who would otherwise have little or no access to regular physical activity.  These programmes serve over 200,000 children in more 1,000 schools each year.

Not only have I shed the unwanted pounds and poor body image, I have re-gained control of my body, health, and life.  So when I’m asked why I run, the truth is that it reminds me that I’m EMPOWERED.  Running reminds me that I have the power to change my life.  Running reminds me that power is believing in yourself and working towards your goals.  Most importantly, running reminds me that power is not something you keep to yourself, but share with others.  Thus far, I have raised over $6,000 for Team for Kids and hope to continue to do so in the years to come.  I want to share to the gift of running with as many people as possible.  It has changed my life and I know it can change others’ lives as well.


New Year New Start with King’s Wellbeing

New Year New Start: Build your vision for 2017

 Welcome back to King’s and Happy New Year!  As we step into 2017, our thoughts might be turning to academic and personal goals for the coming months.  Sometimes, we can be tempted to set ourselves lofty targets that leave us more stressed than motivated and feeling disappointed when we don’t meet our own expectations.  How many of us have banished all treats, signed up to the gym and pledged to spend an inordinate number of hours in the library, only to find ourselves binge-watching our favourite Netflix series, unhealthy snacks in hand a couple of weeks later?  We’ve all been there! And that’s OK.

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King’s Wellbeing takes a different approach.  Firstly, we want you to celebrate your achievements in 2016.  What went well? What are you proud of? Take a moment to reflect.  And what did you learn?  Even if everything didn’t go quite to plan, there is always something that we can take forward into the future to help us grow and we can feel proud of ourselves for making it through a difficult period.

Next week marks the start of our New Year New Start campaign and there’s a reason why we don’t subscribe to the ‘New Year New You’ motto that emerges every January.  We don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with the old you! We believe in the resourcefulness of all our students to build on the foundation that is already there and become the best version of themselves.

So, let’s not focus exclusively on what we want to change and dwell too much on the negatives.  Let’s look at where we want to be, what we want to achieve, and see 2017 as a year of new possibilities.  Try and focus on manageable and tangible goals as part of an incremental process of positive growth.  Don’t forget to recognise your successes along the way, however small, and remember to take care of your wellbeing!  If you’re struggling to identify your goals and how to get there and would benefit from some support, why not make an appointment for some wellbeing coaching?

 Don’t forget also that in addition to King’s Wellbeing, there are a multitude of services on campus to help you attain your academic, personal and health and fitness goals. Check out Study Skills, English Language Centre, King’s Sport and Be Active as a starting point.  If you’re trying to connect more with the KCL community, have a look at the KCLSU societies – from film and literature, to hot chocolate, to circus skills, there’s truly something for everyone! Looking for a friendly face and a listening ear to talk things over in confidence?  You can always get in touch with the KCL peer supporters or the Chaplaincy.  

For New Year New Start, King’s Wellbeing will also be around on every campus over the next two weeks to help you to get off on the right foot and provide a space to reflect on how to boost your wellbeing.  Join us for interactive stalls, relaxation workshops, yoga and more! New Year New Start needn’t be daunting and can even be fun!


Healthy Lifestyle – Term-time Tips

Looking for some tips for keeping healthy during the busy term?  Don’t fear, Fight The Fads are here!

Stress Eating 

Fresher’s ended and term has begun, so it’s time to get back down to some work. Balancing deadlines, lectures and our social lives means long hours in the library and health and well-being can take a back seat. So we wanted to share with you our three top tips for staying healthy during the busy term!

Meal Prep Sunday! 

On Sunday, we plan our meals for the week, and make sure we cook some additional portions so that we don’t need to spend much time cooking during the week. Prepping your weeks meals will help you eat more healthy and will also save you some pennies…We use tupperware to store meals in portions in the freezer.

Snack O’Clock

While studying it can be very easy to reach out to the vending machine in the corner of the library or pop in the nearest fast food chain. But we make sure we have enough snacks to prevent this from happening, as too many of these snacks will make you fat and also will not help you concentrate! We choose:
-fresh and dried fruits
-carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery sticks with hummus or an avocado dip

Work Out

Make sure you stay active to de-stress from a long day. Whether that’s a morning run, walking to uni/work, taking up a new sport, or having 5 minute breaks to walk up and down some stairs: Get moving! This will not only pump up your endorphins but it will also improve your concentration and mood.

My Journey with Yoga

As we enter the second week of Take Time Out 2016, which will see more opportunities for rest and relaxation, including yoga, mindfulness and tai chi, Wellbeing Coach and yoga enthusiast Belinda Okuya shares her own personal journey with yoga and the benefits it has brought to her wellbeing.

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KCL students practising yoga with instructor Jennifer during the 2016 Take Time Out campaign


My Journey with Yoga – KCL Wellbeing Coach Belinda Okuya

The name yoga derives from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’, ‘to join’, the mind, body and spirit, through the practice of postures, meditation and controlled breathing. There are many different types of yoga, but they all serve the same aforementioned purpose.

I started practicing yoga regularly about three years ago. It’s been a steady development of myself and my body throughout that time. Developing my stamina, my posture, my strength, my breathing and my focus. My evolving relationship with the practice of yoga reflects the evolution of my relationship with my mind and body too. I have gained physical and mental strength by pushing beyond my boundaries, and greater clarity and calm by connecting with my mind through my body on a deeper level. I’ve learnt that whatever I experience on the mat I experience in my world, which has helped me to grow and develop greater self-understanding and compassion.

Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being”. Joel Kramer

Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga are many and varied. Like many things in life you get out of it what you’re ready to put in. Unlike many other forms of exercise there is a spiritual element to yoga, which is a part of the practice that you can choose, along with your body, to explore further, each time you get on the mat. Otherwise some of the other well-known benefits are:

  • Stress relief – reduce the physical effects of stress on the body.
  • Better breathing – Yoga slows down and deepens the breath, which activates the body’s parasympathetic system (relaxation response).
  • Weight management – A study from the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that regular yoga practice was associated with less age-related weight gain.
  • Increased strength – Yoga postures use every muscle in the body.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning – Yoga practice increases endurance and oxygen supply to the body.
  • Calm and relaxation – Regular yoga practice has a meditative quality.

From Yoga Alliance.

“Yoga is the Journey of the Self, Through the Self, To the Self” – Bhagavad Gita

Take Time Out moves to the Maughan Library!


What a fantastic first week of the Take Time Out campaign we had last week! Amidst the revision, there were daily yoga and meditation sessions, free fruit and water, countless smoothies made on the ever-popular smoothie bike and lots of smiles and laughter.


As exams near, it can be tempting to lock yourself away in the library, but King’s Wellbeing and King’s Sport are here to show you another way; one that allows you to be kind to yourself and still aim for peak performance.  This week, we’re outside the Maughan Library until the 14th of May, with a range of activities to help you keep active and chill out during revision breaks and more healthy snacks and freebies. Hope to see you there!WP_20160505_10_58_40_Pro (002)

You can follow the Take Time Out campaign as it happens here: https://twitter.com/kingswellbeing

Tai Chi for Take Time Out

Jalal profile picAs part of the Take Time Out campaign, Careers Consultant Jalal Afhim will be running tai chi sessions on:

Monday the 9th of May at the Maughan Library 5-6pm

Monday the 16th of May at Guy’s campus from 5-6pm. 

Here, Jalal tells us about the different elements of the Chen style of tai chi and how it can benefit our wellbeing.

Chen style tai chi

Chen Style tai chi (or taijiquan) originated in central China, when Ming Dynasty general Chen Wangting (1580-1660) combined his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and external martial arts, with internal martial arts/self-cultivation techniques originating in the Taoist community at Wudang Mountain. The martial art was taught only within the family, from one generation to the next, until Chen Changxing taught his servant Yang Luchan. Yang went on to found Yang Style tai chi. The last 30 years have seen Chen Style being taught well beyond its traditional confines, as the Chen family have worked hard to bring their art to a wider audience. In particular Chen Xiaowang’s efforts have led to the founding of tai chi schools and groups across Europe, Australia, and the United States.Jalal 1

Tai chi demonstrations at Take Time Out

I will be demonstrating some reeling silk (chan si) exercises. Reeling silk is a type of movement fundamental to Chen Style, and not obviously present in the other tai chi styles. It is a consistent part of the Chen Style curriculum, and builds leg strength, hip flexibility, and the spiralling movement (luo xuan) from which Chen Style derives its power. See videos of Chen Xiaowang or Chen Xiaoxing (his brother) on Youtube for demonstrations of power (fa jin/fa li) or reeling silk. I will also demonstrate some chi gong techniques, and the opening of the empty hand long form known as Laojia Yilu.

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Other elements to Chen style tai chi training (not being demonstrated)

The curriculum in Chen Style is varied, and includes the following:

  • Weapon forms: dadao (halberd), straight sword, saber, spear, pole, three-section staff
  • Pole-shaking
  • Standing post (a static chi-gong exercise)
  • Silk reeling (single & double handed, static & stepping)
  • Push hands (single & double-handed, static & stepping, semi- and full-contact)
  • Empty hand long form, first route (Laojia Yilu)
  • Cannon Fist (Laojia Erlu)

Benefits to Wellbeing

Tai chi is both a martial art, and a form of exercise which nurtures good health and wellness. It is very versatile in that it can be practiced in a physically demanding way for the more athletically inclined, or a less demanding way for those who are older or frailer. It promotes:

  • Enhanced body awareness and control (can also help posture)
  • Relaxation, both physical and mental
  • Balance and leg strength (especially useful for the elderly)
  • Healthy circulation (helping joint health)
  • Good digestion (due to the waist rotation movements and abdominal breathing)
  • Self-defence (although this takes longer to develop than most martial arts)

Where to learn more

  • You can read about the Chen Family school in Henan Province, China, here. This is where I was taught.
  • The school in Chenjiagou has a UK branch, here.
  • There is a good exponent of Chen Style teaching in London, here.

“The best way to conquer London is to run London.”

Our very own Wellbeing Coach Wilna Gracias reflects on her experience of running the London marathon.


“The best way to conquer London is to run London.”

This has been my motto from the very beginning of my relationship with London when I hopped across the pond in 2014.  It was a much-anticipated move and I looked forward to the many adventures this new home would have for me.  However, what I did not anticipate were the many challenges it would also bring.  From finding a job to making friends, I learned early on that establishing myself in a new country would take some time and effort.  So whenever I found myself frustrated or sad or anxious about my transition, I went for a run.  It was during these runs that I allowed myself room to feel every emotion, think about my next steps, play out all the possible outcomes, and build the courage to keep moving forward despite setbacks.  For me the running was all about keeping myself emotionally and mentally healthy.

It also gave me an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and parks throughout the city.  For example, I enjoyed running along the trails of Richmond Park and seeing the hundreds of dear on the lawns.  I joined Nike’s Run Club last summer and ran my first race in Victoria Park.  This past year I started a half-marathon in front of Hampton Court Palace.  And with each run London became more familiar, more like home.

So when an opportunity arose to run the London Marathon with my charity from back home, Team for Kids, and I knew I had do it.  I’ve spent several hours each week for the past few months training for my first marathon in the UK. As I made my way to the marathon expo, I found myself feeling extremely emotional.  As I held back tears, I realized in many ways, my training for the marathon had been a metaphor for my transition to London. I have been challenged and stretched. I’ve loved it and hated it. I’ve thought “What the heck did I get myself into?” and “Thank you for this awesome experience!”


On Sunday, 24th April, not only did I get to run London, I conquered it by spending 6 hours reminiscing over the almost past 2 years of experiences and planning for what is yet to come.  As I ran past iconic places such as the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, I paid my respects to London and gave it everything I had to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for being a part of my journey and this chapter in my life.  I’m excited for our future together.