Swing into spring!

The longer days are here and for many golfers – it’s “that time of year”. We asked our PGA head professional Mark Watt for some top tips to get seasoned, novice and returning players back into the swing of things.

“First off, get yourself and your equipment ready, especially if your clubs are caked in dirt from last year,” says Mark. “You may need clubs re-gripped or even need new ones, so take a look at what new products have come out that may help improve your game.

“Start with some practice sessions. Hit lots of wedge shots and aim at different targets to develop feel and control. This will also get your body moving again after the winter lay off. Also, get yourself around the putting green to practise chipping and putting.

“Don’t take those early games too seriously and give yourself plenty of time to improve this season. If you feel you’re struggling come and have some tuition. Our lessons start from just £11 for a quick-fix session.

“And this has been a very wet winter so do keep in mind your game may need readjusting in the first few weeks of the season. We look forward to seeing you soon!”

Find out more about Lullingstone Park Golf Course

Play for less this winter! Take a look at our special winter rates – available until 31 March 2020.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it”

For many of us, losing weight is like a modern-day holy grail. Time-strapped lifestyles, pressure from many directions and easy access to (relatively) cheap foods that are high on convenience but low – or even non-existent – when it comes to nutritional value, contribute little to the ideal notion of healthy living.

Few people know this better than Sencio member Shaun Seldon and, having lost six stone in under a year against a backdrop of bereavement, his story is one he hopes will inspire others.

“Weight loss was never easy for me and I’d tried for many years to take control of my diet but would invariably derail when the slightest hurdle or temptation got in the way,” says the 37-year-old technical support analyst from Dunton Green.

“Frankly my lifestyle was far from healthy and, looking back now, I would go so far as to say it was pretty self-destructive.

“My Mum was always concerned about my weight and my health in general and when we lost her on Boxing Day 2018 after a very short, two-month fight following a brain tumour diagnosis it seemed to be the wake-up call I needed,” explains Shaun.

Two months later, in February 2019, he made the decision that he was going to turn his life around for the better. Then weighing-in at 145 kg (22.8 stone) Shaun had, within just 10 months, dropped to 105 kg, losing six stone in the process.

That colossal achievement looks all very well set down in paper but the reality, of course, is that it can require a Herculean effort when it comes to discipline and dedication. For Shaun – and looking back – he believes it was a three-prong attack that put him on course for his impressive results.

“Mental health is absolutely key as far as I’m concerned and unless your head is in the right place you’re unlikely to stay on track. You have to want to do this for you; not because you feel bound by peer pressure or the endless images we seem to be surrounded by these days of the social media-fixated body beautiful” says Shaun.

“Secondly, I had to sort out my diet, ditching loads of processed foods for ‘clean’ eating, increasing my protein intake and seriously changing the role of food in my life from instant gratification to it being essential fuel for energy, focus, performance and all-round better health.”

Addressing the sort of uphill battle Shaun faced when it came to weight loss can also be a lonely one and he’s quick to stress the role of friend and personal trainer James Arnold.

“James started off by easing me back into exercise gradually. We increased my cardio as well as the amount of time and intensity when it came to using weights. As I improved and got stronger, James kept mixing things up to shock the body and, most importantly, to keep me motivated

“I now do on average three sessions a week, so it proves that you don’t have to be in the gym every day to achieve results as long as things like healthy eating and good quality sleep go hand-in-hand with exercise.”

For James Arnold, a member of the Wellness team at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre, it was important to look at every aspect of Shaun’s lifestyle to ensure he was on the correct road to weight loss.

“Shaun had been overweight for many years, he’d gone through a bereavement and had a Hiatus hernia, so we needed to take all of this into consideration,” says James.

“He put in all the work, overcoming many mental and physical obstacles and his commitment and hard work paid off. Training Shaun has been a pleasure and I know he will keep up his new lifestyle. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

In response, Shaun is keen to praise James for the invaluable role he’s played in their partnership.

“His help has proved invaluable on my journey – I just couldn’t have done it without him or without the friendly, supportive environment at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre. Crucially, James has made this whole experience fun.

“Our workouts are never dull. In fact, if people could see and hear us they’d think we’re a couple of lunatics. Beneath that, however, there’s no mistaking James is one extremely tough task master.”

How would Shaun sum-up the past year and what advice has he for others facing what they see as insurmountable barriers to getting started?

“The best thing is when you start to notice the results. That’s mostly in your clothes but it’s also when other people notice and are kind enough to tell you so. That’s when the snowball effect kicks-in and it’s this that really gives me the focus I need to keep going,” says Shaun.

“I’m not one for shouting about what I’ve achieved from the rooftops but what I will say is that if there’s anyone reading this thinking ‘I can’t do it, what’s the point?’, then I hope they might look at my story and think ‘Well, if he can do it, then so can I,’”.

 If you need help or advice on weight loss or exercise speak to a member of the Wellness team at your nearest Sencio Community Leisure centre.

Developing young bodies…and minds

We all expect children to be active, curious and challenging when it comes to the world in which they’re developing as human beings – but it’s no easy ask in a digitally-driven age when screen time can take priority over just about everything else and in which technology can appear a dominant force from infancy.

Physical activity and early childhood development though are key, with many learned voices warning we ignore their importance at our peril and, in the process, set the scene for a raft of physical and social issues in the years ahead. Not least of all, what has been described by some as a “childhood obesity timebomb”.

Tennis world number two Novak Djokovic set up a foundation in his native Serbia with the aim of giving every child a pre-school education. To date, the foundation has built 43 schools, trained almost 1600 teachers and helped more than 20,000 children. Unsurprisingly for an initiative set-up by one of the greatest sportsmen of his generation, the promotion of physical activity is a key focus for the Novak Djokovic Foundation.

A blog on its website says: “Physical activities should be integrated into young children’s lives to create a foundation of movement and activity which will be carried with them through the rest of their lives. It’s essential for a child’s development and helps lay the foundation for an active and healthy life.

Physical activities from a young age have various benefits which reach far beyond a young person’s development. A child can physically, mentally, socially and emotionally develop by taking part in exercise. The increasing use of technology in classrooms and day care focusing on mental activities rather than physical ones has led to the reduction of children’s movement and physical pursuits.”

Josie Male is a Kent-based yoga teacher and runs a children’s class at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre.  She’s a huge believer physical activity should be integrated into young children’s lives to create a foundation that will be carried with them into adulthood.

“It’s during early years children are more likely to want to try new activities, especially with their peer group. Capturing their imaginations early and mixing that enthusiasm with their inquisitive nature can offer great results,” says Josie.

“Such physical activities promote healthy growth and development of bones and muscles, as well as improving the cardiovascular system. Physical activity is also proven to help motor skills, concentration, thinking and reasoning– and it’s vital for how we develop socially and interact with others.”

There is, though, a wider, more pressing issue. In fact, such are the concerns over levels of childhood obesity that this country’s former chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies called for action across industry and the public sector to half the numbers by 2030.

A lack of physical activity in childhood can lay the basis for many health problems as well as cementing bad habits from the earliest age. The result can be weight gain, excessive body fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cardiovascular problems and issues with bone health.

The reverse is that active children have fewer chronic health problems and are less prone to various diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and mental illness.

“Those pre-school years are so important and we often ignore just how crucial a time this is for developing bodies and minds,” says Josie.

“I’m never more amazed than when a four-year-old in my yoga class shows me how to do the Sun Salutation sequence after just a couple of weeks of learning or when I hear the sound of a class full of voices singing the lyrics to one of the relaxation pieces.

“Engaging children in physical activity from an early age not only has boundless positive physical effects, it is hugely beneficial to their mental wellbeing and social interaction. It is something we simply must address for the future. The alternative is deeply worrying.”

Here at Sencio Community Leisure, we run a range of activities, classes and school holiday programmes for young people at our leisure centres, as well as junior golf lessons at Lullingstone Park Golf Course. Click on your local centre below to find out more. You can find out more about Josie’s work by going to: yogadoes.com




New Year revolutions

New Year’s resolutions hardly ever work. They’re usually unrealistic, invariably unsustainable and inevitably destined for failure. They are though laudable in their intentions so we asked staff across our leisure centres for their tips as 2020 dawns.

“A diet is for life, not just for January. In fact, banish the word from your vocabulary all-together and, instead, just think about a balanced diet based on healthy eating most of the time. You can, and still should have, treats.”
Maxine James-Horne, Wellness manager

“Life’s too short to deprive yourself of all the things you enjoy. If you like a drink, stick to having it as a weekend treat. And remember there are less waist-busting options. For example, a gin or vodka with slimline tonic has around a fifth the calories of a pint of beer”
Phil Wyatt, Wellness manager

“Just don’t even bother with resolutions is my view, especially when it comes to fitness. The best advice I can give anyone is find something you’ll enjoy. If you enjoy it, you’ll stick with it.”
James Arnold, Wellness supervisor

“Want to lose weight? It’s this simple – expend more calories than you consume.”
Connor Reid, duty manager

“Find out what type of exercise suits you. You might be someone for whom an hour in the gym by yourself, away from all of life’s pressures, is bliss. Or that could be your idea of ‘hell’ and you’re better suited to a more structured class environment with the camaraderie of others.”
Molly Cope, fitness instructor

“Forget getting fixated on dates such as a wedding or holiday. You’ll most likely be setting yourself unrealistic goals and are probably unlikely to stick with it. Try and think of exercise and healthy living as a lifestyle choice. And small, progressive changes are the best way forward.”
James Davis, leisure attendant/lifeguard

“If, once you hit your stride with exercise, you fall off the wagon (it can happen to us all) don’t beat yourself up. Just re-set and get back to things. It’s no big deal. Unless you keep doing it!”
Karren Halil, centre manager

“Gyms aren’t for everyone and there are many ways to keep fit. Walking is excellent. And swimming is great, especially if you’re less mobile or have an injury or certain medical conditions.”
Georgia Bedford, fitness instructor


Wishing you a healthy and active 2020, from all at Sencio!


Almost 140,000 children cannot swim the statutory 25 metres when they leave primary school. That’s a concerning one-in-four and, when you consider more than 400 people accidentally drown in the UK every year (one every 20 hours), the need for education and increased safety awareness in and around water is vital.

The worrying statistics are included in the latest available data from Swim England’s Active Lives Children and Young People report, while research findings released by the Royal Life Saving Society paint an equally disturbing picture.

In addition to the 400 lives lost each year, thousands more have near-drowning experiences, some resulting in life-changing injuries. And to add further to concerns, just 33 per cent of parents were confident their child knew how to be safe near water and 80 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted for Drowning Prevention Week felt water safety skills should be on the national curriculum.

“Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in children in the UK and in many cases, it would be avoidable if we placed more emphasis on education and safety awareness in and around water,” says Sencio Community Leisure chief executive Jane Parish.

“More than 60 children drown every summer in the UK and it’s possible to do so in as little as five centimetres of water. It is unacceptable that young people are losing their lives as a result of drowning and that two-thirds of parents aren’t confident of their child’s ability to remain safe in the pool, while on holiday or playing around water.”

Sencio Community Leisure runs an extensive programme of swimming lessons at its three centres offering up to 40 classes designed for everyone from parents and babies to juniors and adults.

They are all taught by professionally trained teachers following Swim England’s Learn to Swim programme – the leading national syllabus for the delivery of safe, inclusive and effective swimming lessons for all ages.

Mark Horne, a swimming instructor for Sencio Community Leisure, says:

“Swimming is, of course, a fun pursuit as well as a fantastic, gentle-on-the-joints way for people of all ages to stay fit and healthy. However, we must also take seriously that being equipped with the training to keep yourself safe in and around water – even to a basic level – is an essential life skill every single one of us should possess.

“Sencio has a comprehensive swimming and water education programme that runs in conjunction with school term times and is designed to offer a structured route through which children can progress under a nationally recognised scheme,” explains Mark.

“It’s also important to recognise there are many adults who never learnt to swim – or swim adequately or with confidence – when young and are therefore also at risk. It can be hard to admit to addressing a lack of basic skill in certain areas as we get older but our teachers can help anyone of any age make themselves safer when it comes to swimming and being in or near water.”

Sencio Community Leisure’s next course of swimming lessons begins the week of Monday January 6 and enrolment opens on Monday December 14.

Visit your local leisure centre’s website below to find out more:

Swimming lessons at Edenbridge

Swimming lessons at Sevenoaks

Swimming lessons at White Oak

Why group exercise classes can be the route to consistent enjoyment – and success!

Consistency is the holy grail of exercise and fitness but the reason those die-hards stick with it year-round is pretty simple – they’ve found something they really enjoy!

For some, the solitude of headphones and a lone gym workout might be just the prescription required to transport them from a high-stress existence but for many, the motivation required just leads to another excuse to avoid exercise all-together. That’s where the group fitness environment comes into its own and scores so highly.

For a start, if you put your name down for a class on a given day and time you’re far more likely to stick to the appointment. Add the company of a friend – or a group of work colleagues – and exercise becomes a sociable pursuit. And that “Sorry, I can’t make it today” text is just that little bit harder to send when someone else is relying on you (and vice-versa).

Research shows people experience increased levels of enjoyment and heightened feelings of satisfaction as well as working harder in a group setting (a little bit of friendly rivalry really is good for mind and body).

But there’s an important health message as well. Those exercising in a group enjoyed reductions in body mass, body fat percentage and total cholesterol as well as elevations in oxygen consumption and their lean body mass. And, on average, they delayed the onset of cardiovascular disease by three and half years. Not a bad bonus for having an hour of fun with friends once or twice a week is it?

Back to that latest research. It looked at the fitness experiences of almost 100 people at the same facility over a two-week period and identified the powerful role “the group effect” plays in positively influencing our overall workout experiences and, crucially, the likelihood that we’ll stick at it and come back for more.

And if images of lycra-clad, muscle-bound devotees has been putting you off signing up for a class– don’t let it! Not only are the vast majority of people attending exactly the same as each other (they’re mostly there to get the heart pumping, shed a few pounds and have a fun hour in a sociable setting) there really is a waistline-zapping choice available.

If you want to go “hard-core”, there are things like Les Mills Grit Strength, Body Pump, Zumba, Combat Fitness, Insanity (just as it says!) Sencio Cycle and Body Attack. Don’t be put-off by the names – Sencio’s knowledgeable, friendly instructors like nothing more than welcoming new people.

At the other end of the scale are classes in yoga, Pilates and PiYo (a mix of the two) as well as our “gentle” aerobics and aqua aerobics options and Prime Movers sessions. These are all designed to get you active at a less intense pace or in a way that benefits the mind as much as it does the body – and that’s pretty important in our fast-paced, high-stress world.

And, because the choice is so wide, don’t be afraid to try a few classes out to see which ones you like best. As with most things in life, one size doesn’t fit all, so experiment and you’ll hopefully soon find one that gives you the exercise “bug”.

Whatever your preference, because the group exercise setting is sociable, it’s fun. And because it’s fun, it becomes habit-forming.  Like we said, “simple”!


For more information about the research visit www.lesmills.com/fit-planet/fitness/proof-that-working-out-together-works-wonders 

Get in touch to find out about our corporate and joint memberships.

Conquering a life-long fear of water

For Debbie Bell, being pushed into the deep-end of an outdoor pool at the age of nine led to a 30-year fear of water – and a memory that, to this day, sends shivers down the spine.

Family finances meant that, as a teenager, she was unable to continue with lessons and although Debbie tried to acquire skills in the water, the sense of panic never really left her.

“Although I continued to develop my swimming skills on and off throughout my life, the fear of deep waters never left me,” explains Debbie.

“So much so that when knowing I was in the deep end of a pool (I never chanced swimming in open seas) I started to panic and swim frantically, consequently causing myself more physical damage than physical fitness.”

Fast-forward to June this year and Debbie, prompted by a frustration at not being able to enjoy holidays with her teenage sons, decided it was time to overcome decades of fear and sign-up for swimming lessons at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre.

“I decided it really was time to try and address this. My boys have had lessons since they were little – and one of them took swimming life guard for his GCSE – and it just dawned on me that I was missing out on family fun as well as obtaining a life skill we should all acquire and, unlike me, preferably when we’re young,” adds Debbie.

Her coach, Chris Coggin, says of his student: “It’s significantly harder to learn to swim as an adult as there is fear of failure and often a lack of self-assurance that comes naturally to many of us when we’re young. Debbie has done remarkably well in just a few lessons, developing skills and really building her confidence. She should be very proud of herself.”

Debbie adds: “I initially joined a very small group of just three other adults, all of different levels and abilities. It was only during the second package of lessons I’d purchase that I had the light bulb moment.

“Chris made me realise I can float and ‘tread water for longer than anyone needs to’ (his words) and following that he made me swim to the deep end, stop in the middle, tread water and then repeat the routine.

“He really made me notice and think about what I was already doing, like floating, swimming and treading water. But because of my fear I was subconsciously ignoring such skills and only focussing on the fear. From then on I went on to improving my techniques and even learning to dive, something I always envied about my boys swimming in lakes and sea.

“I have to say a huge ‘thanks’ to Chris for believing in me and for all the encouragement and support. This achievement has given me a boost of confidence, not just in water but in other areas of my life.”

Chris, who has represented Sevenoaks Swimming Club, recently graduated in economics from Oxford Brookes University and has just started studying for his masters, is passionate about helping people of all ages acquiring confidence and safety skills in and around water.

“Many adults have never learnt to swim properly either because they never had the proper opportunity or, as in Debbie’s case, they had a bad experience as a child,” says Chris.

“Swimming isn’t just a great way of keeping fit, it’s an invaluable life skill – especially when you consider 400 people die every year from drowning as a result of an accident in or around water.”

Find out more about swimming lessons with Sencio:

Swimming lessons at Edenbridge
Swimming lessons at Sevenoaks
Swimming lessons at White Oak

Staff complete centre-to-centre triathlon for Cystic Fibrosis

On Thursday 15 August staff raised over £750 when they swapped the gym and took to the road and swimming pool to complete a triathlon in aid of Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. Three young lives a week are currently lost to CF and a half of sufferers currently die before their 42nd birthday.

Here at Sencio Community Leisure we have chosen to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as part of our annual commitment to supporting a charitable cause. You can make a donation via our JustGiving page.

The centre-to-centre triathlon is one of a number of events we’ll be organising this year involving staff, customers and the local business community. The challenge saw James, Phil and Lewis from the gym, as well as leisure attendants, complete a series of challenges such as running, cycling and swimming the equivalent of the distances between leisure centres in Sevenoaks, Edenbridge and Swanley (up to 18.8. miles per challenge). Later this month, we’ll be hosting our annual charity golf day at Lullingstone Park Golf Course.

Two Sevenoaks parents whose children suffer from Cystic Fibrosis have lent their support for our fundraising efforts.

Alison Dillon’s 21-year-old son Oli was diagnosed when he was three months old and, over the years, has had a number of stays in hospital for IV antibiotics for a degenerative disease that, with every infection, brings the risk of irreversible lung damage.

“Some years back Oli caught flu and was desperately ill, losing 49 per cent of his lung function we were told he might not get back. Thankfully he did but it was a very scary time and brought the reality of CF crashing into our lives,” says Alison, who is an active campaigner for access to new medicines that are currently unavailable in the UK due to the inability of NHS England and the manufacturer to reach an agreement.

“I find it cruel that for the first time there is a medicine that can treat the root cause of CF instead of simply managing symptoms and which is available in 11 EU countries, the USA and Australia but not in England. These medicines can reduce infections by 42 per cent and hospital stays by 62 per cent.

“Keeping fit and healthy is paramount for a person with CF as it helps clear the lungs. I am therefore grateful Sencio has chosen to support the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust this year.”

Wellness supervisor James Arnold suggested the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as Sencio’s charity of the year after speaking to former colleague Chris Clark, whose seven-year-old son, James, suffers from the condition.

“James was born in 2011 and was diagnosed with CF following some tests he had after he was failing to thrive and put on weight,” explains Chris.

“He was very poorly and had severe chest infections from birth. Every day we fight CF with a cocktail of medication, nebulisers and physiotherapy. Fortunately James has been ‘well’ for the past two years with no admissions but we continue to help him keep infections at bay to ensure he stays as well as possible for as long as possible.

“CF is sometimes misunderstood as a medical condition so raising awareness and funding for research and support services is absolutely critical.”

You can support our Cystic Fibrosis fundraising by donating via our JustGiving page. There are also collection pots at each centre’s reception desk.

For further details on the work of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust visit www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

Yoga for a new generation

It’s a centuries-old discipline as beneficial for the mind as it is the body – and now yoga is transcending barriers with its broadening appeal.

The ancient form of exercise (said to have originated in Northern India 5,000 years ago) uses strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing and now has legions of followers from all walks of life.

Professional rugby teams have been using it as part of training in a bid to combat an increasingly injury-laden sport, while a younger generation is discovering yoga through fun-filled classes featuring the many animal-inspired poses central to the ancient discipline.

A new children’s class at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre is doing just that, as teacher Josie Male explains:

“For many children, life can feel like a competition – school, sports, popularity, you name it. What I aim to do is help them enjoy exercise in a fun, non-competitive environment,” explains Josie who’s been teaching yoga for 15 years and decided a few years back to look into the benefits it offers children.

At the other end of the scale, more men are discovering the benefits of yoga – especially if they are physically active in sport or a gym regular.

“Men can sometimes lack the flexibility of women and, in addition, often neglect the importance of stretching. This can lead to injuries, putting them out of a sport or fitness programme they love,” explains Angelina Baranouska who teaches yoga at Edenbridge Leisure Centre.

“People are often surprised at how challenging yoga is and that it can be a tough workout. On the other hand, the great thing is it’s a discipline at which every student works within their limits.”

Yoga’s other great selling-point is the mental benefits.  And, in a world in which stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise, it’s something that inspired Josie Male to look at its broader benefits.

“We hear much these days about just how common anxiety, mental health issues, eating or sleeping disorders are in people of all ages so anything we can do to limit these and equip people with the skills to cope with a pressurised world has to be a good thing.”

How though, you might be wondering, do you get a four or five-year-old to be focused long enough to do the puppy dog, dolphin or cobra?

“Lots of poses are based around animals, so bringing a jungle theme into the classes is our way in. ‘Travelling’ to Africa or the Amazon are by far my favourite themes and we use lots of visual props and music to deliver interactive and imaginative journeys into a child’s developing mind and body.”

Yoga classes are available at Edenbridge, Sevenoaks and White Oak leisure centres and are free for All-in-One members. Visit your local centre’s website to find a class:

Edenbridge classes

Sevenoaks classes

Sevenoaks class for children

White Oak classes