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Despite my blog being about Running, the real focus of my blog and online training programmes is in fact more general health and happiness for women, running just so happens to be the primary driver for the work.

But this is still quite problematic, because what do we actually mean by Health and Happiness…what do those concepts even mean? Because what they mean to me will be completely different for other women, even women who have a whole heap of stuff in common with me.

I guess the reason is, we get the choice to define these concepts for ourselves…no one else can tell us how to be happy, or even how to be healthy…so I guess my role in this work is to offer up a safe space to at least discuss the concepts, and share my experiences of my journey, and more general learning I have gathered from the work I do with thousands of women each year.

Anyways….

I have just got back from our annual health and happiness retreat on the Greek Island of Rhodes, and I am shattered. Last night I fell asleep on the sofa at 8pm and woke up this morning at 6.30am…doing 2 sessions of CrossFit and a 2 mile run since returning has added to this fatigue…but my body is now telling me to rest…so that is what I shall do.

The basic concept for our retreat was to provide our participants with a week of good food, fun fitness activities, an opportunity to take some time out to reflect on life and set some goals and of course by default it was also an opportunity for women from my growing community to meet each other in a safe space to form lasting friendships.

So in that respect I would say the week was a resounding success, as confirmed by Cheryl one of our ladies,

It’s only been a couple of days since we got back but my life has definitely changed and judging by the posts on here (our closed Retreat Group) so have others. Long may it continue xx

18556439_10154338746907096_7644961111051734631_oIn saying all of that, this is only our second ever retreat, and we more than doubled the participant numbers this time as a result of changing venue, so it was always going to be a huge learning curve for us this year. There was definitely room for improvement, especially in terms of setting expectations before hand, getting to know our new venue, the surrounding areas, and also managing the dynamics of a larger group.

There had been loads of getting to know each other and banter in our closed Facebook group in the weeks leading up to the retreat, lots of fears being revealed about travelling alone, what to pack, and what the week would entail…we only posted a basic itinerary a few weeks before they were all due to arrive.

Bit by bit on Saturday they started arriving, with flights coming in from all over the UK, many late at night.

When the last taxi had arrived, Kass our wonderful Greek based retreat host surprised us all with Cake and Prosecco…to mark a major milestone in my journey which I was yet to celebrate with anyone…I will be speaking more about this in future blog posts once everything has been formalised.

Sunday morning the group were welcomed with a morning meditation session led by Hypnotherapist Donna Kenny which set us up for the week helping us to free our minds and connect to the place we were calling home for the next few days.

With 20 women in the group it felt completely different to last years retreat, and took me much longer to get a feel for who we had in the group and what they were expecting from the week (Something to build into the programme more specifically next year).

The first day flew by, with water work outs, a mindful eating group hypno session and finishing up with my introduction to running session out in the carpark as the sun was setting, in preparation for the following mornings scheduled 5k walk/run.

7am and women appeared in the hotels main communal space looking a little anxious at what was about to take place. Some of the ladies had never run before, or were not used to running in a group…or running before breakfast…I was anxious too as I didn’t know the route too well. But we had scheduled drop backs meaning the faster runners should have been dropping back to check on the slower runners/walkers…this worked to a certain extent, but it wasn’t long before the group was very spilt up and more of a challenge.

We all managed to find our way back to camp for breakfast eventually and I made a note in my book “Must use signs or cones to help make the route clearer” for our next runs.

There was plenty of downtime for lounging around soaking up the rays, or doing laps in the pool…and in the afternoons we always hosted talking workshops under the shade to get the group to challenge their current thinking, and consider how they might tweak things in their lives once they went home. Some of the topics we covered were not for everyone, and there were lots of interesting discussions and debates…with such a diverse group or women it was never going to be a one size fits all approach. All we asked is that people would be open minded, honest with themselves, and respectful of the range of opinions in the group.

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We did two early morning yoga sessions with David, the first helped women to understand the wider context of yoga and how it can help us to connect to who we are, and connect our mind, and our soul to our bodies, and then the second one which had to relocate inside due to a morning storm, used music, singing and group sharing to help bring harmony to the group and continue with the themes from the first session.

The middle of the week was a bit of a blur as we pushed on with the programme, with a lovely day trip to Lindos where Jo took the group up the Acropolis for some incredible panoramic views, the purpose of this trip was to show that even on a holiday you can still schedule in some activity with a bit of planning and of course effort. The afternoon was spent in Greek tavernas having lunch, and then some free time on the beach where two brave ladies tried out paddle boarding.

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There was one impromptu run after an evening session which some of the group took part in, and then there was the early morning hills session which despite being REALLY challenging, the women loved it.

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The highlight of the week for me though was definitely Friday, after a trip to Rhodes Town to do a bit of sightseeing, we arrived back to do some Zumba with Jill a local lass (living in Rhodes, but with a deep Yorkshire accent) who is just an absolute bundle of joy.

The session was so high energy and just so much fun…and even when it started raining it didn’t stop the group…we moved the group indoors, yet Lisa and Elise decided to take this moment to dance in the rain. It was brilliant.

The week finished up with a BBQ and Greek Dancers who got (almost) everyone on their feet and then on Saturday the sad task of saying goodbye and getting people to the airport.

But let’s hear from some of the women themselves, what they thought of the week,

Gill said,

I need to find a running buddy, I’ve never run with others before and it made such a difference. Also I loved the hills!
But for me, the main thing was the amazing women I met and finding the confidence to wear a swimsuit.

Kathryn,

Meeting so many extraordinary women who made feel wonderful for who I am, not judging me on what I look like. Having my back as I know they would, my wonderful warrior women. My release from overeating, Thank you Donna. Julie I will be forever in your debt, you literally changed my life.

Lucy said the biggest aha for her was being reminded that,

The most important relationship of all, the one with myself. Meeting an amazing group of women who I still feel are at my shoulder and support me.

Elise said,

I learnt lots of new stuff about running…posture and technique and hills!! I’ve already told my running buddy we’re running the hill in the morning (usually walk and chat!)

I’ve also learnt that I can survive and exercise (& feel so much better) on much smaller portions than I’ve been used to!  It was amazing to meet other like minded strong women, facing their own battles in life. It’s given me the confidence and kick up the backside I so desperately needed Xx

Lesley said her realisation was,

That I’m capable of a lot more than I think I am! It’s all about self belief and mindset – I can do this!!!!

Elizabeth,

I went wanting to learn how, and get the confidence to, move/run as opposed to sit and slowly perish. I wanted nor expected anything else.

Since I have come home I’ve done either HITT training or yoga everyday, plus a 2km run home from school drop off.

I’ve signed up for park run and am going to my first ever exercise class tonight. I think I can very very safely say I achieved what I wanted.

What I didn’t plan for, was to feel empowered around food, realise a few home truths about myself, battle and win against fears and make some truly special new friends.

Was it perfect? Of course not, because humans aren’t robots and projects develop and change. But was it worth the money, time and emotional commitment?

YES YES YES YES YES YES  (Trying not to cry as I write this…)

With just 2 retreats under my belt I still have a lot to learn about the process of hosting them. I also think I need to sit down and really think about their purpose and my intent for them. We had so many different outcomes from the week, different measures of success

  • Shifts in attitudes towards self (i.e. wearing a swimsuit for the first time in years)
  • Trying new foods
  • Having a break from Alcohol
  • Going on organised trips (some people HATE them)
  • Weight Reduction (reports of 4lbs and 6lb losses)
  • Inch loss (Many women reported measurements had changed and clothes fitted differently)
  • 8 women went for a 6am run on Wednesday morning (many for the first time doing such an early run before work)

There were so many breakthroughs, so many aha moments, shifts in perspective…each women has their own take of what the retreat gave them.

The overarching theme though was Friendship and Tribe…we were all warriors.

I love the work that I do with Too Fat to Run, but as most of my interactions with women are via a computer screen the retreat is an opportunity to bring the virtual into the real and to really enable connections to be made between women who come.

I would like to thank each and every one of our retreat guests, you trusted me to look after you, and were gracious in how you dealt with the things which were not perfect through the week. I am humbled by how you looked after each other, and supported and pushed each other to reach further, and try harder (especially in the “I Go, You Go” late night session).

I feel privileged to be able to do this work, and will work my arse off over the next few months to make the improvements that need to be made for the 2018 retreat.

My final thanks have to go to my awesome retreat team, firstly to Jo Franco who was a participant last year, her sessions around change management and self care really helped women to consider their goals, and having you on hand to help with the grub and our scheduled day trips was invaluable.

To Donna, who led the group hypnosis and 121 sessions, your skills as a therapist are incredible and the support you have given to me personally over the past 3 years has been life changing…even if the whole glue and puss thing wasn’t to everyones taste, it sure as hell did get people thinking about what they put in their bodies.

To Kass…what the hell can I say about you? You are my Rock. You instigated this whole thing 3 years ago by inviting me and my family to come and have a look at Rhodes as a potential venue for a retreat, and you are the driving force behind it each year. I simply couldn’t do it without you.

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I learned so much about myself last week, some things were difficult to accept but that is what this whole movement is about learning and growth. I am undergoing a huge shift in my own thinking and my understanding or self right now, and also challenging my thinking about where the Too Fat to Run movement goes in the future as we are about to embark on a whole new area of work.

I don’t have all the answers, but I will keep on posing the questions and sharing my journey with you all….as long as you keep reading my stuff, I will keep writing it.

I’m already looking forward to the 2018 retreat…but first I need to get through my enormous pile of washing, work my way through my emails and get some more sleep.

Ladies, it’s been emotional.

If you would like to experience just a little bit of the camaraderie, love and support that these ladies experienced last week, why not consider joining our awesome online running club, The Clubhouse, join before the 1st June and take advantage of our £59 for the year membership, as it will then go up to £79 (still just the price of a posh coffee once a week) 

Find out more here

We expect interest to be high for our 2018 retreat, so please leave your details below to be added to a list to hear about dates and rates.

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