Our maiden voyage in running a Retreat in Ireland. A jump out of my comfort zone, but one I’m always willing to make if I can see the path to success.

The unknown is always scary, in any context, it can cause stress, anxiety and make you feel very uncomfortable.

My main concern with running an Irish Retreat is the weather. Having run 5 retreats abroad, I watched and learned how the weather can affect our guests experience. It can turn a good experience into a great one, and a good experience into a less memorable one, just from having sun, or having no sun.

One thing was clear, I was right to be concerned about the weather, and my biggest fear was becoming a reality of it being a washout, when my team and I experienced the most torrential rain and wind on the short 5 minute trip over to Inishcoo island by rigid inflatable boat.

It bucketed down when the team and I were enroute over to the island (about 2pm) and the mood in camp was sombre to say the least.  Thankfully we had two hours before the guests were due to arrive (4pm). There was still time for the clouds to move on and the sun to shine, wishful thinking maybe, but staying positive was important to keep moral up within the team.

We worked frantically to get the rooms set up. It was the shortest turnaround time we have had in prepping before guests before in any of our previous 5 retreats. I don’t mind a challenge, organisation is key and we have the logistics and organisation down to a T now.

Some idea of behind the scenes prep for a retreat like this. Welcome packs and t-shirt for each guest, food shopping for 4 days, food prep, modules prepped, nutrition manuals printed and ordered, recipe books designed, ordered and printed, equipment for classes (matts, yoga blocks, music speakers), batteries, weighing scales, measuring tape, HDMI cable, welcome letters, schedules printed, excursions organised, boat collections, drop offs, water, spot prizes….

It’s not easy to gauge a shop for 14 people for 4 days, bearing in mind, we are on an island with no shops and no way of re stocking. We always air on the side of caution and bring, buy more than we need for the just in case scenarios. Thankfully we nailed it and didn’t forget anything.

4 o’clock came, and it was time for me to jump on the RIB and go collect our guests. It was still wet, but not nearly as bad as our original trip over a couple of hours earlier. It was nice to see some familiar faces as most of the guests are members or previous members. We only had four new faces, but they were lovely and added a huge amount to the ‘buy in’ from the group and general atmosphere. They were all in good spirits and very much looking forward to the few days away, weather aside.

After all the guests arrived to the island to a reception of fresh sparkling fruit juice and healthy snacks, they were shown to their rooms and everyone settled in nicely.  The retreat had finally begun.

Our CPT Pilate and Yoga teacher took them for a stretch and burn class to ease them into the few days and loosen them after the drive across from Dublin. After class, there’s time to freshen up and get ready for a nutritious and delicious dinner prepared by Marguerite (my mother in law). During our healthy meal we ask our guests to introduce themselves to the group as an icebreaker and what they would like to achieve from the few days. This information is already taken from their detailed on boarding form, but it’s nice to get a real feel and immediately builds rapport with group, as they can all generally relate to each other and in most case are coming on retreat for similar reasons.

After breakfast each morning and dinner each evening, we deliver our Complete Life Coaching Series™ to the group. This is where we can deep dive into the current issues by firstly identifying them and then workout out the plans and the coping strategies we need to overcome them.

Over the coming three days, our guests blossomed and came out of their shells, chatting, sharing stories and bonding. By the final day of the retreat you could have been forgiven for mistaking them for old friends.

As a group we learnt, laughed, shared stories and experiences and left the hustle and bustle of the bright lights, stress, anxiety and accessibility we have become accustomed.

Wandering to deserted beaches, exploring un-chartered territory, enjoying nature, earthing and feeling like you are escaping from the bubbles we can all often find ourselves in. These experiences are when you are most likely to make the positive changes to your life, when you fully buy in and immerse yourself.

The morning we were leaving, we met for one last strategy session to go through their homework i.e. their goals and the action steps to take to achieve them, so they went home from the retreat with a clear plan of action with meaning and strategy behind them.

We also assessed them with some measurements and a weigh in. We had some pretty spectacular results with one of our male guest losing 3 inches off his stomach and one female guest losing 4 inches from her waist and realising they didn’t have to take their daily medication for acid reflux or antihistamine for wrongly diagnosed hay fever. Yes they were both food related and once we took the culprits out, voila, magic things happen, the body heals itself.

We had three boat trips organised to bring the guests back to mainland, a massive rush for the first boat home was to ensue… or so I thought would be the case. Usually people are itching to get home to family after the retreat and to get on with things. How wrong could I be.

“No I’m happy to take the last boat”

“I’m in no rush”

“Happy to stay here another few days J”

was the general consensus. That to me, shows how much our guests got out of the few days on the retreat and how comfortable they had become in each-others company.

Having been a little apprehensive (to say the least) before our first island escape retreat, not that it would not be a success, but of the unknown more than anything.  I came away fully sure that we had helped this group change for the better. Throughout the few days on the retreat, I encouraged them to take from the modules and the experience what they could implement into their lifestyles and could relate to, and to leave the rest.

The beauty of the modules is, no matter how many times you attend one, I’d like to think you can take a little more from them, as you are more likely at a different stage in your life, with a different perspective and set of goals you would like to achieve than the previous times.

I was delighted with the results, the outcomes, the flow and the group for the retreat, and feel like we can only go forward in providing more of these experiences. With more people than ever needing help in terms of providing the coping mechanisms to help deal with what life throws at us and giving people the correct knowledge in the conflicting information out there on what is good, what is bad and what is best for your mental and physical health.

Will we run another Island Escape Retreat?

Most likely yes.

Will we run it in the same location?

Most likely yes, but earlier in the summer.

Watch this space..!

Yours in fitness







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