Several years ago, my life was a wreck. I was in my mid-30s, divorced, in a bad relationship, living in a new city across the country from all of my family and friends, and working in an unfulfilling legal career. I needed to make a change (read: escape), so I booked a spur-of-the-moment women’s surf and yoga retreat to Bali.
It may sound dramatic to say that the retreat changed my life, except that it did. So much so that a few years later, I started my own retreat company to provide women with a similar experience. I created my retreats to be fitness oriented—not because I wanted to help women lose weight and tone their glutes but because I discovered that when we feel better about ourselves and when we are active and experiencing new things among new people in new places, we do better.
While kicking off an exercise regimen to lose weight is a fine reason to attend a fitness retreat, look at the broader possibilities. Your body may reap the benefits but so will your mind and your spirit. You will come away from the retreat changed for the better: with new friends, new perspectives, new experiences, and a new outlook on your life.
Here are five reasons to attend a fitness retreat that have nothing to do with the number you see on the scale.
1. You can travel solo, but still have safety in numbers.
One of the best aspects of choosing a fitness retreat is selecting the location and seeing a new part of the world. This is your chance to travel somewhere you’ve never been but have always wanted to go! Make sure that whatever fitness retreat you choose builds plenty of time into the schedule to get out and explore. And because many women who attend a retreat are flying solo, choose a retreat in a place that you might not otherwise travel on your own. Depending on your personal comfort zone, that could be anywhere from Mexico or Morocco to South Africa or Spain.
2. You'll be surrounded by like-minded cheerleaders.
Not only will you be experiencing a new locale, you will be experiencing new people, new activities, new foods, and a new culture. Every single day on a retreat you will do something you’ve never done before. Embrace all of it. Maybe you’re scared of heights and not so sure about ziplining in Costa Rica. On a retreat, you will be surrounded by a group of women who want to see you push through your fears and succeed. Take advantage of their encouragement and take that leap. In the words of Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
3. You'll gain strength from others' life stories.
Many women who attend retreats are in a state of transition. They are considering making a move to a new city or changing their career or leaving their relationship. And let’s face it: Change is scary. When you attend a retreat, you are suddenly surrounded by a group of women you can open up to, bounce ideas off, share your stories with, and gain strength from their own transitions. In a group of women, you are sure to find someone who has been through something similar. Learn from their experiences and be inspired to make your own change.
4. You will find your tribe.
When I attended my first women’s fitness retreat, I knew no one, and I was nervous. What if I didn’t fit in? What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like them? As we introduced ourselves, explaining why we were there and what we hoped to gain from the retreat, I had a clear realization: I had found my people. The retreat was composed of women just like me: unmarried, 30-something, no children, solo travelers with professional careers. They had a longing to see the world. They wondered whether they would get married or have kids. They took joy in the things I took joy in, and feared the things I feared. I had never found a group of people I felt so comfortable with and understood by so instantly.
5. You will find yourself.
Of every retreat I’ve attended—and now hosted—I’ve come out a different person than the one who went in. Sometimes it’s as simple as having made a new set of friends who live all over the world. Other times, it’s having the strength to leave a career that's not working and follow a passion instead. Regardless, you will palpably feel a movement toward your authentic self. You will be changed, and with your tribe and your newfound strength behind you, your life will be changed too.