What does it take to find your tribe?
I recently found out by attending one of Nicole Wilkins’ NPower Fitness Camps (Instagram @npowerfitnesscamps). It took more than the money I spent on traveling to get there. It took stepping out of my comfort zone, trying something new, meeting new people, and being open to learning. I spent last weekend in Allen, Texas (just north of Dallas), where I met the most amazing, inspiring, down to Earth women who, like me, are passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, focused on training and nutrition. These women helped me feel more confident and more connected; I returned home with a renewed focus on my fitness goals.
Twenty-five women met for a three day fitness retreat hosted by four time IFBB Olympia Figure Champion Nicole Wilkins. Ms. Wilkins has been running “Phat Camps” for some time, and in 2018 has rebranded and revised the content to be more consistent with her focus on female empowerment (or NPowerment) -- welcome to NPower Fitness Camps!
I was a little star struck when I met Nicole (Instagram @nicolemwilkins) Friday night upon arrival. After I signed in, Nicole greeted me with a swag bag of goodies. I was so emotional after a few really tough weeks at work, a long flight, and the jitters when meeting someone I admire -- I blurted out that I feared crying right there on the spot. My nerves were calmed quickly and I enjoyed getting to know Nicole over the three day weekend. I wasn’t sure of the extent of her presence during the camp and if she’d be making appearances. No! She spends the entire camp with the guests and leads all the sessions, chatting with and getting to know the campers personally. Over the course of the weekend, she remarked, “These camps seem to come at exactly the right time,” and I couldn’t have agreed more. The camp was the perfect stress reliever for me.
Fitness professional and trainer Maureen Ashley (Instagram @moefitness) joined Nicole during the camp. She’s Nicole’s “go to” person, keeping things running and she also leads training when the groups splits during training sessions. I also enjoyed her seminar on recovery techniques. I was particularly moved by Maureen’s greeting to us which underscored just how much Nicole and Maureen are like the women in the room -- strong and fit, but also vulnerable and real. Maureen shared how drawn she is to positive self-talk and we bonded over the saying on my choice of notebooks for the weekend: “You are Enough”. Maureen also tipped me off to my favorite new app Headspace, which walks me through a daily meditation for mindfulness.
This March camp was the second of eleven camps this year; other camps will be hosted in South Carolina, Vancouver, Michigan, California, Illinois, Utah, Germany, and Pennsylvania. The camp includes instruction on nutrition, weight training form, effective cardio, and several intense workouts from Friday night, when it began, across Saturday and Sunday. Let’s just say that this very fit group of women were too tired to go out Saturday night for dinner.
I’m a glutton for punishment and I love the grind. And while I enjoyed the workouts, I loved the camaraderie even more -- getting to know the other women (who spanned across many decades and all fitness levels) and feeling inspired by their journeys, stories, struggles, and triumphs.
The most important things I walked away with, however, are not tangible. I came away with two commitments to myself. My first commitment is to break the pattern I’ve been in, being too focused on being lean but sabotaging my efforts to get stronger (and wrecking my metabolism). I will spend concerted time and effort in putting on more muscle and repairing my metabolism by eating in a controlled caloric surplus and training hard. My second commitment to myself is setting a goal to compete in a competition someday. I don’t know yet when it will be, but I will be spending time over the next several years in preparation for this “bucket list” challenge.
I’m purposefully leaving out so many details of the NPower Fitness Camp, Nicole, and Maureen. You’ll just have to see for yourself. Perhaps one is coming to a location near you?
For more information: www.npowerfitnesscamps.com
Good health is important to me, but I only recently came to the conclusion that I have to actively work for it.
Two years ago, in the winter of 2016, I found myself. at 40, the heaviest I ever was. My clothes weren’t fitting well and I feared that I was heading into an irreversible situation of an annual escalation. But beyond the numbers on the scale, I felt lethargic; had a ruddy, red complexion; had indigestion daily; and suffered from hip and back pain from a fall I took while skiing the previous winter. I tried intermittent dieting and was struggling to get into an exercise routine because I would quickly overdo it with a run.
I went to the doctor inquiring about my thyroid. Having a history of thyroid problems in my family, I was convinced that my creeping weight, skin problems (rosacea), and general fatigue would be attributed to an underactive thyroid. My numbers were fine and the ultrasounds showed that, although enlarged, there was nothing wrong with my thyroid gland.
I was faced with the hard reality that it was my behaviors that had led me to an unhealthy and unhappy point in my life and that getting back in shape would be more difficult now that I was in my 40s.
Inspired by a friend who had done one, I set my sights one Sunday in February on the completion of a Whole 30. The Whole 30 is an approach to nutrition where, for 30 days straight you eat whole, nutritious foods that are as minimally processed as possible. It is quite restrictive (no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no additives, no alcohol, no junk) and as an extreme elimination diet, it is not intended for long term compliance. But I hadn’t been having much luck with the “everything in moderation” approach and the structure of the Whole 30 was appealing. What doesn’t sound great about eating whole, nutritious foods, eliminating sugar, and letting go of the scale?
That Whole 30 changed my life. I realized I am lactose intolerant and my indigestion stemmed from my daily greek yogurt, which seemed, at the time, like a healthy choice. My skin condition has cleared up. Motivated by the 10 pounds I lost in that month, I became motivated to pick up a new exercise routine. Ultimately, that Whole 30 launched me into what has been a two year experiment of nutrition and exercise that has helped me get into the best shape — physically, mentally, and emotionally — of my life.
I look forward to sharing more about this journey with you. On this section of our site, I will be curating content — sharing helpful links, sharing some of my favorite fitness professionals to follow, provide product reviews, and share the recipes I use to meet a variety of dietary needs in my household [we have a Caveman, a Vegetarian, a IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) adherent, and a sensitive palate to plan around, but that’s another article].
I have no endorsements, just a desire to share within the New England health/fitness community and beyond.
I’m not here to preach or to tell you what to do, rather hoping that you find a few things that are helpful to you as you set out or continue on your own path to wellness.
Be your own scientist, experiment and figure out what works for you — and have some fun along the way!