A few weekends ago, my friend and biz bestie Lauren and I hosted our very first in person wellness retreat, the Soul Sista Summit, in the Boston Seaport.
This was an idea in the making for several years. Back in 2016, when we both officially started our online businesses, Lauren and I attended an in person business retreat in Asheville, North Carolina, where we didn’t know anyone.
As we were on the way to sit in a room full of hundreds of other women, all the not good enough thoughts were running through my head. What if I wasn’t as qualified as everyone else? What if nobody likes me? OMG are we even meant to do this?
Lauren and I were both freaking out and nervous, but we did it anyways.
Of course the whole thing was amazing. We met so many women who are now some of our closest friends. Nobody judged us. We had the best time, and we learned a ton.
As this retreat ended, Lauren and I looked at each other and said, “we’re going to do something like this some day.” And for the next 2 years, any time we’d see each other, one of us would say, “so when are we going to plan our retreat?,” to which the other would response, “I knoooooow. We really need to do that.” But then it wouldn’t happen. This was the thing we kept putting off.
On our last trip together in 2018, with the push of our business coach in Naples, we decided that enough was enough. We needed to stop TALKING about doing the thing and just do it. After Lauren and I put ourselves on the hook, we were committed!
Much of 2019 was spent hard at work planning the event that was a dream of ours to host for 2+ years. We had countless work dates to plan out our marketing, our agenda for the weekend, and put together graphics, slides, workbooks, and more. We did a super fun photo shoot together. We did joint LIVES on social media and a reaaallly vulnerable Q+A for people to get to know us better. We got clear about what we wanted the weekend to be for our attendees: 2 days of sisterhood, empowerment, transformation, and FUN.
And I must say, it was incredible to bring that vision to life and for all our hard work to pay off.
The week before the Soul Sista Summit, I kind of felt like I did the week before my wedding – thinking, should I be doing something? Most of our pieces were in place, so things felt really good. Everyone kept asking me, “are you so stressed?,” and I really wasn’t!
I woke up Friday and snuck a quick workout in before packing up for the weekend. I picked Lauren up around noon, we did a Costco run for swag bag items, and then we headed to the airport to pick up our friend Sam, who flew in to be one of our guest speakers for the weekend. After checking into the Westin and unloading our ridiculous amount of stuff, we grabbed some food and relaxed a bit. Our friend Candace, another guest speaker of ours for the weekend, arrived a few hours later. It was so fun to be all together and reunited in person! That night for dinner, we went to Babbo after strolling around the waterfront for a bit, and our friend Monique joined us too. After dinner, we stuffed our swag bags and went to bed to get a good night’s sleep for the next two days.
Saturday morning we grabbed breakfast at Tatte Bakery, then headed to District Hall where the Soul Sista Summit was held. We got everything set up, our attendees arrived, and then we were off and running!
Lauren and I kicked things off by introducing ourselves and telling the back story of how the Soul Sista Summit came to life, including the funny story of how the name came to be. We then had people pair off with someone they hadn’t met before and learn about where they live, what they do, and why they came to the Soul Sista Summit. They each introduced their partner to the group for a little icebreaker.
After introductions + intention setting, it was time for my presentation on creating an empowered wellness vision. I lead the group through an exercise that I do with all my private 1:1 Best Self coaching clients at the onset of their coaching time with me: really getting grounded and spending time thinking about not only WHAT their health and fitness goals are, but WHY they have those goals in the first place, as well as all the details nobody ever stops to think about on their own, such as how to weave in core values, anticipated obstacles, support systems, personal strengths that can be leveraged, motivators, and more. By the end of my session, our attendees each had written a first draft of their personal wellness vision that we referenced throughout the rest of the weekend.
After lunch, Lauren and I tag-team presented the next section on creating a 90-day action plan. We asked everyone to pick ONE goal from their vision (because too many people try to do #AllTheThings at once!), and then we coached them through coming up with the HOW and actionable steps for how they will achieve this goal in the next 90 days.
Lauren wrapped up the workshop part of Saturday by talking about breaking down limiting beliefs – because we all know that it’s our thoughts and mindset that get in the way on our journey! She talked about the different types of self sabotage, and we had our attendees identify how they most often self-sabotage + provided strategies for recognizing it when it kicks in. She also talked about how to turn perceived weaknesses into strengths that can support the wellness vision and 90 day goals. I think there were a lot of a-ha moments throughout the day on Saturday for sure!
After our workshops were over, we headed outside to Fan Pier for a group bootcamp workout. It was beautiful out and so nice to MOVE after being inside during the day.
Finally, we wrapped up the day with some cocktails and appetizers at Tuscan Kitchen. Once everyone went their separate ways, Lauren, Candace, Sam and I did a little shopping at The Current, grabbed dinner at City Tap, then called it a night.
Sunday started with another breakfast at Tatte Bakery, and then we settled back into our room at District Hall. Lauren and I got to “sit back” for the most of the day, as our agenda was focused on our guest speakers! First up was Lisa Lewis, who did a 2-hour presentation on using psychological skills to enhance motivation, initiate and persist at regular habits of exercise and wellness, and how to respond to barriers that interfere with pursuing your fitness goals.
Next up was Candace, who lead the group through a short #JuicyBooty band workout before we broke for lunch. Our booties were definitely burning! Candace also presented after lunch on the power of lifting the things, and she spoke about how strength training has helped transform her from the inside out. She talked about tips for getting started, the most common mistakes people make along the way, and how to advance if you’ve already been strength training for a while.
Our final guest speaker of the weekend was Sam, who spoke about winding paths and how to take leaps. She shared her story of leaving her job as an attorney to start her own business, and how she’s persevered through several tough circumstances in life. She focused a lot on growth versus victim mindset, as well as simple strategies for assessing what your body needs on any given day.
Lauren and I wrapped up with a little recap of the entire weekend, and then it was time to go! We couldn’t believe how fast the weekend went by, and we looked at each other to say “can you believe we’re doing this?” no less than 10 times throughout the event. We had the group take some pictures outside before we all said bye to each other.
Lauren, Candace, Sam, and I wrapped up the weekend with some celebratory cocktails (mocktail for me) at Committee, and then it was all officially over.
All in all, the weekend was amazing. There were so many moments where I just paused to take it all in. I am feeling incredibly grateful not only for this being the career I’ve created for myself, but for Lauren for being the best partner in crime I could ask for, our biz besties Candace and Sam for being the most supportive friends as we brought this dream to life, and for the beautiful women who showed up for themselves and made our first Soul Sista Summit the success it was.
Now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts about it all, I wanted to also share a few key takeaways and lessons from the weekend:
Finding the right partner matters.
Throughout the planning process, Lauren and I worked SO well together. We balanced each other out the entire time. I’m all about spreadsheets, lists, and planning. I spent years organizing health fairs when I worked in corporate wellness, so keeping track of vendors and all the details is kind of my jam. Lauren is definitely more big picture, and girl has taught me how to be better about improvising and figuring things out as we go. Every time I got worried, she was there to remind me it would all get figured out.
Being solo is a no go.
I am always reminded of this when I travel and attend in person events as well. Whether it’s trying to run a business, or trying to work on health + fitness, trying to go at it alone is never a good idea! Yes, there will be days you feel like you are killing it, but most days it’s so easy to get stuck in self doubt, all the not good enoughs, and the negative thinking that doesn’t allow for forward momentum. Sometimes you simply need a reminder that you are not the only one who struggles! And hearing how other like-minded people got to the other side of things is incredibly powerful, a huge confidence booster. Seeing the wonderful group of women connect with and support each other this weekend as they got vulnerable and shared out loud what they are going through was such a big reminder of this.
Investing in yourself always pays off.
When Lauren and I were wrapping up the weekend, we shared a stat that we heard somewhere about the 1% and congratulated our attendees for being a part of that 1% of people who actually take the time to invest in themselves and put themselves out there for personal development and growth. It’s incredible to me how many women tell me they have no time for themselves, but then when the opportunity arises to take that time, they zero in to NO right away, defaulting to all the reasons it would never work, why they can’t, why they shouldn’t. So sad, really! At the end of our retreat, every single attendee at the Soul Sista Summit expressed how thankful they were for giving themselves this time, that they never would have gone through the exercises we took them through on their own, and that they did not regret coming. These women, the 1%, are better off for it: focused, re-energized, and with a renewed sense of clarity. They felt seen, heard, and supported. They felt grateful for the ability to disconnect from the to dos of their every day life to be present. Again, investing in yourself always pays off… but you have to say yes to yourself instead of telling yourself all the reasons it won’t work for you before you even try… and you have to show up for yourself fully for the experience.
If you’ve been talking and thinking about the thing, do the damn thing!
If you find yourself continuously thinking about something you want, ACT on it. That idea wasn’t just randomly put on your heart for no reason. You are meant to bring it to life. It might take a while, and it will take hard work, and it may require some leaps of faith, but you have to TRUST that your small steps will pay off in the long run. Lauren and I went into this not having a clue if even 1 person would sign up, if we’d work well together, etc. But look what happened. We created a vision, we came up with a plan, we had the support along the way, and with belief in our ability to do it, we did. You can do your thing too… but wishing, wanting, thinking, and dreaming? That will only get you so far. Without any action, nothing will change!
And that’s a wrap! Until SSS 2020, my friends!
If the “being solo is a no go” tip resonated with you, and you could use a group of like-minded women in your life, consider joining my free Facebook community, the Legit Fit Lifestyle Lounge. This members of this group know that fitness is so much more than a number on the scale or the size of our jeans, and we focus on the 4 pillars of living a legit fit life: movement, nutrition, self care, and mindset. Whether you’re just embarking on your health journey or you’ve been a fitness enthusiast for years, this group is a safe place for you to find some motivation, inspiration, and support. You can request to join here!