It was female solidarity that inspired founder Sharon Smith to launch G.I. Jane boot camps back in 2008. Wanting to help her sister and clean up her own unhealthy lifestyle in the process, Sharon created a women’s only fitness retreat that doesn’t just help women drop pounds (although it’s pretty much guarantee), but build strength emotionally, physically and mentally. Now popular with British celebs like Michelle Keegan and Kerry Katona, we chat to Sharon about her UK and Koh Samui women’s boot camps and how fitness helps women.
G.I. Jane’s Thailand boot camp | Image courtesy of GI Jane
Tell us about your first healthy holiday experience. The first healthy holiday I experienced was a boot camp I attended in June 2008 in Herefordshire with my sister, after she had a short stay at the priory due to alcohol addiction. It turned out to be life-changing for both of us.
What was the initial reason behind opening GI Jane? I wanted to help women who have mental health issues such as addiction, eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem, as well as improving fitness and aiding weight loss. The sense of achievement each woman feels at the end of each camp is amazing and so many go on to completely change their lives.
Are these camps suited to a particular type of person? We have clients attend our camps from all over the world and they all have one thing in common: they want to make positive changes in their lives, and collectively this is when amazing things happen. We cater to all ages from 18 upwards and whether you want to lose weight, get fit or feel good about yourself again, these camps empower you to make that happen.
What do you hope guests will take away from their stay? We hope all our guests leave us with the tools needed to implement positive changes in their lives and the self-belief that if you work hard, anything is possible. We watch women change and grow during their stay with us and they leave knowing they are now very much part of the G.I. Jane family.
What sets GI Jane programmes apart from other fitness boot camps? The difference between us and other boot camps is the intimacy of our camps: we only have 14 women attending in any given week. They bond extremely quickly and real friendships are formed. I also believe we have the best militarily trainers in the world who know how far each individual can be pushed and make sure that each client gets the very best from their stay with us.
Why is it important to have women-only camps? We create a safe environment for them to share their stories and help each other through the camp. I know it sounds very cliché, but we really are a growing family and when each camp ends we are still always there to look out for each other.
What are the crucial factors involved in implementing a successful healthy lifestyle change? The most crucial factor is wanting to make that change in the first place; in having the self-belief that everything is achievable; and surrounding yourself with positive people.
Describe an ideal retreat experience in five words. Educational, challenging, motivational, inspirational and life-changing.
Who are your role models and why? I love Victoria Beckham for her style, self-belief and discipline, but her most endearing feature is the ability to laugh at herself. To be honest, every week I am in a truly fortunate position to meet some of the most incredible women who show real courage and commitment to get through our camps—it’s amazing to see.
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