Female fitness guru Nicole Toan has launched the ultimate girls-only overseas feel-good package in an idea born out of lockdown. The former body building champ turned Instagram fitness influencer has navigated a minefield of Covid travel restrictions to host her very first Female Transformation Retreat for nine girls in Tenerife last month. The week of fitness, relaxation and gourmet dining in a five-star villa is the first of many, as Nicole is already planning similar breaks in Dubai, Ibiza and Marbella. The idea for the luxury all-girl trips came about as a result of the huge success of an online female empowerment fitness course launched by the 30-year-old during the first lockdown. Nicole has helped transform the lives of dozens of women through the 12-week programme which culminated for each girl in a professional photo shoot.
Speaking of her first sunshine retreat the Belfast woman says: “The 12-week female empowerment courses had such an impact that I just wanted to add to them and came up with the idea of the retreats.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, especially because of Covid but we have got there, and it is all fantastic.
“It is very high-end, and we have a luxury villa with our own in-house chef who provides an a la carte menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“These courses involve training with the girls in boot camp style, and I also have a yoga instructor who takes classes.
“We have meditation and every element of training you can think of, from mountain hikes to beach workouts. There are also spa days in between.
“They also include a posh pink pyjama party, and we finish with a big party on a boat after the girls have got their make-up and hair professionally done.”
Nicole is now living in Tenerife where she runs an international online female “fat loss” coaching business.
Lockdown inspired her to set up a special training course aimed not just at getting women active but also at improving their confidence and self-esteem.
She has now run nine of the 12-week courses attended by 12 women each time.
Each course culminated in a professional photo shoot giving the participants the chance to reveal their empowering transformations.
Nicole explains: “In March 2020, gyms had just closed down and it seemed like the end of the world for many people.
“I realised a lot of women were sitting at home eating all round them and in a bit of a rut.
“No one had a goal. People usually come to me because they want to get fit and lose weight for a wedding or a new job or a holiday, but because of Covid people had nothing to aim for.
“That’s where the idea for the photo shoot at the gym came in so it became a female empowerment photo shoot challenge.
“It gave women who felt they weren’t good enough to strip down to their underwear for photographs the chance to feel great about themselves.
“The girls all absolutely loved the course. As well as training each week, I would manipulate their diets and in the end they all felt empowered to pose for pictures.
“We even arranged for them to get their hair and make-up professionally done for the photo shoot.”
One of her most recent participants was Alexandra Cowden (28) from Newtownabbey.
Alexandra, who is a single mum to six-year-old Charlie, works as a quality engineer. She described the 12-week course which she took part in over the summer as “truly life transforming”.
Alexandra had struggled with post-natal depression after the birth of her son and through medication and comfort eating gained a lot of weight.
She joined a local gym and lost six-and-a-half stone over two years but despite slimming down from a size 18 to size 12, she says her confidence was very low until she took part in Nicole’s online course.
Since the course she has found the confidence to end a relationship that wasn’t working for her, left a job she wasn’t happy in and found one she loves and also moved to a new house. She says: “I signed up for the course in May and what appealed to me was the confidence that Nicole said she hoped to give women.
“I also wanted to get to know how to tone my body after losing weight.
“Because of post-natal depression my weight went up to 17 stone and I lost six-and-a-half stone by going to the gym.
“When I joined Nicole’s course, I weighed 11½ stone and I am now under 10 stone and a size 8 so it has also transformed my body. Even after losing weight, I was still very self-conscious and during the course Nicole was really good at energising everyone and helping us believe we had self-worth.
“I used to go to the gym and hide in the corner wearing a baggy T-shirt and at the end of the course, I did my photo shoot in a sports bra and shorts in front of everyone in the gym and it felt incredible.
“My whole mental health has improved, and I am much more confident.”
The cherry on the cake for Alexandra was having the self-belief to apply for a new job which she started in September.
She says: “I have a new home; a new job and I feel like a new person. I would recommend the course 110%. The training is challenging but when you push through it and get results, you feel amazing.
“I can’t wait to sign up for one of Nicole’s retreats. With my new job I couldn’t go on the first one, but I will definitely be booking myself on one next year.”
Alexandra’s story is typical of so many of the women who completed the 12-week transformation course.
Now Nicole hopes these women and others will enjoy her female transformation retreats.
She adds: “I am now working with women from all over the world because my work is online.
“I know through dealing with these women that many are feeling anxious and isolated. Coming out of lockdown everyone is pining for a holiday and people want the feel-good factor.
“My retreats are designed to empower women and make them feel good about themselves.”