Nicole Boddington really knows how to bring a group of high vibe ladies together.
As the founder and creator of Bodd Camp, a women’s only fitness and wellness retreat based in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nicole believes in the importance of women having a like minded, positive community of other women surrounding them, to help them reach personal fitness and lifestyle goals.
We asked her to tell us more about why she created Bodd Camp, why every woman needs a tribe and more…
HOW DID YOUR IDEA FOR BODD CAMP COME ABOUT?
Growing up, being in Girl Scouts, being on a softball team, basketball team, cheerleading squad and attending an all-girls Catholic high school were among my earliest experiences being around all girls. Each of these situations were intensely competitive. Who can sell the most cookies, hit the most RBI’s, make free-throws, be named captain or co-captain, score the highest grade on the test or get asked to homecoming?
On the softball team, at age seven, our coaches awarded stars on each helmet. For each base hit, you got a small silver star; a home run earned you a large gold star. My helmet was empty. I never got any hits, home runs, silver or gold stars that season…or ever, because I quit the team and switched to tennis from age 8 to 18 until I burned out. I was through with competing.
Ten years later, in 2010, I found fitness. Since I’d been active and athletic my whole life, I thought I was “fit.” That was until I took my first bootcamp class, a series of high-intensity intervals, short bursts of maximum effort, lasting 20 minutes total. Turns out, I was not fit. I lacked conditioning. The workout was brutal, awful, and I loved it. The one thing I loved most about it was that in a class of mostly women, we could all hate it together. We could sweat, swear, moan, groan, roll our eyes and exchange high fives. It was more than a workout. There was a sense of community and camaraderie, a feeling of belonging, because we just did that…together.
At the start of 2015, I began leading the class and nicknamed it the “Bodd Squad.” What I noticed was that women liked to stay after class to talk with me and each other about lots of things: nutrition, children, aging parents, work life, bad dates. Sometimes, after saying our goodbyes and shutting down the gym, we would linger in the parking lot, talking for another hour. This is when I first thought, I wish there was a space where we could gather outside of the gym. That became the inspiration for Bodd Camp.
SO IT TRULY CAME ABOUT OUT OF A NEED YOU FELT FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR COMMUNITY, WHICH IS AMAZING. HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO PUT THAT CONCEPT INTO ACTION?
In 2017, women across the country and around the world collectively began to think beyond the book club and more about gathering with purpose. The first Women’s March took place in cities across the U.S. and worldwide, involving five million people in nearly 1,000 peaceful, global marches. I attended the Women’s March in Little Rock, and it was hugely motivating, empowering and affirming that when women get together, we are better for it.
I noticed a women’s-only co-working space, The Wing, opened in Manhattan. There was WMN Space in L.A., where women meet to learn, to heal and to bond through meditation, moon circles and sound baths. The Assembly, a clubhouse for women, opened in San Francisco. Coast to coast, something was happening; you could feel it. Why couldn’t we bring it here?
In January 2017, I booked a 36-person lodge to host the first Bodd Camp, the summer girls camp of my dreams. It would be held over a weekend in October at Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca, Arkansas, one of the most magical parts of the state, with the purpose of connecting women through fitness, wellness and togetherness. With the help of two of my friends and fitness idols, I planned our itinerary: bootcamp, barre, sunrise yoga, hiking, hair braiding, friendship bracelet making, meditation, healthy meals, a nut-milk workshop, a full moon ritual under the harvest moon, energy work, chakra readings, s’mores and of course, merit badges. Women of all ages and fitness levels were welcome to join us.
WHAT DID YOU FIND THAT THESE CAMPERS WERE LOOKING FOR IN CHOOSING TO ATTEND BODD CAMP?
We had 18 campers total, women ages 24 to 54, attending for a variety of reasons, and we wanted to tap into those “why’s.” Some women were looking for fitness and fun; for others, it was an act of self-love and self-care, to be away from their families and to do something just for themselves. Some women were looking for clarity and direction. It was an open, honest dialogue, a safe circle, where each woman received our full attention; she was heard, supported and accepted.
Since we were on the Buffalo National River, the theme of camp was: “Let go of the oars; everything you want is downstream,” a quote by Abraham-Hicks. The itinerary was fluid, meaning campers could pick and choose the activities they wanted to do. Some campers sat on their balcony and read or journaled while others did sunrise yoga. Some skipped the nut milk-making workshop and went down to the creek to skip rocks instead. This allowed for each camper to make their experience truly personal, to connect and disconnect as they needed to. There was down time. There was time for stillness and personal reflection with the Ozark scenery all around us. We saw elk, a bald eagle and butterflies. There was a thick blanket of for on the river each morning and a clear sky full of stars at night.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THAT THE CAMPERS MOST GAINED FROM THEIR TIME SPENT AT BODD CAMP?
At the end of camp, we closed our time together the way we opened it: by going around the room and sharing with the group. When asked what a favorite moment from camp was, many campers said the hike and cave tour, and the biggest breakthrough was overcoming fear by entering into an unknown situation, saying yes to it and coming out on the other side. It was a lesson in trust, trusting each other and trusting ourselves.
The biggest takeaway for me personally was that I had to let go, I had to trust it, too, that I could only plan so much and, once the campers arrived, it would become whatever they made of it. What they created was a real sisterhood. Since camp, these women have continued to show up for each other and support one another. We’ve attended art shows, jewelry pop-ups, yoga and barre classes, hair-braiding workshops, clothing swaps and moon circles that campers have hosted.
This is where the real power and importance of the all-girl gathering lies: in saying yes, in showing up, in being seen and in being found. Some people call it finding your tribe. We say, you can camp with us.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BODD CAMP?
On March 24, 2018, the first Day Camp will take place in Little Rock and will offer the fitness, wellness and togetherness of Bodd Camp in an afternoon. Planning Day Camp has been hugely collaborative and rooted in community spirit — relying on local venues to understand us, support us and agree to host us. Maybe someday we will have our own “basecamp” where all of our workouts and workshops can be held, but for now, this is a great way to introduce our campers to small businesses who “get us” and want to open their space to us.
The next Bodd Camp is set for October 12-14, 2018, in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Registration will open soon, so we’d love for you to connect with us and stay up-to-dates on our announcements via our Instagram page @boddcamp.
Photo Credits: Barb Raney (top and middle), Heather Canterbury (bottom)