Kate Whale, 42, shares how she turned her personal and physical slump into a business idea that changed the health of her – and that of thousands of others

It was January 2011, I was 32 and heartbroken after the sudden end of a five-year relationship with a man I believed was the One. I had spent three months partying to numb my pain and I thought I was going to enjoy it, but the truth is, I was miserable, angry, and three pounds overweight.

Although I have always been successful and motivated in my career, my job as director of an entertainment and arts center in Bath suffered and I had lost interest in the work. It was at another nightly house party when I suddenly remembered having checked into a military boot camp in Suffolk to find my way around – it started the next day. So I sobered up and drove straight there. My friends all thought I was crazy.

At first I thought it was terrible. I was way out of my comfort zone with a group of strangers, practicing HIIT seven hours a day, crawling on freezing, muddy beaches, and taking ice baths in Biffa containers to recover. I had never done anything like this before, but in the end I lost a stone and found my calling. I told the owners that I wanted to work as a camp manager and build their business. It was a gamble: I took a 70 percent pay cut, packed up my life in Bath, and moved to Suffolk. Within six weeks, I met Rick Parcell, one of the camp’s military instructors who had 14 years of experience in the navy and who was to become my future business partner. I knew from the start that I wanted to create my own retreat, but I was mentally not in the right place to deal with this stress. For the next five years, I channeled my grief into making my dream come true: learning as much as possible about the industry, counseling in various camps in the UK, Spain and the US, and trying everything from fasting to yoga.

Two years later, Rick and I started a pop-up retreat in Montecito, California, and there we both realized the importance of the holistic approach that takes mind and body into account. From my own experience, I knew that our retreat would have another benefit and would provide the tools to become stronger both physically and mentally. And it should be fun. By the beginning of 2016 I had secured the investment and with Rick and my brother Ben – a professional chef – as my partners, The Body Camp Ibiza was born. We paid back our initial investment within three months. Now we not only have the annual summer season in Ibiza, but also a permanent location in Mallorca, where we currently live. Our plans to open in the UK last year were thwarted by the pandemic, but we want to start this fall.

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