I love this question as there are SO many answers, but I will start at the beginning. I am not sure who I upset in a past life, but from a young age, I was afflicted with a desire to be a business owner. I think it is important to have more female-owned businesses, especially in a male-dominated industry like fitness.
However, I found fitness later in life when I started CrossFit in my early 30s and I fell in love with the community and the shared desire to work hard together and celebrate each other’s progress. I loved that it focused on achievement more so than aesthetics and it was my first time ever experiencing strength training which has changed my life.
During this time I noticed there is so much BS in the fitness and nutrition space and it is very confusing if you are new to this lifestyle (and even for those of us who have spent years working in the wellness space). Iron Nomads is a fitness and wellness retreat built on the pillars of movement, nutrition, rest, education, and community. We strip back the unnecessary noise and equip people with the tools to live a healthier life.
Have you always been into fitness?
I just literally laughed out loud. The answer here is a hard NO. I grew up in rural Ireland and from the age of 15, my sport was drinking a naggin of vodka in a park and jumping over walls into pubs and nightclubs. Let me assure you, jumping a wall in a skirt and high heels requires a certain athletic prowess and confidence that I no longer possess.
After a bad breakup in my mid-20s, I started running and even managed to run a full marathon in Dubai. That was a serious case of mind over matter, as I am not built to run. Legs like cocktail sausages as opposed to hotdog sausages if you know what I mean.
I dabbled in yoga for a year or so but it wasn’t until I was introduced to CrossFit that I started to connect with exercise and movement in a way that was empowering and nourishing rather than dreaded or punishing. From there, I transitioned into strength training with a healthy mix of cardio and have not looked back. As a hospitality guru turned personal trainer, I created my retreats based on the critical aspects that are missing from most of the health and wellness retreats I attended.
What would 15-year-old Sarah think of 35-year-old Sarah?
She would be blown away!! Growing up, my family could not afford to travel abroad on holidays and I always wanted to travel so now, at the age of 35 with over 50 countries stamped in my passport, she would be amazed at that achievement. And living in Thailand full-time, running a successful business …wow!
What was your favorite moment of 2022 on a personal level?
I spent two weeks racing a tuk-tuk across the Himalayan mountains with one of my best friends which was indescribable. We slept in a monastery, picked up a hitchhiker, drank so many kingfishers, stargazed in the Spiti Valley, made incredible friends, and nearly died several times. Adventure is a huge part of my driving force, which is why I aim to do one big crazy adventure holiday every year. Check out some of the madness here: Rickshaw Run
What was the hardest part of 2022 personally?
2022 for me was a year of highs and lows, as I am sure it was for many people. I, unfortunately, lost a dear friend and previous partner (from my early 20s) a few weeks ago. We have incredible memories and she had a big impact on my early romantic life so it is a massive loss.
What are your festive plans?
Eat, drink, and be merry. This year has been a big one both professionally and personally so I am looking forward to taking time to reflect and be grateful with friends. We will be eating lots of turkey, drinking some baileys, and getting as festive as possible in warm, tropical Chiang Mai.
What is your favorite festive song?
Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. Would I even be Irish if it was anything else?
What is on the bucket list for 2023?
I try to stay away from ‘bucket list’ style goals as I feel they focus too much on the end goal and not the process which is where the living happens. I prefer to focus more on intention setting which allows me to really connect to each part of the process and enjoy the journey.
The intentions for 2023 are –
Continue to grow Iron Nomads and offer more retreats. Maybe even a cheeky retreat outside of Thailand…watch this space for more details on new and exciting locations.
Continue my education. As I finish my Certified Personal Training course, I look forward to starting a Nutritional Coaching course. That and refocus on learning Thai. I am currently at an intermediate level but I am looking to live that fluent life.
Quit coffee. This one hurts but I have come to realize that caffeine is not good for me. As someone who has Hashimoto’s, I notice a flare-up in my symptoms when I drink coffee so it is time to walk away from this unhealthy relationship.
What’s your best advice for setting effective health & wellness goals?
Baby steps. As someone who is prone to an ‘all or nothing’ mindset, I understand the urge to do a big overhaul and make massive changes in several areas at once. Don’t do it. You are likely to fail and feel miserable. If your goal is to lose excess fat, make one small change to your diet and one small change to your movement habits for two weeks, and then another for the following two weeks. These small changes build up to big changes. This might be ensuring each meal has a high-quality source of protein and increasing your daily steps from an average of 7,000 to 10,000. Nothing worth having is achieved overnight. A book I absolutely recommend on this topic is ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.
What is the key ingredient to a strong, doable H&W goal?
I believe it is important to find like-minded people who will support your goals. This is a core pillar of the Iron Nomads retreat experience. Not only will you meet other people on a similar health and wellness journey, but you will interact with a host of international coaches and specialists who will guide you toward your goals in a balanced and empowered way.
That and patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Brick by brick, my friend!
A fitness fanatic with an extensive background in luxury hospitality, personal training, and nutrition coaching, Sarah is the Founder of Iron Nomads -- Thailand's #1 fitness and wellness retreat. Hailing from the sunny southeast coast of Ireland, she is travel-obsessed with over 60 stamps in her passport and many more to come. Chiang Mai is her chosen home for now, but watch this space as Iron Nomads expands globally.