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Welcome back to our Hottest Trainer competition: our search for NYC's most talented fitness instructor! Over the next two weeks we'll be profiling 16 of the city's top workout pros before you get to vote for your favorites.
"Movement is a huge gift!" exclaimed Rachel Nicks, a 31-year-old fitness instructor at BFX Studio, to Racked. "I've always been an athlete, participating in competitive gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, and basketball as a child." And her talents extend beyond fitness: She even attended Julliard for acting—but the athletic life also called to her. "I got my 500-hour hatha yoga certification just after college. I wasn't sure I would love teaching when I began my yoga training, but then I felt like I opened Pandora's box of wellness, and I craved more knowledge."
The Oakland native ("Golden State Warriors!") went on to get certifications in barre, TRX, and kettlebells. Her hard work has paid off, not just in her physique and those of her clients: She was a top five finalist in Women's Health magazine's "The Next Fitness Star" competition. And in Nicks' quest to become the best teacher she can be, there is no end. "I'm not finished yet—I will continue to fill my toolbox so I can better serve my students."
Read on to learn more about the West Harlem resident, from how she owns gym style and a good cheat meal to her surprising second career (hint: it's not acting).
What are the classes that you teach?
At BFX, I teach barre, burn (a HIIT class), and build, a kettlebell- and TRX-based strength class. I love teaching different formats and styles of classes, and mixing up your workouts is what BFX is all about. I'm also a huge fan of intense workouts that target specific muscle groups and challenge my core and balance (that's what low impact sets the "barre" for—pun intended!).
Describe your training style: Are you a drill sergeant? More laid-back?
I'm not laid-back, but I'm also not a drill sergeant—I'm a coach. I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. A solid coach not only helps you win the game, but gets you to the championship. I want my athletes to feel like they've hit the gold medal of fitness and to feel great about what they're accomplishing with their workouts.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
Most people aren't aware of how hard trainers grind. I teach 15 classes a week, plus around eight one-on-ones. We give a ton of energy physically and emotionally, plus we are usually running around to different clients and studios. It's a real hustle, but incredibly rewarding.
What's your go-to song right now for getting pumped up before or during a workout?
"Feeling Myself" by Nicki Minaj and Beyonce and "Classic Man" by Jidenna.
Gym style has totally exploded over the past couple of years. What's your favorite way to rock it?
Athleisure is my life! I don't get caught up in having a "proper" change of clothes—I mix fitness and street clothes, and it creates a fresh style. I'm usually in "all tight everything," plus lipgloss and perfume or body oils. As a Nike Training Camp trainer, I also rock a lot of the latest Nike gear, which fits really well into my personality. They've got some "lightweight warmth" hooded vests that will provide a lot of versatility for fall.
What would you say is the hardest thing about what you do?
Finding the time to rest and get in my own workouts.
Can you share a moment with a student that was truly inspiring?
When I was a new barre teacher, I had a student that was extremely resistant to hands-on adjustments, to the point where she would yell and shoo me away. The first time she did it, I was really thrown. After class I said, "I'm so sorry, I will remember next time that you don't want hands-on adjustments." She then said, "Well, I'm just afraid I will get hurt." This started a conversation that led to huge breakthroughs for her emotionally and physically. It also reiterated how important it is to never judge students or take things personally. I didn't give up on her, and as a result we both grew. She ended up coming to as many of my classes as she could.
Have any of your clients ever come on to you or asked you out? What did you do?
Yes, I've been asked out! I went on a few dates with one student when I first started teaching at a different studio. The most awkward is a guy asked for a one-on-one session, but I just think he was afraid to ask me out on a date.
Reveal something that even your most dedicated students don't know about you.
Here's two: I'm a doula, and I have a red toy poodle named Zia.
What's your relationship status?
I'm committed to my love, Sam!
What's your favorite cheat meal?
A burger with fries, and of course some rosè!
What's your favorite outdoor workout spot in the city?
This playground with a track in my neighborhood. I also love leading East River trainings with Nike Training Camp—the energy is unbeatable.
What advice would you offer to someone who is just starting in your class?
Pay attention to your form and be patient with yourself.