Although Nikki and I never officially met, I have known of her for years and years. Her son used to participate in an after school club that I assisted in when he was in second or third grade. He is now a freshman in high school, so it’s been a long time that Nikki has been on my radar. She also happens to be very close friends with my former next door neighbor, Kathy Garcia of Kathy G Designs (Guest – Kathy G Designs published on 11/23/17). Although we have traveled in similar circles all this time, it wasn’t until this interview that I really got a chance to sit down and get to know her.
Nikki owns a fitness business called Full Out Fitness. Her class offerings include Zumba®, Cardio Kickboxing, High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) and Smash-Up which is an alternating combo of dance fitness and kick boxing. Her classes are $5 a class! You can’t even get a coffee for $5 these days! (I should know.) So if you’ve already dropped the ball on your fitness goals for 2018, now’s your chance to pick it back up and get in the game. When asked how she would describe her business Nikki replied, “In a nutshell, is just a bunch of us getting together and sweating… leaving everything at the door.”
Before dance fitness, Nikki was a dance teacher. She explains, “It sort of happened quick. I was graduating from George Mason [University] and I had a dance degree and a graphic design degree. It was the summer of, ‘should I go into the city and try to audition for jobs’.” But instead Nikki and her high school sweetheart decided to get married that summer and start a family. Due to her upcoming special deliver, dance auditions were off the table, but dance instructor was not. From dance instructor, Nikki became a fitness instructor. In the early years of her career and starting a young family, Nikki had a couple of jobs. Her husband worked the 9-5 and she worked the 5-9. She says, “It was like slap (mimics hi-five hand off). Ok, you have the two kids. That was our early life. I would work at night part-time teaching classes; teaching dance.”
Full Out Fitness came from working in the gyms. Nikki was working in all of the large local gyms, driving all over the place, and teaching two to three classes a day. She shares, “You’re working, pretty much anywhere from $25 – $30 /hour. I called it my Target money, [as] it really didn’t contribute to the household.” After five years of this Nikki began to realize that some of her classes had grown up to 180 people in a class! Working out such crazy space demands, Nikki ultimately began utilizing the gym’s basketball court for her popular classes. During this time, she explains, two things happened. She digested the fact that Gym A people couldn’t go to Gym B. Gym B people couldn’t go to Gym C, unless they were willing to pay $20 at the door for a walk-in, on top of the membership fees they were paying at their home gym. One gym let her do a $5 walk in fee for a little bit, but the members started getting upset. She recognized that friends and followers couldn’t travel with her to other classes in other gyms if they wanted to take more classes. She began to do the math. She’s got 180 people her class and yet she was only getting paid $30+/hr. You see where she’s going? She says, “Even if I had a quarter per head, that’s something worth pursuing.” At the same time of this revelation, there became more of a need at home for Nikki to step up, or at least change her game.
Nikki is the proud momma of two GORGEOUS children. Her son Jacob, who we’ve already established is in high school, and then two years after he was born, Nikki gave birth to their daughter, Bella. Within Bella’s first two years, she was diagnosed with autism. It was at the time of Nikki’s growing pains in her professional life, that Bella’s therapies needed to ramp up. With those therapies came a huge expense that the “Target money” wasn’t going to cover. Nikki was also filling a need in the community. She wanted to create a safe space that anybody could come to for a fitness class that would be affordable.
The seed for Full Out Fitness was planted and the hunt began for a space to sublease to hold her fitness classes. Says Nikki, “When I started it, I wanted some place to sublease so I didn’t have to pay a high overhead. [I wanted to create a place] that people that still belonged to [one of the local gyms], could afford.” She understood that a lot of these people had family members who might be taking lessons at the bigger gyms. She goes on, “They’re already paying $40, $60, $80 at these gyms. Plus I don’t have the luxuries of [the large gyms]. We don’t have any of the amenities of a [large gym]. I’m just a warehouse gym. So, $5 a pop.”
To her detriment, Nikki has been forced to move several times since the opening of Full Out Fitness. It causes her to lose followers each time she has to relocate. But things are settling down in that department and the tides are changing in her favor. Serendipity found it’s way in, as serendipity does and Nikki was availed a fitness space at the very place where her daughter had done therapy. The autism therapy company had moved from Herndon to Sterling and had unused gym space with an adjacent conference room with a window so the children of the folks participating in the fitness class can be in there with the Wi-Fi. Says Nikki, “It’s nice. We’ve become a more intimate group of people.”
Nikki is inspired by music. She says, “Sometimes, I’ve been known to just pop on music and make up a dance.” She jokes, “Did someone record that? Did someone remember that, ‘cause that was a good one.” (LOL.) She adds, “Sometimes a song…I’ll literally be on the way to work, to class, and a song will come on and I’m like, BOOM, we’re going to do it today! [Even though] I have not prepared anything. Even my husband’s like, ‘I don’t understand how you can do that’. Somehow I have the gift to literally make something up on the spot. I can plug it in, and create right then and there.”
If you didn’t already love Nikki based on her super fun, engaging personality and rockstar appearance, just wait to you read about her long-term professional goal. Says Nikki, “It used to be something else a few years ago. It’s used to be moving up in the company of Zumba®, and that changed. That just seemed like an empty road of disappointment.” Nikki has become, to some of her personal training clients as, what she calls a “personal trainer autism whisperer”. She shares, “I had a young man and a 10 year old, [both] on the spectrum, [who’s caretakers] wanted me as their personal trainer. Not only could I understand and communicate with their child, but [I could] also get them to move. So I started to think, what am I going to do for Bella?” She explains that in five or six years from now, the autism population will increase and the resources are already scarce. Within the next 5 years, Nikki would like to research and develop her next business surrounding people with special needs. She says, “I don’t know if it’s going to be a gym? Possibly a café? But I think it’s becoming a trend. A great trend. There’s a carwash that opened because a family needed to find a job for [their] son. They made a car wash where most of the employees are on the spectrum. There are coffee shops and bakeries popping up all over the country. I think it’s becoming a trend because the population is only getting bigger. Not only am I thinking of Bella’s future, but I’m thinking of this growing population.” She adds, “I have friends that are great resources, so I think we have the pieces. My deadline [to get this done] is [Bella] graduating from high school. To have something for young adults and late teens. So five years from now, we’re going to have something awesome. We’re going to have something here in Loudoun County.”
With her sights set on changing the lives of an entire population in the future, Nikki is excited about the lives she’s already changed. She shares, “It’s still weird when someone messages me. You never know how much you‘ve impacted somebody until they share their total personal story.” The people in her classes, yes they are her friends and they’ve all become close, but beforehand nobody knew each other. Says Nikki, “[Even though] we only know each other for that hour, it’s people going through life, struggles, postpartum depression, people going through parents being sick and [having] a total flip of their lifestyle… with this outlet we’ve in a way become therapy.” But she’s seen the transformations first hand. She says, “I see old pictures from four or five years ago of people [compared to now] and I’m like, ‘whoa, they’ve totally changed!’ And it just catapulted to other things. It’s not just the 20 lbs off, but they’re just happier people.”
Her parting words? Says Nikki, “I think, knowing the different ages, and different sizes, men, women… that I’ve come in contact with the last 10 years of being a fitness instructor, it’s never too late for, and I don’t want to say change, but evolution. It’s almost like you have to be selfish and just go and do it. No matter what it is. If it’s going to a class, or walking, or drinking more water.” She goes on, “When I have clients, and they want to just cut everything and go for a run, [I might have to remind them], that’s not your way of life.” Her advice? Try something for two weeks and just accomplish that. For example, drink more water for two weeks. Then the next two weeks add something else. She explains, “I think it’s these little steps [that breeds success]. Nothing got you to this point that was so dramatic like five things you did in one day. You have to be realistic and happy. Know the journey [can start] at any point.” Make yourselves a priority.
Follow Full Out Fitness on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FullOutSweat/
Full Out Fitness locations and class schedule:
Monday / Tuesday / Thursday Evenings & Sunday mornings: 21680 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 100, Sterling, VA
Every other Saturday morning: East Coast Edge Performing Arts – 44190 Waxpool Rd, Ashburn, VA
As an aside, Nikki’s daughter Bella, has already started a little home business of her own called One Small Piece where she makes scarves and jewelry. This venture, more or less, has been paying for her therapeutic horseback riding lessons. Says Nikki, “I had to think. What could she do with her hands that I’m assisting her with, but she’s actually making and really enjoying? So she has her own little small business with her wares hopefully offered at local boutique soon.” Stayed tuned!