Nikki Fayne never expected to be a fitness professional. When she graduated high school at just over 300 pounds, she fell on a snare drum and knew she had to make a change. Just walking around her college campus helped her lose 80 pounds. However, it was not only her improving fitness level, but also her outgoing, fun personality that gained her a dance fitness class at the campus center while she was earning her masters in education. Her accessible, funky approach appealed to students who might otherwise be nervous to attend, and she was so successful the director of athletics asked her to switch her focus to exercise kinesiology—for free.
Since then, Fayne’s reach has expanded, and she’s moved from teaching WOW (Women on Weight) and earning her personal training certification to dance kickboxing and Barre Intensity, even serving as a Lululemon ambassador. When she found Pilates, a Joseph Pilates quote hooked her: “The hardest muscle to strengthen is the will.” Soon, she’ll open a Megaformer studio offering beyond-Pilates workouts. But wherever she teaches, she keeps this as the constant crux of her philosophy, helping her Michigan clients work out with a healthy attitude—and a hearty dose of humor.
SBS: Why is the Joseph Pilates quote so important to you?
Nikki Fayne: If I tell my brain to move, my body does so. But the minute my brain gets tired, the body stops. The mind is the most powerful, and that’s what I always keep at the core of my work. That’s the best advice I can give when approaching Pilates, too. It’s a drive, a movement, and all life’s practice is about the will.
SBS: What are the biggest fitness mistakes you see people make?
NF: No two people have the same fingerprints, so no two people will move the same. Some techniques say if the leg is straight it must be exactly that, but for me, if I say straight and your leg has a small bend, as long as the body is moving in a healing way, we can agree on that. Moving and breathing are healing.
I also think basic alignment is often not given enough attention, like making sure the shoulders are in line with the wrists, etc. But, remember, your shoulder and my shoulder may not be anywhere near the same place! I don’t believe that moving mechanically is helpful.
Finally don’t confuse it: When someone says you have a good body, to me a good body is a working body. I think vanity is a huge proprietor of this business. Trust me: I love being at my fighting weight, I love definition, and I wear things to show it off. However, vanity is not important or helpful.
SBS: What type of workouts do you think are best?
NF:I think whatever makes you happiest and is going to work for you is best. Changing up the frequency, intensity, duration and variety are how you break a plateau. If you don’t see a difference from five classes, change it. These are the ways you can change it up. For me, I love hot vinyasa yoga. It’s hard, strengthening and it’s that balance between stability and mobility. And remember, everyone comes in too flexible or not flexible enough. It’s about finding that balance in your workouts, which is what life is about.
SBS: How do you encourage clients who are nervous to start working out?
NF: I remind them that to start, you need to use your fear. If you’re ready, you need to use why you’re ready, whether it’s a family goal or weight loss. Use that realization and revelation. Let something motivate you and don’t let anyone steer you off. Get deep with yourself, and let yourself think of it as a ‘work in.’
Then, the reward system is a realistic way to start moving forward. For example, I have a cheat day every week. Sometimes it’s just a meal, sometimes it’s a day, and it isn’t a reckoning. I think it’s healthy, and it lets you look forward to stuff.
Nikki Helps SBS Tackle the Abdominal Five Series:
All five exercises are done on your back in flexion (with your head, neck and shoulders lifted off the floor). Start each exercise with five rounds, switching sides within each set. Build up to 10 rounds.
1) Single Leg Stretch (Think 1970sJane Fonda bicycling abs with a two arm add in!)
Just bike those legs: One bends in, one reaches long, all the while reaching both hands toward the ankle of your alternating, bent leg.
2) Double Leg Stretch (Think superman on your back while in flexion.)
Stretch your straight arms overhead together and reach your straight legs together away from your center. Repeat.
3) Single Straight Leg Stretch (Think 1980s leg warmers contest, aka scissors.)
Reach both hands high up toward your leg while keeping your other leg hovering above the floor, then switch.
4) Double Straight Leg Lower Lift
With both hands cradled behind the head, move both legs up toward the ceiling. Bring both legs down simultaneously toward the floor and then return back to start and repeat.
With your hands behind the head, pull both knees into the chest. Deliberately cross your right elbow toward your left knee while extending your right leg to hover above the floor, and switch.
Nikki’s SBS Mantra: Be You! "Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than YOU!"- Dr. Seuss
-Favorite Healthy Spots: Drought juice cafe and Inn Season Cafe
-Favorite Splurge: Authentic Mexican!
-Favorite peaceful time activity: A cup of blueberry tea, a notebook and goal setting