The SparkPeople Blog

Nicole Nichols (COACH_NICOLE)

SparkPeople Editor in Chief and Fitness Expert

With certifications in personal training, group fitness, Pilates and more, Nicole is SparkPeople.com's fitness expert and editor-in-chief by day and a fitness instructor by night. She is always expanding her fitness knowledge by attending workshops and testing new workout trends. When reviewing the latest fitness products, safety and efficacy are her top priorities—but fun is a very close second. Outside of work, her dream day would include sleeping in, eating blueberry pancakes, running with her adorable pitbull Ginger, and shopping for vintage furniture. You can learn more about Nicole and her workout DVDs here.

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Total Body Sculpting DVD 28 Day Boot Camp DVDThe Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health


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The 100 Most Motivating Workout Songs of All Time

When it comes to workout music, everyone likes something different. I know people who love to run to instrumental music, seemingly innocent friends who exercise to hardcore gangster rap, and people whose musical tastes in "real" life don't match up with the songs that inspire them to work out.

I like a huge mix. For me, almost anything that's catchy and has a good beat will work. But sometimes, you need something better than that. Sometimes you need the motivation to get off the couch, or go the extra mile, or push through that heavier lift, or muscle through your first marathon. When you really need a boost, what you need is an inspirational work out song.

Our editors and fitness experts compiled a list—130 songs to be exact—of songs that have fast beats worthy of exercising to, but also have motivational messages and lyrics.

Posted 1/28/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 48 comments   139,747 views

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The Awards Show Workout Game: Sweat with the Stars!

It seems like almost every time you turn on the TV there is another award show coming. In January alone, there are the Golden Globes, People's Choice, Critic's Choice, Grammy's (this weekend!) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. Later in winter, the always-hilarious Golden Raspberry (Razzes) Awards take place around the same time as the more serious Academy Awards. And throughout the year, there's a host of music related award shows (like the Country Music Awards) and even MTV has their own Video Music Awards and Movie Awards shows. I'm sure I haven't even listed them all...
 
If you love fashion, celebrity news, or simply think of yourself as a music or movie buff, you'll probably catch at least one of these shows. The performances are entertaining, the jokes and hosts often funny, and the fashion is usually worth seeing.
 
Many people have dress-up parties or get-togethers to watch these shows with friends, often with lots of drinks and appetizers. But you can enjoy the show—and work toward your healthy goals, too—by incorporating SparkPeople's "Award Show Workout Game" at home or with your friends. This workout plan works with any televised award show! It allows you to watch and enjoy the show while also fitting in a serious workout!

Posted 1/24/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 15 comments   11,266 views

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Trim & Tone Head-to-Toe in Less Than 20 Minutes!

Short on time but still want to squeeze in a good sweat session? You're not alone. "Lack of time" is the No. 1 reason people cite for not exercising regularly. It's easy to think that if you don't have an hour or more to dedicate to exercise, then what's the point. But quite honestly, short workouts really do have a big impact on your health and your workout—and that is especially true when you do the right types of workouts.
 
When you need an efficient workout to make the most of your time, that's where smart training techniques like interval training, circuit training and multi-joint exercises come in. All of these approaches help people get better results even when they're short on time.
 
I've put together a workout that combines all three of those fitness techniques in an 18-minute workout that'll give you a cardio boost and a head-to-toe strength training workout in one. And while that might sound ultra-intense, it's appropriate even for beginners.

Posted 1/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 3 comments   7,837 views

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Get Your Daily Dose of Motivation from the DailySpark!

Good afternoon!

At SparkPeople, we are committed to helping our members and readers reach their goals in health and fitness—and in life. We know how hard it can be to stay motivated—especially with so many negative stories spreading around these days.
 
This is why we are particularly excited about launching the new feature that launched today: DailySpark. DailySpark features uplifting, positive and inspiring stories and videos from around the web, curated by our editors and experts. It's something you can look at each day for just a few minutes to reset your outlook and your motivation. Here are a few of my favorite DailySpark videos at the moment:

Posted 1/17/2014  4:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 8 comments   10,353 views

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7 Cool Health & Fitness Gadgets from CES 2014

I just spent the last couple of days at the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. To say that this convention is massive is an understatement. Companies from all over the world come to CES to unveil and promote their latest technologies and gadgets in virtually every category, from cars to crockpots to TVs to headphones.

One growing section of CES is health and fitness technology. This wing is dedicated to "Digital Health," where you'll find dozens of types of fitness monitors and activity trackers along with technology based sleep solutions, smoking cessation tools, teeth whitening gadgets and more. 

I had a chance to check out everything new in health and fitness tech earlier this week. Here's a selection of emerging trends and products that I thought were downright cool—and likely to take off in the coming years.

Posted 1/9/2014  5:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 18 comments   13,380 views

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6 Surefire Ways to Make Your Resolution a Reality

There's no time like January to start fresh! It may be the dead of winter, but everyone's spirits are up and our willpower is in full force. We are ready and committed to make a change.
 
As a fitness instructor, I love this time of year. The energy in the gym is contagious and the classes are packed! And as a SparkPeople employee, it's a great time, too. So many new people find us and join our site to reach their goals!
 
But as you probably know, this New Year motivation fades quickly. It's easy to give up on your goals when you don't have a plan, don't have support, or don't have a realistic way to keep yourself motivated. Let's vow to make this year different. Let's commit ourselves to just one simple goal to keep our focus. You might not be able to do everything on your giant list of goals, but you can be successful with one or two things when you have a good plan in place.

SparkPeople has a lot of fun, simple and effective challenges that are the perfect way to get started and stay motivated. I would recommend choosing ONE program listed below to focus your efforts, but if you're feeling extra motivated, try a couple! Don't worry: You can join in the fun any time, even if you can't commit to everything you'd like to do at once. These are all great ways to hit the ground running in January!  

Posted 1/7/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 4 comments   35,230 views

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BIG News: SparkPeople Workout DVD Now at Walmart!

I'm excited to share some news that we've been keeping under wraps for months: This January, Walmart stores across the country are stocking SparkPeople's critically acclaimed 28 Day Boot Camp workout DVD at an everyday low price! You'll find it in the fitness section of the store (not with other media and DVDs). This is a major highlight for me personally, and another great milestone for SparkPeople since so many more people will be exposed to our healthy and sane approach to fitness and weight loss thanks to this. To celebrate, we're offering a great deal to people who purchase the DVD at a Walmart store!

Posted 1/6/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 45 comments   16,061 views

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Your Fittest Year Starts Right Here!

If you're resolving to lose weight, get fit or tone up in 2014, then I have some news for you. It's going to take hard work, willpower, dedication, and some sweat (but not necessarily blood or tears). But you can make it easier—even fun—by joining SparkPeople's 4-week January Jumpstart Challenge, which includes an easy-to-follow workout plan, built-in support, and motivational prizes!

I created the January Jumpstart Challenge to motivate and inspire you to get off to a strong start in the new year. This "bootcamp" style plan isn't highly intense, but it does involve a commitment to daily exercise so you can get real results in just four weeks—talk about a great way to start the year!

Posted 1/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 63 comments   63,672 views

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The 100 Best Workout Songs of 2013

This is one of my favorite posts to write every year: sharing this epic list of get-your-body-moving workout songs of the year. Unlike all those holiday treats and sweets, this is one thing you can enjoy in December that won't make your pants fit tighter.
 
All year long, I've been compiling a list of the best workout songs that were released (or popular) within the last 12 months. Here, you'll find all the songs that people like you were dancing, running, cycling and lifting to throughout 2013.

But that's not all: This list is the BEST of the best! I asked members of SparkPeople.com, America's #1 weight loss and fitness website, to vote on their favorites. Find out which song took the top spot as best workout jam of the year,  whether any of your own favorites made the list, and how you can download a brand new 60-minute cardio workout mix of the top 15 songs (as voted on by exercisers like you)!

Posted 12/18/2013  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 45 comments   206,488 views

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Want to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain? Burn It to Earn It!

Forget about all the food for a minute. Let's talk about the fitness. Holiday weight gain is a concern for many, but it's not just because of the food. Sure, we eat more rich foods than we probably should this time of year, but we also let our workouts go by the wayside. We're stressed out and busier than ever with mile-long to do lists. The uncooperative weather doesn't help—dark mornings and evenings make you want to curl up in bed—not to biceps curls. So how is it that we can manage to do everything else but not squeeze in a workout? And what does that say about our priorities (and our commitments to ourselves)?

Let's do things differently this year, starting with Thanksgiving. The solution really is simple. We know what causes weight gain and we know how to maintain and lose weight, too. So for the next few weeks, I propose a new philosophy that will keep winter weight gain at bay: Burn it to earn it.

Posted 11/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 115 comments   21,078 views

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Earn 500 SparkPoints with Our New Welcome Guide

Good morning, SparkFriends!

This morning we launched a brand new Welcome Guide on your SparkPeople Start page today.  You'll find it just below the section for Step 1 on your Start page. Check out the screen shot below to see where it is.

Posted 11/13/2013  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 15 comments   6,623 views

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6 Reasons Why You'll Love the Spark Activity Tracker

I'm not much of a "gadgets" person, but I am a results person. While I don't go for every trend or spend a lot of money on the latest technology, I will invest in things that have a big benefit to me. If that means a premium iPhone app, an amazingly accurate GPS watch (love my Garmin Forerunner), or a simple activity tracker, I'm generally skeptical at first, but very loyal once I find something that works.
 
Many of you know that I've been a Fitbit fan for many years. I still love the Fitbit and think it's a great device. It happened to be the tracker that really resonated with me, but that's not necessarily because the Fitbit is better or more accurate than anything else. From my perspective, any activity tracker that has the basic features you need and is easy to use can work wonders even if it's not the best or the most impressive. Regardless of the brand or type of device, the biggest benefit you'll get from any activity tracker is that wearing it each day as motivation to set and reach new goals. For me, that's why I love certain gadgets and data.

I'm proud to have been involved in the testing and developing of the Spark Activity Tracker's online features. After years of using an activity tracker, I had more than a few ideas on how to make our tracker great. For people who don't already have an activity tracking device—or for those who simply want a more streamlined experience—the Spark is an affordable gadget worth checking out. I love it for all the reasons I fell in love with my Fitbit years ago—but as loyal as I've been to the Fitbit, I have to admit that The Spark has several more perks that you won't find in other activity trackers.
 
Here are six reasons why I think you'll love the Spark as much as I do.  

Posted 11/6/2013  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 32 comments   11,933 views

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6 Smart Ways to Stay on Track This Season

The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and the couch is looking a whole lot comfier. This time of year, attendance at the gym drops and our desires to exercise and eat right fall lower on our priority list. Between back to school, tailgating, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the year-end frenzy at work, Christmas, New Year's and everything in between, it's no wonder we need to "restart" again on January 1.
 
As fall morphs into the busy holiday season, let's choose to make this year different. Let's commit ourselves to just one simple goal to stay on track. You might not be able to do everything perfectly between Halloween and New Year's Eve, but you can do something.
 
SparkPeople has a lot of fun, simple and effective challenges that are the perfect pick-me-up for your program. I would recommend choosing ONE program listed below to focus your efforts. These are all great ways to re-commit this fall and hit the ground running this holiday season!

Posted 10/25/2013  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 14 comments   21,660 views

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How to Make Yourself Work Out When It's Dark Out

As much as I love fall, I don't love the darkness that comes with it. It's already getting darker earlier each night, and it's staying dark even when I wake up in the morning. I am not a fan of that!
 
It's hard enough to be a morning person and wake up to work out, but when the moon is still out when your alarm goes off, forget about it! Then again, if you hit snooze and wait to work out after work, you might be faced with the same problem.
 
I will admit that it's not easy for me to get up and be gung ho for a workout session. I am not and never will be a morning person. It's hard for me to wake up just about every day. But I do manage to stick to my morning workouts (most days anyway). And no, I don't have super human powers …which means you can do it, too. Here's how.

Posted 10/19/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 132 comments   861,169 views

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SparkPeople's Start Page Has a New Look!

Update 10/21/13 9:55 a.m.: SparkPeople's new Start page is now live! Read below for details and a video showing you how to use your new page. Thanks!

Good morning, everyone!

Today we are very excited to announce the launch of a big enhancement to your SparkPeople experience. We know, we know: Change is often viewed as a dirty word. It's something people don't always like, especially from a website that you are used to using a certain way. But this change has been many months in the making and has even been tested and approved by a group of SparkPeople members who got a sneak-peek! We wanted to get it just right—and we are confident that YOU are going to love what you see, too!

Posted 10/18/2013  12:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 167 comments   24,871 views

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