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 prioritiesóbut 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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Which Is More Important: Cardio or Strength Training?

This is a loaded question! If you ask 10 different trainers, you'd get 10 different answers. One trainer's answer is likely to be based on what they've seen help clients get the best results or their own personal preference for one type of exercise over the other.
 
There isn't a ton of research on this topic, but we know that people who do both cardio and strength training tend to have better outcomes in terms of weight loss, fitness and even improved blood sugar levels. These two modes of exercise each do very different things. If the issue is time, my answer would be to find a way to fit in both, whether each workout is a little shorter (and maybe more intense) to maximize your time, or you are doing both but doing each thing occasionally (such as just once a week each). Anything you can do will help. Another solution to fitting in both cardio and strength training is to seek out workouts that combine both efficiently. There are many workout DVDs (including SparkPeople's best-selling titles), fitness classes (including CrossFit) and workout options (including kettlebell training) that give you the best of both worlds. Circuit training, which involves lifting weights in a circuit of exercises without resting in between, is another good way to add an aerobic component to your strength-training workouts
 
Now let's look a little deeper at each exercise component and the role they might individually play in your fitness and weight-loss plan.

Posted 4/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 6 comments   34,005 views

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Why You Should Have an Affair at the Gym

You put on your sweatpants and baggy T-shirt. Throw your hair up into a ponytail and wipe the make-up off your face. You fill your water bottle and head to the nearest elliptical. Headphones in, you tune out the world, focusing on the show you're watching or that new song you downloaded. You set your sights on the console and the clock, watching the numbers—calories, time, and distance—tick up until you've hit your goal on one (or maybe all three). Get in and get out, that's what the gym is to you. You're not there to talk or make friends. You're just there to get through your routine and go home.

But what if I told you that going to the gym could—and should—be a little more fulfilling? The truth is that having an affair at the gym happens more than you might think. It can change your mind and your body—and how you feel about yourself. If you've been going through the motions lately, feeling uninspired or tied down, then break free from monogamy and bring the excitement back with an affair!

Posted 4/1/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 70 comments   63,504 views

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You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?

This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. Pilates can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.

Posted 3/28/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 13 comments   31,441 views

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The New No-Excuses Way to Work Out

There are a lot of excuses—or hurdles if you will—that get in the way of our intentions to work out. Not enough time. Not enough money. Fear of being judged by others. Not having easy or affordable access to equipment or a gym. Not enough options that fit your schedule. Traveling all the time.  Not knowing what to do on your own. Not having childcare. Bad weather.
 
Most of us have dealt with a number of these hurdles more than once in our lifetime. The truth is that working out is hard. All of these things are barriers that make it even more difficult to get and stay fit.
 
But there are a lot of amazing innovations that are bringing fitness to more people in ways that help you jump many of the hurdles above. One of my favorites recently launched. And while it sounds too good to be true that this one solution is affordable, accessible, flexible, easy to follow—and can help you get fit anywhere on your own time—it's true.

Posted 3/24/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 7 comments   23,208 views

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6 Fun Fitness Finds to Inspire Your Spring Workouts

The Polar Vortex is finally behind us! I know everyone is with me when I say Bring On Spring! Here in Cincinnati, we've had a couple 70-degree days giving us a taste of the warmer season to come. Granted, they were followed up by snowy days, but we'll take it!

Spring is such a great time for fitness. No matter how dedicated you are to exercise (or not) the change in weather seems to encourage everyone to get outdoors and get active. Even if you're not getting out yet (maybe it's still cold in your region), I'm sure you're noticing a heightened level of energy thanks to sunnier days.
For even more inspiration, here are some of the cool finds that are helping me stay fit and happy this spring. You just might find the right thing to put a little pep in your step, too!

Posted 3/20/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   24,301 views

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You Asked: How Many Calories Does Strength Training Burn?

If you are concerned about how many calories you burn during strength training, chances are that you are actively trying to lose weight (or might want to ensure you are eating enough to support strength training without losing additional weight). Although strength training is challenging and requires a lot of hard work (especially when lifting heavy weights), it doesn't typically burn as many calories as cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises like running or cycling.

Posted 3/13/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   182,543 views

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Introducing SparkPeople 'Friend Feed' Enhancements

Good morning, SparkPeople!

We've been hard at work revamping some of your favorite SparkPeople features to make them more fun and useful. Today we are happy to announce an update to your Friend Feed.

Posted 2/12/2014  11:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 52 comments   9,874 views

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50 Love Songs You'll Love Working Out To

I know many people think of Valentine's Day as a silly non-holiday, something card and marketing companies conjured up so we'll buy more stuff. I don't consider myself a materialistic person, and I really can't explain it, but Valentine's Day has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. I guess I just always thought it was sweet and fun. My parents always made us their valentines, so it was always special. In fact, now in my 30s, I still get a valentine in the mail from my parents every February 14. To me, a day that celebrates love of all kinds (family love, romantic love, friendship love, etc.) is a happy thing!
 
For others like me who are feeling the spirit of St. Valentine, I put together a fun workout playlist to inspire your next fitness session. We've collected 50 songs from a variety of genres and eras that celebrate love—and still have a beat that you'll want to exercise to. Whether you listen to them only in February or all year long, these are some love songs that you'll love working out to!

Posted 2/5/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 10 comments   27,248 views

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Sweat It Out: 50 Fast & Empowering Break-Up Songs

When you're newly single or going through a tough break-up, it's common to channel that emotional energy into unhealthy habits like drinking, smoking and even overeating. This is especially true around Valentine's Day (and other holidays) when messages and images of happy couples are in your face at every turn (grrr).

But there is a better—and healthier way—to deal. You can use this time to focus on you—your goals, your desires, and your unique life vision. When you need an emotional release, let exercise be your friend (just channel your inner Bridget Jones and hit that Spin bike!). Use it as a focus or a distraction, a natural way to build your endorphins back up.

The following workout songs will help you get in the right spirit for your fitness session and empower you to be your best, happy self! Some are angry, some are celebratory, and some are affirmation that you are stronger than ever—right now.

Posted 2/5/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 4 comments   55,226 views

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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 : 56 comments   692,124 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   14,590 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   11,580 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   13,225 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 : 19 comments   24,099 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   37,749 views

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