People Profile: Nicki Anderson
Winner of the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year award, Nicki Anderson – of Illinois, US – explains the need for improved customer service in the profession, based on her experience as an obese teenager.
What inspired you to be a trainer?
Around the age of 15, I went from a petite 95 pounds to 152 pounds. For 5ft 1in, that’s a lot of extra weight. I was miserable. I’d never been active, so I hadn’t a clue about the mental and physical benefits of exercise. Finally, at around 17, I started a nutrition program and it changed my life. It taught me how to eat properly and move more, creating a lifestyle I could maintain.
How did your career progress?
Right after losing my weight, I began working at a health club. I loved inspiring people and telling them “there is hope!” There were no personal trainers in the late 70s; I was basically teaching people how to use the machines. I also spent a lot of time helping clients to develop a healthy lifestyle. Unbelievably, I was fired for spending too much time with members! I know then that one day I’d open a facility that would change the face of customer service in fitness. I know own a personal training studio and lecture on the value of customer service.
What sets you apart?
I believe I won this award for my passion for helping those who feel hopeless. We need to educate personal trainers, not only on the obvious things — biomechanics, programming, kinetic chain, etc — but how to communicate, build trust and inspire clients to maintain a dedication to wellness. If someone has been an athlete all their life, they don’t understand the mindset or lifestyle of the inactive person. I view myself as the conduit between the deconditioned population and fitness professionals.
What happens at your studio?
I help my clients to take baby steps and implement changes in their lifestyle. Ninety-nine percent of them have tried every conceivable diet, so I immediately take the focus off of weight. I teach them that, if they develop healthy habits, the weight will be where it needs to be. I think 90 percent of my clients would say our philosophy has changed their life. It’s not about weight. It’s about lifestyle, full stop.
The award recognized your work in the community — tell us about that
Fifteen years ago I started an annual walk for homeless mothers and their children. It has raised millions of dollars and now also provides housing and education for women. My business has donated money and time to fitness centers in schools, earned grants for schools and donated equipment to them. I also volunteer my time to work with young girls and teach them about the value of staying active and eating well.
What mission do you want to achieve?
My mission is to change the perception of fitness professionals by inspiring them to do things differently. I will spend the rest of my life working to change the activity levels of the inactive population.