Movement has been a part of Rachel Nicks’ life since she can remember. One of the lead instructors on the Mirror, Nicks is a certified Hatha yoga, barre, T.R.X., kettlebell, Pilates, prenatal and postpartum fitness instructor. When she is not pushing you to your fitness limits, she is a certified DONA doula, and a working actress on hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.” Her fitness philosophy is all about getting up and moving. She wants you to set goals, but celebrate your strengths instead of obsessing over your weaknesses. “Health is wealth,” Nicks shares. “My goal is to empower people to achieve health from the inside out by equipping them with education, tools, and encouragement.”
Nicks sits down with us to talk about staying focused while working from home (without childcare!), her go-to healthy meals, fitness motivation, and top tips for managing stress.
How have things changed for you since COVID-19 hit? Well, I have not been back home to New York City, where I live, since March 14th. When COVID hit, my family made the decision to stay with my parents in California — and are here until January. I’m pregnant and we will have our baby here and spend our maternity and paternity leave here. Living with my parents has been a beautiful and challenging experience. Not knowing when I would return home or where I would give birth was overwhelming. After three months, I needed to make a decision to ease my anxiety. Once we decided to stay and get our own place I was able to feel more settled. I have learned to embrace chaos. Trying to balance work while being pregnant and mothering a 2-year-old is not easy. Then, with the added stress of COVID-19, it can truly be all consuming. Having my son is truly helpful because he forces me to live in the moment.
What are some of your tips to stay focused, especially now? Focus with a 2-year-old and pregnancy brain is interesting! I usually try to get work done when my son is napping and when I feel I have the energy or clarity. I have given myself permission to ask for extensions to deadlines and I have embraced that my phone calls may include a toddler meltdown. I accept my circumstances which helps me focus and not be so stressed about how unique and challenging my circumstances are. It also helps to know that we are all dealing with the same thing so I feel a sense of camaraderie and support.
Do you prefer to workout in the morning or evening? Mornings are my favorite, but I don’t have that luxury anymore because my husband works the first half of the day. So my workouts these days have consisted of baseball, golf, and chasing my son on a scooter.
How often do you exercise, and what’s your workout of choice? I exercise at least 5 times a week. I try to walk daily to get fresh air. I love variety. I find that different disciplines not only challenge me differently physically, but they impact my mind and spirit differently as well. I love HIIT, kickboxing, pilates, barre, and yoga. Only thing that is not my jam is running. I find other ways to get my cardio in.
How do you motivate yourself (and your clients!) to workout? Just get started. The times you don’t feel motivated is when you really need to move. Movement is medicine. It shifts your energy. I am amazed every time I move how quickly I feel my energy shift and it is always a positive shift. Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect mood. Just move. Try different types of workouts. Vary your workouts. Try to find something you enjoy. Don’t just do something because it’s trendy. There are too many options to dread your workout.
If you have children, work out with them. It will teach them to move and it’s fun. It won’t necessarily be a “perfect” workout but who cares. For myself, I get moving when I have some energy or to help boost my mood. I usually try to do some yoga to just connect to my body and breath and release tension and stress.
If you had to name your healthy diet, what would you call it? I believe in wellness. It’s a lifestyle. I believe in eating fresh, local, and real food. I avoid processed foods and cook as much as I can because I can control what I am putting into my body. I pretty much eat everything. I do not believe in cheat days or punishing myself for eating certain things. Food brings me immense joy. I try to not wait to eat until I am starving. I eat 3 meals a day and have little snacks throughout. I control my portions. I don’t fill my plate. I listen to my body. Your body will tell you what it needs if you listen. Pregnant women aren’t the only ones with cravings.
Has it been hard to stay on track with your nutrition while in quarantine? My father is a Cookie Monster so when I was staying with him, staying out of the pantry was tough. In my home, I avoid stocking my fridge or pantry with a lot of tempting snacks.
Now that I am in my own space, I have been doing much better with my nutrition. I also just feel so much better when I avoid a bunch of sugar.
Your go-to breakfast? Yogurt, fruit and granola. Colder seasons I love oatmeal and berries with honey.
What’s the one food you always have in your fridge? I only get to pick one? I always have eggs, apples, yogurt and almond milk.
What do you eat before and after a workout? Before a workout, I’ll have a boiled egg and toast or a piece of fruit. I try to have protein after a workout —and hydrate well.
Your favorite food indulgence? I love a good chocolate chip cookie with nuts. Levain Bakery sends me straight to heaven.
Other than water, what do you sip regularly? WINE! Oh how pregnant me misses it.
What causes you stress? What’s your go-to tool for managing stress? I do not like missing deadlines. I have had to get good at asking for forgiveness and patience because I only have so much time in the day, especially without childcare. This time has taught me to be patient with myself and even more accepting. That it’s ok if everything on the to-do list doesn’t get done. When I get stressed, I let out a deep breath —or a baby scream like I did today. I accept that I feel overwhelmed and frustrated and ground myself with that deep breath. I cannot control everything and most days things will not go to plan. What is paramount is that I stay in a good space for my son and husband. Stressed Rachel isn’t good for anyone or for my productivity.
How do you pamper yourself when you need it? I had a bath a few weeks ago that was so delightful. My thing is that I make sure to do my nails, feet, and brows. I do my favorite face mask at least once a week. I light candles, that brings me joy, too.
How do you express and spread love? I express all the love to my little man everyday. We tell each other “I love you” all throughout the day which is the best feeling. I also use my Instagram to spread love and light. We all need it. Life is challenging, yet beautiful. I believe focusing on the hope and beauty of the world will give us the strength we need to create the necessary change. We are not meant to live in the swamp. Let’s hold hands on the bridge and always choose to see the light in the midst of darkness. We owe it to ourselves and our children. It is not about ignoring darkness but knowing that light is much more powerful.
What is your evening routine to wind down at the end of the day? I try to shower every night. And put on my favorite oils and face creams. It helps me wash off the day and shift into a restful evening. I usually light a candle as I clean the house and dim the lights for our evening as well. Plus, loads of cuddles with my poodle and my son — and if I am lucky, the hubby and I get a cuddle or two.