"My first PumpUp picture was a picture of an elliptical machine,” recalled Nicole. "After and hour of slow-paced gliding on the machine, I burned over 500 calories and I remember feeling so accomplished. That is what fitness was to me back then and that was truly the start of my journey.” Other than high school lacrosse, Nicole lacked variety in her exercise routine. While Nicole was conscious about what she ate, she had trouble with portion control. “When I started using PumpUp as a high school athlete, my diet was whatever I could shove down my throat when I got home from practice — I remember eating half a jar of trail mix one day and those jars were [almost] 20 servings!,” she remembered. "My fitness journey really started when I got injured playing lacrosse. I stress fractured my right shin and had to be on crutches for six weeks. Without the exercise, I knew I had to change my habits. I started strength training to prevent further injury and strengthen my legs [and I attempted] to watch my portions."

It’s been over one year since Nicole joined the PumpUp community. Now, in addition to strength training, she varies her routine by doing HIIT cardio and outdoor activities such as hiking. "I have finally found a good balance between strength training and cardio, and I am no longer afraid that weights will make me bulky— a year ago I was terrified to leave the cardio area of the gym,” she revealed. With the help of flexible dieting and a program called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), Nicole has more control over her portions. "My problem was never unhealthy food— it was always eating an entire bag of something and feeling guilty about it,” she insisted. "I found that carb cycling is working well for me.  I am also vegetarian because my body doesn’t respond well to meat. I tried veganism in the past, but had trouble finding protein sources and became underweight as a result.  I reintroduced eggs and dairy into my diet and have found that is what works best for me."

By making these changes, Nicole also improved her mental and emotional health. “I got into my first relationship last winter, and I correlated his affection with the way I looked,” she explained. “I happened to be my lightest weight at the time — 106 pounds at 5’3, which is not healthy for me. I was running crazy amounts every day (up to nine miles) in order to stay slim. I was always freezing cold and weak. After about a month, I realized that he didn’t truly like me for me and broke the relationship off.” Nicole tapped into the turmoil from her breakup and used it as a source of energy and strength. "I fuelled my anger and disappointment into fitness,” she shared. "But this time, I started lifting. With each rep, I got stronger. I gained back some weight, and I got back up to about 112, which is healthy for me. I know I am getting stronger and bettering myself each day."

Moving forward, Nicole hopes to motivate others on PumpUp to be strong and to pursue a healthy lifestyle for more positive reasons. "For so long, I wanted to be stick thin,” she recalled. "Despite being the healthiest eater in my family, I was the only one who carried extra body fat. Now, I’m not worried about the number on the scale because I know how many amazing things my body is capable of! The other day, I deadlifted 135 pounds: over 20 more than my weight. While that may not be a lot to many people, I used to have zero muscle. I literally had trouble opening doors! I want to show other people that what matters isn’t how small your waist is, but how strong you are and what amazing things you can accomplish."

Nicole’s Best Advice

Make the gym a priority! A lot of people find it hard to make time for the gym, so don’t make it something you’ll do if you have time-- make it a must! I always make sure I can fit in a workout no matter how busy I am, even if it is quick. A short workout is better than no workout. 

I would also recommend IIFYM to anyone because you can literally eat whatever you want as long as it fits! And you can calculate your macros online for free, I used a couple different sites and rounded the numbers to get accurate macros and I am still working to tweak them to meet my goals. For anyone already on IIFYM, I have a bunch of tips on how to make the most of your macros: one of my all time favorite low macro meals is cauliflower pancakes, you can eat a whole pile of pancakes for only 4 carbs and adding cinnamon completely covers the cauliflower taste (recipe and picture is on my profile).

Nicole’s Routine

I head to the gym first thing in the morning to start my day, I can’t function if I don’t get my training in—  it gets me up and going for the day. I usually do about an hour of weights. I don’t have a particular training plan, mostly I train whichever muscle group isn’t extremely sore, or do cardio if I am feeling particularly sore that day. I try not to take rest days unless my body absolutely needs it.

I love strength training — my current favorite is leg day. I feel so strong in the gym when I load those 45 pound plates onto the bar for deadlifts. I also love squats because there are so many different variations— I love discovering new ones to try on PumpUp.

 Nicole’s Biggest Source of Motivation

My dad is my biggest motivation. He has been lifting for over 30 years and continues to lift almost everyday as well as playing lacrosse despite being almost fifty years old! He got me into lifting and is helping me to continually improve my strength. I hope to still be fit and strong when I am his age and he inspires me to work harder everyday to meet my goals.

More about Nicole

While I love fitness, I also have a bunch of other passions. I love painting — I recently opened an Etsy shop @poshpaintsdesign, I also love animals and have a Cocker Spaniel and a cat who I am a bit obsessed with. I also have a weird love for math. I am majoring in statistics at my University (just finished year one)! Something about doing all the calculations and figuring out real world problems is really rewarding to me. 

Keep Nicole pumped! Find her on PumpUp @nicoleburnscalories and on Instagram @fieryredfit