Meet Niki, London-based personal trainer and leading Fascial Stretch Therapist, one of only a handful in the UK. By day Niki is also a performance specialist at Lee Mullin’s Workshop Gymnasium - based within the luxurious Bulgari Hotel – and by night she trains an athlete for the England Touch Rugby team, having been selected for this year’s Touch World Cup taking place in April.
We managed to grab a few minutes with our very first ambassador to hear more about her journey with sport and fitness, and how she made it her career.
Where did your love of sport begin?
It started from school; I was always the only girl running around playing football at lunchtime and studied coaching even from that young age, running sports camps when still at school. I went onto study sport at university and following that my first job was heading up the university’s student sports department.
So, a future in sport and fitness was inevitable?
There was a bit of a blip, a quarter life crisis perhaps! I wanted to make sure this was the career I really wanted, because essentially it was for the rest of my life. I looked to my other interests and following a Fashion Design course, worked in luxury fashion for a while before realising that sport was where my passion lay.
How did you turn your passion into a career?
I took my Personal Trainer qualification, knowing that down the line I pictured working for myself, having my own business and expand it in a way that was unique to me and my skill set. The aim was truly to make a difference in people’s lives – that’s what I felt was missing when working in fashion - I gain a lot personally from helping people and had previously loved all my coaching roles.
Any tips on how a career in personal training should be approached?
Qualification courses are essential, but any personal trainer will tell you that there is a huge element missing from them that you just can’t learn on a course. You are holding someone’s health and safety in your hands, so the journey doesn’t stop there. Additional courses, working with other trainers, embarking on research, this is what makes a trainer great. I was lucky to have an incredible 3-month mentorship when I started with Workshop Gymnasium and even though I had already been a Personal Trainer for 3 years it opened my eyes about different ways to approach programming, training, teaching movement.
Was there anyone in the industry that you wanted to emulate?
When I started, I was genuinely quite unaware of others in the fitness industry. As a fairly petit and not overly muscular person, I didn't look like your stereotypical trainer and didn’t know of anyone similar to me that I could relate to – I just wanted to be a personal trainer. Social media changed that, and I think now there is a much bigger variety of body shapes for people to relate to, its much more inclusive.
Fitness is much more accessible in general now on social media, is this a good thing?
Yes, but the personal trainer in me still comes out to say that following a programme remotely means that you probably haven’t been assessed first. My recommendation would always be to do a couple of sessions with a responsible expert who can check your movement, posture and ability and who can point you in the right direction for which tutorial videos or programmes will work for you.
Who trains the trainer?
My colleagues! At Workshop gymnasium we have a good team who train together in group sessions. We educate each other, swap notes, spot each other and generally educate each other. I also follow the England Touch programme by our strength and conditioning coach Aaron Green.
How did your England Touch career come about?
For as long as I can remember I always wanted to play sport for Team GB or England, being at school in Singapore Touch was popular, being a southern hemisphere dominated sport. I had a great coach who build my passion for it as a sport and when I moved to London joined the team at national level and played my first international tournament later that year and the world cup the following year.
Looking forward to this year’s tournament?
Absolutely, every year I make the team I cry still! I think this is the strongest team that England Touch have ever had in my division – an incredible team of athletes who are made up of doctors, businesswomen, lawyers, teachers. Every career you can think of is represented and despite having full time jobs their commitment to sport is amazing and shows the huge passion.