Finding the proper motivation to start and finish a workout can be difficult, cant’ it? Choosing to take the plunge and start your own fitness business can be an even more daunting task with an even greater need for having the proper motivation.
Today, we’re talking to Niccole Hendrickson who will share his experience as an entrepreneur who entered the personal training world at a point of personal weakness yet received collegial support and developed a winning mentality that led to his running a successful fitness practice.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Niccole Hendrickson, Owner of Peak 8 Fitness
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo writer with exercise.com and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts and today we have the pleasure of interviewing Niccole Hendrickson who is the owner of Peak 8 Fitness in Denver, Colorado. Although, she also has a burgeoning online presence, so she can train anyone in the world through that platform.
Thank you, Niccole, for joining us today.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. A pleasure to be here.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Let’s not waste any time. How did you become passionate about fitness training?
Niccole Hendrickson: I think it’s something that was instilled in me in a very fun and natural manner from when I was a young girl. I think this radiates on my biography and about me on my website, but my dad is retired from the Marine Corps. He’s a retired strength coach and football coach. And so just from a young girl, we were always really exposed to activity in a fun manner.
I quickly just became obsessed with the whole culture of it and even though I’m only in my early thirties, it was still fairly new as a young athlete, a young female athlete for strength conditioning to be a heavy presence in your athletic career. And so I felt really lucky to get exposed to that at a young age just with my dad’s background.
And so getting exposed to that as an athlete myself, I just became really passionate about what it did for me, from the inside out, not just on the aesthetics but just how I felt and not only performance-wise but what it could do and how it grows people. So I would say from a young age I truly enjoyed movement and its impact on my life, mental, emotional, physical.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And you mentioned your father’s a Marine. Does that mean that you did a lot of moving when you were growing up?
Niccole Hendrickson: We didn’t. I have an older sibling, a brother, and they moved quite a bit. I’d say a few times and got settled with him. And then shortly after I was born, my mom and dad just decided that it was best for us to get settled in one area. And so I grew up in Oceanside, California in North Town area, but my mom’s a Carlsbad native and so we ended up settling there.[I have] a big Italian family and it was just the best fit for us to have one space. And then my dad traveled and then shortly after that he decided to go into the Marine Corps Reserve after, I think it was like 12, 15 years Marine Corps career then went into the reserves. So we did not move a lot in my youth.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. We’re definitely very thankful for his many years of service and also the exposure that he gave you to a lot of good physical activity.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes, me too. It will forever be an amazing impact on who I am individually and just how I work with clients. It’s amazing. It’s such a cool thing to grow up with.
Schimri Yoyo: And what sports did you play growing up and what sports do you play now besides your strength coaching?
Niccole Hendrickson: So growing up, I played volleyball. I played softball. I played a little bit of basketball early on. I did gymnastics and I danced and I swam. And then growing up on the coast, my brother and I both did Junior Lifeguards, which is all done on the beach during the summertime.
I bring that up because it’s not necessarily quote-unquote a sport but it was an integral part of me growing as an athlete because it was something fun, however, extremely mentally and physically challenging. And a lot of courage-building and a lot of just growth from again, the inside out. I think it shaped me a lot as an athlete.
So I played those different sports up until high school. And then once I got into high school, I decided that softball was not for me. And I really developed this absolute devotion and love to volleyball. But in terms of sports, especially nowadays, I feel like I joined that ball club a little bit late and so my high school team was not very strong.
And I, at that time, really got into strength and conditioning, which was accessed from my dad to my older brother, who was a phenomenal athlete. So, I got involved with strength and conditioning, plyometrics—all that kind of stuff. I swam in my offseason and just started getting more interaction with volleyball. I continued to dance and then it was about my junior year, which is so late in terms of sports nowadays, but it was my junior year when I really isolated and I stopped swimming. I stopped doing anything else.
I just focused on strength conditioning and volleyball, and I started playing on a more competitive club team and I became obsessed. I really, really, really wanted to play at the college level and I knew that—with a humble heart I say this—that my work ethic and my mindset was going to get me there because I definitely did not have the experience or the level of play.
Just the high school team I played on was not a strong volleyball team, but I knew—my dad used to always tell me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” And so I went to a lot of really excellent volleyball camps during the summer, some during the spring, continued to play club, continue to train in the weight room. And I just realized that I was going to get there because I wanted it and I was determined and committed.
So I was a really good student. And so when it came time [for] my senior year, I was getting recruited by some really, really small schools that were amazing, but just really small. And so I had to make a choice. Did I want to pursue my academic career or did I want to pursue this love to play college sports or college volleyball? And if I did, then was I prepared to make those travels? Was I prepared to make that commitment? So, when the end of the year arrived, I really was convinced I was going to hang my hat playing volleyball competitively and I was just going to move on with my academic college career.
And I ended up getting contacted by one of the junior colleges in my area that were really competitive. And truthfully I felt devastated. I had worked so hard to do well in school and work so hard athletically, and I thought that was like, “Oh my gosh, why am I making this choice?” But it was too good to be true and I ended up making the choice to go play JC so that I could get a better opportunity for volleyball. And, truthfully, [they were some of] the best few years of my life.
And from there, I got recruited to a larger school and played a larger program that was newly [promoted to] Division II, and it was amazing. So, I went on to play from there and got my degree. So at this point in time, to be honest, because I have my own business and I also am a new mom, I do not play volleyball anymore. I am really active, Colorado is a really, really active space.
So, I hunt and I fish with my husband and we hike and I’m just more traditional. I lift, I do spin, more traditional stuff like that, but I will tell you I have the itch to get back on the volleyball court and I’m still young. I think I could pull it off. But I do not play any sort of rec volleyball or anything like that at this time. I mostly am just your more traditional, I feel like sports, quote-unquote if that makes sense.
Schimri Yoyo: That makes total sense. Listen, I have a six-year-old, a five-year-old and a two-year-old at home, and my wife—I can tell you from my wife’s perspective—being a mom is a full-time sport. Those kids are very active.
Niccole Hendrickson: It totally is. I’m thankful. I always kid with—I’m actually expecting baby number two at this time, but I always—
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, congratulations!
Niccole Hendrickson: Thank you. I always kid with many of my clients say, “I’m so happy like that.” I went into my first pregnancy and this one—because it is, it’s a full-time sport. And you can’t help but need to be fit to a whole new level. But I do look forward to exposing it though.
Schimri Yoyo: How did you come up with the name Peak 8 Fitness and what’s the significance of that?
Niccole Hendrickson: Yeah, so the number eight has—I’ll start there. The number eight has always has been a super significant number in my life. It was my jersey number for a lot of years, but the reason why I had chosen it back then was I loved what it meant. It’s infinite, it’s connected, and it represents all the facets of my life and all the preparation that went into that. At that time, my focal point, obviously, was competing as a collegiate athlete.
And so I loved that number. And oddly enough, when I met my husband, that was a number that he wore. It was a significant number in both of our lives. And so I just really—as you navigate and learn a little bit more about my business, I am more of a lifestyle business. I’m more of an all-inclusive as far as how your nutrition, how your fitness, how your lifestyle, your mindset all comes together.
So, when I was thinking of a brand when I first moved to Colorado and what’s something that I can stand by and as I grew and as I evolved. Now mind you, when I first entered into this career path, I really focused on high-performance athletes and higher demanding, challenging jobs, whether it be military, law enforcement, that sort of thing. So I worked with that mixed profile of men and women and so I wanted to have a brand that was attractive to both the male and the female.
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I wanted it to have a little bit of that athletic, strong background, but I also didn’t want it to be something so intimidating that when I later launched a sub-brand that’s more focused on females or the other sub-brand that’s more focused on brides, I didn’t want it to be something that was—it didn’t include all of those things because it’s a lot about me and so I wanted something like that.
So I knew I wanted the number eight because again it connects all those facets of life and everything that I find to be extremely important in order for you to achieve that physical goal. Something I always share with people is people come to me oftentimes for maybe like a physical aesthetic goal or maybe like a nutrition coaching goal, but really it comes all together. How we’re going to be successful in the long run is connecting all of that.
So that’s where I got the number. That’s where the number eight comes in. Obviously, fitness, just to tie it in, and I love the word peak because it really brings the element of me, that competitive side and no matter how old I get, no matter how my life diversifies, it evolves.
There’s always this aspect of me of competing and growing and evolving and wanting to be at my very best, whether it be a mom, whether it be a wife or a friend or in business. Just really driving to get to that next level. And I think that plays a huge part in who I am as a coach and who I am as a mentor, is driving people to that peak performance in their lives.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. That pursuit of perfection or that pursuit of progress. Continued progress.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes, I would say [I strive] for that pursuit of continued progress in evolving. I think it’s so important that we always continue to evolve.
Schimri Yoyo: You have a degree in Exercise Science and Kinesiology. What one class during your formal education was your favorite?
Niccole Hendrickson: So I had a lot of really badass professors and one in which is still a mentor of mine that I communicate with, he provided me with so many cool opportunities coming from a big university and a very strong background in strength and conditioning and research. Just a really, really smart guy.
And he had a great team of people. So, I would say one of my favorite classes was being in the Exercise Science Lab. It was just really getting hands-on access to playing, putting in all of the knowledge and all of the academic work and put it in real-life action and testing it out. Challenging your classmates, challenging yourself and just seeing—he was really big on practical application.
So I think that’s what helped me in my career and helped me as a student was that practical application. So I would say hands down, that was one of my favorite. Also, his wife was a big-time professor at our school. And it seems so funny because it’s only been about 10 years since I’ve graduated, but this was a hot new topic at that time, but it was more alternative medicine through the food you eat and your exercise, et cetera.
And that was a class that was offered at that time, which now it’s like—these are all catchphrases, that’s the knowledge that we all Google, et cetera—but that was a really, really fun course that I got to take in college as well. So I would say that would be my second one.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh that’s great. And why don’t you shout them out? They seem to be awesome mentors of yours. What are the names of your professors?
Niccole Hendrickson: Yeah. Number one, I would say, Dr. Kent Adams. Ride or die, he was an incredible—still to this day, like I said—mentor and exposed me to some phenomenal opportunities and getting into student research through the NSCA and ACSM (National Strength and Conditioning Association and American College of Sports Medicine respectively) continually growing that research with this student base. So that’s been really fun and really rewarding. And so thank you, Dr. Adams, and his wife, Dr. Trish Sevene-Adams, who was also a really big part of my life.
Schimri Yoyo: We’re thankful for the impact that they’ve had on your life and career because you’ve been able to then pay it forward and have an impact on a lot of your clients’ lives. So that’s great.
So when you’re not training or in running your business and not caring for your children, what else do you do for fun?
Niccole Hendrickson: So actually I love taking fitness [classes]. I love going to spin class. I love training with another peer, et cetera, and just getting submerged in that environment. But I truly love to bake and I like to cook and I love fashion and styling and decor. So, I would say those things are really big in my life.
And any opportunity I get to go back to the beach, that is where my heart belongs, truthfully. I love Colorado, but the beach is my special place. But all my spare time I would say baking and just different fashion things and I love to read.
Schimri Yoyo: Baking, reading, beach, fashion. Those are all fun activities. So I hope you get to enjoy them still as baby number two comes along the way.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes. Thank you.
Empowerment through Exercise
Schimri Yoyo: What one word would best describe your philosophy and methodology of strength training?
Niccole Hendrickson: I feel like the first word that comes to me is overused, but empowerment, is empowering people. I just think any opportunity to grow somebody and grow their knowledge, grow their strengths, grow their mental mindset and their mental strength and physical strength. So I would say empowering them, achieving the best version of themselves is something that I often say. So I think the word that captures that is empowering.
Schimri Yoyo: And what is the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and rehabilitation? How does that all work together and how do you help your clients to be proactive in their training and in their recovery?
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes. So it’s integral to connect all of those because first of all, you can’t get stronger, you can’t get more powerful, you can’t become more dynamic if you aren’t either catering to different injuries or making sure you’re properly warmed up or you have a proper understanding of what your form and technique looks like.
Although it’s really catchy and beautiful to talk about the art of strength and conditioning, before you can get strong and before you can condition at a really intense level, you have to make sure that your base is really a well-oiled machine I would say. So I think that functional movement, so I always tell people we’re going to play around with all different equipment, whether it be barbells or kettlebells or all those different things.
We’re in push sleds, we’re going to use battle ropes, but you’re going to also have a really solid understanding before we do any of that of how your own body moves. So that’s how we’re going to prevent injury by having an active, by having good body awareness, by connecting your breath and making sure your mindset is connected to those movements.
Because if you can’t squat without a bar, you can’t squat without dumbbells or kettlebells, then you don’t belong squatting with any of those pieces of equipment.
So I would say having a great foundation is key. Fundamentals are key. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been an athlete, it doesn’t matter how experienced you are. Those fundamentals always have to be tied in. Your breath always has to have a great connection to what your physical movement looks like.
Your recovery is key and I think this is becoming a lot more—it’s talked about a lot more definitely in the athletic industry, but in the fitness industry, rest is just as, if not more, important as actually putting in the work.
And that’s an integral part. The same thing with your warmup. And I tell my clients all the time, I predominantly run 45-minute sessions and I have an expectation of my clients that they’re going to be warmed up and ready for me to work them at that 45 minute period.
Now, if something happens and they can’t do that, I’m not going to compromise your warm-up. You’re still going to warm up before we work because if I don’t, you’re really not going to achieve anything that I’m asking you to do if that makes sense.
And I think that says a lot about me and what my philosophy is because I’m not willing to take the shortcut to get to where I want to go because if we do that, maybe we can get through one workout like that, maybe get through two, but all you’re going to get is fatigued or injured, and now we have to work backward and we’re never accomplishing our goal anyways.
So I think the huge tie in is making sure you’re priming your system and your mental mindset is connected to your physical mindset and you’re willing to do all of the steps leading up to that end result.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, how do you address nutrition with your clients?
Niccole Hendrickson: So I will tell you any new clients that I have, I work with them on their physical aspect first and then I will start—we’ll chat a little bit about it. If I have a consultation, we’re going to chat about their nutrition because I need to have a really good understanding of where they’re coming from when they’re showing up to physically work with me.
But I found that in the past, early on in my career, “Gosh, I’m going to inundate you with all of the information. We’re going to give you the best plan to be the most successful and you’re going to get all of the things.”Well, that works out really great even for somebody who’s super motivated and disciplined on their own. But when you’re trying to change somebody and trying to influence them, even if they’re already on track doing something, but you try to give them all of that information and intel right off the bat, it’s going to be information and transformation overload.
And pretty soon everything that you’re trying to accomplish goes to nothing. So I typically get a good understanding of what somebody is coming to me with, what their background is, what they’re doing. And then I work to implement anywhere between 14 to 21 days of their fitness. And then in that meantime, I am gauging, I’m learning a little bit more about their nutritional habits.
And then from there, I go into more of a full-on nutrition coaching just because I now have an understanding of what is their commitment level looks like, how focused are they, what is their lifestyle. Now, if I have you in and you’re starting to physically feel good, you’re starting to feel that reward from your fitness, it’s probably a little bit easier to start fine-tuning your nutrition, having you value what goes into your body because now you are at a certain level because you have the right nutrition and then we go from there.
But I always learn what people’s habits are. So something that has separated me a lot from my peers is I work with a lot of clients that travel and I work with a lot of clients that entertain and they fine dine and they do different things like that. With that said, it is really unrealistic for me to approach them in the same way that I would talk to somebody who eats at home 90 percent of the time, who maybe is a parent and they are cooking for their children, et cetera.
I can’t treat them the same because the bottom line is, as much as I want to say, “You need to grocery shop and you need to prep all your meals at home and Monday or Sunday night should be your meal prep.” If you’re somebody who travels, that’s just a waste of energy on my part and wasted information for you because why would you prep for the whole week when you’re going to be gone for 90 percent of it?
No, it doesn’t make sense. So I need to teach you how to be really good in your lifestyle. So I usually approach nutrition and learning about that person’s lifestyle. I learned about what is their hang-up, what are their patterns, what does it look like, where are they eating out? Do they shop all and I start to help influence their decisions when they are on the road or when they are traveling when they are making a decision at a restaurant and going from there.
And I think that’s helped me be super successful with my clients because it becomes more personalized and it becomes more realistic for what their life looks like. Same thing but big topic, right? A client that enjoys alcohol, well, of course, the fastest way for them to get certain results would be to just cut that out. Well, the reality is maybe they would cut that out for two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, I don’t know.
But is it going to be for forever? So is that a realistic approach to be successful for them? So I typically say for somebody who drinks three glasses of wine at dinner, “How about we start with cutting that down to two or one and a half?” That sort of thing.
Just really instilling different lifestyle habits because when you come from a place of scarcity, then you want more and you just can’t respond to it. So that’s how I handle it. I do not do something like everyone has to eat paleo or everyone has to do this. It’s not realistic. That’s not who I am. I don’t believe in one way or no way. It’s just not beneficial.
Schimri Yoyo: I guess it’s a gradual understanding of who they are and what their needs are and then from there developing a plan that is going to ensure their success or give them the greatest chance for success.
Niccole Hendrickson: Literally. You’re creating a lifestyle for them, really. Like I said, something that launched me a little forward in the bridal industry is that anybody can get skinny, anybody can do something for a short amount of time, but truly instilling a lifestyle, enjoying your behaviors, and enjoying that process is another thing.
And that’s what I’m about is instilling and creating a lifestyle for people that is not only manageable but most importantly enjoyable because if it’s enjoyable and they’re getting success and they’re going to stay. Not only—and I don’t want them to stay with me forever, but they’re going to stay committed to taking care of themselves.
Expectation of Accountability by Being Accountable
Schimri Yoyo: How do you find the right mix of pushing your clients to reach their physical peaks without burning them out?
Niccole Hendrickson: That’s a great question. I think number one, remembering that it’s not about me. I had a phenomenal, not only a phenomenal client but a phenomenal mentor that is a big-time businesswoman. And about six years ago, she reminded me that you always have to remember what is on your client’s mind.
And at first, I was like, “I don’t really understand what that, what do you mean?” And she just kept telling me, “Remember what is on your client’s mind. And every client is going to have something different that’s on their mind and they’re going to be hiring you for something different.” And as soon as I really started switching that mindset, because it’s too easy to be like, “I’m just going to kick your ass and take your name and we’re going to move from there and you’re going to feel great and invigorated.”
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Yes. However, if that’s just your goal, great. If your goal is to impact somebody’s life and implement change and hold them accountable, empower them, provide tough love, then there has to be that fine balance. It’s understanding what is on their mind, whether that be in their career, whether that be with their family, et cetera. And you’re going to be more impactful and you’re going to know what are their pain points and you’re going to know how they respond.
And so for me, even if I, on average in person, just see somebody twice a week. I want to have a really good understanding of what the rest of their life looks like because then it gives me a better opportunity of holding them accountable. It gives me a better opportunity of teaching them how to properly manage their day and also inform them how they’re going to get the most out of our workouts together.
Now I’m not for everyone, so my style and my tempo and how I hold people accountable isn’t for everyone. So I don’t just work with any clients. My client is going to be somebody who wants to put in the work but also is going to need the accountability and I strive for me to hold them to that next level. And so our conversations maybe look a little different than some of my peers with their clients, but there is an understanding that I’m going to push you.
And there’s also an understanding, though, that I care for you being injury-free and really achieving and feeling good from the inside out is imperative to me. Pushing you until you throw up or pushing you until you hate me to a point. Then never want to come back. It doesn’t work for me.
There has to be a solid level of trust built between us so that they know I can push them and have their best interest, but I also am going to back off when it’s appropriate.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, here’s a chance to brag about yourself a little bit. What makes you and your approach with Peak 8 Fitness unique from your peers in the industry?
Niccole Hendrickson: I think it’s how I approach people. I think it’s how I approach their lifestyle. I believe from the bottom of my heart that I invest in each and every one of my clients as much if not more than [just what they are investing monetarily for my services]. I truly care about people from the inside out and building their character.
I’m truly on the ride and experience with them and I go all-in and that is why throughout my career I have made the decision that I am not for everyone because you can’t. It’s not humanly possible to do that with every single person.
And so I think what separates me truly is my investment in them and the well-rounded approach that they take with them and just really focusing on all facets of life and bringing it together. Because the bottom line is the challenges. We’re going to get injured, we’re going to have things happen in life. And if somebody knows that they can trust you and you have their best interest in mind, then you’re going to able to work through all of those bumps in the road.
Schimri Yoyo: In what ways do you use social media and technology to promote your business?
Niccole Hendrickson: Oh man, I got to get better at this. I would say that I’m probably the most active on Instagram. I try to, through my Instagram stories, really capture what it looks like to work with me, either a small group or a one on one session. I try to give a little snippet into who I am as a mom and my off time and what my lifestyle looks like.
I for a long had my blog up and going, and that’s something that’s relaunching very soon. So if you’re going to hear this, please stay with me on that. I’m out in the community and I love teaming up with other women and entrepreneurs.
Recently, in the last couple of years, I’ve made this into an official thing. I love teaming up with other really badass female entrepreneurs and we’ve put together some really fun events where we collaborate to capture that whole aspect of wellness from the inside out, whether that be fitness, fashion, introducing you to other local businesses around this area that I either am lucky enough to do business with or that take care of me and my beauty needs and that sort of thing.
And then I think still to this day, I am somebody that is really personable. So I love interacting with people just on a more personal level. But I would say Instagram is more my jam where you can find me.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, thank you again, Niccole, for your time and for just your candor and passion about your purpose in the fitness space. Just one last question for you here.
Do you have any resources, whether they’re podcasts or books or magazines that you would recommend to our audience? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be fitness-related.
Niccole Hendrickson: A book that’s been super inspirational to me and that I love, it’s called 12 Rules for Life: An Anecdote to Chaos that has given me like huge perspective on just a balancing of adulting and career and motherhood and just life. Really great perspective.
Another book that—everyone in most relationships is going to laugh at me when I share this with you—but has been extremely helpful for me as a business person is The Five Love Languages. Having a better understanding of each of your clients and how they operate and what their—how they respond. That’s another really great one.
And I would say as far as nutrition-wise, there are all kinds of really awesome people out there. I love—there’s a gal here local in Denver, PaleOMG Juli Bauer, who’s phenomenal and just really upfront.
And then—a friend of mine. I’m lucky to call her a friend. People know who she is, but—Jen Widerstrom has been really inspirational in my life as a mentor and she’s awesome. Everybody should follow her and get inspired by her as well.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you, for those recommendations.
Niccole Hendrickson: Yes.
Schimri Yoyo: We wish you much continued success with not only your business but also with your pregnancy. We hope you have a healthy and happy pregnancy and delivery. And we can’t wait to see updates and pictures of your family on Instagram once the delivery happens.
Niccole Hendrickson: Awesome. Thank you so much. And to all the listeners and readers, if there’s anything that I can ever do, please don’t hesitate to direct message or send me an email. I’d love to be an asset in your life.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Thank you very much. Have a great day, Niccole.
Niccole Hendrickson: Thank you. You too. Bye-bye.
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