Niki J

Friday, September 11, 2020 - 10:48
Niki J

Getting in to the gym to move, sweat, take a break from your day and connect with friends is a great routine. For many people, that's enough. But Niki has had that air of determination about her since joining us at CF100. It's always clear, from her focus, questions and tireless practice during Open Gym time that she is a student of fitness. Even now as she works out from her garage, Niki is thinking about her technique and is doing an awesome job staying on track with her goals. 


When did you start with us at CF100 and what brought you?


My husband, Brent, and I started at CrossFit 100 in January of 2018. We have a close friend, Steve, who had been doing CrossFit in Dallas, Texas for about a year and highly recommended the methodology. We were wary at first, because it’s common knowledge that all CrossFitters are nuts, but we figured there was no harm in giving it a shot. 


I looked at a few gyms and 100 had the atmosphere that I enjoyed most. I wanted a gym that felt upbeat and supportive, but without the constant pressure to hit new PRs or compete with other individual athletes. CrossFit 100 was a good match for us. 


What kind of fitness have you done before (growing up, etc)?


Growing up, I never played sports. I wasn’t especially coordinated nor competitive when it came to athletics. I spent most of my time working and playing video games. I started going to the WAC in 2014 and took a boxing class one day a week. The coach, Jim, was excellent and that was the first time I started “training” in any sense. Around 2015 my now-husband introduced me to weightlifting and we started doing 5x5 Stronglifts together. As I recall, my form was terrible, but it was fun to chase PRs every week.


What does life look like for you outside of the gym (work, family, hobbies)? 


I’m an insurance broker for Aon so I get to spend all day understanding how companies work inside and out -- their global operations, products, employees, properties -- and then spend all day negotiating insurance contracts to get them the best coverage to protect their balance sheets. It’s the perfect cross between finance and law which were my two favorite subjects in school. I also love that I can walk into a conversation with a perfect stranger and have a good idea of what it is that their company does, because I probably have a client that does something similar. 


Outside of work you can see my husband Brent and I walking through Whitefish Bay with our dog, Big. You might even see us as volunteer poll workers this fall, depending on where we get assigned! We love playing board games and video games, stopping at different breweries throughout Milwaukee and the state, and supporting our community.



Since Covid, you have been very consistently working out with us from home. What have been some pros and cons of training at home? What are you missing most about physically being at the gym.


The biggest pro is being able to continue on our fitness journey, with minimal impact, despite the pandemic. We feel so fortunate that we were able to order gym equipment before the big run on Rogue, and that we were financially in a position to do so and acknowledge that for a lot of individuals that wasn’t the case. We were able to transition to work-from-home and keep our jobs, and since we don’t have children, we haven’t had the mental stress that most individuals impacted by recent events, pandemic or otherwise, have gone through. 


The biggest con is staying motivated when you’re alone. It’s a lot easier to cut corners when nobody is watching or not push as hard as you would have if you could see someone outpacing you. I’m certainly one that feeds off the energy and music in the gym, so when the gym is a dirty garage with only spiders to cheer me on, it’s harder to stay motivated. 


And then there’s the reality of weather and space restrictions. Wifi connection is spotty in the garage so the zoom video lags. When it’s 40 degrees or colder, you can’t touch the barbell without gloves. Proper lighting in a garage is difficult so it’s hard for the coaches to see you on the zoom video. If it snows or is raining we can’t use the driveway so no jump rope or overhead barbell movements. Running always involves weaving around the fence, bushes, and cars (since the cars no longer get parked in the garage!) so you never get a good sprint in. As you can tell, none of these are deal breakers for us and we’ve been more than happy to work around them, but it’s nothing like just showing up and walking into the gym ready for anything. 


What I miss most about not being physically in the gym is the members. Our gym is filled with so many people who I enjoy seeing every week and everyday in some cases. Whether it’s the 5:00AMers who I get to suffer with, the 5:45AMers who all say good morning and cheer me on when I do skill work or double unders after class (thanks for letting me crash your warm-up by the way!), the Saturday squad who are all happy we got to sleep in and justify the food and drinks we’re having later that day, or the Sunday crew who are there to have fun, laugh and get fit. Not being able to see people’s faces and cheer each other on is definitely what I miss most. 


With that said, if I’m in the class via Zoom, be sure to yell hi! 


In my experience, you are a very coachable athlete. You spend a lot of time focusing on technique and changing movement patterns when necessary. You are a smart and patient athlete. Where does all that patience come from?! 


When you’re not a natural athlete or haven’t spent years working out, you don’t have the innate muscle memory or mobility to fall back on to get through workouts. I’m also not 20 anymore, so if I pull something really wrong, I’m going to be in pain for a week. Coming to terms with that took time, because chasing PRs is a very real thing. 


At some point, I decided I wanted to do a pull-up, but had no idea how to get there since I struggled just with jumping pull-ups. I think that was one of the first times I actually trained for a new movement. I worked with Douglas on Sundays doing accessory work, got tips from Matt on different types of modified pull-ups to build more strength, worked with Marcela on my nutrition to drop a few pounds, and then after about two months, lo-and-behold, I did one strict pull-up.


That whole process was really informative and taught me that with the right mindset, consistent training and coaching, you truly CAN do any movement. But you have to put in the time and training, because there’s no cutting corners. It’s much easier to be patient and stick with the process when you’ve had that experience once because you actually trust it’ll work. Since then, I’ve picked up double unders and scaled handstand push-ups, which feels amazing.  


What are your current plans/goals for your fitness/nutrition?


I would like to learn kipping pull-ups and toes-to-bar before the end of the year. Assuming I’m able to get there, I’d like to get at least one muscle-up by summer 2021. Remember when I said I was horribly uncoordinated? Yeah...this will be interesting. 


Favorite CrossFit movement?


This is hard to decide. Pre-pandemic, box jumps. Post-pandemic, barbell cleans.  


Least favorite?


Thrusters. I’d do ten minutes of straight burpees over a metcon with thrusters.


What would you tell someone starting out in CrossFit and/or someone thinking about focusing on a nutrition plan?


If you’re new to CrossFit, I’d recommend spending a few weeks just getting used to the intensity of workouts before trying to get heavy with your weights. You’re going to be sore, which is totally normal. Keep showing up so your body is able to get used to the new level of activity. Once you feel comfortable, then start building up your strength. On my first day, I remember finishing the warm-up and thinking “wait, that wasn’t the workout?” And don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. We’re all at different points in our fitness journey. I know I’ll never be the strongest or fastest in our gym, but I’m stronger and faster than I was last year, and that’s what counts. 

Also, do not be afraid to ask what a movement is if you’re not familiar. I’ve been going for years and still don’t remember them all. And don’t hesitate to ask non-coaches questions too! We’re all here to get fit together! 

If you’re new to nutrition plans, I would recommend NOT reading articles online and ignore the new fad diet your influencer is doing that lost 10lbs in a week eating nothing but avocados and cayenne pepper. I’m an avid self-learner but the amount of conflicting and non-scientific information around nutrition is unreal. I was eating a 1,200 calorie low carb diet, going to the gym 4-5 days a week, going out to eat 1-2 times per weekend and I couldn’t understand why I was fluctuating the same weight for years. After going through the nutrition program, I was eating 1,700 calories, consuming more carbs than I’d had in years, and saw consistent results.