Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Nikki Howard, I’m 28 years old. I grew up in South Florida but have lived LA for the past seven years and work full time as a model and actress but I kind of do a little bit of everything.
I started taking fitness seriously when I first moved to LA because I wasn’t very confident and, to be honest, I knew I needed to be in the best shape I possibly could be to walk into every casting confidently.
It started as a pretty selfish journey that was solely based around how I wanted to look but after years (yes, years) of consistency, dedication, and sheer determination I truly achieved my goals not only physically, but emotionally have become so much stronger mentally than I thought possible and am so grateful that by virtue of sharing my journey, I’ve been able to inspire people.
Describe a typical day of training
I wake up every morning at 4:30 because I’m crazy and am usually at the gym by around 6 to 6:15 a.m. because I like to get my workouts out of the way early since, on days I do have a job, I can still make an early call time. Right when I wake up, I eat. I eat one cup of egg whites with a handful of spinach and half of a sweet potato. It’s very random but I’ve eaten it every single day for probably five years and it’s working so I ain’t fixing it! I also take chlorella, which is a form of algae that helps with energy and digestion, iron, fish oil, and CLA with every meal.
After that, I take my dogs for a walk, wake up a little bit, and give myself about an hour to fully digest before heading to my workout. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I do an hour of strength training with my trainer Mario Guerra or on my own. Those usually include a series of weights, body weight, HITT circuits, and band work.
Mondays and Fridays are leg day and Wednesday I do upper body and core. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are my cardio days.
My new years resolution about three years ago was to start running. Before that, I HATED running but I wanted to push myself and see if I could do it. Now I run 6 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7 on Saturday.
My fitness bag is…sparse. I’ve got headphones (Jaybird TarahPro’s – literally the best headphones on earth), lifting gloves, hair ties, a Hyper Volt (game changer) and my gallon of water. I also always wear my Apple Watch to the gym just to keep track of my heart rate and calories.
My favorite exercises are probably weighted step up reverse lunges. It kind of encompasses cardio, two muscle groups so I try to always do them on leg days. I also love kettle bell swings. I keep a training long for upper body and core workouts.
It’s good to keep track of the weight I’m using and to be able to know exactly what I’m going to do when I walk into the gym if I’m not training with Mario but I also have a ton of workouts saved in my phone for when I travel and I don’t have access to a gym which is ALWAYS helpful.
How do you keep going and push harder?
I think the key to my success is that I am VERY obsessive. So even when I don’t want to go to the gym, the hatred of getting thrown out of my routine overpowers any fatigue. The best hack I have to improve your performance at the gym is just consistency. Just go. Set little milestones for yourself and once you achieve them, you’ll want to set another.
Because the way I look is so imperative to my gym, I take it seriously because I love what I do. I make sure that, no matter what, I workout. I get it done early when everyone is asleep and when I come home, I’ve got time to be with my dogs, my boyfriend, go to work, or do whatever else I do but I always make sure to have that me time.
One of my biggest challenges is taking the time to give back to my body. I always give myself enough time for my workout but I’m working on making sure I give myself enough time before and after to stretch and foam roll.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now, my training is great. I’m trying to build my stamina up during my runs so I can get my time down but that’s a slow process. Right now, I want to really crack down on my eating. I tend to mindlessly snack on things when I’m not hungry, which is a terrible habit but one I want to break.
I’d like to run a half marathon. I think it’d be an awesome chance to see if I could actually do it and prove that I’m a lot more resilient than I may think.
Outside of the gym, I want to continue my journey as a stand up and a writer. Grow my podcast. Book some badass modeling jobs. Maybe get on a show or two. But, if nothing changed, I’d still be stoked.
If I had to start all over again with my fitness journey, I probably would’ve taken more before pictures and documented my workouts a little more just so I could share them with people that are struggling to start or don’t know where to.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Like I said, I struggle with making sure to take the time to give back to my body. The Hypervolt is an absolute game changer and is huge for me because it’s a portable, effective way to loosen my muscles and get into tight spots.
Luckily, knock on wood, I haven’t had a gym related injury. The last injury I got was shooting a campaign for Equinox gyms; I had to jump in 50 degree weather and I didn’t take enough time to properly warm up so I ended up pulling my groin. The shot looked great though! After that I just foam rolled, stretched, iced, and took it REALLY easy for a few days.
I sleep about eight hours every night. That’s my sweet spot. Any less I’m exhausted, any more I’m groggy. I don’t really have a social life but I’m a homebody so I don’t mind.
I don’t handle travel or changes to my schedule well… like at all. I’m a creature of habit but I find that bringing things to help me keep my schedule even when I’m gone like resistance bands and my meals makes a huge difference.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I eat Trifecta System and I LOVE it. It’s a meal prep company based in Northern California and, after trying MANY a meal prep company, they are by far the best. They send different meals every week, the flavors are amazing, they stay fresh, they’re clean… I can’t say enough good things about them. I’ve been eating their meals for the passed two years and I don’t know what I would do without them.
I don’t count calories but I do try to track my protein and make sure I’m getting enough. I don’t compete so it’s important for me to have a meal regimen I can actually maintain every day.
As far as dining out with friends, I do that on my cheat days. Friday and Saturday nights — I go CRAZY. I eat whatever I want and generally afterwards feel so disgusting and only want to eat
Come Thursday, I’m ready for my cheat meals; it’s a vicious cycle. I love bread, bagels, cheeseburgers, donuts… pretty much anything that is terrible for you, I love. Knowing that I get to have them IF I stay on track, makes it easier.
I drink a lot of coffee but I always have so it doesn’t affect me too much or get me jittery.
As for supplements, I use a few different kinds. I love Source Naturals, they make really clean supplements.
What has inspired and motivated you?
The only thing that’s really inspired or motivated me to start training was me and my career. I wanted to look in the mirror and feel confident and walk into every job knowing I had the best shot I possibly could booking the jobs.
The fact that I’m now inspiring people on Instagram keeps me motivated and holds me accountable because I feel a certain responsibility to show that, even when you’re tired or not feeling motivated, you still need to push yourself. My trainer Mario is also a huge inspiration.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who was about to start their fitness journey it would be to be realistic. I hear people all the time say, “I’m going to start working out and I’m going to go every day for two hours a day”; There’s no way you can maintain that if you’re just starting out.
My advice is take it slow. Start with three days a week. Set a time for yourself that you can go all three days and make a routine out of it. Have a game plan. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you first start going to the gym but if you have a few exercises that you want to do, it makes the gym a hell of a lot less scary.
The dumbest thing I’ve seen (and still see) someone do at the gym is parkour in the middle of a fucking Crunch. I’ve almost lost an eye one too many times. That shit pisses me off.
The best hack I can give someone outside of the gym is to carry the resilient mentality with you in whatever your goals are. It’s a mindset and if you achieve your goals at the gym, you’re more inclined to feel comfortable pushing yourself in other areas of your life that may not have seemed as attainable before.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I’m not a trainer so I think taking clients on right now would be…weird. Hahah. However, I get asked how to lose weight a lot. 😂 I just tell everyone they already know what to do, they just have to do it.