Nicole Nichols (COACH_NICOLE)

A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as “Coach Nicole.” Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.


Read More of Nicole's Blogs:

SparkPeople's Diet & Fitness Tracker App: Now Free At Last!

UPDATE 5/6/14
Today we released all of these awesome updates for the Android version of our app. Click here to download the brand new app on your Android device. (Original blog post below has been edited to reflect this.)

UPDATE 4/9/14: It's here!

After months of teamwork, SparkPeople is thrilled to offer you an improved version of our popular Diet & Fitness Tracker app (now renamed Calorie Counter & Weight Loss App)--for FREE. Our mission has always been to SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their goals and lead healthier lives, and we believe that offering our best food and fitness tracking tools in a free app will help more people than ever before.
 
As of today, our app is free for all Apple (iPhone and iPad) and Android users. You can download the app using the links below (or search for "SparkPeople" in your mobile phone's app store). And to sweeten the deal even more, you'll get 250 SparkPoints* just for downloading the app!

Posted 5/6/2014  4:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 72 comments   73,754 views

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Get 'The Spark Solution' in Paperback—and Get in Shape for Summer!

Great news! Our popular book "The Spark Solution" is now available in paperback, which means you can snag what U.S. News & World Report named one of the "Best Diets" around at an everyday low price! (And when you purchase the book, you'll earn 500 bonus SparkPoints—WooHoo!)

Posted 5/6/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 2 comments   22,586 views

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Check Out Our New SparkTeam Features!

Update: 5/1/14 at 3:45 p.m.
We appreciate your feedback. Today we added back links to recent blogs posted by Team members since so many of you commented about regularly using that feature. Enjoy!

Update: 4/30/14 at 10:10 a.m.
Good morning! We are happy to announce that the new SparkTeam features we allued to yesterday (see below) are now live for you to use. Read the original blog post to learn more about these updates. Thanks!

Original Post:
Good afternoon!
 
Everyone at SparkPeople has been working hard to improve the website (and mobile apps) these past few weeks to enhance our members' experience. Today we wanted to give you a heads up about some changes coming tomorrow (April 30, 2014) to SparkTeams.
 
SparkTeams are one of our most popular Community features because they allow members to meet and interact with others who have similar goals, interests, geographic locations, lifestyles and more. These new changes will make SparkTeams easier to use based on input from members and Team leaders, plus data on which Team features are used the most and the least. It also comes with a visual redesign to clean up and simplify Team pages.  

Posted 4/29/2014  3:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 200 comments   17,918 views

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Download Our New & Improved 'Healthy Recipes' App for Free!

On the tail of our recent announcement about the new, free Diet & Fitness Tracker app, we are very excited to share that a brand new version of the SparkPeople's Healthy Recipes app is here, too!
 
Today we launched our new and improved recipe app for the iPhone! Now you can take the best features of SparkRecipes.com—top-rated recipes, cooking videos, nutrition facts and more—wherever you go. With the free Healthy Recipes app, it’s easy to plan healthy meals and shop for nutritious and delicious foods that will help you reach your goals.

Posted 4/22/2014  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 5 comments   22,801 views

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Health Magazine Shares 3 'High-Tech Diets That Work'

Good morning everyone!
 
A few weeks ago, we announced some major upgrades to our Diet & Fitness Tracker app—as well as a new price: free! So far the reviews and comments have been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you for downloading the app and sharing your thoughts with us.
 
Last week, we were happy to find a story from Health magazine that put some of the most popular weight-loss apps to the test. We are proud to say that SparkPeople's app was ranked in the top three and got some great praise from testers and experts alike:

Posted 4/21/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 7 comments   22,137 views

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SparkPeople Radio Is Taking a Pause

Good morning everyone! I hope today is a lovely spring day in your region!
 
We wanted to give our members a quick SparkPeople Radio update. We launched SparkPeople Radio about a year and a half ago as a fun experiment—a new way to Spread the Spark and reach both our members and a new audience with the SparkPeople message. We've had some great hosts along the way—Lily, Karen and most recently, Bettina, as well as some awesome guests, from your coaches or inspiring members to outside health and fitness experts from around the country.

Posted 4/16/2014  1:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 49 comments   51,486 views

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Getting Started with Strength Training in 5 Easy Steps

You know that strength training (also called resistance training) is good for your body. It can help you maintain and build muscle mass, rev your metabolism, make you a better recreational athlete, strengthen your bones and reshape your body. But unlike cardio, where you usually just pick an activity you enjoy and get out there and do it, strength training can be a lot more complicated to a novice. Most people don't just walk into a weight room, stare at the sea of weights, and know how to begin.

If you've never lifted weights before (or it's been a long time since you have), it can be intimidating to know how to start. There are so many weights, machines, classes and options. Which ones are right for you and your goals?
 
While the idea of strength training can be complex, hopefully these basics will point you in the right direction so you feel comfortable starting a training program.

Posted 4/8/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 37 comments   210,236 views

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Watch HSN April 10 to save $15 on a SparkPeople Fitness Bundle!

Update (4/10/14, 12:45 p.m.)
Thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch me on HSN! Because live TV programming is subject to change, we wanted to let you know right away about a scheduling change. The planned 4 p.m. segment will not be airing today. We apologize for the inconvenience. (P.S. If you missed the special on-air announcement I alluded to in this original blog post, click here for the news!)

Original Story
Hey everyone!

I'm very excited to announce that I will be appearing on HSN this Thursday, April 10! This is going to be a big milestone for SparkPeople—a chance for us to get in front of many new potential members. And it's also a great opportunity for you, as we are offering an exclusive deal on a fitness bundle that you won't want to miss!

Posted 4/7/2014  11:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 14 comments   22,281 views

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Which Is More Important: Cardio or Strength Training?

This is a loaded question! If you ask 10 different trainers, you'd get 10 different answers. One trainer's answer is likely to be based on what they've seen help clients get the best results or their own personal preference for one type of exercise over the other.
 
There isn't a ton of research on this topic, but we know that people who do both cardio and strength training tend to have better outcomes in terms of weight loss, fitness and even improved blood sugar levels. These two modes of exercise each do very different things. If the issue is time, my answer would be to find a way to fit in both, whether each workout is a little shorter (and maybe more intense) to maximize your time, or you are doing both but doing each thing occasionally (such as just once a week each). Anything you can do will help. Another solution to fitting in both cardio and strength training is to seek out workouts that combine both efficiently. There are many workout DVDs (including SparkPeople's best-selling titles), fitness classes (including CrossFit) and workout options (including kettlebell training) that give you the best of both worlds. Circuit training, which involves lifting weights in a circuit of exercises without resting in between, is another good way to add an aerobic component to your strength-training workouts
 
Now let's look a little deeper at each exercise component and the role they might individually play in your fitness and weight-loss plan.

Posted 4/2/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 26 comments   127,099 views

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You Asked: Does Pilates Count as Strength Training?

This is not an easy question for me to answer. As a certified Pilates instructor and long-time Pilates practitioner, I've seen the many benefits of Pilates first-hand, and with many of my students. A Pilates workout can sculpt your core, help you stand taller, improve your balance, tone your muscles and even prevent and relieve certain issues like lower back pain. I'm a huge advocate of Pilates and think it can benefit any body—male or female, young or old, beginner or athlete.

Posted 3/28/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 42 comments   162,401 views

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The New No-Excuses Way to Work Out

There are a lot of excuses—or hurdles if you will—that get in the way of our intentions to work out. Not enough time. Not enough money. Fear of being judged by others. Not having easy or affordable access to equipment or a gym. Not enough options that fit your schedule. Traveling all the time.  Not knowing what to do on your own. Not having childcare. Bad weather.
 
Most of us have dealt with a number of these hurdles more than once in our lifetime. The truth is that working out is hard. All of these things are barriers that make it even more difficult to get and stay fit.
 
But there are a lot of amazing innovations that are bringing fitness to more people in ways that help you jump many of the hurdles above. One of my favorites recently launched. And while it sounds too good to be true that this one solution is affordable, accessible, flexible, easy to follow—and can help you get fit anywhere on your own time—it's true.

Posted 3/24/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 10 comments   49,606 views

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You Asked: How Many Calories Does Strength Training Burn?

If you are concerned about how many calories you burn during strength training, chances are that you are actively trying to lose weight (or might want to ensure you are eating enough to support strength training without losing additional weight). Although strength training is challenging and requires a lot of hard work (especially when lifting heavy weights), it doesn't typically burn as many calories as cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises like running or cycling.

Posted 3/13/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 48 comments   1,500,868 views

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Introducing SparkPeople 'Friend Feed' Enhancements

Good morning, SparkPeople!

We've been hard at work revamping some of your favorite SparkPeople features to make them more fun and useful. Today we are happy to announce an update to your Friend Feed.

Posted 2/12/2014  11:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 54 comments   24,860 views

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50 Love Songs You'll Love Working Out To

I know many people think of Valentine's Day as a silly non-holiday, something card and marketing companies conjured up so we'll buy more stuff. I don't consider myself a materialistic person, and I really can't explain it, but Valentine's Day has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. I guess I just always thought it was sweet and fun. My parents always made us their valentines, so it was always special. In fact, now in my 30s, I still get a valentine in the mail from my parents every February 14. To me, a day that celebrates love of all kinds (family love, romantic love, friendship love, etc.) is a happy thing!
 
For others like me who are feeling the spirit of St. Valentine, I put together a fun workout playlist to inspire your next fitness session. We've collected 50 songs from a variety of genres and eras that celebrate love—and still have a beat that you'll want to exercise to. Whether you listen to them only in February or all year long, these are some love songs that you'll love working out to!

Posted 2/5/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 36 comments   74,849 views

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Sweat It Out: 50 Fast & Empowering Breakup Songs

When you're newly single or going through a tough breakup, it's common to channel that emotional energy into unhealthy habits like drinking, smoking and even overeating. This is especially true around Valentine's Day (and other holidays) when messages and images of happy couples are in your face at every turn (grrr).

But there is a better—and healthier way—to deal. You can use this time to focus on you—your goals, your desires, and your unique life vision. When you need an emotional release, let exercise be your friend (just channel your inner Bridget Jones and hit that Spin bike!). Use it as a focus or a distraction, a natural way to build your endorphins back up.

The following workout songs will help you get in the right spirit for your fitness session and empower you to be your best, happy self! Some are angry, some are celebratory, and some are an affirmation that you are stronger than ever—right now.

Posted 2/5/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 20 comments   219,787 views

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