By Cara Bertozzi
Nicole Lee, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Strong Moms Fitness, didn’t set out to be a gym owner. Like many military spouses, her professional path is full of pivot points and twisting turns as she reacted to the changing circumstances and opportunities provided by the sequential arrivals of her two boys, multiple moves (including a tour overseas), and deployments. By becoming a small business owner, Nicole has created a perfect niche for herself wherein she can combine her love of exercise with her passion for helping fellow military spouses – or “milspouses” – cope with stress in healthy ways.
In one of her first jobs post-high school in Arizona, Nicole worked in patient registration in a hospital emergency room, a job she thought would be a stepping stone to nursing school. However, Nicole found the environment to be somewhat chaotic and, thus, jumped at the chance to work as a rehabilitation technician in the physical therapy (PT) department after completing her personal training certificate. There, she enjoyed the clearly defined problem sets of restoring the function and mobility of patients following accidents or surgeries.
Nicole met her husband at a mutual friend’s party while he was home on post-deployment leave, and in typical milspouse fashion, they were married within five months. She moved with him to Georgia and then back to Utah with their two young children, the youngest only two days old, to live with family for another deployment. Nicole began pursuing a PT assistant certificate online through a program in Georgia thinking she could complete it when she returned. However, she wasn’t able to complete the requirements before they were transferred to Germany, where it can be very difficult for spouses to obtain a work visa.
Not easily deterred, Nicole began pursuing an online degree through American Military University. Before she knew it, her family was on the move again, this time to North Carolina for a short time and then on to Washington State, where her husband deployed out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Remarkably, Nicole continued with a rigorous course schedule through these upheavals and completed her Bachelor of Science in Sports and Health Sciences with a concentration in Exercise Sciences earlier this fall.
Through all of these transitions, and especially during the deployments, Nicole relied heavily on her friendships with other milspouses and vigorous exercise to keep moving forward. Her JBLM CrossFit team and a fellow spouse with marketing expertise challenged her to start her own personal training business to utilize her hard-earned education and share her passion for investing in your health and fitness as a coping mechanism. They agreed that many women may not be comfortable showing up to a CrossFit gym or lifting heavy weights without one-on-one instruction.
At Power Hour with the help of Alana Le, Nicole brainstormed about her business idea through interactive strategy sessions and developed a brand, a blog, the name Strong Moms Fitness, and a game plan. The business group provided the accountability she needed to move her plan forward one step at a time and change her daunting dream into a reality. Gradually, Nicole converted her garage into a gym, where she now has a squat rack, bench, plyometric box, padded flooring, a pull-up bar, TRX straps, jump ropes, and plenty of dumbbells and kettlebells.
Nicole has specifically targeted military moms because of her empathy for their challenges and her firm belief that taking care of yourself is critical to thriving while tackling the demands of caring for your family. She offers training opportunities in group sessions, which seem to be in high demand among women. Currently, 10-15 ladies are participating in a military ball boot camp, with three sessions per week offered at two different times. Participants show up with their children and set them up with a television show or some homework (or for a nap) and get down to the business of motivating each other to push harder. The day’s workout may include a circuit of varied tasks, more focused sets, or even partner exercises. Whatever the instructions, you can count on a positive environment that will inspire you to expect more of yourself.
Strong Moms Fitness also specializes in solo training sessions that are completely customized. Nicole performs a free initial consultation to determine the client’s mindset, fitness level, and any muscular imbalances. She listens for key statements, such as a dislike for working out in gyms or with men and learns about previous athletic experiences, then crafts a plan while accommodating any limitations or injuries. A big part of what personal training can offer is the structure to set goals and follow-up on progress. Nicole has all of her clients identify three short-term goals and three long-term goals to increase intentionality not only in their workouts but also in their lifestyle.
Nicole prides herself on flexibility and personal service. She knows she is not the only mom juggling managed chaos while wearing the many hats of chef, tutor, chauffeur, cheerleader, and coach. Her goal is to break down the barriers that prevent women from pursuing a healthy lifestyle, whether that be unfamiliarity with lifting techniques, a lack of confidence, or that extra motivation that a personal trainer can provide.
For more information on pricing and package options, visit Strong Moms Fitness’ website.