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Women In Wellness: Nikki Gnozzio of Junction Bodyworks On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Gnozzio.

Nikki Gnozzio, owner of the Junction Bodyworks, LLC, is a well established personal trainer, experienced strength & conditioning coach as well as an accomplished athlete. Some of her most recent endeavors included becoming a licensed massage therapist as well as competing in the Czech Republic on the USA Women’s National Ball Hockey team where the team returned home as recipients of silver medals. In the last two years, she’s managed to grow her business in the pandemic, offering virtual sessions, creative solutions for clients training at home and expanding her gym and offering COVID safe training sessions for everyone.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My name is Nikki Gnozzio and I am a former college strength and conditioning coach turned personal trainer. I studied the ins and outs of training athletes at Ohio University where I received my masters degree in Coaching Education. I was lucky to find a job at Providence College where I had an amazing mentor who helped make my dream of working with college athletes a reality. He advocated for me every chance he could and pushed me to be the best version of myself possible. His tough teaching methods are what made me durable enough to love what I do, even when days get tough.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

At one point very early on in my career, I started working for a man who’s training style was significantly different than mine. I trended more towards being strong and he focused more on making clients skinny. He asked me to not wear shorts at work because my muscular legs were too intimidating for clients to want to train with me. At first this devastated me and my body image. I had literally spent decades dedicating my body to athletics and being strong. In one sentence this man had the capacity to shatter my self confidence. I continued to wear clothes that would help to conceal my body and stopped competing in weightlifting. After working with my clientele for a while, it became quite obvious that not everyone wanted to fit into this same cookie cutter design he had convinced them was what they should look like. At that point I got it into my head that I wanted to create a small training studio that focused on the individual and their personal goals. No peer pressure to look a certain way, just do you! Hearing that man decide what I should and should not look like, eventually became the motivation I needed to break away and become my own studio.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started out, I assumed everyone liked working out as much as I did. I was very wrong, it became a game to me to try to figure out how to make training sessions as fun as possible, and get my clients as hooked on wellness as I had become (or at least not hate every minute of it). The method that worked the best for this was very simple. Be kind, be realistic, and progress with a purpose.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I certainly haven’t made a big impact on the world, but my goal has always been to make big impacts in individuals lives. Like Emily Dickinson says, “They might not need me, but they might. I’ll let my head be just in sight.” This is how I like to structure my training. I want to progress my clients to know I am always there for them, but prepare them to be able to make smart choices that make sense for them without me in their world outside of the weight room. The goal is always to get my clients to know how to make good choices for their health and wellness even if I’m not watching.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1. SLEEP — It’s so nice to see the amount of research that is popping up showing the importance of sleep. Throughout the pandemic, this is one topic I have been able to more easily convince people to take seriously. Many of my clients have been able to transition to work from home scenarios, significantly cutting down travel time. This time can then be shifted towards longer nights of sleep. I have directly seen fewer injuries, more weight loss, and happier clients as a result.

2. PLAN AND JOURNAL- Nearly 100% of my clients who use a food and exercise log lose weight, incorporate wellness activities more often, or improve their strength. Seeing your food and exercise plan in writing forces you to be honest with yourself and hold you accountable. Having actual concrete goals laid out in front of you is an excellent way to stay task focused. It works like a charm. It can sometimes take me weeks to convince clients to take the time to log, but half the time I know this is because they aren’t actually ready to start making changes. Once they do log (Noom, MyFitnessPal, good old pen and paper, phone notes, any method that works for you) we can also track trends and use this data to really dial in on lifestyle changes that work for the client. For example, if you are a shift worker and your shift is 10 hours, putting you on a 6 meal a day plan literally doesn’t fit into your work schedule. We may see better results and less stress managing a 2–3 bigger meal plan with shorter workouts if you are exhausted from a long day of work. Journalling is also a great tool for my clients who “never have any time” to fit in even the smallest changes. Seeing a schedule in front of you really points out where time is being spent poorly and should change. Everyone on this planet has one thing in common, 24 hours in a day, it’s the choices you make in that day that really count.

3. BE PATIENT- Most people are completely unaware of the amount of time and effort that goes into performing like an athlete or looking like a fitness model. It takes even longer if you’re already starting from a detrained state with higher body weight. If you are not used to feeling what a muscle contraction feels like, or what it’s like to sit and be silent with yourself in your recovery phases of training it will take even longer to get started. Don’t rush the basics. Think of it this way, if you decide for one year you’re going change your food, your exercise, and start meditating, after 40 years of not prioritizing these things, that is only 3% of the time you’ve been alive that you’ve dedicated to health and wellness. You’d still be considered an infant in weight room years.

4. PASS THE SELF TALK TEST- Positive attitude is incredibly important to see changes and accept where you are in the process. I have my clients write down things they say to themselves when they are really down on themselves. Typical responses are, “you look so fat,” “you can’t do anything right,” “you’re wasting your time, you’ll never get there,” “I hate myself” etc. I then ask them if they would say any of those things to someone else who was struggling. Most often, they say no and see how hurtful they are to themselves. Our next goal is to figure out phrases that affirm their effort is worthwhile. Saying things like this is a waste of energy and time and in no way helps them to get to the end result they desire.

5. PRIORITIZE BALANCE- I’m not talking about standing on one foot, I’m talking about your yin and yang. Everyone needs something different when it comes to setting health and wellness goals, and they can change every year and that is ok! Maybe one year you want to prioritize strength and you found you drifted too far away from eating healthy meals so the next year you want to shift to focus more on a food plan that works with your training style. Use each year to grow into seeing what your body really needs and how to attain it. For example, I grew up as an athlete and played competitively through college. I still had that competitive nature driven into my body to the point of it making me unnecessarily “hot headed”. In an effort to slow down and be still, I added in yoga and meditation. I studied to become a massage therapist, and learned coping tools to help “cool me down.” This worked great until I started playing sports competitively again and found I just didn’t have the same aggressiveness I once had. I knew my focus had to be on learning how to shift back and forth between calm, cool and collected for work and aggressive for play. This took me years to improve on, but I stayed in my lane and let it happen in its own time and am happy with the improvements I have made.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Clean air and water would be a great start and it makes me so sad to even say this is where we need to start. The most basic of human needs.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

In regards to any other female professionals looking to break into this industry these are the 5 things I wish I had known sooner.

  1. The hours are LONG. My first job, my boss told me I hope I like working half days because 12 hours is a normal shift daily. As I switched to personal training, I clearly had more control over my schedule, but in order to reach the success that I have it has required a lot of work in and out of the studio. More often than not, I am in the gym by 530am and leaving after 7pm. Make sure you love what you do.
  2. Not everyone is going to like you, don’t take it personally. I used to always get so upset when someone would come in to work with me and not want to continue. It took me a very long time to realize I’m not going to help everyone and that’s ok.
  3. It really helps to walk the walk. I can’t even tell you how many men wouldn’t take me seriously as a strength coach until they saw me demonstrating exercises with good form. None of my male counterparts had to pass this test of approval.
  4. Be willing to learn — Every day I learn something new and it makes me even more aware of how much information is out there for consumption. Not everything is credible, not everything is useful, but it’s good to know even things you didn’t think you’d ever use. I never thought I would become a massage therapist and now I love it.
  5. Find a good mentor and network — I learned more in my three years under a mentor who legitimately cared about my wellbeing than anywhere else. Find someone who wants to promote you and push you without steamrolling you. Networking is so key to your success and your clients. Be ready with a list of other professionals in your area that can be a part of your health team. Refer your clients and always have their best interest at heart.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Ahh yes, the illusion of separation. All of these things are one and the same. We need to worry about sustainability because our environment is failing. Our environment is failing because of over consumption which has encouraged more people to consider veganism, and the stress of having to manage all these things have certainly changed our mental health. However, if I had to choose a starting point, I would say environmental changes. I am a huge animal lover, and have a very hard time seeing animals going extinct, losing land, and losing food and water sources because of our choices. We need to protect this planet if not for us but for them. Even steps as simple as buying reusable straws. Seriously, this is not so outrageous of a request.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

@Junctionbodyworks on instagram

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.