Written By Nicole Lewis, Attorney, Certified Personal Trainer, Head Coach OrangeTheory Fitness (Emeryville, CA)

Photos by Cino Productions and Gold Crown Photography  

Swimwear by Allison Bennett of Sunset Swimwear

On May 20, 2023, I celebrated my 48th birthday. It was a seemingly normal birthday, because I coached my morning classes (at Orangetheory Fitness, Emeryville, CA) and then had lunch with friends who I worked with. What I did not realize was the day I turned 48 was the beginning of a seven-day thought process that culminated in an amazingly positive life-changing decision.

During the following week, my mind was consumed with thoughts of ways to take my fitness journey in a different direction, and hopefully to a new level. I previously stepped up my fitness game when I started working with a personal trainer, IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Gabriela Pena de la Vega, to help me further develop my lower body. With each session I had with Gaby I gained more confidence because not only was I getting stronger, my body was transforming.

So, what was my next step? Even though I am a Certified Personal Trainer, my desire was not to start my own personal training business and secure leads so that I could gain clientele. After all, I was already running my law practice, which required overseeing the entire operation and managing two attorneys and a paralegal. In addition, I was a Head Coach at Orangetheory Fitness. I desired to do something that would make me better, something that would be transformative for me, something that I never believed I could do.  

Training with a bodybuilding pro, I had a familiarity with bodybuilding competitions, and learned about a newer women’s division called Wellness. As I learned more about the Wellness Division and how the focus is on a woman’s lower body (especially quads and glutes), I knew this would be right for me. 

I continued to play with the idea of competing, and every time it crossed my mind, I would feel this overwhelming sense of joy—and excitement that I had not felt in a really long time. And that is when I knew I wanted to compete. 

Stepping on Stage for the
First Time

My first competition was with the Organization of Competition Bodies (OCB) on September 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. From the time I arrived at the venue to the time I took the stage, I enjoyed every moment. I was initially concerned about not knowing what to do, where to stand, etc., but Nella Young (Nellavation) put the show together in such an amazing fashion that I felt completely taken care of which kept me calm (yet excited) the entire time. When I actually took the stage for the first time, I was not nervous at all. Being on stage felt like “home.” I believed I belonged there, so there was nothing to be afraid of. Having put in all the hard work during my training and then making it to peak week was a huge accomplishment. The show simply felt like the cherry on top.

Placing first in her first competition prompted Nikki to see where committing to contest prep could take her.

Catching the Competition Bug

I placed first in the Wellness Masters (35+) category. With my first-place win, I earned my Pro Card and am now a natural professional bodybuilder with OCB. After the show (and actually during), I had no doubt that I wanted to compete again. Having performed well during the first competition, and being new to the sport altogether, I decided that I needed to see where the sport of natural bodybuilding could take me. I truly enjoyed the process, so my excitement is more about competition preparation than the show itself.

The Challenges 

For me, the challenges of competing have to do with the unexpected events that disrupt or alter my meals and training schedule. I would love to train and eat at the same times each day, but as a practicing attorney, I must make adjustments when I have trials or other hearings that require appearing in court. As a competitor, you must be diligent about sticking to your training schedule and eating schedule. Therefore, when I know I have a trial, hearing, or other event that will cause me to be outside of the office, my meals and water are with me.

“I desired to do something that would make me better. Something transformative. Something I never believed I could do.”

Proper Prep & Plans for 2024

In order to prepare properly for a competition, Gaby provides me with an eating schedule and training schedule that I stick to. She takes the guesswork out of everything. When I am not training with Gaby, my discipline and dedication keep me on schedule. I just do what I am told to do—I trust the process.

My goals for the New Year definitely include competing as a professional bodybuilder. I plan to see where my body takes me, which means that I may potentially compete in a different division other than Wellness. Should I decide to compete in a different division, I will be allowed to do so as an amateur. Should I place first in a pro qualifier, I will earn another pro card but in a different division. Since I competed in three shows last year, I spent approximately one-half of 2023 in preparation mode—focusing on competition nutrition, training, etc.—so in the beginning of 2024, I will be taking a break from competing. The training, however, never stops as I decide which shows to participate in this year. I’m leaning towards something in March or April, but I want to make sure I give myself enough time to get my body in competition shape, with the experience I have now gained and knowing what to expect during prep. When I start competition prep depends on the show that I choose to register for. As a professional natural bodybuilder with OCB, I will be reviewing the OCB pro schedule and deciding how far I am willing to travel as well. The sooner I make a decision, the easier it will be to coordinate my work schedule around my training and the competition. Stay tuned for the next steps!

STRONG Fitness
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