Nicole Loher is a triathlete, Adidas ambassador, and all-around fitness guru all while balancing a badass day job in the fashion industry (and several side gigs to boot). Needless to say, she's an inspiration in the art of hustling—and she's totally game to share her knowledge. Follow her column Part-Time Athlete for her expert advice on everything from establishing a training regimen to finding early-morning gym motivation. To kick things off, she shares her personal wellness journey below.
As someone who is often looked to for advice within the health and wellness industry, I'd like to note that it wasn't always this way. I spent many, many years evolving into the version of myself that most know today. That said, the more I open up about how I found wellness, especially within the last year, the more I hear from readers who have similar stories and paths. This dialogue has left me wanting to synchronize all the stories, feedback, and questions I've received into one streamlined column for my favorite wellness destination on the internet: THE/THIRTY. For those who are not familiar with my background, let's get acquainted.
What I often cite as the beginning of my journey happened when I was a freshman at a primarily female fashion college. I found myself trying time and time again to fit in, and yet these attempts always led me to not feeling good enough, and I was truly anxiety-ridden. It wasn't until my senior year of college that I found what felt like "my way"—and of all places, it was through a traditional 45-minute spin class offered in the fluorescent-lit basement of my college on Friday nights.
Taking that class was the first time I felt included. Taking that class made me feel like no medicine or doctor had ever made me feel, and it was the first time I wasn't scared or anxious about the people who surrounded me. And at the end of every spin class, we did something that is done at the end of many fitness classes here in NYC, but I had never experienced it before that point: We all cheered and high-fived each other. It was such a simple act of inclusion, but I had never felt so in the moment in anything in my own life.
From there on and through the recent years, my own personal anxiety acted as the driver of my wellness journey. Whatever form it had manifested itself in—from Saturday morning yoga to SoulCycle to becoming a certified spin instructor and now a competitive triathlete—this is my journey. This path is what worked for and works for me.
On that note, I often get asked: If I could give any advice for someone just starting out, what would it be? It took my own journey to understand: What works for someone else may not work for you. I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to fit myself into the latest crazes that, in the end, simply were not for me. Group classes, keto diets, many forms of meditation, and green juices don't work for me. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to swim, bike, or run and eating a high-calorie, nutrient-dense macro-focused diet is something I can get down with. Alas, training for two to three hours a day is my journey and it works for me. If you ever find yourself whining about not wanting to do a specific exercise or participate in x-y-z wellness fad, just don't do it. Course correct. Find what motivates you to get moving.
Akin to this, I've learned health and wellness isn't an end goal, ever. Like I mentioned earlier, health and wellness is a journey with many evolutions. Last year, I pulled out of my last competitive triathlon of the season due to an injury. I was pretty upset, my ego was hurt, I griped about it for days, and I had serious FOMO over all my friends who were finishing their season on a high note because I really wanted to prove to myself I could beat my last race time. My fiancé kindly reminded me, in true athlete-spouse style, that my health, overall wellness, and competitive ambitions are a marathon, not a sprint. Whether you're looking to lose weight, build muscle, run a half marathon, or become an athlete, you must remind yourself that it doesn't happen overnight. When you view your wellness goals, do so with a long-term perspective.
Back to the journey, as it may seem that I'm making it out to seem like it's going to be a long one—well, it may be. And sometimes it may feel like you're alone. This brings me to my final and most important piece of advice: Always be kind to yourself. It's true that we are our worst critics and it takes a level of self-respect to step outside yourself and speak to yourself the way you would speak to a friend in their pursuit. No matter how healthy or well someone may seem, they have bad days too. Make your worst days your best days by soaking them in as key learnings of how to cope with whatever you may be dealing with.