Rachel Nicks Helps Moms Reclaim Their Strength
With her Pilates, prenatal, and postpartum expertise, this joyful coach (and mom) empowers women of all ages.
Even though she’s a Juilliard-trained actress, Rachel Nicks is never putting on an act when she’s leading workouts. “When I’m coaching, I’m not performing,” says Rachel, a certified fitness instructor. “I pride myself on delivering an authentic experience and being present.”
That authenticity shines through in the Oakland, California native’s passion for helping others embrace their inner strength through exercise.
Movement has always been an important part of Rachel’s life. A gymnast since the age of two, she also played soccer, basketball, and volleyball growing up. It wasn’t until she came to New York to study at Juilliard, though, that she first dabbled in group fitness classes and fell in love with hot yoga. “I wanted to learn more about the philosophy of yoga,” she says. “I initially took the instructor training not to become a teacher, but just to learn.”
Once she led her first class, Rachel says the experience “unlocked Pandora’s box of fitness” for her. She went on to teach a variety of exercise modalities, including Pilates, barre, and boxing, strength, at boutique studios across New York City before becoming a founding trainer at Lululemon Studio (formerly Mirror), and now, joining the Tonal team as a guest coach.
While her fitness experience is expansive, Rachel is especially passionate about prenatal and postpartum training. As a doula, lactation consultant, and the mother of two young sons, she’s tuned into the needs of moms both during and after pregnancy. “It’s the most beautiful yet vulnerable chapter of a woman’s life, and it’s not always met with support,” she says. With her prenatal and postpartum workouts, Rachel uses her expertise in pelvic floor training to help mothers feel strong and empowered.
Here, Rachel shares what it’s like to work out with her, how she applies the lessons she learns in her workouts to the rest of her life, and more about her work on advocating for maternal health.
What do you love most about coaching?
It’s a gift to be a partner on someone’s journey. It’s similar to being a therapist, and I don’t take that lightly. My students share intimate parts of their lives with me and I am aware that I’ve helped many of them get through difficult times as well as the birth of their children. I’m so honored and grateful for playing that role in their lives.
I love having a platform to share the gift of movement. With virtual coaching, I can bring together a diverse group of people and reach those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to train with me.
What’s your vibe as a coach?
I’m going to kick your butt—but with a smile. You’re going to get an array of colors with me. In all of my classes, we’re going to have jokes, we’re going to have a therapy moment, a church moment, and then we’ll nerd out on form and alignment. It’s a fun ride.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll learn. I lead with humor. For me, it’s really about creating a safe space for everyone who shows up to train with me to learn and grow. Challenges create change.
Why should we train with you?
When you train with me, it’s like you’re in my kitchen. It’s not just fitness, it’s about life. Every tool you learn on the mat or on Tonal should be applicable to the rest of your life and equip you to deal with challenges beyond your workout. You’re strengthening your mind, body, and spirit for whatever life brings you.
Since I started out as a yoga instructor, I’m conscious of the idea of mindful moving meditation—and I don’t think that’s a concept that’s unique to yoga. You can move with awareness in any exercise, whether that’s Pilates, boxing, or strength training. In my classes, you’re going to have an “aha” moment about how your body is moving through space, what you should be feeling, and why.
What are you interested in outside of training?
In addition to being a trainer, I’m an actor, doula, and lactation counselor. After learning about the high maternal mortality rate in the U.S., particularly among Black women, I became committed to finding a way to end this crisis and make sure every mother in this country feels empowered and supported.
Black women die in childbirth at three to five times the rate of white women in the U.S. and in New York City, Black women die at 12 times the rate. I launched my nonprofit Birth Queen on International Women’s Day in 2021 to combat the maternal health crisis. At Birth Queen, we raise awareness, educate, empower, and support Black mothers, and fund training for Black birthing professionals.
When I’m not training or working on my nonprofit, I love spending time with my 3- and 6-year-old sons. I also enjoy my alone time, and traveling solo. The beach is my happy place. I love meeting new people and having unique and authentic experiences.
Do you have a mantra that resonates with you?
My tagline is “Choose joy daily.” The excitement and joy of life is the unknown. That can be anxiety-producing but if you live with gratitude and love, you can face your challenges with a positive mindset.
What does strength mean to you?
Just as diamonds are created under pressure, I believe that strength comes from challenges. Every challenge, in life or in your workouts, is an opportunity for growth. By facing those obstacles, you can build both physical and mental strength.
Always consult with your physician or health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program while pregnant or postpartum.