Real Life

Nikki’s fighting fit: ‘people are shocked I’m 57!’

Meet the Kiwi woman ageing in reverse
Pictures: Bobby Clark, Snipershot Photography

Closing in on 60, Nikki Ellis is loving life. The mortgage is paid off, the kids are independent, she has time to travel and she gets to enjoy the look of shock on people’s faces when she tells them she’s 57.

“I love it,” she laughs. “People often think I’m in my thirties. It’s very flattering.”

Over the past few months, she’s had multiple interviews with international media outlets desperate to know her secret. Yes, she’s a fitness trainer and, yes, she gets Botox, but Nikki firmly believes anyone, with any type of lifestyle, can naturally turn themselves around and essentially age in reverse.

“I don’t work out even near as often as people might think,” she insists. “I’m all about doing the minimum amount to get maximum results. We should apply that to everything in our lives.”

Nikki weight trains three to four days a week and teaches three spin classes a week for 30 minutes per class.

“A big part of being in good shape is what you eat and how you eat,” she explains. “But I’m not obsessive. Eighty percent of the time I eat pretty well, then 20% of the time I relax and eat more treat foods. But I do keep an eye on that. And most importantly, I don’t drink.”

Now a personal trainer in Melbourne, Nikki grew up in Auckland with her athlete father, a runner, and mother, who suffered from obesity.

“I guess you could say I lived with two ends of the spectrum in terms of role models,” says Nikki. “My dad lived to 96 and had a long, very healthy life. My mum had rheumatic fever as a teenager and had heart issues her entire life because of it. She wasn’t able to look after herself as well as she could have.”

Her mother died of obesity-related complications when Nikki was just 15. The experience gave her a real sense of how important it is to stay active.

“It also gave me great empathy,” she shares. “I realised that not everyone has the ability to exercise – that it’s a privilege not everyone has. My mum would have done anything to have had a body that responds in a normal way to activity.”

With husband Andrew, and kids Sophie and Fraser.

After her mother died, Nikki set about educating herself on the human body and eventually realised she wanted to help others wanting to make the most of their ability to move. This led to her studying exercise science in Melbourne and eventually moving into personal training.

Over the years since, Nikki has adopted every healthy habit she’s learned along the way to keep her looking her best. But she never imagined the other side of menopause would look like this and now
she’s on a mission to let all perimenopausal women know there’s so much light at the end of the tunnel – so long as you have the right attitude.

With her own fitness business, Cinch, she thrives on helping women over 40 with their transformations, focusing on strength training and lifestyle changes.

“Movement is magic,” enthuses Nikki. “When you look at somebody and you’re trying to judge their age, there are subtle things we look at. It’s how they move, how they talk, how their voice sounds and their level of vigour. When you exercise, you move differently and your posture is different. And when you surround yourself with not necessarily younger, but other enthusiastic people, it’s very important.”

Menopause is no match for this trainer!

But she’s quick to point out that middle-aged women shouldn’t get too hung up on how much they move.

“Most women want to be lean and they want to look a particular way. But if your main goal is to lose body fat, as a pre-menopausal woman, you are better off taking a muscle-centric approach, focusing more on the weight training, doing plenty of walking and not sitting down for long periods of time.

“Then just do one cardio session during the week, perhaps a spin class. Doing really long, brutal intervals is counterproductive because our cortisol levels are already high. When you drive cortisol up further, it decreases your ability to metabolise fat. So you’ve just got to be smart about it.”

Nikki says her relationship with her body has been up and down, especially during years of IVF throughout her thirties, but the unifying factor has always been movement.

“Today, I feel strong. I feel happy. I feel functional. And that whole feeling is now what I love to give other women as well.

“If you can keep fairly active and be able to really commit to making change, I truly believe you can make great gains at any age. But why do it at 75 when you can do it at 45 or 50 and enjoy the benefits much longer? Do it as soon as you can.”

Keep up to date with Nikki’s training regime on her Instagram page.

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