Coach Spotlight: Dr. Erin Nitschke
As I typed this title, I was struck by the fact that 20 is a rather large number when you compare it to a lifetime. It represents half my life (nearly); I’ve invested half of my life to being a health and exercise professional. There’s not any aspect I would change, but there are lessons I learned that I hope will prove valuable to those who read this article.
I started this career in 2003. And now it’s 2023. I have had many successes and an equal number of stumbles. I’ve welcomed two children into the world and had the honor of interacting with thousands of students in the many classes I was fortunate to teach. I’ve written influential articles, presented on a national stage, and nurtured connections with many like-minded professionals. No aspect of this career journey was easy, but each moment and milestone are underpinned by a valuable lesson and gift.
What they don’t tell you is when you graduate college (at any level), you graduate with a degree — not a career. You graduate with a diploma — not confidence. You gain experience — it doesn’t come as a package when you cross the stage. And the biggest secret is this — experience is the toughest but most valuable of teachers. The degree symbolizes your commitment to and success in a particular area of study. What comes next is up to you.
The Heartbeat of My Why
My why, though the way I state it or present it shifts as the years go on, the foundational piece of why I do what I do is this: to help others achieve the best versions of themselves — whatever shape that may take. I have a deep love for helping people uncover their own unique strengths and leveraging those in ways that allows them to create and sustain a beautifully active, full, and healthy lifestyle. My greatest sign of success is when a client I work with no longer “needs” me. They, in a sense, graduate.
What I Would Tell My Younger Self
Oh, the things I would tell my younger self! We all have those “if I knew then what I know now” moments in life. Here, I offer 20 to represent my 20-year career journey. What I would tell my younger self is this:
1. Don’t skip the struggle. Welcome it and embrace what it has to offer. We will learn more from the moments of struggle than we will from the moments of simplicity.
2. Find people who pour gasoline on the fires of your dreams — not those who eclipse it.
3. Don’t worry so much about what others think or if they like you. Spend time liking yourself.
4. Avoid the comparison trap. It gets you nowhere and there is no gift to be derived from it.
5. Nurture relationships with people. The foundation of all I do is built on rapport. Knowing all the science in the world counts for very little if you cannot build and sustain relationships with those you serve.
6. Impostor syndrome is more common than you think. For years, I questioned my “enoughness” and forgot that I have so much to offer the industry, my clients, my learners, my family, and my friends. I started viewing these moments of questionable confidence as opportunities to learn and advance my knowledge and skill.
7. Work on your rough edges. Yes, we are great as we are, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have “blind spots” or areas to soften that will only help us in our work and in our relationships with others.
8. Be widely read. I’m a writer, well — for part of my professional role — and to be a great writer, we must also be great readers. Read. Read a lot. Read here and there. Choose different genres. I promise, you can learn as much from a soft romance book as you can from a biography. It just looks different.
9. Find peace in stillness. We live busy lives — trust me, I’m one of those that often burns the candle at both ends. Find ways and times to be still. In those moments, breathe deeply.
10. Do more things that bring you joy. For years, I spent time doing things I couldn’t stand — camping and winter activities. I don’t do those things anymore for the sake of “I live in Wyoming, and I should” — I do what I want to do and what makes me feel alive.
11. Take sick leave — even if it’s for a mental health day.
12. Move your body regularly — spend less time sitting and more time just enjoying movement.
13. Do not subscribe to diet culture. Underfueling will cause more damage to your body, your mind, and your joy than eating a piece of cake every will. Eat and enjoy — in balance and in ways that fuel your body and make you feel your best.
14. Learn to rest when your body is asking for it. You do not need to work out 7 days a week to be healthy, fit, or strong. In fact, that will do more damage than you may realize.
15. Cleanse your social media channels. Unfollow the images, people, and messages that make you feel low or unworthy. This goes for bikini models, too. Trust me, they won’t know you aren’t subscribing to their dogma.
16. Grant yourself grace. The world can be harsh, and no one is harder on you than you. Do your best and forgive when things don’t quite line up the way you planned.
17. The dietary supplement industry is unregulated (and sketchy) — avoid pills, potions, and powders. There is no magic pill. Choose a food-first approach. If supplementation is needed, visit with a registered dietitian who can provide you quality recommendations.
18. Success never happens in a straight line — enjoy the curves and know that you’re on your way to something great.
19. Failure isn’t fatal — neither is rejection. Both are often simply redirection and encouragement to change course.
20. Finally, trust your own brilliance. It’s there. It might be hiding or too introverted to show its face from time to time, but never doubt you have it.
While this list of 20 is not representative of all the lessons I’ve learned or what I would tell my younger self, they are 20 of the most valuable in my life thus far. I hope some of these resonate with you and, more than anything, I hope you feel the authenticity in these words and know that we are all two things: a masterpiece and a work in progress.
Dr. Erin Nitschke is a professor of exercise science at Laramie County Community College. She holds certifications including NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1. Erin is an editorial author for IDEA, NFPT, where she writes regularly on topics related to personal training and health coach skill building, behavior change, and career success.