by Leila Hinkle
(Above: Veit with her fiance, Carly Crawford. Photo by Phillip Van Zandt.)
Not all sheroes wear capes. Some are out there living and speaking their truth and sharing their passions. Such is the case with Nikki Veit. Her superpower is inspiring others in the gym no matter who they are or what they look like. Her weapon? Kettlebells.
Veit is a fitness trainer breaking the stereotypical gym landscape and creating a place that all folx are welcome. We met recently for a two-part Zoom meeting where Veit (rhymes with ‘right’) would assess my fitness, and then I would interview her for the magazine.
Quarantine has made virtual sessions part of her regular routine, so even though we met
through Zoom, her smile and energy radiated through our virtual barrier. It’s evident that she has mastered the art of putting clients at ease. She was meeting from her newly built, spacious home gym where kettlebells line the wall.
Before she even confirmed it, I sensed that this is what she loves to do. She has a real desire to learn about her clients and their life goals. “Working out is not just about physical health,” she said.” It’s about mental and emotional fitness too.”
When my own physical assessment began, Veit explained what it was that she was asking me to do to understand my baseline fitness. She gauged my flexibility, mobility, and stability through five movements that were easily executed in my dining room/ office/classroom. Before each movement, she demonstrated exactly how to do what she was asking and explained what she was looking for. After my assessment, she shared her observations. I gotta say, I’ve never been more interested in signing up with a fitness instructor than I am now!
With my assessment complete, we settled into my interview of Veit. She spoke from a small couch with pillows donning the Swiss flag, a nod to her dual citizenship in the U.S. and Switzerland. On her website, NVstrongtraining.com, her stated goal is to educate, empower and inspire others.
“First and foremost, I believe in education,” Veit said. “That’s my teaching artist roots. I believe in educating my clients and having a dialogue with them about proper movements. I believe in educating above all else so that when you do leave this gym or leave training with me, you do know more what you are doing.
“…I think a lot of people have not been empowered in the gym especially women, queer and trans people have not been empowered to lift weights and own their strength…to be a badass.
“So many women have been taught to take up less space. Screw that…I can inspire someone to believe in themselves. I can inspire someone to pick up weights today.”
A passion for theater in high school and college landed Veit in Chicago in 2014. “I acted, I wrote, I directed, I became a teaching artist, I performed. I did everything,” she said.
Her exposure to fitness came out of boredom. “I had one part time job and a lot of time on my hands,” she said. So she got a gym membership.
“The thing that completely changed my perspective was watching muscles grow on my body…I
became completely obsessed with it.” So much so that at age 23, she hired a personal trainer. Though Veit continued in theater and even landed a dream apprenticeship, “all I could think about was going to the gym…I knew I had to switch.
“Everything I’ve learned in theater, I use in fitness,” she said. This includes an emphasis on dialogue with her clients. “At the very end of my theater career, I was a teaching artist with the About Face Youth Theatre in Chicago. It’s a queer youth theater group…This is what this is about, creating safe spaces for queer and trans youth.”
She uses her high energy and quirkiness to create that same kind of safe space in her gym, especially for women and queer people, to provide a welcome place for all.
Veit has been a fitness instructor for five years. Her instagram handle, @kettlebellatrix, is a nod to Harry Potter blended with her favorite exercise equipment, kettlebells. A former instructor in Chicago enthusiastically introduced Veit to kettlebells in a class. “Kettlebells are a gym in a handle.” Veit has been in two kettlebell competitions and won 1st place among women in her second year.
Whether for building muscles or losing weight, Veit said, kettlebells are versatile in the way you can incorporate them into your routine. As a bonus, she said, they travel easily. Looking ahead to 2021, Veit has her sights set on an opportunity to create an intro to kettlebells class for women.
The science behind fitness is her current peak interest. When she is not inspiring clients she is exercising – six days a week! She is currently reading David Sedaris and credits her voracious love of reading to her fiance, Carly Crawford.
To grow her fitness education Veit frequently attends fitness seminars and workshops. Lifelong learning is in her core. “As confident as I might come off, I am very aware of how much I don’t know…about movement, behavior change, psychology of training people, and program design. I’m obsessed with getting better. I want to be the best coach I can be for my clients.”