We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, and our vibes with others. And we couldn’t do that without every one of our CAVA team members and our CAVA guests. It’s a fanaticism that can’t be faked – it’s a passion we just have to share.
Today we’re chatting with Nik, a trainer, online coach, and unmistakable CAVA fanatic, about his wellness philosophy, his obsession with all things spicy, and what discovering the power of food means to him.
Start by telling us a little about yourself.
I’m from Frederick, Maryland, born and raised – and that’s where I currently live. In terms of how I got into the whole fitness thing, when I was young, my parents had really, really bad health. I lost them both at a young age from different illnesses. So health was always a top priority for me.
Growing up, I was always playing sports. The high school I went to, all the coaches were super supportive. I played football and lacrosse, and with both of those, it’s a heavy focus on workouts and being able to eat right.
And then my senior year, I was an aide for a strength training class. That’s when I got my first step into coaching. And then I went to Bridgewater College and continued playing football there. That entire time, I was assisting other teams, working out, coaching – as well as working out myself. That’s when I just really fell in love with training and I just knew that I had to be in the gym. That was it. What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day I coach and train clients. I do in–person coaching and online coaching. I get up, make coffee, workout, and then I go to the gym and work with my in-person clients for usually two or three hours. I come home and then I do most of my online clients during the middle of the day. From like 11am to 4pm, I’m doing programming, getting on calls with people, emailing people, following up, doing check-ins. I go back to the gym at about 5pm to 8pm or so, and then train those clients. And then in the evening I do any follow ups that I’ve missed, and then turn it in to get ready for the next day.
I started doing online coaching about three years ago. I have clients all over the world. I wanted a way to help more people and make it more affordable for people to get in shape and not make any excuses. I created an online business to be able to help people be self-sufficient in what they do.
When I was playing football, at age 21 or 22, it was always about, “get bigger, get bigger, get bigger.” But that doesn’t always mean getting healthier. I was a lineman when I played football, so I was almost 100 pounds heavier but still a lot stronger and a lot bigger, because that’s what it called for.
Making the transition after football to more of a holistic health-focused lifestyle was super tough, because I was used to being able to eat whatever I wanted. You don’t really realize how tough it is to choose a healthy option if you’ve never been there.
I reached out to friends and coaches to help me get through it. Then once I got the hang of it, it started to make sense. I realized I wanted to be able to eat and then go perform. And that might mean go to work, go on a hike, clean the house. But it’s hard to find a meal where you can eat, and then not feel sluggish as you go through whatever those tasks might be.
The first time I went to CAVA, I started to notice, “Ok, there’s arugula here, there’s tons of real vegetables here, there’s lentils.” You realize these are things that make you feel good. Why wouldn’t I want to eat something that’s going to make me feel good?
I can vouch that this food isn’t going to hold you back. I can get something and feel good for the workout – and then I even have something left over at the end, too. Take us through your go-to order.
I start off with the greens and grains. I’m not a real carby person, but I do love the taste of the rice – and I love arugula, so I start there. Then, the Crazy Feta is my absolute favorite. I get that and the crumbled feta, too.
I’m also a huge fan of tzatziki. It kind of brings me back to my childhood. There was a place where I lived and they had gyros. I used to not like feta, tzatziki, or onions – and then I had my first gyro, and realized I actually really like all of ‘em together. So when I have tzatziki, it brings me a bit of nostalgia. I get that sense of how much food is related to memories.
Next up, I go for the chicken to get some quality calories. If I feel like a splurge, I go for the lamb meatballs. And then I add cabbage, Fresno peppers, and pickled onions – those are definitely my favorite. Last, the Green Harissa. I just can’t get enough of spice.
It means being in control of your health.
Not enough people take advantage of that. When something goes wrong, they go to the doctor, and they get a list of quick fixes or external things. I believe that your health is more internal – and more personal.
Food is such a foundation of wellness. It’s doesn’t matter what you’re doing for your fitness – if what you’re putting into your body isn’t right, things just aren’t going to work.
It goes beyond food, too. When you realize you’re in control of the decisions you make, you can really start making changes and setting yourself apart. You realize, “I’ll come to CAVA instead of somewhere else, because what I put in matters.”
It might not catch up with you today or tomorrow – it could be 20 or 30 years down the road. But when you realize the decisions you make and what you put into your body matter, then there’s some much potential for real impact to your life.
With online coaching, a big part of what I focus on is teaching my clients self-sufficiency. I don’t make decisions for people. I give them options and they make their own decisions. And that helps them take a sense of ownership over things.
And the impact is huge. When they start to see results – it’s not always fast, but when they do – they’re like, “I can’t believe you got me to do that.”
And I tell them that I’m not really doing much. I’m giving them the tools and pointing themselves in the right direction. But they’re giving themselves the right answers. Once they realize they have that power, it just builds and builds.
In a perfect world, I would be out of a job and have to pick something new to do. I’d much rather that happened because that would mean the health crisis we have in our country and in our communities would be gone.
Coaching is very little about getting people in shape. It’s more about helping them understand they have the tools to make the changes they want to make.
And that gives them so many abilities to say yes to more things. That’s the beautiful thing about it.