Ms Fitness USA champion and former 49ers cheerleader Nikki Crawford joined Dragonfly Transitions as the Fitness and Nutrition Coordinator in 2012, and since then she has spearheaded Dragonfly’s health and wellness department. When students first enroll at Dragonfly, Nikki meets with them individually to help them assess and create fitness goals. She also leads several fitness and health-based groups at Dragonfly each term. Nikki serves as the Fitness Director for the National Fitness and Racquetball Club (NFRC) where Dragonfly students can workout every weekday morning in Klamath Falls.
Recently we sat down with Nikki and asked her to share some key highlights on what she offers our students and the larger community in her work as the Fitness and Nutrition Coordinator.
What do you do at Dragonfly as the Fitness and Nutrition Coordinator?
When students first arrive, I meet with them for a new student assessment where we talk about nutrition and past eating habits, foods that they don’t like or are allergic to, and some of their habits and things that they want to change. We also cover fitness and nutrition goals. For example, a student may want to move from eating mostly microwavable foods to cooking more meals with whole foods.
I am in charge of fitness at Dragonfly. The fitness classes that I’ve offered include: boot camp, zumba, piloxing (which is pilates and boxing mixed), battle ropes and kickboxing class, stretch and relaxation, basic yoga, horseback riding, hiking group, a recreational group that includes basketball and kickball; and a dance class with different types of dance including basic floor work, beginning ballet, hip hop. In a recent dance class, Dragonfly students helped with choreography where we would add on to a new dance and new routine each week. By the end of the group, we had three different dances mixed all together. It was a lot of fun and a great team-building experience for the students. They worked really well together.
I also run healthy eating, cooking, and groceries groups at Dragonfly. In the first healthy eating class of each term, we cover the best lean proteins, carbs, fruits, vegetables, and good fats. We discuss which foods are high glycemic and low glycemic. Then we wrap up the food review by talking about good fats. After going over these food choices and healthy menu options, I then have students make their own example menu plan. They can use it to make a grocery list and cook healthy meals. I encourage them to post this on their fridge to use each week.
For the healthy cooking and grocery shopping group, we start by going to the grocery store and reviewing food items together. I will do label comparisons with the students and we look to see if there are healthier options for favorite foods. For example, we discuss the benefits of choosing Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
In the grocery shopping group we also have a healthy recipe that the students will plan to cook that day. They each get an item in the recipe and then make it together back on campus. I love it when students come up to me afterwards and say, “I made a recipe on my own that I loved from last week’s cooking class.” We focus on healthy, budget-friendly options.
Another thing we enjoy doing in cooking class is to remake a favorite recipe from home with healthier options. For example, we recently did a spaghetti-based recipe but instead of using enriched wheat noodles we cooked spaghetti squash and brown rice noodles. We also recently made a sausage-based recipe where we used a leaner choice, chicken sausage and ground chicken.
A favorite lesson of some of the students was learning how simple and quick it is to do a baked potato recipe with a bunch of lean protein choice options including: greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, chicken, green onions, and spinach. The students really enjoyed it, and many of them fixed that recipe for lunch throughout the week on their own.
How did you get into fitness and health?
I was always super active. My parents had me in activities including competitive baton, gymnastics, and all types of dance. I was even the baton twirler at University Of Iowa. Later my experiences led me to try-out and make the 49er Goldrush cheerleading squad.
After having three kids, I decided that I wanted to be more active in fitness. I thought it would be super neat to compete in fitness as a mom, and to demonstrate that it’s never too late to accomplish goals. I would get up at 4am to work out (so I would not interrupt my kids schedule) and prepare to compete in a national fitness qualifier. I won my first competition and qualified for nationals. When I won Ms Fitness USA in 2011, I was the only mom to ever have won, and I was the oldest to win. That year I also placed 2nd in Ms Fitness World. My main motivation was that I wanted to teach moms how to eat healthier and take care of themselves. I believe this teaches kids from a young age to be healthy and active, and I really wanted to educate people on health.
That’s quite an accomplishment! I also heard that you recently had a fitness article published. Can you share a bit on what that was about?
Sure, in the past I have been on the cover of “Ms Fitness Magazine” twice. They recently asked me to write a food prep article for Ms Fitness magazine. The editor reached out and asked if I could help moms and clients with food prep with a focus on how helpful that is for staying on track. I’ve done recipes and workout layouts for Oxygen magazine as well. I hope that it inspires moms. I know It can be hard to stay on track when caring for kids.
What are some of your tips for staying healthy going into the holiday season and new year?
If you’re going to a holiday party, eat a healthy meal before you go so you won’t over indulge. When there, try to stick to healthy portion sizes. When you deny yourself of something you love, you’re more apt to binge eat later, so enjoy yourself! If I’m coming straight from somewhere and going right to a holiday party, I’ll have a protein shake. I recommend choosing veggies or other dishes that don’t have creamy sauces. Try to eat healthier items first to help fill you up.
I’m currently doing a holiday wellness challenge going all the way through New Year’s Day with some of my clients at NFRC . Last week the challenge was to meditate 2x/day for a minimum of 10 minutes. This week the challenge is to do cardio for five days.