UPON MEETING NICOLE GUSTAVSON AND TAKING IN HER IMPRESSIVE PHYSIQUE, IT’S EASY TO MAKE THE ASSUMPTION THAT SHE’S ALWAYS BEEN IN THE FITNESS INDUSTRY. NICOLE OWNS INFORM FITNESS, A SLOW MOTION STRENGTH TRAINING STUDIO, BUT HER BACKGROUND IS ACTUALLY IN FINANCIAL MARKETS-ABOUT AS FAR OF A DEPARTURE FROM HEALTH AND FITNESS AS ONE COULD GET
Nicole met her future husband at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she graduated with a Masters in Economics. They married and moved to London where she worked in finance before making the decision to study law at the University of San Francisco.
In the fall of 2008, the stock market crashed…and so did Nicole’s marriage. She and her husband separated, leaving her a single mother to five-month-old twins.
Hoping to recover her body after childbirth, Nicole sought out a holistic practitioner who introduced her to slow motion strength training. His program worked. Nicole was seeing results and spending less time in the gym. She was hooked.
The following spring, Nicole made the decision to move to Loudoun County to be closer to family. “I didn’t have a plan,” she admitted, “I just wanted to get my bearings and eventually go back to a field that I knew.” One could argue that she was at her lowest and could have used that as a reason to give up. Instead, she used it as a reinvention.
“The decision to create my own business came before I even knew what my business was,” Nicole explained. After being presented with an amazing job offer, she realized that she couldn’t accept it. “I would be paying for childcare and only seeing my kids on the weekends,” she said. She made the decision to stay at home with her daughters, vowing to start her own business.
Nicole had been continuing with the same protocol of strength training. She knew it had potential, but also knew she had a lot to learn. Deciding to educate herself, she bought every book that talked about High Intensity Strength Training (HIST) and even flew out to meet with some of the authors. Earning all of her necessary certifications, Nicole parlayed a Masters in Economics into a successful fitness venture.
At 34, Nicole purchased the licensee rights for InForm Fitness in Northern Virginia and opened two independently owned studios in Leesburg and Reston. She now leads a team of six. When her daughters were three, she met her current husband, Joshua Cagney, through mutual friends. They married in 2014 and he has since joined Nicole as her business partner at InForm Fitness.
The InForm workout is 20 minutes, once a week. Each strength training session involves slowly working your muscles to temporary muscular failure. When you’re lifting weights slowly, you can’t depend on momentum or acceleration-your muscles are doing all of the work. Nicole explains, “We want to get you to the point of muscular failure as safely, but aggressively as possible. And each time you come back, you’re stronger.”
That strength is empowering. “I tell people all the time to be careful. If you start strength training, you’re gonna start making positive decisions. It’s going to have a domino effect in your life,” Nicole warns. She goes on to explain that whether you put in work in the gym or in your kitchen-make sure you are getting proper rest. “You have to prioritize rest and stress management just as much as you prioritize the strength training,” she explains.
The InForm workout is intensely focused. There’s no music, no mirrors and no socializing. You can get in your workout and then get on with your day. It’s something that’s sustainable and Nicole’s clients need sustainable results. Their lives depend on it. The majority of these clients are dealing with severe metabolic and degenerative conditions.
Nicole says “bring us your broken” should be their tag line. “Putting muscle on your body is probably the most effective preventative medicine that you can administer to combat metabolic disease. It’s about healing yourself and becoming your own advocate,” Nicole attests. She believes, “if you want to change your physiology, InForm Fitness offers the safest, most efficient way to get strong.” When Nicole’s not taking care of her family and running her business? She’s an educator. She volunteers at the Loudoun Free Clinic teaching Nutrition and taking on pro bono cases. “Its really just about education. No matter what, I really just want us (at InForm) to be regarded as educators. I’ve learned that the majority of people are good people and they want a better way. When they know better, they do better.”
ERIN WASHINGTON is a mommy blogger from Leesburg. She is a recent contributor for popular websites that include, Scary Mommy and Chowhound. She is passionate about wine, toddler fashion and naps. See more from Erin by visiting her blog, rookieinthismomgame.com.