By Margie Palmer
There have been many trends in health and fitness that have emerged in the
past 20 years. From aerobics to CrossFit, and from the South Beach Diet to the ketogenic eating plan, many throughout the U.S. are consistently looking to take advantage of the newest “fast-fix” to help them shed pounds and get in shape.
But Vickie Nickerson, owner of Envision Personalized Health Center in Grantville, believes that full-body wellness is about more than fad diets and exercise plans. In her view, these types of goals are best accomplished by taking a more holistic approach.
The native San Diegan’s path toward wellness began in the 1980s, after an anxiety- and stress-related hospitalization had doctors encouraging her to eat better, sleep better and to start going to the gym.
“When looked for a trainer to help me, I didn’t find one. There weren’t any certifications for personal trainers at that time, but I met someone who was going to San Diego State University who was studying kinesiology,” she said. “He taught me some things and helped me with supplements and the more I worked out, the stronger and more powerful I felt.”
A few years later, she and her then-husband moved to Northern California, where she met a physician who owned a gym. Since she’d done some training in San Diego, he asked her if she wanted to help train clients at his facility.
“When I was under the wing of this physician, I learned the importance of incorporating nutrition and stress management with fitness,” Nickerson said. “When I came back to San Diego a year later for a wedding, I looked at the gyms here and had to decide whether I wanted to be a big fish in a little pond in Northern California, or if I wanted to be a small fish in a big pond in San Diego.”
After returning to Southern California, Nickerson continued to study nutrition and eventually went onto obtaining the first-ever gold certification for personal trainers. She also took up bodybuilding.
“I competed from 1989 to 1994 and competed in a number of local and national competitions,” she said, noting that her most memorable was the Excalibur completion in San Diego, where she not only won in her weight class, but she also won the overall trophy. She eventually went on to win the World Cup.
Not surprisingly, her experience and commitment to fitness helped land her a number of personal training clients.
In 1991, after spending time training an international-traveling executive who needed help getting his blood pressure down, that client told her he thought it was time for her to branch out and open her own facility. He also offered her a loan to help get her business started; Nickerson jumped at the opportunity.
Three years later, she stopped competing as a bodybuilder, so she could give her full attention to her business.
“What Envision [does] different is that I look at the whole body. There are lots of trends in fitness, such as CrossFit and Peloton, but they don’t address the whole body,” Nickerson said. “Kaiser and Sharp are now looking at the mind as being as important as the physical body, and with my history of having gone through anxiety and stress, and crashing, I believe that mental health is as important as physical health.”
Today, she trains her trainers on the importance of holistic health and wellness.
“A lot of gyms take a cookie-cutter approach, but when a new person comes into Envision, we have them complete a 13-page health history that gives us information about their lifestyle, their nutrition, how well they are sleeping and how happy they are, along with their blood pressure, heart rate and flexibility,” she said. “With my clients, I incorporate little pieces of a lot of things while knowing that not everything is appropriate for every individual.”
Nickerson also teaches and studies Ayurveda, the Hindu system of medicine that’s founded in the idea of creating balance between the mind, body and spirit.
“It’s a science of life that’s as old as Chinese medicine and it has the same principles. If we live our life in harmony with nature and with what our body is telling us, we’re better as people,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Envision Personalized Health has grown from being an exercise facility to a fully integrative wellness center that offers fitness programs, health coaching and body treatments.
“I’ve had clients that have trained with me for 25-30 years and they love the fact that I’ve evolved along with them, and that I address their needs as whole person as opposed to just providing fitness instruction,” she said. “Teaching people about what their body needs as opposed to focusing on the latest trend is what makes Envision different.”
—Margie Palmer is a freelance journalist who has been racking up bylines for over a decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.