Appearances can be deceiving. Take, for example, the number two. The weightiness of this trivial little number seems easy to dismiss until you consider: two scoops of double-fudge ice cream, two one-hundred dollar bills, two rockin’ new Nike sneakers, to name a few. Why settle for one when you can have two, right? After all, as the old saying goes, “Good things come in twos.”
That’s the thinking behind Nicole Wilkins’ every set and rep in preparation for the 2011 Figure Olympia. With a Figure Olympia title and two consecutive Figure International titles already under her belt, the only thing better than each win in Wilkins’ eyes is both major titles in the same calendar year. “If I win the Olympia this year, it will be the first time in history a competitor has won both [titles] in the same year,” says the 27-year-old personal trainer and online business owner. “That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Beyond the Norm
Some records are broken, others are annihilated. Such was the case at the 2007 NPC Team Universe Fitness and Figure Nationals, when Wilkins earned her pro card in the fitness and figure divisions, etching herself into the top spot in the sport’s history books as the first competitor to garner both overalls at the same national-level show. “I have to say I was surprised that I won both [titles],” says the Sterling Heights, Mich., resident. “I kind of knew I had the potential to win the fitness division, but when I won both, I was overwhelmed. It was a dream come true.”
The record-smashing drive that propelled this 5-foot-5½-inch beauty into the pro ranks was a quality seeded by her parents at a very young age. “Both of my parents are very active, and my father, being a competitive athlete, always encouraged my sister and me not only to eat healthy but [also to] take part in sports,” she says. Wilkins was a lifelong athlete and fierce gymnast until a meniscus tear to her left knee in high school threw her competitive career off-balance. “I began to rely on calisthenics and weights as an outlet for my energy after my second knee surgery, and I noticed that my body responded well to this type of training,” she says. Guided by her gymnastics coach — who was also a powerlifter — Wilkins eventually took to more sophisticated moves such as squats, power cleans and deadlifts.
Though she took her weight training seriously, it would be nearly two years before it became her sole passion. It was her sophomore year at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., where she studied wellness, health promotion and injury prevention, that Wilkins flipped her focus to fitness. She’d been training in the gym for a while and was itching to test her physique against other girls’, to see where she stood and what she could become with a little effort. One year later, she entered the NPC Western Michigan and won the fitness title. Talk about starting off on the right foot. “I think my studies and competitive experience contributed to my immediate success,” Wilkins says. Ever since then, the gym has been her second home.
Coming into the pro ranks, the blond dynamo endeavored to master the fine art of duality, calibrating a physique worthy of the upper echelons in fitness and figure. It was a little unorthodox, mostly because only a handful of competitors had conquered such a feat, but it served her well — and she was granted the rare opportunity to step onstage in either division at the 2008 Olympia. In 2009, rather than continue to battle and change roles, she instead decided to shift all her drive on course for the Figure Olympia title. This direction proved to be match-winning.
“I didn’t have high expectations coming into the show,” she admits. “I did the work and had hoped for a top-five finish, but never did I expect to win. When they called my name, the feeling was indescribable.” Wilkins rode the high for the better part of that year, making one sponsorship appearance after another around the globe. But her jet-setting adventures left her with more than just a few holes in her suitcase.
From demanding travel obligations to the longest offseason of her career, the year between her win and her second appearance at the Figure Olympia, in 2010, had clogged her mind with self-doubt, leading to a disappointing second-place finish. “I started second-guessing myself,” she says. “I felt like there was so much more pressure, and the stress began to play with my head. I wasn’t myself onstage that day, I felt rusty and I let my nerves get the best of me. Erin [Stern] deserved to win.”
When self-doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, Wilkins gets even. “I consider myself optimistic, and I always try to look for the positive in each situation,” she asserts. “So this year, I have focused a lot on visualization and surrounding myself with people who can relate to my lifestyle and [who] support my career.” Fortunately, Wilkins has managed to build a great support team helping propel her toward her goals, including her parents, friends, and her training and nutrition coach Kim Oddo. “[Oddo] has been my trainer and a dear friend since 2006,” she says. “I honestly couldn’t have done it without him.”
With a strong first-place finish at the Figure International at The Arnold Sports Festival already in the books for 2011, Wilkins is well on her way to ruffling the pages of history this year. Even though her training recipe enabled her to secure the title in Columbus, Ohio, in March, she wants to add a little extra zest to the mix for the Olympia. “I’m giving every workout 110 percent,” she says. “I will never leave the gym feeling like I could have given more. I’m working hard on making my arms leaner, abs more defined, and hams and glutes a little tighter. I’m very focused on September. In fact, because my offseason has been much shorter this time around, I feel like I’ve gotten a good jump-start on making the necessary changes for the stage. But the biggest difference is my outlook — I’m going to have fun!”
With her training and, more important, her mind now on point, Wilkins is a double threat for this year’s competition. Perhaps for the first time in figure, she’ll prove good things really do come in twos.
SNAPSHOT: NICOLE WILKINS
Birth Date: Feb. 5, 1984
Weight: 128 pounds contest; 138 pounds offseason
Birthplace: Royal Oak, Mich.
Current Residence: Sterling Heights, Mich.
2011 Figure International: 1st
2010 Figure Olympia: 2nd
2010 Figure International: 1st
2009 Figure Olympia: 1st
2009 New York Pro, figure: 1st
2009 Europa Show of Champions, figure: 1st
2008 Pittsburgh Pro, figure: 2nd
2008 New York Pro Fitness: 3rd
2007 NPC Team Universe Fitness and Figure Nationals, fitness tall class and figure class E: overall fitness and overall figure winner
2006 NPC Junior Nationals, fitness tall class: 2nd
2006 NPC Motor City Classic, fitness and figure medium class: overall fitness and figure winner
2004 NPC Novice Michigan, fitness and figure tall class: 1st
2003 NPC Western Michigan, fitness: 1st