Nichole Danis is crushing motherhood, the weekday grind, and every moment in between. The 41-year-old grew up in Plainfield, Conn., and now calls Canterbury home with her husband, two beautiful daughters (who will also be crushing it, sooner than later), two dogs, chickens, and a bunny to boot! Nichole and her family absolutely love the outdoors, staying active and getting the most out of every day.
goEast:Who gave you the “bug” for being active outside?
Nichole: Would have to say that my love of the outdoors comes from my dad. As a child, my father was always involved in outdoor activities. I enjoyed seeing him excel in the sports he played, but I think the camaraderie with his friends was what I remember most. Besides playing softball, he also was an avid golfer, hunter, [and] fisherman and enjoys hiking. Today, he is in his 60s and still lives an active lifestyle.
goEast:You don’t have the average job. Your daughters are equally passionate about living an active life, and your husband is just as driven. Can you tell us a little bit about finding time between work, family, and personal fitness goals?
Nichole: Well, I just celebrated my 15-year anniversary at Pfizer Pharmaceutical, where I’m a working supervisor in a high-output histology laboratory. It’s true: I have two very active daughters. Leah is 10 years old and participates in karate. Avery is 8 years old and plays soccer. They each participate typically twice a week. On top of their sports, they are also both involved in a local theater club.
My husband Matt and I have been happily married for 15 years. He is an avid cyclist. If he’s not on his bike in his spare time, then he is tinkering with them! If I am not at work or running my children to their activities, then you can usually find me tying up my laces for a run, jumping on my fat bike, or in the pool for a swim.
“Free time” is not a word we use a lot around our house! We are always in motion. I find it very important to make time for the things that make you feel good. I’m up at 4 a.m. each morning, put in an eight-hour day at work, and then squeeze in whatever exercise I can for myself.
Getting regular exercise is really important for me, so each year, I like to set a goal for myself. The goals over the past few years have been quite challenging, but [I am] extremely grateful to have a family who recognize just how important it is to me. They are my biggest cheerleaders!
Recent events I’ve completed include the Olympic Distance Triathlon, Half Ironman Triathlon, [and] Vermont 50 trail run, and last year, I biked up Mount Washington in the Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb. There are days when it is really challenging to train, or simply doesn’t fit in, but setting goals makes me get out. It becomes something that I almost have to do, and I secretly like having that pressure to get it done!
goEast:While you’re crushing it across all points of interest here, can we also add you’re crushing the textbooks?
Nichole: Ha ha, yes, I’m pursuing a master’s degree in public health with a focus in nutrition. Thankfully, I can do this online! Might be a good time to talk about nutrition, which truly is a passion of mine! In the past, I would beat myself up a bit: “I’m not fast enough, strong enough, or have the energy I used to have; if I were only five pounds thinner,” etc. These are the things that would actually cross my mind! I have decided to let all of that go. Today, I focus on being healthy, happy, and want to be a positive role model for my girls. So, my kids make fun of me for drinking protein shakes and eating salads, but that’s okay.
Nutrition plays a huge role in how you feel and perform. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way! These days, I tend to eat a mainly plant-based diet; however, I incorporate lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, and beans. When I’m on the run, I’ll quickly throw together a shake. My favorite is chocolate protein powder, coconut water, [and] a tablespoon of peanut butter with a frozen banana. Yum! When out for a long ride or run, I choose Shot Bloks. They tend to be quick and easy to grab from a jersey pocket.
goEast:We’ve covered a lot of ground here, but one cannot “go east” without touching on the gear you cannot live without! Can you share, say, your three must-haves?
Nichole: Three items I just can’t live without…When I think about this question, the first thing that comes to mind is my winter wear! It doesn’t matter how cold it is, as long as you have the right gear. I have a heavy pair of tights that I wear for both running and riding. Another important item would be a reflective vest or coat (safety first!), and lastly, I need ear coverage. I’ve had the same two EMS headbands for close to 10 years!
goEast:OK, Nichole, it feels like a fairy tale, from supportive family to an incredible career and even grad school. We know this is just a snapshot, and it’s not always easy. What inspires you to get out of bed at 4 a.m.?
Nichole: What inspires me to get out of bed? Honestly, as much as I love being active, I also love the friendships I have through being active. For instance, I have regular running dates with my friend, Nicole. Not only will we get out for eight miles, [but] we will also catch up on all the craziness our lives have brought us that week. Most of my friends whom I exercise with are in the same boat. We are all trying to be good moms, and exercise helps us do just that.
Sounds funny, right? I have a feeling that many of you know what I am talking about. Exercise helps us feel better about ourselves. It releases stress and keeps us healthy. It gives us confidence and helps connect us with others who have the same interests. I just won’t spend an hour talking on the phone with friends but schedule some running or biking time, and we will have plenty of time to chat.
goEast:To wrap up our time together, do you mind sharing advice on how to stay inspired?
Nichole: Do what you love, and love what you do. If you don’t like running, then don’t run. There are so many other options. My knees just can’t handle another full marathon, but that’s okay. I enjoy getting on my bike more and have added more pool time. I guess that would be my advice to other women. Don’t beat yourself up or give up. Do what you like doing and have fun!