Nikki Benson

Ballerina to Powerlifter

By looking at me, you would probably never guess that I originally planned to Major in Dance at the University of Akron, Ballet specifically. Crazy, I know!

 

Fun Fact: Akron is one of the leading colleges for Dance and has the largest studio spaces for a university.

 

I may have been a little naive at the young age of 18, but dance was and still is a passion of mine. Dance has lead me to my confidence self. I was a very shy child and dance became a safe place for me to express myself. I have danced for over 25 years(now, I feel old…and so must my mother, if she’s reading this!) 

 

Being a Dance Major is no easy feat, yes academia is challenging but the dance world is just as challenging. It will test you, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I took on that challenge for 4 years. There were days that I loved going to class and days that my body refused to show up. 

 

Over the courses of dance classes, when our professors deemed us “good enough” to advance to the next level it was like winning at life. Finally, I can move on, all the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) paid off. This processes eventually took a toll on me. 

 

Years 3 and 4, were the most challenging of all. I was told multiple times “if you would just lose some weight” or “if you only looked a bit more…” and it always ended with “then we could move you to the next level.” 

 

It was never an issue with my talent but with my waist line. 

 

Cue the eating disorder.

 

This can’t be anymore cliche but I spiraled into an eating disorder, Exercise Anorexia to be exact. Basically, I ate some food (about 1000 calories daily) and would exercise the calories off before then end of each day. Guess what? It worked great! My college dance career was taking off! My professors loved me and would praise me daily. But, I was not happy, I felt like poop, and my relationship with food was dangerous.

 

I knew well enough that what I was doing was unhealthy. It was either going to control me or I had to change something and fast.

 

I decided that my dance career was over. This was the hardest decision I have ever made (so far) in my life.  I had to admit I had an eating disorder, I was not as healthy as I made EVERYONE believe, and that I basically failed and gave up on my dream. I was a FAILURE.

 

From the end of year 4 to year 6 in college, I struggled to figure out my next step, what I wanted to do and who I was without dance. I had to focus on my academic classes, relearn my relationship with food, and I began to actually exercise to be stronger and not thinner.

 

The cardio queen threw off her crown!

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been introduced to the weight room a couple of time in my life prior to this point but I would literally CRY because 8lbs biceps curls were too HEAVY. I wish I was joking. But this time it was different, I wanted it for myself. I wanted EARN my right to be in the weight room with the boys. I didn’t want to just be taking up space, I wanted to PROVE to them (the boys) that I can be there too and lift just as much as they could. [insert song: anything you can do, I can do better…nah nah nah.]

 

That moment was almost 10 years ago. Since that point I have made strides in my progress in the gym and outside the gym. 

 

I graduated the University of Akron with a degree in Sport Studies with a Strength and Conditioning concentration and a Minor in DANCE! Yay! I was fortunate to intern with Eric Cressey, Tony Genticore, and Greg Robins at Cressey Sports Performance Fall of 2013. Since then I have continued my learning, and growth in this industry as a Personal Trainer, now business Owner/Strength Coach for Delta Performance and a competitive Powerlifter. 

 

Strength to me is ever growing and ever learning. You can never be strong enough, physically, mentally or emotionally. Life will suck, but it was what you do with it that makes you powerful.

 

I will always continue to learn and pass on my knowledge to others because I want to inspire others to be badass and kickass in and out of the gym. I know how much it meant to me to have the right mentors in this field and life. Now, it’s my turn to pay it forward.

 

Everyone deserves to know what their body is capable of, to grow and fight for it. I want to not only help you achieve it but to give you as much knowledge as I can, so you too, can continue to grow, learn, and inspire others to be better than they every thought was possible. 

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