Nicki Caylor has always had an active lifestyle, but suffering a heart attack while serving in the Army in 2009 gave her a chance to “take a look at what we do for ourselves every day,” and soon after decided a life devoted to fitness is what best suits her.
Now the Club Director at the Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City, Caylor enjoys helping others seek their fitness goals as a personal trainer.
“It’s rewarding to see people manage their health risks and manage to become stronger for themselves and being able to take care of their mind, body and spirit,” she said. “It’s never about me, it’s about every athlete, what makes them happy and what motivates them. I’m always glad to push them to make sure they are tuned in with that.”
Caylor’s current role running the day-to-day operations at the Club is something she does not consider work, “because I enjoy what I do,” but her path to this point has been met with a number of personal challenges - challenges that have been met with positive results for herself, her clients and the community.
Heart problems have run in Caylor’s family for years. Her father died after suffering a heart attack and enduring a heart transplant. Enlisting in the reserves in 2009 was something Caylor did “to make a difference” and honor her father, who was a doctor.
But those plans changed abruptly later that year when she suffered a heart attack herself, and was discharged from the Army in early 2010.
“This was heartbreaking to me as I had joined as a combat medic and had the intentions to stay in the Army and go to PA (Physicians Assistant school),” Caylor said. “My Dad was a doctor and I wanted to follow in his footsteps and do something to help others and make a difference. The Army was, and being a PA was my route.”
“Then, in a moment everything changed,” she said.
But as disappointed as she was to be unable to continue on the Army path, Caylor says she is “exactly” where she needs to be right now.
“I’m still working in a health related field but on prevention and recovery side,” she said.
Her heart issues while in the Army forced her to “take a look at contributing factors to heart disease.”
“I knew I was already pre-disposed so it was important for me to get deeper into shape. I became a trainer because I wanted to know more,” she said.
So after teaching fitness classes for about a year, Caylor left her job with State Farm Insurance to take on her current role at the NAC nearly three years ago.
In addition to making sure things run smoothly internally, Caylor has ensured that the NAC is an active force in the community as well, creating positive results for more than just their clients.
Every November, the Club organizes a food drive that benefits the Salvation Army of Michigan City. This year, 25 cases of canned foods were gathered by Caylor and her employees.
“We want to do something that involves the community and it is important for us to do more outreach,” Caylor said. “As a child during the holidays, my parents always stressed the importance of how other families didn’t have much. My family always adopted other families at Christmas time and we would take the kids shopping. Something is just ingrained in me on how important it is to give back to the community.”
Caylor also occasionally works with the United Way, having served as the race director for their “Run, Walk and Roll” event in late November. The NAC will host the fourth annual Dyngus Day Dash on April 21, 2014 for the benefit of the La Porte County Red Cross. This will be Caylor's third year serving as the race director.
She is also in her second season as the head women’s cross country coach at Marquette High School.
“I love it,” she said of the Marquette gig.”It’s a lot of fun like to work with the girls and watch them improve each race.”
Growing up in Valparaiso, but having lived in a variety of different places across Indiana due to her husband being an Indiana State trooper, Caylor says she is delighted to be back in Northwest Indiana, now residing with her family in Chesterton.
“It’s great to be back home,” she said.
With the NAC and at Marquette, Caylor says her focus is on “how I can make a difference in others lives, make an impact in a positive way and help others.”
The Northwest Athletic Club, she says, gives her that opportunity.
“If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life,” she said. “And for me, that has never been more true than now.”