By Henry Howard
Running was the furthest thing from Nicole Hart’s mind until her mid-20s. She started running at age 26 when she met her Army husband.
“He was really fit and active and I decided I wanted to be that too,” says Hart.
But her “why” goes deeper than that. Much deeper.
When she was in nursing school, Hart experienced tachycardia symptoms, and was diagnosed with Wolffe-Parkinson White Syndrome. After seeing a cardiologist, she had the problem surgically corrected by ablation at age 24.
Nicole Hart’s journey from non-runner to mentoring others
“My cardiologist at the time told me I could go and live my life normally after that,” Hart recalls. “That was such a gift, and I didn’t take that for granted. When my mother passed away in her early 60s from heart disease, it only reinforced my resolve to lead the most healthy lifestyle, and to inspire my children and others in my life to do the same.”
Running and motherhood
Not only did Hart launch her running journey, she set out on a path to help others that now includes working as a coach for Marathon Training Academy (MTA).
Starting out, she ran a few 5Ks for about six years. Around that time she got married and gave birth in 2001 and 2002.
“Then in 2005, I was living in Germany and had a good friend that I started running with,” Hart recalls. “We were at the same fitness level and we decided to sign up for a half marathon in Koblenz, Germany. We trained together, and then completed that race. It was so much fun, and after that, I set my mind on a full marathon.”
Her first marathon was the Zurich (Switzerland) Marathon in April 2007. The following year, she ran throughout a pregnancy, until the 32nd week, when she transitioned to yoga. “Since then, I have run eight more marathons, dozens of half marathons, two Ragnar Relays and many shorter races,” she says. “I ran my first and only (so far) ultramarathon in 2016, Blue Cruise 50K in Reading, Pa. I have a goal of running a 50-mile race in 2020.”
A well-rounded background
Hart is a registered nurse, certified personal trainer and a sports conditioning specialist, all of which help her guide her athletes toward their goals.
Her background in nursing is beneficial because “it helps knowing anatomy, physiology and a good knowledge of health conditions when working with athletes,” she says. “I also believe that I learned how to ask the right questions of my clients, and have enhanced interpersonal skills and empathy as a result of the years that I worked as a nurse.”
Hart received her certifications as a personal trainer and sports conditioning specialist through ACE Fitness.
“As a sports conditioning specialist, I am able to work with athletes to help them perform at their highest level possible, as well as to prevent injury,” she explains. “I have learned how to train athletes to boost power, speed, strength, agility, coordination and balance — all essential elements in almost every sport — including running.”
No ‘one-size fits all’ training
When the Harts returned from their overseas duty station, she opted to pursue her running passion instead of nursing.
“Once I started running, I was obsessed with all things fitness and running,” she says. “While I was preparing to become certified, I volunteered at my local running store, helping with a weekly running group. I quickly discovered that I was happiest when talking about running and developing training plans for myself and others.”
Hart’s coaching philosophy can be boiled down to this: There is no ‘one-size fits all’ training program.
“I take all things into consideration when developing a plan for an athlete,” she explains. “This includes fitness level, goals, life stressors, time commitment and family support systems. I like to communicate regularly with my athletes and adjust their plan as they adapt and respond to the plan. Every training plan includes regular strength training, specifically designed for runners.”
Adopting the MTA family
Hart, who lives in south central Pennsylvania, met MTA co-owner and coach Angie Spencer during a local Moms Run This Town group run. Hart is a chapter leader of the group.
“We chatted afterward over coffee, and Angie told me about MTA,” she says. “I went home after that and checked out the website and podcast. I later contacted Angie and Trevor with my interest in joining as a coach.”
The philosophy that Hart follows is a natural fit for MTA.
“My goals as a coach are to consider the individual needs and goals of all my athletes; actively engage with them in a prompt and efficient way; and use my knowledge and experience to instruct, inspire and motivate them to meet their very best potential in running.”
Hart emphasizes that coaches are not just for elite athletes. Weekend warriors, mid-pack runners and even back-of-the-packers can benefit from a guiding hand. She has seen runners struggle with identifying the proper training for them.
“There is so much information out there, and it is difficult to know where to start,” she says. “Often they choose a program that ends up being beyond what they are able to do, and they can even become injured and frustrated.”
Other athletes, Hart notes, have plateaued and need a boost.
“Maybe they have a goal of running their first marathon, a Boston qualifying time, or just a personal best in a distance,” she says. “A coach can provide expertise, guidance and accountability that may just help the athlete to finally reach their full potential. The coach takes the thinking out of the training. And doesn’t everyone need their own personal cheerleader on the sidelines? This is what having a personal coach can bring to the experience.”
Name: Nicole Hart
Hometown: Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada
Number of years running: 20+
How many miles a week do you typically run: 30-40
Point of pride: Getting all my weekly workouts done and having them turn “green” in Training Peaks.
Favorite race distance: trail half marathon
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter and honey and coffee — always coffee! (pre race)
Favorite piece of gear: Garmin Vivoactive watch
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: The Champ by Nelly
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: I am strong/ No regrets
Where can other runners connect or follow you: Twitter and Instagram, @nicole_hart03