But as a new mum, termed ‘geriatric’ by doctors, she struggled to get back into anything fitness related as her whole life had turned upside down and now revolved around a tiny baby.
Several years on, however, she is now a competitive bodybuilder and qualified PT instructor.
But she has shared the story of those difficult days in a bid to offer hope to other mums and women fighting with their fitness.
When her son was small, Nicola’s husband worked hundreds of miles away and was only home three days a week, so she needed an exercise regime that would include Hugo.
She picked running and said: “It was horrendous for the first few weeks and to actually run my very first whole mile, I had to pretend to myself that Hugo’s life depended on it.
“Once I went back to work in HR and business development and toddler Hugo couldn’t be coerced into the buggy any longer, it became difficult to crowbar any fitness related activities into my day. So I hung up my running shoes and settled into the busy work/family lifestyle so many do, dipping in and out of fitness as and when I could.”
By the time her little boy was seven, she’d had enough of trying to keep fit on her own and signed up to a monthly boot camp, hoping it would be ‘the kick up the pants I needed’.
Nicola said: “Unfortunately, I still kept falling off the wagon, giving my inner critic more and more fuel.
“Just wanting to look and feel better or be healthier wasn’t helping me get what I wanted. The emotion behind that just wasn’t powerful enough to fight the temptation to slide/fall/jump off the wagon very regularly.”
However, shortly afterwards she had a lightbulb moment and said: “I realised I’d been so focused on trying to get fit, I hadn’t stopped to think why.
“And that’s when the penny dropped that Hugo was my why.
“Bingo! I had a purpose beyond just wanting to look and feel better that made me dig in when it was difficult or I couldn’t be bothered.
“And the more I dug in instead of giving up, the easier it got to stick with it.”
Eventually it became more than just an interest and she started weight training at the age of 48 and entered her first bodybuilding competition a few months before her 50th birthday.
But she’s keen for others to realise that even she is not 100 per cent perfect with fitness and nutrition all the times.
She said: “I muck up like everyone else. But I am consistently good enough 80 to 90 per cent of the time and Hugo is still the reason I do that.
“I’ve promised him that I will do what I can to hang around as long as possible. “
Even when the going got tough, Nicola was always passionate about fitness and nutrition.
But it was discovering body building that changed her life.
And with the help of coach Joe, she managed to work it around her lifestyle and preferences and says it has been a ‘game changer’.
She said: “I’ve always been fascinated by bodybuilding but never thought I could ever do something like that until I heard a female competitor talk at an event: she was petite and really feminine, yet strong and athletic. It made me think I could do that, so I did.
“My best placing is fourth so far. It’s very tough and now a lot more females are getting into the sport so it’s increasingly tougher.”
Covid has curtailed a lot of competitions this year but she’s training to compete next year, saying: “It may be my last tango, who knows. I won’t compete for much longer as getting shredded looks great on stage but it’s tough getting so lean and and neither practical nor comfortable.
“I much prefer my fluffy off-season body, which is how bodybuilders describe being fatter out of competition.”
It also led to a new career for her as she as gained her PT qualification in a bid to help others.
Nicola said: “Part of the coaching role involves helping people understand the fitness and nutrition principles required to get them where they want to be.
“More importantly, it’s about being in someone’s corner, having their back, pushing them to do more because you know they can even when they don’t believe that themselves.
“I truly believe everyone can be the version of themselves they want to be. I’ve been unhappy with how I look and feel yet managed to change that for the better whilst juggling work, studying and family life.
“It takes a bit of lateral thinking and some nifty planning but it is possible.
“The bottom line is it’s never too late.”