She’s a seasoned fitness pro, a first-generation Cuban American, a new mom, and an all-around powerhouse. obé’s newest fitness instructor, Nicole U., is ready to bring a feisty edge to the Box—and motivate you to train for your best life.
Accessible, encouraging, and always working at a steady pace, Nicole likes to make her classes simple but not easy. With a background rooted in professional dance, her workouts are beat-driven, rhythmic, and always move at a steady pace. She’s concise and clear with her cues, so you never feel lost.
“I try to make my classes flow a little bit like a dance. So it’s not stop and go—it’s let’s flow through this very specific sequence, but we’ll repeat things a few times so that you know what you’re doing,” explains Nicole.
Get to know her below, and follow all her adventures at @nicoleuribarri.
Tell the obé fam a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Miami, Florida—born and raised. My family is Cuban, and I grew up immersed in that culture—it is a big part of my identity.
I first got into movement as a dancer. I started taking ballet classes when I was three or four and fell in love with it instantly. I did that through college, attending Florida State University, where I received a bachelor’s in fine arts. If I wasn’t in the dance studio or taking academic classes, I found myself in the gym. I felt that the classes I took at the school gym—focused on strength training, athletic conditioning, and some cycling—were all working my body in a very different way than I was used to in dance class.
Upon graduation, I got my personal training certification, my group fitness certification, and my cycling certification, and moved to to Chicago to pursue a professional modern contemporary dance career. Eventually, I wanted to do more fitness than dance. I found myself managing a boutique fitness studio in Chicago, then in New York City, where I became the fitness director and a lead instructor. I had a stint at a fitness startup—and then a year ago, I had a baby girl.
This past February, I decided to get back to teaching group fitness at Equinox. But I also missed connecting online. It’s so wonderful to be able to train people who are not just in New York but in Chicago, Florida, and Texas. I wanted to do it with a company that has the values I have around inclusivity, one that’s very welcoming. And obé checked all the boxes.
What’s your favorite part of being a fitness instructor?
We never realize how impactful a moment in class can be for someone. Whether they need to move their body because they’re trying to get over something they’re dealing with, because they’re experiencing something emotionally, or because they’re rehabilitating an injury—there’s so much going on with people that we don’t know about.
As a fitness instructor, that 28-minute or 45-minute block can be so impactful for someone’s day, week, or life. The most magical moments have been when someone comes up to me and they share something they’re going through and how my class has helped them. Maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or their anxiety got the best of them—with those 30 minutes, they’re already in a different place. It’s the opportunity to shift someone’s mental state or overall well-being in a short amount of time that goes beyond just physical strength. Those moments are like a-ha, this is exactly why I’m doing this kind of work.
Plus, given that I was a performer, a dancer, I really enjoy the performative aspect. It’s an opportunity to tap into an alter ego and share your light.
How would you describe your fitness instructor persona?
I tend to get a little feisty. I want people to trust me as an instructor and I don’t like coming across as someone who’s too challenging. I like to be welcoming and approachable—but I also love working with people who want to work and who take the workout seriously, but who don’t take themselves too seriously. Someone who wants to come in and is very willing to laugh a little bit or try something and maybe fall out of it. I try to get that out of people.
What are your Sculpt classes like?
My background is in Barre and dance, so my Sculpt classes are rhythmically based, there’s a lot more choreography, and everything is on the beat. I try to keep things very evenly paced. So even though it’s not a cardio class, it’s going to feel like cardio.
We use lighter weights and high repetition. I’m not going to change up the choreography every eight counts. I tend to repeat certain movement patterns so that you can grasp them and feel like you know what you’re doing while still being challenged. We’ll always move at a steady pace and you’re going to get really sweaty!
What are your Strength classes like?
In my Strength classes, we’re focused on building muscle. So there won’t be high repetition, and I’m going to keep the exercises fairly simple but functional. It’s all about building strength so that you can live your life better… so you can feel like a fierce person walking home from the grocery store with two heavy bags of groceries. Or if you have a toddler who refuses to get off the floor, you know exactly how to squat and pick them up without hurting your back. Or if you’re on a vacation in the Tetons, you can hike without losing your breath. That’s the kind of strength we’re going to build.
I will encourage you to grab heavier weights. It is meant to challenge you. If I’m teaching a specific strength set and I give X number of reps but you find yourself at home doing double that, I’m going to continue to reiterate the importance of going heavier, so you can work smart and get the full benefits of that class.
Now for some behind-the-scenes of your fitness instructor life.
Go-to coffee or tea order?
Oh, Café au lait. So coffee with a little bit of steamed oat milk on top.
Go-to post-workout snack?
Peanut butter, sometimes just from the spoon.
Instant mood booster for you?
Coffee and my daughter.
Favorite pump-up music?
Latin music gets me fired up. Being a Miami girl, I used to listen to Pitbull a lot. It was fun for working out, it’s what got me super pumped up. Bad Bunny is up there.
Any hobbies we should know about?
I love hiking, and also just being a tourist in the city. My husband and I can spend the whole day out and about walking through all the different boroughs and experiencing different neighborhoods, especially before we had the baby. I love trying new kinds of restaurants and just really enjoying good food. I also love the arts: good film and theater.
What’s the next spot on your travel wish list?
Japan. I’ve never been to that part of the world. I like the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experience a completely different way of living. There’s nothing more exciting than getting off a plane and not knowing what any of the signs say. You just have to immerse yourself in the excitement and that little bit of discomfort and enjoy the process.
What’s a film you just watched and loved?
Fun fact: I love vampire and zombie movies. The last film I saw is called El Conde. It was excellent in terms of the surrealism, the writing, the use of light. It was just a stunning, fun film.
What’s another fun fact about you?
I married my high school sweetheart.
What’s a life lesson that stuck with you?
Don’t be in such a rush. In every aspect. Not just day to day, but in life, too.
If you could only do one workout for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Yoga. A really good power-based Ashtanga or Baptiste-style Yoga.
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