For 12 Fitness Studios owner B.J. Nichols, training is more than just a job

By Emily Sparacino
Photographs by Dawn Harrison

“Finish What You Start” is the motto B.J. Nichols uses to motivate everyone that walks into his gym, 12 Fitness Studios, in Mt Laurel.

Emblazoned on the wall in bright red letters above the free weights, the motto is also something Nichols, 36, of Chelsea has worked hard to fulfill in his longtime career as a trainer.

Opening 12 Fitness Studios in April, Nichols said, was the culmination of “15 years of prayer and determination to own my own place.”

“It’s been my dream to help people,” Nichols said. “First, my calling is to help people. Next, it’s to make a living.”

Nichols has teamed up with Doug Beard, 40, to offer a multi-faceted approach to fitness for people of all ages and abilities.

On the main level of the two-story, 3,000-square-foot space in Mt Laurel’s town center, Nichols handles one-on-one and small group training with TechnoGym Kinesis equipment.

The equipment allows for more than 1,500 different exercises and, in Nichols’ words, is “easy on the joints and hard on the muscles.”

“I researched it for years before I decided to buy it,” Nichols said of the equipment.

Upstairs, Beard offers flexibility training and muscle therapy.

“I do deep tissue work, flexibility training and stretching,” Beard said.

Nichols and Beard met at another Birmingham fitness facility, and realized their varied skills would mesh well in a business.

“God opened that door,” Nichols said. “I’ll get you sore, and Doug will work it out.”

Nichols started training when he was 18 years old and became certified the next year.

Likewise, Beard’s training experience spans decades, too.

Beard worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers professional football team as a muscle therapist for 14 seasons.

“I did their stretching and massage work for them during the season,” he said.

He also worked as a muscle therapist for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a professional soccer team based in Florida, for one season, and worked four Cirque du Soleil shows.

After his parents retired and moved back to Birmingham years ago, Beard said he started thinking about moving to the area – where “there’s a bigger emphasis on sports medicine” – and trying to establish himself as a muscle therapist and flexibility trainer in a new place.

“I was in professional sports for a long time, but what I tell people is you don’t have to be a professional athlete to be treated like one,” Beard said. “The things I did for my NFL players and my soccer players, you’re going to get the exact same treatment and level of care that they got.”

Beard said he and B.J. hit if off from the beginning, and discovered their mindsets regarding the atmosphere they wanted to create at a gym were alike.

“Both of us have the same ideas of the way we want to run a business and how we treat people,” Beard said. “I said to B.J., ‘If you happen to have some space over there, I would love to be able to join you over there and be able to help your clients out.’ It’s so nice when you’re working with somebody that really believes in what you’re doing. It makes it fun to come to work and to be here.”

Nichols’ Christian faith is evident in how he runs 12 Fitness Studios.

In keeping with his business mission, “to promote spiritual well-being and physical well-being,” Nichols maintains a clean, non-intimidating atmosphere in the studio.

He doesn’t tolerate derogatory language, and bible verses are displayed on the walls of the studio.

“It gives me the opportunity to share the gospel,” Nichols said of the business. “I’m not afraid to talk about it.”

Nichols wears a wristband with “Nehemiah 8:10” inscribed on it.

“It’s a Christian-based studio,” Beard said. “Neither one of us are ashamed to be Christian men.”

Beard said his focus is on keeping clients’ best interests at the forefront of their treatment.

“It’s about their comfort level and what they’re looking for,” Beard said. “I want people to feel comfortable. I want them to walk out and say, ‘Wow, I feel better, and I’m able to move better.”

Beard emphasized the efficacy of treatments is not confined to one session, and the length of time needed to achieve a desired result varies with each client.

“It’s a process,” Beard said. “You’re not going to come in for one treatment and magically be fixed. It’s like training for a marathon; you’re not going to go out and run 26 miles the first time.”

Downstairs, the primary areas of training Nichols focuses on with clients are: Condition (high-intensity interval training); sculpt (isolated body-building); strength (heavy weights); and shape (mostly targeting the lower body).

Nichols said his goal is to help clients achieve “the next level” while modifying exercises where needed to ensure they are not injuring themselves during workouts.

The name 12 Fitness Studios was inspired by Nichols’ “Twelve Hour Makeover” approach. The number 12 signifies the biblical number of completion, Nichols said.

In addition to workouts, Nichols helps clients with individualized nutrition and supplement plans.

Nichols holds a master personal training certification, is CPR certified through the American Red Cross, has an advanced certification and TeleFitness Certification through AFAA and is a published Christian author.

He is also qualified in several different styles of training, including functional strength training, athletic training, HIT, body building, healthy physique, flexibility improvement, overall health and physical therapy.

Along with everything Nichols and Beard offer, Nichols’ wife, Candace, leads special programs for moms and moms-to-be.

Through core strengthening exercises, Candace aims to help women maintain a strong core during pregnancy and rebound from abdominal separation after pregnancy.

“A lot of it can actually be repaired if you take the time to build that core integrity back,” Candace said.

As the mother of five, two of which were twins that arrived via a C-section, Candace can relate to women who are coping with pre- and post-pregnancy issues, and she wants to help.

“I just think a healthy mom is a happy mom, and I think a happy mom is a happy family,” she said. “It’s more about recognizing what your body just did and getting your body back to healthy. It’s about being healthy, not being thin.”

For more information about 12 Fitness Studios, call B.J. at (205) 678-1237, email or visit 12FitStudios on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The website,, is currently under construction.

For more information about Beard’s treatments, call (225) 485-9233 or email

12 Fitness Studios is located at 15 Olmsted Street.

“Things have gone very well,” B.J. said. “We’ve had a great response so far.”