Too many of us get stuck into believing something about ourselves that prevents us from reaching our goals. Those doubts that swirl around in your head – you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re not fit enough. Well, Fitmark Ambassador Erica Blockman is here to tell you a different story, one that will help you see things in a different light and help you go after those goals of yours, no matter what your genetics or gender or doubts.
Fitmark Ambassador: Erica Blockman
Lifestyle: Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, IFBB Pro Athlete, Sponsored Athlete, Volunteer/Paid Firefighter at Fort Jones Fire Department, AAS Paramedic
Meal Bag: the Shield︱Sport Duffel︱Envoy Backpack
As a firefighter, Erica fends off stereotypical perceptions and negative comments every day. When you’re female and vertically challenged, keeping up with the boys is a lot harder. But it doesn’t ever stop her from getting the job done. She says:
In an industry that is predominantly male, it’s hard coming into work knowing you’re not going to be accepted by everyone. When the general public hears the word “firefighter,” they think of a tall, strong, beefy man, not a smaller-framed woman. I hear it almost every day when I’m in uniform or in my turnout gear, comments such as, “You’re a firefighter? But you’re so small” and “How do you wear that? It weighs as much as you do.” I could seriously spend a page on the comments people have made regarding my size.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Erica was a real tomboy growing up and looked up to her father, who “was a very large, muscular and quite frankly intimidating man.” She told us:
I’ve been into fitness since I was literally 10 years old. I wanted a lot to be like my father and we had a home gym in the middle of our living room that I would sometimes just watch him in “awe” then try to emulate what he did. Muscles fascinated me. Probably because we watched a lot of Xmen, Marvel Super Heroes, Beastmaster and Thundercats and He-Man together… and everyone was muscular.
To help me stay focused with track and field and other sports I was into, my dad threw me into the gym at age 11. From thereon in, I pretty much lived in the gym and idolized everyone on the wall every day – Arnold Swartz, Lou Ferrigno, Frank Zane. I stared at their pictures on the wall for the next 6 years wanting to be more like them, and dreaming of stepping on the Olympia stage.
Erica has stepped onto the Olympia stage twice now and earned her IFBB pro card as well. She finds building muscle really helps to give her the edge on the job, but she’s learned that strength and ability have nothing to do with size. It’s all about your state of mind. According to Erica, “The only way to overcome a physical barrier is to be mentally focused and strong.” With mental strength and focus, it’s a lot easier to overcome negative comments and constant critiquing, and it’s the only way to push past those barriers that keep holding you back. She says:
Physical Fitness, Mental Strength & Focus
I became a more confident firefighter and individual through physical training. The mental and physical go hand-in-hand. If you know how to train and push yourself to the limit physically, you break mental barriers as well, the very same barriers that prevent you from becoming a stronger person. The more you physically challenge yourself, the more you realize that your body is more capable and stronger than you believed. If you know this, you also know that you are constantly challenging yourself to meet new heights. But you can’t do it simply by going to the gym or doing functional training alone. Tell yourself that you can do it, imagine yourself doing it, and never tell yourself that you can’t.
With mental strength and physical fitness comes confidence and when you feel confident your whole body language and attitude change and people notice it. Erica has learned to deal with the issues she faces as a firefighter by working on her mental fitness as well as her physical fitness, but most of all it’s command presence that’s key. Here she is in her own words:
Your command presence is almost everything. People can tell right off the bat whether or not you’re a confident or timid type of person. People tend to listen more as well as take instructions from someone who is confident and displays more leadership qualities. You need to have this. One of my first challenges in the service was people taking me seriously. It’s hard not to mentally break down when you have numerous people doubting and criticizing you. But what you have to do is let others’ doubts fuel your fire. Don’t let it get the best of you.
If you know what you’re capable of and have faith in who you are, you can prove them wrong and stay humble. I know that I enjoy firefighting because I like giving back to my community; you’re showing up on someone’s very worst day to provide not only a sense of comfort but also hope. I’m not in it because I want to be the hero or to prove something.
Find a Technique that Works for You
As you get physically fit, you’ll find that your mental strength also increases and with that you’ll gain more confidence and become more resilient to life’s challenges. At the same time, getting the job done is not always about brute strength. Erica says:
Not everything about the job relies on strength and endurance alone. Many aspects of the job are all technique and thinking outside the box, especially if you’re not the kind of person who relies solely on brute strength. I won’t say that sometimes even the techniques come without challenges when you are smaller in stature, but I want other women in the service to know that there will always be something on the job that someone else will be better at than you, but with that said, there will always be something you have to offer that they don’t.
If you cannot do a particular task, play around with it for awhile, and see if there’s another method that works for best for you. There are numerous ways to throw a ladder, do a hoselay, or drag a victim from a building. We’re going to have to figure out what’s going to work best for us. There will always be that handful of people who doubt your abilities and will stop at nothing to find your weakest points. There will always be the few who doubt your ability to have their back during a fire and possibly save their life. All I can say is, have the desire to prove them wrong and have the desire to prove it to yourself. Why let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t do it?
If you make physical fitness a top priority and learn to take that mental push you give yourself at the gym in your everyday life, the possibilities are endless as to what you can do. You have to have the mental part down before you master the physical. You will find that you can build your strength to new levels and improve your overall attitude as well. Being physically fit helps heighten your ability to focus so you will find that studying and everyday academic chores flow much easier. You will most likely enjoy your time at work more often as well.
Erica writes at length on this topic in her article on Fitness and the Female Firefighter that you can find at fireengineering.com.
When you’re struggling with your own negative criticism, whether it’s at work or inside your own head, use that energy to fuel the fire that keeps you going. Then hit the gym and work it off! Each time you do that, you’ll get physically and mentally stronger. Erica says:
Someone will always have something negative to say about you, but you can’t let it get under your skin. The fire service is a strong brotherhood and sisterhood, and our individual relationships should always remain strong and supportive. There is no room for gender bashing at the firehouse or elsewhere on the job.
You can follow Fitmark Ambassador Erica Blockman on Instagram @ifbb_spitfire
Sport Your Lifestyle
The Fitmark Team