Diminutive Erica Blockman Defies Odds as Female Firefighter
Erica Blockman doesn’t just welcome a wide range of challenges in her life, she seems to go out looking for more. The radiant dark-eyed, bronze-skinned brunette with the million-watt smile quickly distinguished herself early this year when she took the stage in both figure and bodybuilding categories at the Emerald Cup, eventually winning her figure class. It’s not the ordinary way to take in a show but then again Erica is no ordinary girl.
Thus far, what she’s doing on the weekend competitive stage pales in comparison to what she does during the bulk of the week. For over four years, the native of Mt. Shasta—a rugged and scenic hamlet of Northern California—has worked as a firefighter and paramedic for the local department. Clearly the most important challenge she’s taken on, Erica wrote a brilliant article for the website FireLife discussing how she deals with the issue of being a woman in a distinctly male-dominated profession; and more noteworthy, about how her dedicated fitness lifestyle has helped dispel questions about her efficacy handling a strenuous and dangerous job.
Erica deftly breaks down the perception and reality of women firefighters. “When the general public hears the word ‘firefighter,’ they think of a tall, strong, beefy man,” she writes, “not a smaller-framed woman. So for those of us in the minority in the fire service, there is typically a lot of proving to be done.” On the other hand, Erica notes, “There are a lot of females in the fire service who definitely look the role! They are taller, look stronger, carry a great command presence, and get the job done just as easily as the men do.”
Reading this, muscular figure (future physique?) girl Tori Stroud and new physique pro Nola Trimble spring immediately to mind. Both work in the fire service industry and each woman is considerably taller and bigger than Erica, who clocks in at 5-foot-2 and 109 pounds. But don’t let her smallish stature fool you. Erica has the skills, smarts and strength to get the job done and whatever she lacks in size, she more than makes up for in heart.
It’s not surprising Erica has turned the supposed physical handicaps of her job inside out. She has been active and fit for most of her life, working out since age 12 to improve for sports—track and field, gymnastics and even wrestling—and has been the proverbial “gym rat” since. Later, when her knees could no longer handle the pounding from sprinting, she found a new passion in the world of figure.
On the side, she delights in being a personal trainer and fitness instructor, inspiring—and being inspired by—her students. “I dont want to be caught panting and out of breath by my students during a cardio kickboxing class,” Erica says. “The stronger and more endurance I have, the more my students will feed off of my energy and enjoy my classes. There is not a day that goes by that I do not appreciate when my students tell me that they want to take my class to have my body. That is motivation in itself to keep going and pushing hard in the gym.”
The extra motivation is simultaneously leading to great improvements in Erica’s physique and paying dividends in her figure journey. Another challenge met this past weekend, she won the figure overall title at the NPC Seven Feathers Championships in Canyonville, Oregon. The win almost certainly qualifies Erica to move on to the national-level, where a well-developed upper body, solid core and great stage presence will get her noticed; moreover, adding a little size and sweep to her legs could boost symmetry and lead to a break through.
Meanwhile, like one of the best fitness motivational speakers, Erica writes in her article about how training at the gym increases self-confidence and mental awareness. “If you know how to train and push yourself to the limit physically,” she says, “you break mental barriers as well—the 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.”
On the rich rewards of fitness, she writes, “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 at what you can do.”
For Erica herself, so far so good.