By Jill Farr
There’s often a theme with the women featured in GORGO; many times their stories involve a return to fitness or athleticism, after a detour that might have come about because of career, or school, or starting a family.
But for GORGO CEO and Sisters in Shape owner/coach Erica Willick, that journey towards fitness started later in life, and represented an important shift, both physically and mentally.
“I was a big dreamer as a child,” Erica says. “And then later on, like many adolescents, I started wearing labels that others gave to me. A “Thinker”, the “Smart Kid”—not athletic. I always won the award on the team for trying really hard, but I was never first string anything.”
Those labels led to a self-identification as a “geek”, and that was a persona that paid off big for Erica in university; she excelled academically, and was on the fast track to realizing her dreams when tragedy struck.
“In my second year of university,” Erica says, “My mom was killed in a car accident.”
The unexpected blow devastated Erica’s large family, and another of her labels—that of the “Good Girl”—came to the forefront as she stepped up to the challenge of helping her father and her younger siblings deal with a new way of life.
Erica moved home and was strong for her family…even as she herself was trying to come to terms with an earth-shattering loss. Amazingly, she continued her education, even graduating in the top of her class, and went on to a great corporate job at a high-powered accounting firm.
All of the labels seemed to still fit, and serve her well; the geeky, smart, “good girl” was on the fast track to realizing all of her career dreams, but inside, there was a struggle raging.
“It’s not unusual for people to experience serious depression or other mental issues after a tragic loss,” Erica says, “And I struggled with that through my early twenties.”
Despite seeking counseling, Erica had a horrible self-image.
“Here was dirt,” Erica says, “And I was here, below it. That’s how I felt about myself.”
Far from dismissing those feelings, all of those old labels--the old stories that she was used to hearing from others about how she was the smart one, the geeky one, the “good girl”—seemed to drive a lack of assurance about herself, with the expectations they brought.
Erica acknowledges that her efforts with counseling were self-sabotaged.
“I was a really great liar,” Erica admits. “The counselor didn’t know what was really going on with me, the tremendous pressure I was putting on myself. I was actually having suicidal thoughts.”
Career successes did help…but only partially. As with so many women, Erica’s lack of self-confidence seemed to focus on appearance…something we often feel powerless to change.
“I felt confident about my job, but my confidence about my body and my looks was low.”
Life took a great turn with the entrance of Erica’s now-husband, but it was the arrival of another man in her life that made Erica realize that she needed to make some changes in her thinking.
“I met my husband, an amazing man,” Erica says, “And we started a family. I’d done well re-establishing my mental wellness, but after my son was born I noticed that those bad, dark thoughts about myself were creeping back.”
“I didn’t want that around my son. I knew that I needed to work on it.”
Fitness became an avenue for change, but not just because the negativity centered on physical attributes. Although fitness can improve our body’s appearance, and sometimes bring about a more positive self-image for that reason, Erica believes that the power of strength training in particular helped her because of its ability to shatter some of the limiting labels that she felt had been applied to her.
“I changed those labels,” Erica says, “And started creating my own story.”
Erica’s fitness journey expanded to include competing—and winning—in Bikini competitions.
A three time World Pro Bikini Champion (UFE), Erica is unique in that all of her wins have come after having kids; her most recent win in November of 2015 was only 15 months after the birth of her second child.
Her singular journey has given her a wealth of experience and knowledge that applies specifically to women who have had kids and are pursuing fitness, resulting in a recently published book (Your Fit Pregnancy) that had over 2,000 pre-orders and a program (Flat Tummy) aimed at helping women re-establish their waistline after childbearing.
The analytical side of her personality, the “geek” who loves research and applying effective strategies, is a killer combination when put together with her passion for fitness, and her innovative approach to training and coaching is a powerful result.
Erica has utilized these unique qualities in establishing coaching services through Sisters in Shape (www.sisinshape.com) and co-founding GORGO magazine, a publication that is meant to foster an empowerment for women that does exactly what Erica has accomplished in her own life; encourage the defying of labels through the encouragement of physical and mental strength.
“Fitness is a great way to recreate your story,” Erica says, “Because it’s building mental and physical strength. When you combine those, your confidence goes up…and confidence is everything.”
The driving idea behind GORGO is one of dispelling the notion that women—or anyone—can be put into nice, neat categories, and Erica drives this home with her own ongoing story.
“I don’t know a single woman who is just one thing,” Erica says. “We wear so many hats; we’re creative, we’re smart, we’re athletic…we don’t have to be just one or two things. This is what GORGO is about; a multi-dimensional powerful woman.”
“No one person fits into just one box…we don’t have to accept that for ourselves.”