In college, Erika Huerta weighed 200 pounds. She had never been an athlete and, like many, her family didn't emphasize healthy eating. She decided to make a lifestyle change, which led to losing 70 pounds and feeling much better.
The first-generation Cuban-American now competes in marathons and works as a police officer — and is one of four women featured in TLC's "Police Women of Broward County." New episodes run until July 7.
Why do you keep fit?
For me, it's almost therapeutic to work out. Takes away stress, I relax. I like to look good, so for aesthetic reasons. I run competitively, so I have to train to run better. And since my job entails being so active, that's another reason.
What's your workout routine?
It depends what race I'm training for. Now I'm training for the ING New York [City] Marathon in November, so I run five or six times a week. I do a combo of long and medium runs and track work, which involves 2 or 3 easy miles and a lot of sprints of 100 meters.
I'll do sprints on the Key Biscayne bridge. That's by far the most difficult bridge I've run. It's so steep, and a mile long. Not so dangerous for running because it has a concrete barrier for pedestrians.
Today, I did track work for an hour. Couple days ago, my long run was two hours. My medium run is an hour to hour and a half.
How did you decide on your training schedule?
Sunday is my day off, have to take that off. And my long run needs so much energy, so I do those on my days off. The other workouts I do before my shifts.
Do you lift weights?
Not so much. On my track days, I do plyometrics and calisthenics for coordination and balance, and strength for my legs.
For calisthenics, I'll do step-ups up and down a bench, push-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, burpees. That's when you throw yourself on the ground in the push-up position, bring your legs in, bring them out, do a push-up and then jump in the air. I'll do 10 in a row, take a break. Three sets of that.
How long have you been a runner?
I was never an athlete until I started running in college. That's when I was my heaviest, 200 pounds. I started dieting with Weight Watchers and running every day. I lost 70 pounds. My pace at first was 14 minutes per mile, which is slow.
Fitness for me now is not so much about looking good but feeling good. For me, it's a lifestyle. No going back to what I used to be.
Is being a cop exercise?
Being a female, we have to be on our toes. Guys might want to have one up on us, so I got to keep ready. But [chasing bad guys] is not very common. Maybe once a month. A lot of it has to do with command presence. When I arrive on a scene, I'm letting the person know, "Hey, I'm not someone to mess with."
Did you play sports in school?
Never did anything competitively when growing up. It all started in October 2010 when I ran the Chicago marathon. I did it in 3:16 — and then I did the Miami half [marathon] in 1:28. I thought, "Oh my goodness, I'm getting fast." So I got a coach and been training with him. There's a certain goal I want to reach for New York.
Does your family keep fit?
No, not really, which is part of why it was so challenging to me to start.
Do you have a personal fitness motto or philosophy?
One of my pet peeves is hearing people making excuses. For me, that's not an option. The only excuse is you. The only person who can stop you is you.
What's your typical daily diet?
I'm a vegetarian. No chicken, no dairy whatsoever. My diet consists of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
I work the night shift 12 hours, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., so it's challenging for my diet. My typical breakfast is at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, after my workout. I'll have a super shake of bananas, berries, any kind of berry I like, with spirulina and chlorella and maca. That'll hold me for about three hours.
I'll snack on apples with organic peanut butter, or carrots with organic hummus. I'm big into bananas because of the training and needing potassium.
For lunch — dinner really, around 8 or 9 p.m. — I'll eat salad with fish like tilapia or salmon. I love salmon. I don't do dressings.
All throughout the night, I'll snack — raw broccoli, I love a handful of raw sweet peppers.
What do you drink typically?
Two cups of coffee a day. I put coconut milk in with raw sugar because I don't eat processed foods or dairy. I don't drink juices, or maybe green juice made out of vegetables.
Do you take any vitamins or sports nutrition products?
I drink a daily multivitamin and take Citracal because I'm vitamin D deficient.
Where did you acquire your fitness and nutrition knowledge?
I've had to learn along the way, talking to people and reading. I've been a vegetarian a year and a half. I feel healthier, lighter now.
Do you have any fitness advice for South Floridians?
Being fit is a lifestyle and a sacrifice one must do. You can't just try it once. You have to make it part of your life. With a little self-sacrifice, anything can be accomplished.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun