Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Valenzuela.
Erica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It was Aug of 2009 when I was headed to a small college in Kansas City to restart my basketball career. This time, my one-year-old daughter in tow. It was six weeks later that I woke up from a coma back in Colorado at the university hospital. I have never been more confused in my life. 45 and some blood transfusions, an acute stroke, multiple grand mal seizures, collapsed lungs, removal of my bottom right lobe, failed kidneys, tracheotomy, contracted H1N1 while being there, a whopping three months in the hospital while learning to walk, talk, eat, again… all from pneumonia.
My life had forever changed. The one thing I ever truly felt good at was gone. My identity was no more. I weighed 113 lbs and couldn’t even hold my daughter unless she was set in my lap. Fast forward to 2010 and I no longer needed the oxygen that was at one point thought to be needed the rest of my life. I started working at Bally Total Fitness part-time as the gym opener. I was starting my life completely over and had very little money, so my daughter would walk to Bally’s with me, every morning at 4:30 am. No one else showed up until 8 am so I was safe to have her there until the kids club opened and Adele, the sweetest kids club attendant, would let me sneak her back there for my shift.
Our Fitness Manager, Margie Wheat has convinced me to become a personal trainer after weeks of telling me why I would be good at it. She even paid for my first certification out of her own pocket, knowing that I couldn’t afford it myself. She had no idea how her belief in me would lead me to where I am today, opening my very own gym. It has been nine years of clients, some of whom I still train today. Falling in love with each person’s reasons why they trained. We all have a story and I made it my job to find out. Through getting to know my clients on a deeper level, I realized that there needs to be a gym where some sort of an emotional release happens before the workout. Now here we are today, months from opening, e•motion.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
So, I was adopted as a baby. My adoption story is simple… you would think… but in that simplicity brought a whole cluster to my life and those around me. As I got older, I had a constant question in the back of my head that many of us might be familiar with, “why didn’t she want me?” That question. Ugh. It was what truly stemmed so much of my pain, or any toxic traits I possessed and had to work on for myself because it’s not only annoying to my friends, or family or the people I surround my self with but it was annoying to me!
The true lesson was when I had my daughter. After her father disappeared from our lives, I couldn’t help but anticipate that same question lingering in her future… “why doesn’t he want me?” And that’s when it got real. We all want to protect our kids from feeling any pain but that’s not possible. What I learned over the last decade and am still learning is that in order for me to help my daughter is for me myself, to look my pain in the eyes and allow myself to truly feel the emotions that come from it. That way, she can follow suit and not be ashamed of her emotions.
After I got sick, I was so angry but it was different because I was experiencing survivors guilt. So instead of crying and asking myself, “why didn’t she want me?!” I found myself asking God, “why do you want me?!” “Why did you keep me here?!”
It wasn’t until I woke up from a dream with the idea to create my own version of a gym, e•motion, and the true purpose that I realized that THIS is why I’m still here. I had never been more certain of something I was supposed to do (other than be a mother to my beautiful daughter.) And that’s because it’s bigger than me. I survived my illness because I can connect us as individuals. To show that we’re not alone and that we can use art and fitness to release the repression of our emotions. And in the end, I was wanted all along. So, it wasn’t the easiest path, but I wouldn’t be this version of Erica had it been calm waters, and for that I am grateful.
e•motion – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
e•motion is a completely brand new concept. Of course, working out it is not new, and even the latest fad of rage rooms is becoming increasingly popular, but combining the two in one place is new and putting our own twist on it is what sets us apart. e•motion is not only a safe space to feel your emotions but it’s a place to create them as well! You begin your 90-minute experience by throwing bottles full of paint against a blank canvas, (because who doesn’t want hear glass breaking with paint exploding everywhere?!
Then you work out that energy that was created in a guided full-body workout and afterwards you’re guided into our chill room to reflect on your experience! I’m sure after reading my story, it sounds like sadness or anger even, but emotion has quite a spectrum and we want to celebrate the good ones too! As a whole, e•motion is the new latest experience, much like bad axe throwing, or sip and create a type of place. We want to accommodate your next date, friends/social time, bachelor/ette parties, company or team outings, divorce parties, and even baby reveals.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think empathy is the number one most important characteristic and quality we can possess. A favorite quote of mine is “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability and no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” – Bill Bullard.
- $45 a person for the experience
- $450 punch card for 12 e•motion experiences
- Address: 9100 W 100th Ave Suite A-11
Westminster, CO Rest is coming soon
Kirsten Leah Bitzer for the one with my daughter