Meet Erin Hickok, PWSC's Health & Fitness Coordinator

by Vicki Heisser and Jessica Young  |   

Having lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the past six years, Erin Hickok is PWSC’s newest Health and Fitness Center Coordinator and is eager to work with the college and Valdez community. With master’s degree  in exercise physiology from Marshall University, Hickok has a wealth of knowledge at her disposal. She is also currently working on a doctorate in health and human performance through Concordia University.  

Hickok took some time to tell us about her background, her interest in Alaska, and her love of fitness. 

“I owned a running and training company, as well as worked for a university as their head of strength and conditioning for their athletic teams [in Hawaii] and love all things running and fitness. But I started to get the itch to go somewhere else. I wanted to try something a little bit different. I like to branch out and meet different people coming from all walks of life. Why not come to Alaska and meet everybody in Alaska? When I saw the health and fitness coordinator position, I said this goes hand in hand with what I'm trying to do. It goes hand in hand with my degree that I'm working on. I'm actually a little over two years finished, which I'm very thrilled about. So just shy of two years left.”

Given her clear love of fitness and experience and expertise, Hickok is excited to help those in the community with their fitness goals. To do so, she explains that she wants to get a better feel for the community so she can determine how best to address people’s needs.

“I'm actually working on getting a feel for what would benefit the community, as well as the employees of the college. What are people feeling like they're missing that they want for their health and wellness and fitness goals? What can the health and fitness center bring to them? I would love to implement more classes, bring educational things, such as running training and form education as well as fitness education. So whether it's that or more to do with strength training, high intensity workouts, or group runs, those kinds of things. But I'm not looking to just cater to those that are extremely athletic or that are of the younger crowd; I'm looking to cater to all individuals, no matter the goals or fitness level. I want this to continue to be a place where there's an option for everyone, and everyone is welcome.”

Offering a larger variety of classes, more personal training options, and having more group workout sessions are a few of the things Hickok would like to begin to implement. 

“If we have more options that people want to show up for, they're going to show up, so I'm trying to create greater options of classes. I would like to have more organized workouts. An example being, we have this class option at five, or come by, we have this at seven. So creating a structure for people to have some accountability. My goal here is to create an environment and a system that people enjoy coming to, or look forward to being engaged with.”

Given the pandemic in recent months, going to the gym has not been a feasible option for those in the community. Hickok is excited to get people back into fitness and she also knows how fitness can help mentally, especially now. 

Erin herself is no stranger to the mental strength needed and that one can acquire through fitness. A marathoner, and now ultra marathoner, Hickok knows, as she puts it, the “strength, perseverance, dedication and a really good sense of humor” that are needed for such physical achievements. She recently completed the Canyon de Chelly ultra marathon, a 55k (34 miles) race in Arizona. 

Of the race she notes, “The thing that I learned is expect the unexpected, things are not going to go how you expect them, and it's about how you adapt. While ultra has made me a better runner, I think it made me a better person overall. It made me a lot more flexible, because you can plan all day long, but things happen in a race that long that you can't prepare for. One of the things that I learned was have an A, B, and C plan. When one thing goes wrong, prepare to push through it. And that's been mainly my goal.”

While running is a large, important part of Hickok’s life, so too are her family and her animals. 

“My animals are still in Honolulu until I can bring them over. I have a cat, two dogs, and a Guinea pig named Steve. They're a very big part of my life, my animals are, and I also have a fantastically supportive  partner who is an exercise physiologist as well. We met in college through our degree program. And so right now she works in cardiac rehabilitation at a hospital in Honolulu. She and my family are very supportive of my new journey in Valdez.” 

As we end our interview, Hickok shares her philosophy on life, a quote she has tattooed on herself as a daily reminder: “Strength to start, courage to endure, resolve to finish.” This quote is something she tells herself when she runs, but it’s something that can apply to all areas of life. 

As Hickok begins her work here at PWSC, she will no doubt endeavor to help the community create and meet fitness goals with courage, resolve, and strength.