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Erin Barela


ACE Profiles |  Erin Barela

In 2007 after being a smoker for more than a decade I quit and joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program. With them I trained and completed the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon while fundraising $3,000 for the LLS. Quite literally the experience was life altering. From that time on I was always at the gym and when I wasn’t running or swimming you could find me dancing Salsa.

Following my son’s birth in 2011, it was not so easy. I struggled to eat well and lose the baby weight. I told myself if I could do everything else tired then I would just have to run tired too. I ran my first post-baby half marathon in April 2012 with my son and husband waiting at the finish. I picked up my son and we crossed the finish line together.

I began taking classes with a focus towards health and wellness. I got my CPR and CERT certificates and then began the ACE Group Fitness Instructor program with the goal to teach Zumba. Shortly after my ACE textbooks arrived, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. I was devastated and motivation for everything seemed to leave. I would pick up my books and think, this is just too hard I can’t do it, and put them back down. Even when the doctors told her there was nothing that they could do for her, my mother-in-law did not give up. She lived every day to the fullest and she was there holding and playing with my son at his 2nd birthday party. Just three days later she passed away.

With my heart broken I started working harder. I quit watching TV in the evenings and I began waking up before work to study or work out. The more I did both the better I felt. A little more baby weight came off giving me a little more confidence. I kept telling myself, it’s a lifestyle – it’s healthy not skinny! I told myself to keep picking up my books because I was a person who finished what she started and I was going to complete this. In 2013 I completed two more half marathons; I decided then to complete 14 races in 2014. I decided to fundraise for Team in Training again while completing "14in2014" and dedicating the races to honor the memory of my mother-in-law and also my aunt whom we lost while I was pregnant. Running is not only something I love, but something I began using as a coping mechanism for my stress and it has helped me to have a healthier relationship with food.

It is now 2014, I have lost all but 2 pounds of the baby weight, I have completed four half marathons and one 10K this year and raised $1,869 so far for Team in Training. This year I passed the ACE GFI exam. It was harder and took longer than I thought, but I never gave up, I pushed on through until I passed.

Currently I’m working on fundraising for "14in2014," training to complete a 50K race, contemplating a "15in2015" and looking at other ACE certifications to earn. I plan to complete my Zumba certificate in December this year. I transferred departments and now work in the Cancer Prevention Center at UCLA. I am a "UCLA Health Champion," which means I advocate health and wellness programs on campus. You can also find me leading our department’s afternoon "Fit Break" every Friday afternoon – dancing Salsa. My name is Erin and running changed my life.


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