The competition was fierce, but local fitness consultant Erin Nomura, who’s also working on an online degree in health and wellness, and nutrition, came through with a first-place finish in her height division at the NPC National Fitness Championships to realize her dream of becoming a professional.
The Team Universe competition features several different categories for both men and women with different men’s bodybuilding and men’s and women’s physique categories. Those are more or less the two stereotypical bodybuilding contests, with huge men and women flexing in small swimwear. There are also several categories for smaller girls with less muscle mass with a figure and bikini competition. Those categories involve set poses for contestants rather than flexing.
“They are looking for a certain body type in each category,” Nomura explained.
Nomura competed in the fitness competition, in which contestants participated in a physique round similar to the figure competition for one-third of their score. Then contestants performed their own routine in the second round for the rest of their score.
“I definitely choose the fitness category because of the routine,” Nomura said. “Most people are nervous about that round, but I am not. I guess I get nervous, but it is more an excited nervousness. The posing is what I get nervous about.”
The routines look similar to a dance routine, with several workout-video type moves thrown in.
“You are scored in multiple categories,” Nomura said. “Flexibility, strength moves is a big one, there are also a lot of former gymnasts and cheerleaders, so you will see a lot of jumps in there. There are performers and dancers — you definitely get to see different people’s strengths and weaknesses.”
For Nomura, strength is her biggest weakness, but she is able to make up for that by being one of the best performers on the stage.
“I lack in strength moves; I really have to work on that,” Nomura said. “I try to put a few hard ones in there, but that is usually my weakness. I am a performer, so I like to give a show. I am an ex-cheerleader, so I do the good jumps and I tumble a little bit too, I try to do a little bit of everything.”
Nomura’s incredible routines have led her to four first-place finishes in the five competitions that she has attended since picking up the sport in 2008. Those wins have been largely based on her routine performances which have earned her the top score for the round in every competition she has been to.
“I hate the bikini round, to be honest,” Nomura said. “I absolutely hate the bikini round. I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini as much as I should, or as much as people think I do. I don’t like being half-naked and having people judging me, but it is part of it and I had to just own it.”
That is exactly what she did in New Jersey as she finished first in the physique round for the first time in her career.
“That was huge for me because I worked really hard on my body to earn that,” Nomura said.
The physique round was especially difficult for Nomura because she is completely self-taught in that category.
Nomura said that it is common place for the amateur athletes at these competitions to have an IFBB pro for a coach. Nomura said coaches help the contestants with posing tips and tricks, as well as drumming up excitement for their protege prior to the competition. Nomura said she was the only contestant in attendance, to her knowledge, that didn’t have such a pro advocate.
“I did that on purpose, because I really wanted to do it on my own because of the politics of it,” Nomura said. “I wanted to be the one person that got it and didn’t have someone speaking up for them.”
While Nomura’s self-made approach is more difficult and rarely utilized, she wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“I learned quickly, I watched videos and I watched myself to see what I did wrong,” Nomura said. “That is why winning the physique round (in New Jersey) was so big for me. I have never come close to first place before, but I have just done so well in the routine that it beats them out in the end.”
Nomura is also largely self taught in putting together her routines, though eight years of cheerleading and four years of dance as a youth in Del Norte certainly helped her get where she is today.
“Lisa Jager used to be the dance instructor at the high school,” Nomura said. “She is the only person that has helped me with dance in my life and I thank her so much for that. I should tell her that, actually.”
Nomura also wanted to thank Joey Young, who coached her in cheerleading at Del Norte High School until her graduation in 2004.
Getting into fitness
Nomura’s athletic career began at Del Norte High School. She played basketball and volleyball for two years apiece, but cheerleading and track is where she excelled, competing all four years.
On the track, Nomura was a standout in the 300-meter hurdles, where she captured multiple white stars. Nomura was also awarded the high school sports scholarship upon graduation.
Nomura attended college for one year before making the life-altering decision to join the United States Army. While stationed in Alaska, Nomura married a fellow solider. They were deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, where Nomura served as a motor transport operator and paratrooper, but her husband was killed in action.
Shortly thereafter, Nomura found herself in a gym in Missoula, Mont., where her brother owns a business.
“I like to dance; it is a stress-reliever for me,” Nomura said. “When nobody is in the studio — they call them classrooms at the gyms — I dance. Someone walked over and told me that I would be good at doing fitness. I didn’t know what it was, so I watched a video and I thought, ‘I think I can do that.’”
In 2008, Nomura proved that she could, winning her first-ever fitness competition in 2008 at the Emerald Cup in Bellevue, Wash. Later that year Nomura made her first trip to the 2008 Team Universe competition in New York where she suffered what is currently her only defeat with a fourth-place finish despite earning the top score in the routine round.
“That just goes to show you how bad I was in the posing round,” Nomura said with a laugh.
After the Team Universe competition Nomura had to sit out while she had her daughter, Peyton Eiko Nomura. After the birth, Nomura went straight back to the gym, and at the 2010 INBA Natural Olympia in Reno, Nev. — just seven months after Peyton’s birth — Nomura once again took first place.
“That was my ‘lose-the-baby-weight’ goal kind of,” Nomura said.
After the Natural Olympia, Nomura took three years off from competing to spend time with and raise her newborn child.
When Nomura returned to fitness at the 2013 Big Sky Championships in Missoula she once again took first-place, following that up with a first place finish at the 2014 Vancouver Natural in Washington.
Nomura began planning a return to the Team Universe competition to avenge her only loss in a fitness competition, and to earn her IFBB pro card.
Perhaps Nomura’s biggest hurdle was scratching together the funds to get to New Jersey and enter the competition. So she went to the local community to try to get enough money to reach her dream.
“They definitely helped me go to New Jersey for this show,” Nomura said. “There were a lot of people in the community that stepped up and supported me. They donated $100 or $200; anything helped and everything made a difference. It was awesome to know that people supported me that much.”
While Nomura received a lot of support from many sources, she said that her mother Melissa Tuttle and her fiance Matt Chadwick provided the most support for her.
Chadwick, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter in Crescent City, provides a lot of support beyond the financial realm, as well. Nomura said the two train together sometimes; he teaches her boxing; and they schedule their competitions around each other so that they are never competing in the same month.
“It is easier to support each other 100 percent when one of us is in the offseason and the other one is on,” Nomura said. “He has a fight coming up right now, so a lot of what we are doing is MMA.”
Nomura also received financial support from Steele Reserve, Country Club Bar and Grill, Train Pretty, Rob’s Barbershop, Kronos Kustoms, Fancy Nails, Gladiator Athletics, Full Armor Firearms and many individual sponsors.
“When you do things like this, your support team is everything,” Nomura said. “If you don’t have one, you can’t do it.”
Bringing fitness back
Although earning an IFBB pro card was important to Nomura, she said she doesn’t have any immediate plans to use it to get into competitions. While her IFBB pro card allows her to sign up for professional shows, Nomura wants to wait until she believes she can win one before she enters.
In the meantime, she can use her IFBB pro card to earn a little extra scratch doing paid guest appearances at “nearby” amature shows in the Bay Area or Washington. That, she said, could help her attract some major sponsors to make competing more affordable.
In addition to finding sponsors, Nomura is also interested in bringing the sport back to Del Norte. She said she is considering trying to do a guest performance at the Del Norte County Fair this year to show people what it is all about.
“I always tell people, ‘It is really for anyone,’” Nomura said. “Even if you have a job, you can always have a hobby, especially in a town like this where there isn’t that much to do. There are a lot of people that I know personally that I went to high school with that still live in town that I know could win.”
She is confident that if Del Norters give it a shot, they will quickly become hooked.
“It is just a hobby and a lifestyle,” Nomura said. “Once you get stuck to it, it is a forever thing. In my category, there were girls that were 40 and doing fitness, so you are never too old to start doing it. It is just something that is fun, healthy and it teaches your kids to be healthy.”