Building a Body with Maturity

This article originally appeared in Island Scene Magazine in Summer 2014
Building a Body with Maturity (Island Scene Magazine) - Summer 2014

By Keely Kalama-Lakey

Over 40 has its advantages for bodybuilder Eric Yamashita.

At 47, Eric Yamashita, a self-employed, full-time single dad, has figured out how to use the strengths of maturity to take his body to its highest level. He’s mastering the journey, motivating others, and thriving in the competitive sport he loves: bodybuilding.

After taking 11 years off to raise his son, Yamashita returned to bodybuilding in 2013. And he’s not just challenging guys his age; he’s competing against the 20-somethings.

How did he feel about coming back after 40? Yamashita says, “I’m not afraid of anything. My team had a good plan. Our thinking was really healthy and positive training.” The “plan” structured everything, including getting lots of sleep, metabolic efficiency (the right amount of nutrients to fit your body’s needs), a plant-based diet, and efficient training (getting right to the specific body part after ample warm-up).

“Competing 11 years ago, I was stressed. I was stressed about prepping my food, always tired, and I wasn’t as efficient. I overtrained and ate the wrong things,” he explains.

Yamashita’s been a personal trainer for more than 20 years and is certified by the American Council on Exercise, but he believes his maturity is making the difference in his success this time around. That includes understanding that the power of the body starts with the power of the brain and mind. He lives and preaches a positive outlook, staying organized, setting boundaries, maximizing social support, and using food and exercise wisely.

Though Yamashita has a hard time saying no to others, he sticks to his training schedule. He says, “We’re raised to give, give, give. I don’t want to be a jerk, but you need to have boundaries.” He’s adamant about getting enough sleep and getting up early to prepare his food.

“I was stressed in the beginning, but after a week or two I realized I can make it work. You have to be efficient and you have to make time for it. We always want to find excuses, but there’s enough time to do a couple hours of training a week,” he says.

It’s the same approach that Yamashita takes with others. “I take into consideration people’s stress levels and their situations. They have their job, their kids, or a divorce. Their knee hurts, their back hurts, they never lost the baby weight, whatever it is,” Yamashita explains. “I let them know I understand and we’ll work around it, but we’re still gonna make you move. Because you have this, this, and this, you need stress relief. You need to take care of yourself.”

Yamashita gets support from others, a recommendation he also makes to his clients. His friend, Fran Sur, is a source of knowledge and support. Yamashita uses social media to share his journey through Instagram and Facebook. He gets messages and support from all over the country, even from Japan. “People are writing to me about inspiring them. I feel like I have a responsibility to keep people motivated. I enjoy that responsibility. I really believe in what I do and the power of being positive,” he says.

Yamashita’s method is proving successful. He won the bantamweight open division of the 2013 National Physique Committee (NPC) Los Angeles Championships and placed second out of 16 in his class at the 2013 NPC USA Championships. Such an accomplishment is somewhat unheard of after a long time off and short time training. He’s determined to do even better in 2014.

The ultimate prize though, he admits, is “hearing my son yell ‘Go, Dad!’ at the competitions. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to see me do my best, give my all, and expect positive results.”