Posted on 20 June 2014.
Beauty, Art and Strength
Evelyn Stevenson is an actress, presenter and dancer who is training for the Commonwealth Games in weightlifting. She’s won major medals in this sport and in Powerlifting. Here’s her story as to why she became a strength athlete and much more.
UF: Tell us a little bit about yourself (family/background/career/education and so on……
ES: I am one of six. I was born in Nigeria and my mum is Nigerian and my dad Indian. I grew up in Derbyshire and then studied psychology at Loughborough University and graduated in 2008. Whilst at University I worked as part of LSUTV (Loughborough Student’s Union TV) in media and was part of all kinds of societies, from dance to theatre. Growing up I loved theatre and performance and always will.
UF: How did you get involved in strength sport?
ES: I’ve played sport from a very young age, swam nationally, played regional level hockey and netball and even did a season for believe it or not England Rounders. However, I randomly fell into weightlifting at Loughborough University. I used to do quite a bit of strength training and I remember the first time I squatted heavy I was talking to a British Powerlifter and he was like, “Eve let’s see how much you can back squat”. So the first time I ever did a proper full range back squat in an athletic environment I did 90kg, to which he was like, “hmmm naturally strong”. To this I just nodded my head and just kept generally strength training. I really fell into weightlifting when I was on a course and the course leader mentioned that I had big legs (Now, I did not feel like that was a compliment at the time) and he asked me what I squatted. I told him about my general training and how I liked strength sports and how at the time I danced and did shows and loved the gym. He invited me down to his weightlifting club and thus my love of Olympic Weightlifting was formed. In 2011 I compete in both Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, these do have a cross-over but I’m now just focusing on the weightlifting. My dream is to get to the Commonwealth Games.
UF: How did you get involved in fitness and PT?
ES: From a young age I’ve always been into my health and fitness. My worst nightmare at school was always getting put forward for long distance events even though I was not so hot at anything above 200m! But I have always enjoyed training in some form and learning about training methods, ideas, and programmes. I moved down to London after living and training to be a PT in Spain for half a year after University. In London I studied part-time at Arts Educational School Acting for TV and screen. I wanted the opportunity to combine and learn more in terms of training and also the flexibility to pursue my love of stage in the ‘Smoke’ – a place that’s a far cry from my little town up North. I currently get the chance to genuinely combine my two passions as I work as a presenter and PT and still when I have the time do amateur dramatics
UF: Do people get surprised when you say you are a weightlifter?
ES: People are indeed surprised. And to be honest my mum sometimes doesn’t fully get it and my dad has been known to say, “So Evey, you’re going for your ‘1-2-1-2′, by which he actually means me preparing for the English Championships!”
I was filming a show the other week and was asked why I had so many calluses? I explained what I did in terms of training and I watched a glaze come over the director’s eyes, followed by questions such as, “How come you’re not manly, you don’t have bulging muscles.” He then proceeded to fire off quite a few more misconceptions related to any female in a strength sport, not just weightlifting.
UF: What’s the state of weightlifting like in the UK? Did the Olympics give Olympic lifting a boost, have you noticed more women wanting to get involved?
ES: The state of sport in the UK at the moment, if I’m honest could be better. Personally I have seen a surge of interest in weightlifting but not so much from the Olympics, but more so the growth and popularity of Crossfit®. There’s still a stigma attached to women and weightlifting in the general public’s eyes. I believe that this is a result of all the misconceptions and the media. I have been doing some work with ‘Stars of the Future’ introducing the sport to children more and there is still a constant battle against why you shouldn’t train the young with weights, when if done sensibly this is fine. In addition to that because there is not as much financial backing in the sport, if you are lucky enough to find young talent, due to weightlifting’s lack of popularity – in comparison to sports such a football or track and field – getting a young talent to stay in the sport can be hard.
UF: What are the ideal attributes for an Olympic lifter?
ES: You need to be strong, quick and mobile. Obviously these are things one can work on but sometimes you can look at someone and just think…hmmmm I wonder if they would be interested in trying out the sport. Unfortunately for myself I am 5’10” with elbows that don’t fully lock out and I can lack a bit of a lack of self-belief. I also started the sport later on in life …..so I have an uphill battle to achieve my goals and get to the Commonwealth Games, but I’m on a mission. I will keep climbing and trying, because I’ve fallen in love with weightlifting. I just want others to see what I love so much about this sport.
UF: What have been your career highlights?
ES: Well, 2011 was a good year winning the English weightlifting u69kg category, the British Powerlifting Championshp’s U70kg and also becoming a World silver medallist in Powerlifting that year too. Also this year has been good outside of training. I have filmed a pilot for a kids’ TV programme and have presented on a couple of channels. I also have a couple of pretty interesting projects in the pipeline also.
UF: What are you aiming at now and what are your future plans?
ES: To keep training hard, as always. However, there are two key elements to my future plans: 1) with weightlifting, I would like to get more projects on the go to grow the sport in this country and I would love to start my own gym further down the line. And 2) Media-wise I an currently just waiting on a new show which could have me doing more acting, but don’t want to jinx anything!
I’m one of those people who when I fall for something find it so difficult to let go and so no matter where my future goes, weightlifting and presenting will always be there.
UF: What type of training programme do you follow?
ES: Currently my training is pretty much sport specific so I do the Olympic lifts the snatch and clean and jerk. I train five days a week and my training includes squatting four times a week, the Olympic lifts, pulls, power snatches and cleans from blocks and presses. My coach and myself write my programme together depending on how I respond to phases, how I’m recovering and volume.
Evelyn Stevenson: Sample Training Plan
Day 1: Full snatch, power clean from blocks, jerks, clean pulls
Day 2: Front squats, push press, stiff leg deadlifts, snatch pulls
Day 3:Clean and jerk, pulls, power snatch from blocks, squats
Day 4: Clean, jerk from blocks, pulls and squats
Day 5: Squat, pulls power cleans power snatch
UF: What are your pbs?
Clean and Jerk 97kg
UF: What tips have you got for women wanting to shape a great body with weights?
Keep a balanced programme, train three times a week above all following a structure. Find what works for you and work with it. And never be afraid to go heavy.
UF: Do you feel that the ‘women don’t do weights’ notion is gradually disappearing?
ES: I do yes, but then again I am in the fitness industry and meet a lot of strong women who weight train and I meet a lot of athletes (not just weightlifters) who also weight train. I also believe that you can see a shift in pop culture and media as to the ‘ideal female figure’ – one towards a stronger image. I use that last thought carefully as I believe that we all have our own strengths. However, having said that there is still a more battle to be fought with many women who have a ‘fear of the weights room’, but we are getting there.
UF: What do you do away from sport?
ES: I write, I love writing – it’s a beautiful bit of escapism for me, just putting random, silly thoughts onto paper. I read and also sometimes – although very rarely nowadays I go back to dance classes.
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