Written by Team Juggernaut
Name: Ariel Stephens
Height/Weight: 5 ft.3 in. / 69 kg
Hometown: Woodland, California
Current City: Woodland, California
Years Training: 10 months (Since March 2012)
Years Competing: 10 months
PRs: 76kg Snatch, 98kg Clean & Jerk
Where You Train: Recently, I have been training in different gyms all over. I primarily train in Woodland, by myself at a local gym using a men’s bar with pound plates. I use my phone to record each of my lifts during training. After I record a lift, I send the video to my coach and he texts me feedback. When I can make it to Midtown practices in Sacramento, I prefer to train there because I get to train with a lot of other lifters. I have also done some training at CrossFit Rocklin, CalStrength and CrossFit Davis. Technically, I lift for Monterey bay Barbell Club, so I try to train in Monterey with my coach at least one weekend a month.
Day Job: I am a Family Support Worker for CommuniCare Health Centers, Behavioral Health. I supervise visitations for open CPS cases. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Resources and a Minor in Spanish from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
What Would Be Your Personal Theme Song: “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
What Got You Into Training/Competing: When I swam in college, I liked to train CrossFit over the summers to help me stay in shape. The last summer of my collegiate swim career, a coach from CrossFit Davis told me that he had signed me up for a weightlifting meet. At the time, I had no idea what this even meant. When he told me that I had to snatch and clean and jerk, I was unsure how to do either. I trained the lifts for about a week prior to the competition and ended up placing third. After this competition, I wanted to compete in weightlifting, but I still had another season of swimming, I decided to buy weightlifting shoes and save them for when the swim season was over in March 2012 and I have been training since!
Who Have Been Influential People in Your Training/Life: My coach, Jacob Tsypkin, and all of the coaches and athletes that I have been honored to work with. Due to my scattered training environment, it is nice to have so many people who support me and allow me to train with them. I have met great coaches and athletes who have made me better. Outside of the gym, my parents, friends, and family have also been a great support system.
What Are the Greatest Challenges You Have Faced In Training/Competing: Training alone has to be one of the toughest challenges that I am faced with on a consistent basis; However, it has increased my mental strength. Training alone has taught me to fully appreciate any opportunity I get to train with other weightlifters. Another big challenge that I face in training and competition is unstable shoulders that I have developed from swimming. I had right shoulder surgery my junior year of college and my left one has recently been giving me trouble. Often times when I am training, my left shoulder has a tendency to sublux and cause pain. Since the American Open, my coach and I have persistent with physical therapy and avoiding full snatches and jerks. I am happy to say that it has been helping and I hope to compete again by April.
How Has Your Training As A Swimmer Helped You In Weightlifting?
Swimming for a Division 1 college has given me a lot of mental and physical strength. The biggest advantage that swimming has given me in weightlifting is the ability to compete. Training is great, but if you can’t transfer numbers from training to competition, then it defeats the purpose. In college, I swam well during practices and worked really hard. However, when it came time to transfer the work I put in during practices to successful races, I struggled. Even though I was physically prepared, I was always a mess mentally. I worked myself up so much before every race that I made it almost impossible for myself to be successful. When I came back my senior year after shoulder surgery, I remembered the reason why I started swimming in the first place. I put less pressure on myself and learned how to relax, stay focused, and keep the negative thoughts out of my head before each race. My senior year was the best year of my time spent at the University of Hawaii. Staying focused before a race is similar to staying focused before a big lift. I know the weight is going to be heavy, just as I knew I was going to get tired during a race. Where my mind was before a race was the predictor of how that race was going to pan out. In weightlifting, I use a similar approach. If I am fearful of a weight, then I have already given myself three red lights before I have even taken the attempt. Before every attempt, as I walk up to the bar, I reassure myself that ‘yes, the weight is going to be heavy, but I am confident in my training and my abilities as an athlete to be successful’. I would be kidding myself if I said that lifting heavy weights was easy. Instead, swimming taught me how to streamline my doubt into positive, self assurance.
How Do You Structure Your Training Going Into Competition: A month out from competition, I like to max my lifts often and hit heavy singles in front squats, so that I feel confident standing up with heavy weight. When it comes down to the last week before a big competition, I like to taper off so that my body can recover and I feel confident.
What Is Your Typical Diet Like: Besides my addiction to frozen yogurt, I try and eat a lot of protein and healthy fats. When I am feeling tired from a long day and still have to train, I will eat foods like squash or sweet potatoes for quick energy.
What Upcoming Competitions Do You Have? What Are Your Goals: Since I am trying to strengthen my shoulders, I won’t be competing until the Arnold in March. However, even this may be ambitious.
My ultimate goal in weightlifting would be to compete on the international level. My short term goal is to continue to improve and eventually stand on the podium at a national competition.
What Advice Do You Have For Someone New to Your Sport: I myself am still new to this sport, but the best advice I can give to someone is to use every training session as an opportunity to do something that you couldn’t do before.
Any General Thank Yous, etc:
I just want to say thank you to everyone that has made my first year of weightlifting a positive experience.
When I thought I was done answering this question, my coach reminded me of something I said this summer. I told him that I worked SO hard in swimming to be great at a sport that I was simply not made to excel at. My height of 5’3″ and large muscle mass did not exactly make me competitive against the 5’8″ women with a smaller muscles that were my competition. More muscle = more oxygen required to allow those muscles to work (not ideal in swimming). I always wanted to make Nationals or an Olympic Team in swimming, but just wasn’t made for it, no matter how much time I put into the sport. This has made me hungry to be successful in the sport of weightlifting now that I have discovered a sport that I AM made for.