USPA_2023_03.11_Women-Masters-Powerlifting-BENCH-110 Debra Stefan
Where do you live?
Platform 112.5 / Gym PR 120
Since 1984 when the first local weightlifting gym went coed.
How did you come to powerlifting or Olympic lifting?
Every year I honor my age with a physical feat, such as age in double unders, biking age for distance. Meanwhile, starting at 4:45 AM on my birthday, June 3rd takes a while even if the distance is kilometers versus miles. Therefore, I was looking for some other fitness feat that didn’t take as long or being outdoors in Southern Nevada. Being a member of the FaceBook group was a source of client inspiration, and I checked in frequently. One day, I saw someone my age and size setting records with weights I take for granted. Eureka! I found it.
Do you have any previous athletic or lifting experience?
Yes. I am in my fifth decade as a fitness professional starting full time as an eighteen-year-old. The first competitions were auditions for major Las Vegas production shows as a showgirl and chorus dancer. Making the cut and getting hired was the award. In 1981, I broke the World Guinness Record with my ten-hour jump rope marathon fundraising for the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1985, and 86 I was invited to compete in the first and second Ms National Fitness competitions. At ages 32 and 33, I was the oldest competitor and top three finalist before I continued as guest poser, then judge.
Do you compete? Why or why not? If you compete, what do you like most about the competitions?
Yes, my first competition was in August, 2021 wearing a face shield. I won four World records that day including the strict arm curl. Then again on September 11, 2021 I won three first place Nevada State records in an untested USPA meet. On March 11, 2023 I won three first place national records in a USPA tested meet. On June 3, 2023 I aged up and on 6/16/23 I set new AAU American records qualifying me for the World Championships. On September 28, 2023, I set World records with the coveted Best Overall Female Lifter award.
Equipped or Raw?
Do you have a coach or trainer? In person or online? How did you find your trainer/program? Do you have any advice for women looking for a trainer?
I started with two coaches, Alan (RIP) and Bonnie Aerts, both Hall of Famers. John Domingo, the only USPA certified coach in Nevada other than a lady who was unavailable, became my “handler.” John continues to be my coach and handler. As I have a competition rack at home, we train at my place or on Zoom. Mostly on Zoom unless setting PRs and I need a spot. Having a coach is new for me. I haven’t had anyone coaching my moves since the choreographers when I was a chorus dancer. It’s wonderful to be on the receiving end of encouragement and I see what it feels like for my fitness clients with me encouraging them.
Where do you train? Gym, garage?
I have a spectacular outdoor gym overlooking a scenic desert mountain range and golf course. As well, I have an indoor fitness studio for my clients when we can’t be outside.
What is the hardest part about beginning lifting as an older woman?
The biggest “ugh” factor is the requirement of wearing a singlet in public. I have become extremely modest as I age and I dislike having my physique sized up by people. After all, I was in the “physique” industry for many decades.
I started when I was thirty-one when the first weightlifting gym in town went coed. It was great because Rachel McLish and Pumping Iron for Women was becoming popular.
How has lifting affected your health?
Less cardio, more lifting.
What would you tell women just beginning this journey?