Lynn Hunter Harvey: “Never think you are too old to pick up and do anything ”

Lynn Hunter Harvey

Lynn Hunter Harvey’s introduction to boxing was anything but orthodox.  Apart from a single season playing football at 13, she had never been into any sports. Let alone combat sports. At the age of 30, Lynn stepped into a gym for the first time. The results, as we shall see, are nothing short of remarkable.

She was originally there to take a boxer-cise class with her friends. The simple goal at the time was to get a bit fitter and tone up.  When I was the same age, I embarked on a similar mission, but with drastically different results!

The Boxing Bug

Not long after Lynn started her new fitness regime, she spotted a boxing ring in the gym.  People were sparring and her curiosity was peaked.  She wanted to know what was going on, and why she couldn’t do what they were doing.

As it turned out, the people sparring were 5 weeks into an 8-week training program for White Collar Boxing.  Undeterred, Lynn asked if she could do it too.  Eventually it was agreed that she could take part.

“I said I’d do it, and I did a couple of week’s training, and I did the white collar and I got the head thumped off me…I had a black eye and everything.” 

Three weeks into my own fitness journey, I was still trying to figure out what a burpee was!

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Determination and resolve

Most people would have slinked away from the experience and never given boxing another thought.  But not Lynn.  She decided to join the gym properly and get her boxing card.  Declaring that she would be an Irish Champion within a year.  True to her word within that first year, she was the Novice All Ireland Champion.  Intermediate Champion in the second year, and Elite Irish Champion in the third!  “During that time, I was training like an animal.”

Lynn now holds a professional record of 5 wins and 1 loss and is currently raked 8th in Europe.  The Kilbarrack native retired from boxing in 2017 but made her comeback last weekend in “Celtic Clash 7.”  The 37-year old made short work of her return to the ring.  Defeating Kitti Kolompar in just 82 seconds.  Lynn’s Instagram handle is of a Harvey Wall-banger, and this decisive win suggests she packs as much punch as the cocktail!

Lynn has a young son Tyler who is a source of support and inspiration for her.  He sounds like a lovely young man and it was great to see him at this mother’s side last weekend.  Lynn’s dad also plays a huge role in supporting her as she pursues her goals of fighting for a European belt.  As a single mother, Lynn has the challenge of balancing family life with her hectic training schedule.  “I’m not moaning, I wouldn’t change it, but it is hard.”

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Fight Camps and making weight

Naturally this pressure increases when she is in a fight camp.  Making weight involves paying close attention to the calories and macros in all meals.  Luckily, Lynn was sponsored for her most recent camp by Lo-Cal Meals Delivered, which freed up time for her to focus on training.

“It’s so handy, because you know what you’re getting, you know the macros and it saves you so much time.”

While we were on the subject of making weight, I was interested to get Lynn’s thoughts on how difficult this can be for a woman, when you take menstruation into the equation.  Lynn fights at between 48 kg and 50 kg.  She walks around at about 54 kg.  I was delighted that Lynn was happy to discuss this subject so openly with me.

Lynn identified this as huge problem for women in weight class sports.  Clearly dealing with the headaches, mood swings, sleeplessness and fatigue associated with PMS is not ideal when you are looking to perform at you best.  Added to that, water retention can equate to as much as a 2 kg weight gain at certain stages of a woman’s cycle.  Obviously, this can be disastrous for any woman in a weigh in, but for someone already as tiny as Lynn, this can be as much as a 4% swing.

“See trying to make weight, it’s just a disaster, because you might be weighing something, and you know you would be 2 kg lighter if it wasn’t that time…You’re not only trying to make weight, but you are trying to play with an extra 1.5-2 kg”

In the last week of a fight camp, fighters are dramatically reducing carbs and also dehydrating.  This will only serve to exacerbate the symptoms of PMS.  Lynn told me that this left her feeling weak and unsteady the morning of her last weigh in.  She admitted to not feeling 100% safe driving due to this. This is something we are seeing all too much of in weight class sports at all levels.

There are some birth control methods available to women to circumvent this “Russian Roulette,” however many of them come with side affects of their own, one of which is often weight gain.  Quite the catch 22 for female fighters.  I am aware that this subject can make some people uncomfortable, but coaches, if you are working with female athletes, it is an unfortunate part of your reality.

This is a conversation we need to be having.  Perhaps combat sports will evolve to the point whereby special circumstances are in place to mitigate this issue.  Until then, coaches need to be in sync with their athlete’s cycle and how it might affect their weigh in.  It’s never a good idea to be getting surprised on the scales.

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Women’s Safety Issues

Lynn is very outspoken on social media about women’s safety issues.  I was really looking forward to getting into this important subject with her.  Increasingly we are hearing stories of women experiencing rape and sexual assault at the hands of men whom they have met on line.  As people continue to rely on services like Tinder and Plenty of Fish in order to connect with potential partners, I fear this situation can only worsen.

I asked Lynn the question of how women can best defend themselves should they be faced with this scenario.  She was extremely forthright with her response.

“Don’t be going to secluded places or back to parties with these people…you just don’t know how dangerous that person is, you don’t know what their capable of.  I don’t think there’s any way of defending yourself… I can fight, but at the end of the day I’m a female, if there’s a big strong male, or males, you’re not going to be able to defend yourself.”

Lynn was in no way victim blaming, but her advice was clear when it comes to meeting someone for the first time.  Don’t get in anyone’s car.  Don’t go to their apartment and certainly don’t invite them to your apartment.  Even if your conversations have been flirty or sexual, when you meet them, or at any stage, you are entitled to change your mind.  Make sure you are in a position to be able to walk away from the situation.

Ms. Harvey made the point that although the blame lies squarely with the perpetrator, this will be cold comfort to you if you suffer such an attack.  The issue of consent is hugely topical at the moment in Ireland.  Taking precautions to ensure you’re not in danger makes consent a moot point.  Stay safe out there ladies, especially as party season gets underway.

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Inspiration

I am always curious to hear about who or what athletes look to for inspiration.  Lynn let me know that she doesn’t believe in idolization, in fact she rarely watches boxing.

“I just kinda think if you are looking at somebody else and how great they are and how far they’ve gone, I just find you can fall into comparing yourself and feeling that you are falling short.”

Comparison is the thief of joy after all.

Lynn has her eyes firmly set on fighting for a European belt in 2019.  She hopes to get into camp shortly after Christmas with a February fight being the ideal scenario.  Having spoken at length to this tiny dynamo, I have no doubt she will achieve whatever she sets her mind to.

As we wrapped up our conversation, I wanted to hear if Lynn had any final thoughts.  She gave me a piece of advice and it was simply this, don’t let your age get in the way of your dreams.  She said this does not just relate to sport but to all aspects of life “never think you are too old to pick up and do anything…if you want to do something it’s never too late.”

This is something that has been echoed through a lot of the interviews I have done with female athletes.  As they tell me their stories, I continue to be inspired by their resilience and determination.  The future of combat sport on this Island is bright with these women at the forefront.  As for Lynn, I look forward to watching her next steps on her unique journey.

Written By: Arwen Sheridan – check out her blog here

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