Champaign, Ill. – Building service worker Diane Covington starts her day at the Mechanical Engineering Lab while most of the campus is still sleeping, making sure the building is clean and ready for use.
The 4 a.m. start time is early for her taste, but she prefers it to working third shift. At the Mechanical Engineering Lab, she cleans the offices, computer labs, bathrooms, hallways and stairs. She primarily cleans the first floor and one area of the basement. There is more to do when the students are on campus, but “it holds me for eight hours,” she said.
“(And) the people in this building are really nice and friendly,” Covington said.
She’s worked a variety of jobs since she first came to the U. of I. 15 years ago. She started on nights, working on janitorial jobs as she got trained, and then she went on to serve as the “lockup” person, which involved locking buildings during the night. She enjoyed this position because it helped her get acquainted with the campus.
She then went on as a “swing” worker, which involved switching buildings and filling in as a building service worker. Then she became a full-time BSW at the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. She’s been in the Mechanical Engineering Lab for nearly four years.
She’s been training for and participating in bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions for around 12 years, after friends encouraged her to start lifting. Before getting involved in competitions, she was working out.
On March 5, she’ll compete in a powerlifting competition in Danville, Illinois. For this meet, each competitor gets three tries with a choice of lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift or bicep curls. The event will be her first powerlifting competition in more than four years; her 38-year-old daughter will be competing too.
“I like to do it because it helps me stay healthy,” she said.
Covington’s trainer, Michael Giesler, who owns Elite Fitness Training and Coaching in Champaign, helps her get ready for competition. She is a member of two gyms, and she trains with Giesler after working an eight-hour shift on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and then every other Saturday. She works out by herself sometimes, as well.
She said the hardest part is keeping committed to a diet. She has to cut out certain foods, such as bread and sweets. For her recent birthday, though, her daughters took her out for her birthday, and she celebrated by eating whatever she wanted.
“Now I’m back to eating clean,” she said.
She most recently competed in a bodybuilding competition last October. Unlike when she’s competing in powerlifting, she focuses on cardio workouts when training for bodybuilding. Bodybuilding involves making poses on stage and following the instructions of the judges while wearing a bathing suit. Now that she’s returned to powerlifting, she can eat more of what she wants, but she still eats healthy.
Covington enjoys that she gets the weekends off, as it allows her to attend church on Sundays at the Champaign Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, which is an important part of her life.
She has two daughters and four grandchildren. Covington is the fifth of 11 children, and she said her whole family is very close.
Covington said the U. of I. is one of the best places someone could work, but she is excited for retirement, as well. She plans to continue competing in bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions as long as her body is able.
“My life, I love my life,” she said. “I’m doing stuff that I like to do.”