Transforming faith through fitness, a bodybuilder’s story
By Lindsay Peyton
Eva Layton serves as administrative assistant for the Texas Annual Conference’s South District. In the midst of the pandemic, she stuck to her goals, preparing for a bodybuilding competition. Only a couple of years ago, she would have thought the feat impossible. With faith on her side, and scripture in her mind, she forged on to reach her target.
It all started with a dare. Eva Layton brought her son-in-law Adam Bonneau to watch her friend compete as a body builder, hoping to encourage him to try the sport. Instead, he turned to her and issued a challenge, “I’ll do it, but you have to do it too.”
Layton could have easily said no. At the time, she weighed about 200 pounds and had not seen a lot of results with working out in the past. She also lost confidence in herself and felt a shame at earlier failed attempts to lose weight.
But, on the other hand, Layton had been working out for years. Even when her children were young, she would go to the Y.M.C.A. and try the routines she found in Oxygen magazine. Often, she would tell herself, for motivation, “That girl on the cover? That will be me some day.”
She decided to say yes to her son-in-law and start bodybuilding. “The real me inside is always up for a challenge,” Layton said.
In October 2019, she signed up with a coach. Her weight began to drop. “I began working out and doing pretty well,” she said. “I was going in, doing the work and eating the right food.”
By January 2020, Layton had become increasingly serious about competing. “My diet tightened up more, and the workouts were more strenuous,” she said. “But I held in there.”
Even when her son-in-law decided to call it quits, Layton kept going. “I was actually enjoying it,” she said.
Then, COVID-19 arrived and she had to put her visits to the gym on hold. Instead of giving up, however, she merely switched her work-outs to the backyard.
Layton also immersed herself in scripture, like 1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
“I started questioning, am I working on my heart and my relationship with the Lord too?” Layton recalled.
Then, she turned to 1 Timothy 4:8: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” She wondered if her emphasis had been on spiritual training as much as physical fitness.
For a while, Layton felt conflicted. She prayed, asking God, “Is this what you want me to do?” Still, her desire to become a bodybuilder remained.
If Layton were going to continue on the path, she wanted to find a trainer with the same heart. In her past, she worked with Ryan Sepulveda with Team Fit in Pasadena.
“He’s a trainer, but he’s also a man of God,” Layton said. “During our workouts, it wasn’t only physical. He was transforming for me spiritually and mentally, and I didn’t even know it.”
He would ask her questions – “That mindset, that fear, doesn’t come from God.”
She wanted to find a similar coach to bring her to finish line with her bodybuilding competition and reached out to Walter Ray at Steel Worx Gym in Webster. He began training her in July.
Ray ended up being the perfect fit for faith strengthening aspect that Layton wanted to accompany her fitness journey. “Everything was different,” she said. “It’s more of a family vibe. He even prays for his competitors. If I would have a concern, he would tell me to pray about it.”
By Dec. 5, Layton hit the stage for her first competition, weighing 127 pounds. Before leaving for the event, she received a call from her former trainer, Ryan Sepulveda. He wished her the best and asked if he could pray for her before she took off.
Layton was the first one to walk across the stage for her division. “I stepped up the first stair, and I could feel my feet shake,” she recalled. “On the second step, Ryan’s prayer came back to me word for word. I felt calm. I was able to go up, because of that prayer, and it covered me the entire weekend.”
Layton won two awards and qualified for nationals during the competition. Now she has plans to compete again in the summer.
“It feels so good just knowing I did it,” Layton said. “I was so ready to be like, ‘I’m 60 pounds overweight and it’s too late for me. I’m ready to raise the white flag, because I can’t do it.’”
She wants others who doubt themselves to know not to give up. “I believe if you really want it, you can do anything,” she explained. “Wherever you are, start there and build up.”
Layton gave one of her medals to her grandsons. She wants them to know that she is strong and healthy – and that they have provided her motivation.
“It’s been about overcoming fear, having faith and believing in myself,” Layton said.
Her husband Brian Lux was also instrumental. His dedication during her whole journey was an inspiration.
Layton also supported him, as he began working out and making better choices with his nutrition. He ended up losing 30 pounds.
“It was incredible to support each other and see what a difference a year made,” Layton said. “We are more active together.”
Every day, she wakes up early to do cardio. She spends time preparing her meals. And scripture remains her mantra.
In fact, she made necklaces for her teammates and her coach with Isiah 40:29, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak,” and 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Finally, there is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”