Lewis Stevenson revealed he’s never been fitter as he explained how increased professionalism behind the scenes is underpinning Hibs’ resurgence under Alan Stubbs.
The 27-year-old has been a first-team player at Easter Road for almost a decade – a period encompassing eight managers – but he told the Evening News that he and his team-mates have been encouraged to embrace a more forward-thinking philosophy with regard to physical conditioning since the arrival of head coach Stubbs and the rest of his backroom team last summer.
Stevenson is confident that work being done by head of sports science Craig Flannigan and strength and conditioning coach Paul Green will ensure that he and his team-mates are well-equipped to sustain a two-pronged pursuit of promotion to the Premiership and Scottish Cup glory as the season enters its business end.
“We’re fitter than we’ve ever been,” Stevenson said. “I definitely feel fitter in myself. Flanny and Paul Green have done wonders with us since they came in at the start of the season. They’ve made a real difference.
“To a man, I think everyone’s in the shape of their lives. The fitness tests are showing that we’re all leaner than we’ve ever been. We’ve lost some body fat that we needed to lose.
“From the ground up, a lot of things have changed at the club and we’re starting to feel the benefits of it now. We get looked after well and we work hard.
“Fitness and strength is a major part in what we’re trying to do this season and I think that’s coming across in the way that we’re playing. People can see how much we’re running about and working hard for each other.
“Hopefully that will play a big part for us at the end of the season.”
Stevenson explained that the ultra-professional approach implemented by Stubbs and his staff this season hasn’t always been evident in previous years at Hibs.
“It’s just so much more professional now,” said Stevenson. “I remember when I first came to Hibs, it almost felt as if you were looked down upon if you did a bit extra and went to the gym and stuff like that.
“But now, even after training, the busiest place at the training centre will be the gym because everybody’s trying to better themselves.
“You’re not just doing things for the sake of it, though. You get told why you’re doing things.
“The whole mentality here has changed this season. Instead of feeling a bit embarrassed at doing a bit extra to try and better yourself, you’re encouraged to do it now.”
Stevenson, the longest-serving player at the club, admits he wishes he had been exposed to the training-centre techniques of the current backroom team earlier in his career.
“Before, it felt like you just came in and did your couple of hours’ training and then went home, but now players are having their own sessions and getting right into it. It’s the way a professional sports team should be.
“There have probably been times when I’ve slackened off a bit in the past. When you’re young and naive, you take things for granted, but if I had the knowledge I do now when I first came through, there’s so many things I’d have done differently.”