Janice Francis’ title is twofold: anesthesiologist at Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital (MEETH), and proud holder of the American record for heaviest deadlift in her age and weight class.
She had never touched a weight before she signed up for her first powerlifting competition, but after just a few months’ preparation and a successful meet, she was hooked.
Powerlifting, which is different from Olympic weightlifting, tests competitors’ strength in three lifts - squat, deadlift, and bench. At 62, Janice’s deadlift record is a whopping 145kg, or 319 lbs.
“When I wanted to try out competitive weightlifting, I turned to my co-worker Kenny Bretania, service excellence coordinator at MEETH,” says Janice. “He’s an Olympic weightlifter, but we decided powerlifting would be best for me. So he signed me up for a meet in Brooklyn and gave me a program to follow, and I wound up being so successful that I got hooked.”
In fact, Janice did so well in her first competition that if she had entered in the open class for women of all ages, she could have won a medal in that class as well. She’s now a part of the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) and has competed in two national and two international powerlifting competitions; in both international meets, she won gold.
“I think powerlifting, particularly for women, is very empowering,” she says. “Most of the time, we get older and we notice all the different changes in our bodies - you gain weight or you feel like you’re not as strong or you don’t have the energy you used to. Lifting does a lot for the body and the mind, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to go for it.”
Not only does the sport help her stay strong and healthy, it helps her stay balanced at work. “Sometimes I do a lot of walking and standing at work, and since I’ve started lifting, I don’t get that afternoon slump anymore,” she says. “Lifting also helps me deal with the occasional stress of work. I think it makes me a more well-rounded person as a whole.”
So what does the schedule of a competitive powerlifter and anesthesiologist look like? Janice is up at 5 am to get to the gym, hit the showers, and be at work by 7. Since that can be tough to stick with on some days, Janice uses competitions to keep her motivated. She currently participates in two competitions per year: nationals in October and, as long as she qualifies, the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) meet in June.
As far as future goals, she has some big numbers in mind. “I’d like to take the world record for my age and weight class in the deadlift. I’m close - I’ve lifted 140kg and the IPF world record for women my age and weight is 150kg. So I think it’s within reach.”
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