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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Interview With Jane Stabile. 403lb Squatter, Mother, Grandmother, and All Around Awesome Person!

re-post from

I’m very excited because I have a special post for you all today. I am lucky enough to work with one of the most intelligent, kind and strong women you will ever meet. Instead of a lengthy introduction, I’ll just let the fantastic Jane Stabile tell you a little more about herself!
Let’s get started. Jane, who are you?

I’m a 59-year-old female power lifter, mother of 3 grown daughters, grandmother of a 5-month-old boy, and wife for 36 years of a software architect.  For the last few years I’ve been the business manager of Total Performance Sports.  In my twenties I was a hospital administrator, then I spent a few years as a full-time mother, and after that I was an Enrolled Agent (licensed by the IRS to help people with their tax problems)  for about 20 years.  I grew up in several different locations in the northeast, and Larry and I lived in Wayland for 30 years before moving to a new building inKendall Square, Cambridge.  I went to college atWellesleyand later got an MBA from BU.  For fun I hike, kayak, and bike in Acadia National Park and Cambridge.
That’s awesome, you are one busy lady! Additionally, what a nice variety of different experiences! So how long have you been involved with power lifting?
Seven to ten years, depending on what you call the beginning.  When I was turning 50, I started going to a personal trainer inNatickso I could slim down and get healthy.  Tony noticed that I was very strong.  He taught me the 3 power lifts but he wasn’t a power lifter himself, so I had to find people who could teach me more.  First I trained for a summer inMainewith Mike and Kristy Scott.   They brought me to my first meet (a push-pull inLewiston), and that led me to Murph and TPS.
I always imagined that you had started lifting much earlier, especially with the numbers you have put up. However, it’s great to hear when you picked this up. I know a lot of people who probably think they are too old to do something like power lift, or just lift in general. You’re living proof that they’re not! Sounds like your first trainer did a great job inspiring you to lift, but was there a specific moment when you knew “this is for me!?”
Probably the first time I dead lifted 200 pounds.  It felt great!!  This was before I had ever been to a meet or even met any power lifters.  After being a non-athlete for years and years, I had finally found something athletic that I could do pretty well.  No turning back after that.
That’s a great testament to sticking with things as well. I know you didn’t walk in day one and pull 200 pounds, but had you stopped before that moment, you may have never found this passion. I have met a few people who felt similarly to you. They were never much for team sports, but found their athletic drive in the weight room. That’s another great thing about this sport, there is a sense of competition, but more so a healthy competition against one’s self. As a lifter you are always trying to out do yourself, tell me a little bit about your continued progress, day 1 until now:

At my first meet, Russ Barlow’s  2003 Maine  State Push-Pull, I think I benched about 100 pounds and deadlifted 225.  At my most recent meet, WABDL Worlds last November, I benched 209 and deadlifted 375.  My best squat in a meet was 403.   Here are links to record pages of the APF, AAPF, and AWPC.  Look down near the bottom in the women’s masters section.  I have a lot of the records in the 50-to-54- and 55-to-59 year old classes, in 67.5, 75, and 82.5 kg weight classes. (American records) (American records, drug tested) (World records, drug tested.)
Look at you, that is ridiculous! Strength training among women is making a comeback, and with numbers like these you are definitely one STRONG woman. What a great result of all your hard work. I often try to convey how the lessons learned in the gym transfer into daily life. The journey from trying to get back in shape, to a 403lb squat, must have come with quite a few struggles. What are a few great lessons you have learned through lifting and or your time in the gym?
I learned one life-altering lesson just before I started lifting, and although it sounds kind of dumb now,  I think it’s what allowed me to become a lifter.  I had always thought when you got hot and tired it meant you were totally exhausted and had to stop.  My first trainer, Tony, made me keep slogging away on the treadmill a couple of times until I realized that there was really a lot more gas in the tank, and that you can push yourself rather than just giving in.  I started running; that summer I ran with a half-marathon training group and although I didn’t enter that race I did run 11 miles one day.  I still can’t quite believe that.  I’ve had a lot more growth experiences that carry over into life outside the gym.  For example, after two very good friends separately told me that I was whining, I made a big attitude adjustment so I could accept and appreciate the wonderful training environment we have at TPS. Another lesson I am still learning is how to focus.  
Pushing through physical discomfort teaches us to push through uncomfortable situations in life as well. I’m with you there. People will have good days and bad days, but success, and moving forward through a struggle is the product of hard work, and most of all: not giving up. I like how you mentioned “whining”. Complaining is unproductive. The difference between those who progress, and those who stay stagnant, often comes down to their attitude. Training is challenging, life is challenging, and you can either put your head down and keep going, or stop and complain about it.
Let’s talk a little bit about power lifting as a sport. I find that power lifting can get a negative rep, but I know you don’t agree. What does power lifting mean to you, and what is something you think people should know about this sport?

Honestly, the most important thing I want to share is how much fun it is.  But beyond that, I think the people in the sport tend to be judged as dumb, ill-tempered gorillas. OK, I have met one or two of those, but really this is just plain wrong. When you are a power lifter, you have a real bond with your training partners.  You have to trust your life to the buddies who spot you, and maybe that’s what underlies the brotherhood feeling.  Lifters are always helping each other.  I was surprised to find out what thinkers power lifters are.  The sport requires a lot of reflection about technique, and lifters are always working on new and better ways to train. Beyond that, we don’t have a whole lot in common; I train with people from all different occupations, religions, political preferences (!), and musical tastes.
I have heard you are quite opinionated when it comes to politics, but we won’t get into that! That is a fantastic answer. Some of the most intelligent people I have met are devoted to their strength training. Some like the numbers, some like the technical aspects, and they all value that important mind – body connection. Lifting creates a tough, powerful exterior and it facilitates a tough, powerful mind as well. As you stated the camaraderie is second to none. What a great equalizer between so many different types of people.
Before we leave, we have to talk about women and heavy stuff. Any advice for the ladies who might think power lifting, or just strength training in general, is the furthest thing from what they want to do?
I have never been as healthy as I am now, and I haven’t looked this good since I was a teenager. I know a lot of women are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to look like the Hulk. I do have pretty good muscle definition, but I don’t look like a bodybuilder at all.   I think the most important thing for a woman who wants to be stronger and healthier is to find a sport that she loves.  It might be power lifting, or it might be tennis, or running.  You need to find something that keeps calling you to get out and do it. If you have kids and other family responsibilities, do the best you can (and remember that your needs are important too.)
Right on! I know some coaches, myself included push the idea of heavier lifting on women. I guess we are just advocates for something we have seen makes a tremendous difference in people’s lives. You are right though, in the end, it has to be something you enjoy doing. That being said, I would like to put things in perspective, you have squatted 403lbs, benched 209lbs, and pulled 375lbs off the ground. You are in fantastic shape, and yet if anyone met you, they wouldn’t automatically think you were capable of such incredible strength. Lifting heavy doesn’t transform women into monsters!
I also like how you mentioned finding a balance between training and life. Your world might not revolve around training, but you should make time for things that are important to you.
You’re one smart lady, Jane!
To wrap up, what is your training like now, and what are your future plans in the gym, and the platform?

I want to get the stupid elite total out of the way this year.  I have been chasing that, and a couple of other benchmarks, for too long.  It’s not really stupid at all.  I want to get to the elite level because the qualifying total is not age-adjusted.  I would need to lift as much as a 25-year-old woman elite lifter. It would make me proud.
Lately I have been focusing on correcting what’s wrong with my lifting rather than on improving my numbers, and that was the right thing to do.  I have fixed some of the problems with my upper back and I’ve really been concentrating on my form on all 3 lifts, as well as getting my overall strength up.  Right now I’m in the middle of a Russian squat training cycle with Murph.  I have two meets coming up this spring, and I’m hoping to do two world championships in November, both in Vegas. No international travel this year.
I saw your first session of the new cycle, it looked pretty grueling! I know you will total elite, and what an accomplishment it will be!
Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, Jane. You are definitely an inspiring person and have an incredible passion for lifting, and the sport of power lifting. Not to mention, you’re just an awesome person all around, who deserves all the success you have achieved, and will achieve.
Thanks again!

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