July 13, 2015

Méana Franco does things on purpose.  The 23 year old powerlifter and personal trainer cuts a decisive path across the gym floor as she heads to the bench press.  Without any preamble or small talk to those around her, she bounces on her toes a few times, shakes her muscular arms out, and assumes an arched position under the bar.

An average gym-goer watching the scene would not be able to appreciate the complexities of Méana’s lift.  To the uninitiated, a bench press works the chest muscles.  To the powerlifter, it is the culmination of the entire body flexing and directing energy into lowering the bar to the chest and back up.

I realized I could match almost all of  Méana carefully places her hands in the proper position on the bar. She presses into her feet, steeling her upper back and shoulders into the bench, and… liftoff. People around her stop to watch as she skillfully lowers close to double her body weight onto her chest and back up again.

They should be impressed.

Already, at 23 years of age, Méana Franco is one of the best in the world at her sport.  And would you believe she first got into it by accident?

“Originally I was a wrestler and rugby player, but I wasn’t great. I loved it and I enjoyed playing, but I was never going to go far with it. When I started working at [GoodLife as a trainer], I tried benching a plate and it was easy.  People were like, ‘oh, that’s really impressive’, and I was like, ‘what do you mean?’ I didn’t understand that the weight was heavy.”

A little research proved that her raw skill was, indeed, impressive.  “I realized that I could match almost all of the current national and some of the international bench records.  So I thought, ‘well maybe I should do this.’”

Don’t let Méana’s nonchalance fool you; while her start into powerlifting may have been by chance, her training since its inception has been anything but.

-My goal is to be top five in the world. (1)
She and her boyfriend, Mark, who is also a Personal Trainer and powerlifter, structure their whole lives around training.

“When we cook, it’s almost like we’re making food for five families,” she jokes, “We’ll go to Costco and get fish and meat and cook it all at once. Sometimes we cook once a week, sometimes twice.”

And what kind of food fills a powerlifting couple’s fridge?

“It’s about trying to mix what’s convenient and what’s healthy. We do a lot of frozen veggies, a lot of lean meats and fish, a lot of salads. I’m predominantly low-carb, because carbs don’t sit well with me. I try to keep foods that bloat me out of my diet.”

Méana has another reason to eat healthfully – she has polycystic kidney disease, which means she has to be careful with diet and hydration. “I can’t ever get dehydrated. I can’t have caffeine. I can’t take a lot of the supplements that other people take to improve their performance; my kidneys can’t handle it.”

And she also has to be careful to get enough recovery, because she is prone to adrenal fatigue.

Goal setting is a big part of Méana’s life.  Although she didn’t attend World’s this year, she is planning on going next spring. “My goal is to be top 5 in the world. Right now I’m in the top ten; I’ve got some work to do.”

How does Méana set her training schedule? Currently she is training with Elite FTS, an online source for strength training, equipment, gear and seminars.  “To get sponsored by Elite FTS, you need to have an elite total,” Méana explains, “when I went to my first competition last year, I got some attention because I was squatting over 300lbs and benching 200.  The owner of the company was watching me, and I asked him what I could do to get better. He said, ‘Get an elite total today.’ I needed 280lbs deadlift to get an elite total. I deadlifted 300.  He handed me an Elite FTS shirt after that, and I cried. I’ve been with them ever since.”-If you’re strong, and your attitude is

Elite FTS promotes the tagline StrongHer, which describes not just powerlifters, but strong women in general. “If you’re strong, and your attitude is strong, then you’re strong. It doesn’t matter what your totals are, either. Strong is strong, to them.”

But staying strong is not just lifting, according to Méana.  “I have to stay well, because if I burn out I’m not lifting anything.  I’m proactive about recovery: I take some supplements to help with inflammation. I get myofascial release with Tara at Whole Therapy every three weeks.  I do a lot of mobility, stretching foam rolling, and I always get 8 hours of sleep. I rarely go out drinking or stay up late; it’s just not where my interest is.”

I alwaget 8 hours of sleep. I rarely go

With that down-to-earth attitude, it’s easy to imagine this girl heading straight for the top in anything she tries. Does she have any advice for would-be powerlifters?

“Seek help from people who are better than you. Try and surround yourself with people who are positive and will support you. If you’re going to be successful, you have to live with humility, integrity and passion.  There is no other way.”

Check out Méana’s blog here.

Know someone who would be great in the Wellness Spotlight?  Send us an email! info.wholetherapy@gmail.com


About the Author: Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.


Posted in Blog, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wellness Spotlight by Jen Wright