Bellows Falls powerlifters break records

Mike, Pam, Meg, Anne, Martha, and Tess Kinney wearing medals at the Valley View Barbell Push:Pull Event in Gardner, Mass. Photo provided

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Each with their own personal reason for taking up the sport, six local powerlifters have put in the time, determination, and dedication to achieve record-breaking results.

During a competition last November in Brattleboro, the group broke Vermont and New Hampshire records in their divisions, as well as setting American Powerlifting Association (APA) national records. Following that, the team went on to compete again just two weeks later in Gardner, Mass., where they broke even more records.

The common denominator connecting the group is trainer, coach, and competitor Meg Letson. Formerly a trainer at Greater Rock Fitness in Bellows Falls, Letson now works out of her own gym in her renovated garage, built when the pandemic forced everything to shut down.

Pam Parant performs a deadlift at a competition in Brattleboro. Photo provided

Letson said that it took between two and three years to fully complete the gym, recalling that when she first started seeing clients there, her motorcycle still stood off to one side. Now, the small but well-equipped space is the training hub for the group of powerlifters.

Referring to the back-to-back competitions where the team excelled, Letson explained, “We don’t typically plan two meets with only two weeks between. I wouldn’t advise it, as the body needs more recovery [time] following a peak performance. But we were invited to attend and couldn’t resist. We did surprisingly well.”

At 47 years old, Letson has been a personal trainer for nearly 15 years. Her first powerlifting competition was in 2017. Powerlifting is a sport consisting of three exercises: the bench press, the deadlift, and the squat. Out of the team of six competitors, Letson is the one of the youngest.

Among them, the group boasts some impressive statistics. Anne Nordstrom from Walpole, N.H., holds a national record in bench press, (125 pounds) and is 59 years old. Mike Foster from Bellows Falls, who holds state records in all three events and can bench press 280 pounds, is 60 years old.

Pam Parant, also from Bellows Falls, is 63, a national record holder in all three powerlifting events, and an “unofficial” world record holder. Letson explained, “It’s only unofficial because Pam hasn’t traveled to [for instance] Poland to attend the world competitions.”

Parant is soft spoken and petite at 123 pounds, but she currently can bench press 130 pounds, deadlift 245 pounds, and squat holding 165 pounds on her shoulders.

Meg, Pam, and Martha compete at Supreme Fitness, Brattleboro, Nov. 2023. Photo provided

Martha Rowley began working with Letson about eight years ago, after having hip replacement surgery. “Meg encourages you,” she said. “You may not think you can do something, but she knows you can. And she never pushes you.”

“She makes strong suggestions,” Foster added, drawing laughs from the group.

Rowley admits she more than “rose to the occasion,” training with Letson several times a week, starting to enter competitions in the past couple of years. Rowley recently broke a national record in her age and weight class, deadlifting 77.5 pounds. She is 74 years old.

Rowley enjoys how strong she has become from powerlifting. She said her bone scan improved because of the consistent strength training workouts. “I used to have horses, and could lift a feed bag no problem,” Rowley remarked. “But before I started training with Meg, I’d lost that strength. And now, I can lift three times the weight of that feed bag.”

Nordstrom commented that she first came to see Letson to improve her tennis serve. Her interest and love of competitive powerlifting only grew the more she participated. “Plus,” Nordstrom exclaimed, “now no one can return my serve.”

Twenty-five-year-old Tess Kinney from Westminster also competes with the group, as does Bellows Falls resident Bill Purdy, aged 66. Letson’s wish is for “people to realize it is possible to start at any age. This crew represents that.”

Strength training has been proven to be an effective way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially as we age, and the Bellows Falls powerlifters are proof of that.

Additionally, as Foster commented, “It’s also about committing to a schedule, encouraging, and holding each other accountable.”

The social and mental health benefits are apparent, as illustrated by one of the group’s mottos, “strength is a skill.”

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