Introducing Power Profiles: A New Powerlines Feature
by Maura Shuttleworth
For me, the essence of athletics is pushing yourself beyond even the limits of what you previously believed you could do. Amateur athletics epitomizes this because we compete purely for the love of our sport. As powerlifters, we work really hard in the gym, usually for nothing more than the satisfaction of pushing our personal limits. Unfortunately, most of us receive very little recognition for how hard we work. My goal with this column is to showcase some of the people that make this sport great - not only the stars of the sport, but also some of the very inspirational lifters we don't hear about every day. I truly believe that powerlifters are some of the coolest people in the world. There's the physical skill and mental will it takes to lift a lot of weight. And many people in our sport have really interesting backgrounds outside of powerlifting. But even cooler is the way people will go out of their way to help you. I have met so many people in this sport who bend over backwards to help their fellow lifters and expect nothing in return. So, the purpose of this new feature is to tell the stories of some of the amazing people who make up this great sport. I hope you have as much fun reading this first profile as I had putting it together. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with suggestions.
A Conversation with Donna Aliminosa
Hometown: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Weight Class: 44kg (97-lbs)
Best Competition Lifts: SQ- 225 lbs, BP- 110 lbs, DL- 260 lbs
Service to the USAPL: Women's Committee EC member, Women's Committee, co-chair for the Women's Hall of Fame Committee
Donna Aliminosa stands just 5'1 and weighs in at a lean 95-pounds without even cutting weight. At age fifty-five she defies traditional notions about powerlifting and strength in general. Donna did not even start lifting until age forty-four, but she has definitely not let that limit her. In her ten years of lifting, she has racked up numerous titles and records. Most recently Donna won the gold medal in the 44 kg (97-lb) weight class at the 2006 Masters Worlds in Killeen, Texas.
I had the good fortune to get to know Donna during the summer of 2005 when I was making frequent trips out to the Boston area. Donna and her husband, Andy Christo, welcomed me into the little gym they train at in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I already looked up to Donna before I did this interview, so it was really fun to learn more about her. Donna is truly amazing, both on and off the platform.
Q: How did you start lifting?
Donna: In 1995, at the age of forty-four, I was living in Columbia, Maryland. I attended a local gym and used the weight machines. One of the people working at the gym thought that I was pretty strong for my age and size. He told me about powerlifting and suggested I might want to try it and join a team of women that he was training. That was Mark Daniel and he was my coach until 1998 when I moved to Florida. So, I've been lifting competitively for about ten years.
Q: What are some of your lifting accomplishments?
Donna: I should preface this by saying that 44 kg weight class, especially at the 50+ level is not exactly packed with competitors! Despite this, I agree with Erin Dickey when she put out a plea to not eliminate our weight class and to save the small girls!
I don't keep any formal record of the various titles I've held. However, over the years, I have held several MI and MII national titles at 44 kg. I have been fortunate enough to be part of five Masters World Teams. Most recently, I lifted with this year's team in Killeen, Texas. There, the U.S. team swept five team championships! It was a thrill and an honor to represent the U.S. at a World meet held in the United States. For a brief time, I held the 44kg MII World Record in the squat. I hold all of the New Hampshire state 44kg Open and Master records.
To date, my best competition lifts are a 225-lb squat, a 110-lb bench and a 260-lb deadlift. What is really neat, is that even though I'm now 55, I seem to be at least maintaining those lifts.
Q: What sports experiences did you have prior to powerlifting?
Donna: I was never very athletic in high school or college. I ran in the '70s and '80s and even completed one marathon, but that's about it. I am pretty much a klutz.
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your powerlifting career?
Donna: At 55 years old, I still see the potential for my lifts to improve. It is an accomplishment to keep the mental attitude that age shouldn't be a limiting factor for performance. Keep a positive outlook and who knows…
Q: What do you enjoy most about powerlifting?
Donna: That's an easy one. The people. I meet so many wonderful individuals. Powerlifting serves as the catalyst for the formation of friendships that go beyond lifting weights. I met my husband Andy through powerlifting!
I also enjoy the physical and mental benefits. There is a history of osteoporosis in my family. Several of my female cousins are showing signs of developing it. I am not. I have to believe that lifting is at least one of the reasons for this. I enjoy the mental aspect of the sport as well. I think the focus needed for success in this sport can be of benefit outside the gym. I like to push myself and am a bit of a perfectionist. Powerlifting is a great vehicle for me to compete against myself and to try to execute that perfect lift.
Q: Speaking of great people in powerlifting, who are your biggest influences in the sport?
Donna: There are many, but several come to mind. Mark Daniel is the person who got me into the sport. Alex Galant has always considered me to be a powerlifter where I've always felt that I was someone who just pushed weights around. Of course, Alex has always been there at meets pushing me into territory beyond where I was comfortable, but … heck… have you ever tried to say "no" to Alex? My husband, Andy Christo, himself a master lifter taught me how to create training routines that worked best for me. Of course, he's always there for me spotting, helping with equipment, and providing encouragement. Accomplished World Team competitor, Mike Roy, has provided me with the model of a lifter who excels at all three lifts. His calm under pressure is unparalled. The "guys at the gym", Chris and Brick, who treat me as a powerlifter and not as a woman old enough to be their Mom!
Q: Tell me about your family.
Donna: I have one son, Andrew, who will be 17 in January. He plays ice hockey and skateboards, but so far has no interest in powerlifting. I met my husband, Andy Christo, in October of 2000 when we were both competing in the Czech Republic. We were married in 2002. Andrew, Andy, and I live in Portsmouth, New Hampshire along with three dogs, Otis, the three-legged Rottie-mix, Lilly, the Lab mix, and Hank, the black Lab. We also have two guinea pigs, Cyclone and Carmel.
Q: What do you do professionally?
Donna: I have an M.A. in Speech/Language Pathology. My undergraduate degree is in theatre. Over my thirty years in the speech field, I have worked as both a clinician and a researcher. My focus has been in the area of reading, writing and spelling disorders in children and adults. Of late, I started a "retirement business" that originated from one of my pet's illnesses. It was suggested that his diet include home-cooked food. I saw the benefits my three dogs were gaining from this new diet and "Love My Grrrub" was born. I cook the prescribed diet ordered by vets for pets who have special dietary needs due to illness or allergies. The business is in its infancy, but I am working with several vets in the area when they recommend homemade diets for their clients.
Q: It sounds like you're pretty busy outside of lifting. What do you do for fun?
Donna: I enjoy doing needlepoint. I'm also a "hockey mom" and spend lots of time watching my son's high school hockey team. The youngest of my three dogs is a registered therapy dog. Hank and I travel to nursing homes to visit residents. The smile he brings to their faces is heartwarming.
Q: How do you find time to fit powerlifting and competing on the national and world level into your schedule?
Donna: Moderation and flexibility. I should first say that I am about 10 years behind the curve when it comes to kids. Whereas most people my age have kids who are either finishing college or are out of the house, I am the mother of a high school sophomore. My husband and I are in the midst of schoolwork and high school sports. Add to that, running a small business and caring for a household of "critters" and I've had to be creative about my training. As a master lifter, I have found that I need to train differently than the younger lifters. That, in and of itself, limits how long I can spend in the gym training. Also, I try to be flexible about the days and times that I train. Getting a work out in at a different time is better than not training at all. A side benefit is that training a specific lift at different times of the day gets my body used to the meet setting where you never know when you might be pulling that last deadlift.
Q: How do people usually react when you tell them that you are a powerlifter?
Donna: Sometimes they smile and nod their heads. But I can tell right away that they have NO idea what I am talking about. They usually ask how much weight I can put over my head. Others think that because I'm petite that I couldn't possibly lift that much weight.
Q: What advice would you give to a new lifter starting out?
Donna: Age is not a limiting factor in this sport, as long as you don't want it to be. It's never too late to start training! Be patient. It takes time to develop core strength. Don't take short cuts. Work to execute each lift with the best technique that you can.