It is quiet in the gym but the air is full of anticipation. Donna Lovetro (pronounced Lo-VE-tro) lies on her back as she stares up at a metal bar that is loaded with 167 pounds. All eyes are on her while three men are ready to spot her lift. One man cues her to start and she pushes the bar off its supports. The audience starts to cheer. "COME ON Donna!" She hears the second cue and lowers the bar to her chest. "YOU CAN DO IT DONNA!!!" She pauses and waits for the third cue before she starts her lift. She pushes the weight-loaded bar to full extension and steadies her arms to finish the lift. At 64 years old she has just set the national record for bench press... and that was just the beginning.”
Lovetro has always been athletic. She grew up in New York and was a multi-sport athlete, playing six varsity sports in high school: basketball, field hockey, badminton, volleyball, softball and track and field. As a Jr. College athlete, she competed in field hockey and softball and when she transferred to the State University New York at Brockport, she played varsity field hockey.
It was her love of teaching sport that brought her out west. Lovetro needed a student teaching job and the small town of Globe, Arizona needed a teacher. Over her 31-year career she created a nationally recognized adaptive physical education program for K-12 students in the Phoenix area. She implemented programs such as gymnastics, archery, bowling and hiking so that families with children with special needs could be active in real life settings. In 2002, Lovetro was named the Arizona Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year. After retiring from the Mesa School District she was asked to teach at Arizona State University. She is now in her sixth year at ASU.
Over the years she has stayed active. For her 55th birthday she decided to train for her first sprint triathlon. Since then, she has completed six Tri's and competed in five 5K runs. She then took up Pickle Ball and loved it! With this long history of physical education, it might seem like a natural progression to try another new sport. But it was a hip replacement at 62 years old that almost sidelined her. Due to painful, advanced arthritis, she opted for hip replacement surgery in 2018. Before her surgery she saw an advertisement for a master’s class for CrossFit that happened to conclude two days before her surgery. With six weeks of training before a hip replacement she felt she would be stronger for the recovery.
What she did not know was how much she would enjoy it. “I fell in love with it,” she said. After the surgery she took six weeks off to heal and then resumed training with her sights set on a Senior Olympics power lifting competition. After the Sr. Olympics came the Arizona Femme Fatale competition that was created to show strong women. In Lovetro’s age group there were no state records so she set out to etch her name in the record books.
Within just two years after she started power lifting, Lovetro set two national records (bench press at 167 pounds and deadlift at 314 pounds) and one state record (back squat at 220 pound). As for her rankings, she's 1st out of 12 in the USPA federation. 5th out of 56 lifters in all rankings, and 8th out of 78 in the world.
“I always wanted to be a good athlete. I was good in college but I
really wanted to excel in a sport. I’ve always felt I was strong and
it’s fun to show my strength at this age.”
A typical weekly training schedule includes:
Monday – back squat + cardio and strength based accessory work 1.5 – two hours
Tuesday – CrossFit cardio day for one hour
Wednesday – bench press with four rounds of eight movements
Thursday – Cross-Fit with strength and cardio or recover
Friday – deadlift and series of movements
Weekend – off
A workout can include:
4 sets of 6 back squats
4 rounds of kettle ball sumo squats
10 barbell hip thrusters
7 diamond pushups
Repeat four times
With age, she has found she needs to stretch more and give her body more time to recover. “Rest is equally important as lifting,” she said. Powerlifting competitions organize the athletes by both age and weight class. Lovetro is conscientious of what she eats by counting her macros (proteins, carbs, and fat) but does not obsess over it. “If there’s something I want to eat I ask myself, ‘Would the fit Donna eat this? No!’ So I don’t eat it. I want to look fit and tone but am not going to stress about my weight. I like myself now because I’m dedicated to this. It is a priority in my life and I don’t deviate. It gives me a happy feeling.”
Lovetro’s professional career focused on teaching people how to exercise in practical ways.
“As a teacher, whether for my students with special needs or college students, my goal was to help them enhance their daily lives by being more physically and mentally fit. As much as I wanted that same goal for myself it took the hip surgery and CrossFit/powerlifting for me to strive to meet that goal. Finally, at 64 I am doing that for myself and I believe I deserve it.”
"CrossFit teaches functional movements and proper technique for things that we do in life. It strengthens
the body in a practical way.” Research has found that strength training also can increase bone density (something that we lose as we age) and metabolism.
More important than records, Lovetro has gained a sense of competence; she feels strong and takes pride in earning the physical health that she has. She enjoys the feeling of physical independence.
Her advice to someone that wants to try it? “A lot of gyms offer a free trial period. Find a good coach and listen to what they have to say. Then do it!