Bodybuilder still rockin’ in her fifties

Donna Marie Schultz made local headlines many times when she was a younger woman and winning bodybuilding competitions for her chiseled muscles and strength.

She started around 1986 when she was 21 years old, grabbing first place and the overall win in the New England Natural Bodybuilding competition sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union, and capped her amateur career in 1998 when she took first place and the overall win in the Ms. USA Eastern States competition hosted by the American Natural Bodybuilding Conference.

Those were just two of a long list of competitions she captured.

Today, Schultz is 52, married and the mother of two, and she is still in rocking shape.

Though she doesn’t compete anymore, she still works at her body strength and wants other women to know that just because they’re over 50 doesn’t mean that it’s too late to start getting in shape.

“Never think of yourself as old,” Schultz said, as she told her story, one of keeping her mind and body in condition.

While Schultz still has the fitness of a body builder today, it takes a lot of work, but yet she makes it fun. Her home near Milford’s shoreline tells the fun side of staying active: There is a ping pong table in the driveway, clams the family gathered at the shore, and rollerblades and other activity markers. There is son Daniel, 12, and Ashley, 9, and all the activity pre-teens bring to a home, and there is the fishing equipment belonging to husband Dave Folloni. Here, it looks like staying active is just as natural as getting up in the morning.

But there is also a work side to staying in this kind of shape: Schultz gets up at 3 a.m. to stretch and do yoga. Then she grabs a coffee and hits the gym for two hours, mostly focusing on weight lifting.

“It takes a little longer now,” Schultz said, explaining that she spends a little more time warming up before starting her workout than she did when she was younger.

Each day she focuses on two body parts and her stomach, saying, “I do my core every day.”

The lifting is what really drives this Milford woman. As a youngster, she wanted to be as strong as the boys, and she still feels that way — and yes, she said, “I’m pretty strong.”

“Weight lifting is a sense of empowerment,” she said. “It makes you feel like you can do anything.”

Bending to the body’s demands now that she is in her fifties is one of the keys to her success. Schultz said as you get older, it takes longer to achieve results, especially after age 50. You need to accept that fact and put in the extra time. If you suffer an injury, you focus on healing and moving forward.

If you don’t feel like going to the gym, well, you just go.

Even she sometimes doesn’t feel like hitting the exercise room. “I go anyway,” she said.

She has learned a lot on her way to age 52, including patience, wisdom and acceptance, qualities that help her maintain a bodybuilder’s physique.

“You may have injuries or setbacks, but it’s just something you go through,” she said.

It’s a mind thing: “Adjust,” she said, “and tell yourself this will pass.”

“You’ll always have something to work on as you get older, like an old car,” she said with a laugh, but added that “people need to be patient with themselves to make the changes they want.”

“People will always have trouble spots,” she said, adding, “Keep focusing on those trouble spots and don’t let them get you down. In time, you will see results.”

“Today, you may not be where you want to be. Being consistent, disciplined and not giving up will get you results over time,” Schultz said.

Just as much as she works her body, she uses exercise to focus on the inside, too — through yoga. “I love yoga,” she said. “It works on healing inside yourself — finding your peace, serenity, and focus. The more yoga you do, the better you get at the postures. Also, the meditation part of yoga brings about focus and mental clarity.”

Schultz said it’s important to focus on the positives: Everyone has bad thoughts, thoughts of past differences with people or things not accomplished. If you find yourself thinking about those things, switch it up and think about something positive.

“There’s always something good to think about,” she said, encouraging people to focus on positivity as they focus on staying in shape.

For the over 50 crowd looking to get into shape, Schultz says it’s important to find an activity you love, something you’re passionate about — while a beginner should probably try at least a half hour of exercise every day, there are activities to augment that: Gardening, fishing, walking, bike riding.

“When you see results, you will be inspired to do more,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to try something new.”

It’s also important, according to this former competitive bodybuilder, to allow herself some of the freedoms that should come with age. When she was in her twenties, she avoided snacks to keep off body fat. She remembers depriving herself.

Now, with an eye toward keeping the body and the mind healthy and in shape, she indulges now and then, grabbing a late-night snack if she’s hungry, a piece of cake on a day of celebration.

And the result of the exercise, yoga and positive attitude?

“I feel like I’m 32,” Schultz said.