HAMILTON — There's more than meets the eye with Hamilton's Donna Weidow.
A full-time hair stylist and 47-year-old mother and grandmother, Weidow just happens to be one of the strongest people in the state of Montana, and she'll put that strength on full display in three weeks at a national powerlifting tournament.
She'll be the first to tell you that growing up, she wouldn't describe herself as athletic. Now, she's lifting and pushing her way to the top of her craft in powerlifting.
"People thinking that you can’t do something because you’re too old or you’re not fit or you’re not something," Weidow said. "Everyday I prove otherwise and that’s truly what keeps me going everyday.
"I've never been athletic and never been very strong. Today I'm the strongest I've ever been in my entire life."
Weidow is fairly new to the sport, too. Her first meet was in June of 2018, and since, Weidow has set 33 Montana state United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) records across her age group and weight classes. The records and competition are split up, and Weidow has 21 records in drug-tested competitions and 12 in non-drug tested ones.
For someone so new to the sport, Weidow found her niche, and quickly. With it, Weidow has found parallels with life as well.
"Powerlifting has opened up the avenues for everything else in life," Weidow said. "When work gets hard, when my marriage gets hard, when parenting gets hard, when grandpartenting gets hard, all of that comes back to powerlifting and yeah it might be getting hard but it’s worth it and you can do it if you put your mind to it."
Weidow trains three times a week with the help of her husband, Devin, in squats, bench pressing and deadlifting. The couple workout together in their home gym in their garage in Hamilton while also working remotely with a coach who lives in Oregon.
Weidow mixes volume and weight for about seven-to-eight weeks ahead of a meet, as she works up to heavier weights before tapering before a week.
Including in that workout is her diet, which she manages so she can compete in the 181-pound division. Her age class is in the masters 45-49 age group.
Her biggest challenge is now three weeks away, as the 47-year-old qualified for the USPA national meet in Palm Springs, California, which will be held July 12-16. The national meet is the culmination of her rapid rise in the sport as well
With it, she'll carry Montana pride.
"I’ve been trying really hard not to focus on a world record but like bringing home a world record for Montana, the thought that that could even possibly happen is unbelievable," Weidow said.
But when she’s not racking up accolades and records at national tournaments across the country, Weidow's full-time job is at the Bittersweet Salon in Hamilton as the owner, where sometimes her customers are shocked to find out that the woman styling their hair, just happens to be one of the strongest in the country.
"I get a lot of ‘you don’t even look strong,'" Weidow said. "I used to be offended by that and now I take really great pride that yeah I don’t look strong but I’m going to out-deadlift your husband. I love that.
Weidow added with a big laugh, "My long-term clients have been through this whole journey with me so they’ve watched me grow but it’s fun to watch the newer clients be like ‘you do what?’ ‘Yeah come on sit down let me make you pretty.'"
Weidow will be going to nationals as a fully-sponsored athlete with Exit Reality in Missoula and SEVEN Hair Care products from Seattle, Washington, as her sponsors.
"For my kids and my grandkids to just see me and be so proud of me, I've never been athletic so this has been a whole crazy journey, and I'm just so proud of myself," Weidow said.