Donna Alexander and Luke Scherer, both of Williamstown, share passion for bodybuilding

View full sizePhoto providedDonna Alexander, 23, of Williamstown, became interested in bodybuilding after her father died last year.It wasn’t about vanity, but grief.

Donna Alexander

Grief was what pushed Donna Alexander to seriously pursue weight training. And grief was what made her focus her energy as she prepared for her first competition.

A strange way to break into bodybuilding, to be sure, but the 23-year-old Williamstown native says it’s her way of keeping her father alive. Alexander’s father, Rudy, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last summer. In the aftermath of his death, she needed something to help her cope.

“She turned her grief into the gym,” said Alexander’s mother, also named Donna.

Considering Alexander’s background, it made sense.

Her parents worked side by side as barbers for 37 years at their business, Alexander’s Family Hair Salon in Williamstown. Rudy was a barber for more than 50 years, but in addition to the family business, he had another passion: weight training. He competed in weight-lifting competitions, and taught his daughter to lift weights as well.

“That’s something he and I shared together,” said Alexander. “After he passed, that was a way for me to relive something we shared.”

In January, Alexander began training for her first bodybuilding competition with her boyfriend, Luke Scherer, 25, also of Williamstown, who first delved into the sport at Alexander’s suggestion. On May 26, Alexander’s hard work paid off when she won first place for her category in the 2012 NPC (National Physique Committee) Lehigh Valley Bodybuilding, Figure, Bikini and Physique Championships in Allentown.

Scherer also competed and won second place in his category.

Now, Alexander is preparing for the Tracey Greenwood Fitness/Figure Classic, which will be held in Philadelphia on June 23. As with any competition, bodybuilding requires special discipline.

But Alexander and Scherer’s discipline belongs in a class of its own.

Both spend at least six hours a week at the gym, staggering meals throughout the day so they eat every two hours. Dietary supplements are a must, and deviating from a carefully designed diet is out of the question. Alexander uses her experience from working for two years as a nutritionist to manage the balancing act that is her diet.

“One thing I always do is watch my body every day,” she says.

Luke Scherer and Donna AlexanderView full sizePhoto providedLuke Scherer and Donna Alexander pose for a picture. They are both bodybuilders.

Once, when she noticed that her scalp was getting dry, she looked up her symptoms and discovered that she wasn’t getting the proper amount of some fatty acids. She adjusted her eating habits accordingly and the symptoms subsided. Being as educated as possible, she said, is one of the most important steps an athlete of any kind can take to being safe and healthy under a rigorous workout regimen.

Both Alexander and Scherer were already accomplished athletes before they met. Scherer played football for both Temple University and Middlebury College, as well as a brief stint as a semi-pro football player. Alexander played volleyball and basketball at Williamstown High School. This passion, said Scherer, is what first brought them together almost two years ago.

“We met each other and fell in love through the gym,” he said.

Now, the couple — who work as personal trainers and occasionally as stunt performers, among other freelance jobs — uses that shared passion to compete together.

“I helped her out with getting her into shape for everything, and she helped me with telling me how to eat,” Scherer said.

Their relationship is especially important, given the sacrifices bodybuilding requires. An intense workout schedule leaves little time for a social life.

“I was really scared going into it,” said Alexander. “That was one of the things that made me hesitate. In this process, you don’t really have time to have friends.”

But the pros outweighed the cons, and after the time she spent with her family before her father’s death, she was ready to do something for herself. With the help of Scherer and her mother, Alexander said she has the support system she needs to compete.

If she wins the competition on June 23, she’ll qualify to compete on the national level. And while she’s competing, she’ll have her father on her mind.

“A lot of people make a lot of bad decisions when something bad happens to them. This was my way of staying on track. It’s my way of keeping his spirit alive,” Alexander said.

Contact Andy Polhamus at


Posted on June 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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