Fresh tastes on are the horizon for Canberra primary schools, and I’m really excited about…
Almost one year ago to the day, Schae Zarew stood on stage at the Women’s Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) Show on the Gold Coast, clad in a sparkly white and purple bikini, wearing a giant set of wings covered in lilac petals.
She walked away placing in the Top Five – an impressive feat at the age of just twenty.
Two weeks later, Schae placed second across two categories at the Australasian National Bodybuilding (ANB) show in Canberra.
Fast forward to today, and Schae is preparing to represent Australia later this month at the International Powerlifting Federation World Powerlifting Championships in the USA.
Schae’s journey to success hasn’t been easy, with the past 12 months representing an extraordinary change for the young athlete.
“Looking back at my photos from a year ago, I don’t know how to feel. It’s like I don’t even know who that girl is – she’s still me and that’s a part of me. But I couldn’t imagine being the way that I was. My self-love and body image was warped.”
Like most women, Schae gained some weight after competition and, like most women, didn’t like it.
“I needed something mentally and physically to pull me out of feeling so stressed and focused about how I looked. Two weeks later I got into strength training, and everything changed for me.”
“I wasn’t focusing on how much I weighed, it was more about how much I was lifting,” explains Schae. “Once you get into that headspace, and trust that it’s okay to take up space, and you’re consistent with your training because you love doing it, that’s when your body composition completely changes. I felt empowered when I walked into the gym – that filtered into everything else and I became more confident within myself as a person.”
Perhaps more important than the physical changes, Schae has experienced a complete change of mindset and a renewed sense of self love.
“I love the fact that I can train whenever I want, but also trust to take a day off when I need it, I can eat things in moderation and not stress about it. If I want to go for a hike then I can go for a hike, if I want to do powerlifting then I’ll do that. The fact that I can do these things and more in this body – I find it so hard to look in the mirror and think ‘you’re not good enough’.
Now, when I look in the mirror and I look at my body, I see beyond it. I have all my extrinsic qualities – I can’t change my torso height, how long my legs are, my arms – these are all apart of me. At the end of the day, the friends I have, the person I am, how I treat people: none of these things have anything to do with my exterior.”
Some of the feedback that Schae received from her bodybuilding competitions was that her torso was too thick – something she has no control over. In powerlifting, however, Schae’s body works with her – as though it’s purpose built.
After completing her first local powerlifting completion in Melbourne, Schae travelled to America. Two weeks after returning, she had an email from Robert Wilks, CEO of Powerlifting Australia, announcing that Schae had been selected to be in the Australian team at the World Powerlifting Championships.
“I didn’t think it were possible for me to be on the team – usually when you get selected you have to compete at a national level. I never in a million years thought that I would be in this position. This sport has given me so much – physically, mentally and as a person – for me to be in a position where I can give that back and represent Australia in something that I love, means everything to me.”
Schae has always trained at Club Lime – mostly by herself and sometimes with the support of her close friend Anthony, but has recently begun training with National Powerlifting Champion Liz Craven.
“Liz has been an amazing support and constantly reminds me of the bigger picture. ‘Why are you doing this? It’s fun for you, this is the start of your powerlifting career, don’t stress’. She goes out of her way and lets me train there anytime I want. It’s an amazing feeling when people want you to do well and want you to win.”
It’s not just powerlifting where Schae is slaying – she also has a wildly successful blog called My Life in Balance, 16,000 Facebook followers as well as over 9,000 followers on her @beyonschae Instagram account. Schae uses these channels to spread her messages about self love and body positivity.
“I’m fairly confident in myself and what I have to offer people. I am not the typical ‘fitspo’ lean body, – I am thick as hell – and people to see that and realise that you can be happy and confident in this health and fitness journey without necessary looking like these ‘fitspiration’ girls you usually see online. I share my experiences and my journey to loving myself and loving my body, and people identify with it because it’s something that females tend to struggle with.”
Schae doesn’t fit the mould when it comes to a typical fitness and health page. You’ll find inspiring videos of Schae lifting crazy amounts of weights, shots of her cute puppy, books she’s reading, froyo and the occasional gorgeous selfie. You’ll see Schae truly living a life in balance.
“I’m more than just my body, but I feel comfortable sharing photos of my body because I know I have more to offer. I think when females are getting into the fitness industry they think they need to post photos of their bodies and limit their voice – but it gets to a point where you can only valued for your body and aesthetic qualities.
I share the books I’m reading, the podcasts I listen to, I have thoughts about life that I’ll share, and they resonate with people as well, because they know themselves they are also more than just their bodies or how they look.”
As for society’s views on women and weightlifting?
“Strength training is little ‘f you’ to society. You don’t want me to lift heavy weights? Well I’m going to. You don’t want me to put on muscle? Well watch me. Just get in there for a session, do something you never thought you could do, and you’ll walk out of there feeling extremely empowered.”
In addition to spreading her message online, Schae is working with a number of other women in Canberra to open a women’s Powerlifting gym, and we can’t wait to bring you the details.
In the meantime, we wish Schae the best of luck and Worlds and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this incredible athlete.