Chris Rae is a BIG man with a BIG name in Australian Weightlifting, he has recently turned his hand to Strongman competitions with some success too. His past however has been checkered with many highs and also many lows.
To do Chris justice as he has really beared his soul in this interview, we will split it into two parts.
Part 1 will talk about his new life in Strongman.
Part 2 will look at his Olympic Weightlifting career…..
Phil Burgess: You recently were crowned South Australia’s Strongest Man, how did it feel to win this event?
Chris Rae: It was a good day, and an interesting competition. Winning the competition more than anything was a relief.
In any strength-based competition I enter, people will always mention I’m a commonwealth games gold medal winner in weightlifting. With that behind me, expectation is always high, and realistically with good reason, to get to that point in weightlifting I trained for 15 years, 15 years training in anything strength-related gives you a good base for other strength-based disciplines.
However whilst there are some events which I find quite easy (anything overhead), there are others which are more of a struggle (farmers and grip related events in general).
Out of the 4 events for the day I managed 3 wins, and a third place.
- I managed to win the farmers walk/ yoke medley- a performance I wasn’t happy with at all.
- I won the overhead medley comfortably – sometimes it’s good to have a weightlifting background.
- Came third in the tug of war – my efforts to procure a pair of footy boots was ultimately a failure, and the difference they made was big!
- Won the stones – again an event where a weightlifting base really helps.
So far in strongman I have entered 3 events and had 3 wins, which is a good start in any sport, although now I’m really starting to look towards bigger competitions.
At some point this year I need to do a qualifying competition to attempt to qualify for Australia’s Strongest Man.
I am very keen to get back to Melbourne for another comp at Definition 352 in the open class this time. George put on an amazing event, and it was a great introduction to strongman competition, and the differences between strongman and olympic weightlifting.
Phil Burgess: How did you get into Strongman competitions?
Chris Rae: Around July last year, after not lifting a weight, going to a competition, or associating with ANYONE weightlifting related for over 4 years, I decided to do a bit of coaching.
I was unemployed, unmotivated, and really not getting a lot of satisfaction out of the direction my life seemed to be taking.
It was a bit of a long shot, and not a path I had any intention of following for most of my time away from the sport.
It was good, really good, rewarding on lots of levels, people were getting results, and were appreciative of the efforts I was putting into their own development. More than that, I walked out the gym really feeling like I was helping people, and really enjoyed the feeling.
Weightlifting in South Australia is relatively small, so not too long in, Jordan Steffans gave me a call, and wanted to catch up. We caught up a few times, and he was looking at his own training in strongman, and whether I’d be interested in working with him with more weightlifting-based stuff.
I’ve known Jordan for years, I remember him as a junior weightlifter, just starting in the sport, he was always a good kid, who I used to make silly bets with while I was training to make things a bit more interesting.
He likes to take credit for my personal best power-clean of 205kg. I had to power-clean double what he could clean and he ripped out a 7.5kg personal best, forcing me to powerclean 205kg, a 10kg personal best. I think I won an iced coffee.
I also used to put his lifts into perspective by one arm power-snatching his personal best clean and jerks, 110kg was my best.
Times change, these days, hey I still have him on the pure power stuff, but the strength stuff, he’s got the edge!
I started working with him in a mostly technical way, and starting discussing with him more and more the structure of his training regime. Anyway it got to the point that I really needed to get a better perspective of what he was trying to achieve.
At this stage I”d been playing around with a bit of lifting. Muscle memory is a beautiful thing, my first day lifting in the gym I power-cleaned 165kg, I was still strong, and hey, a bit of strongman training to be able to better help a bloke who I enjoyed working with,so it was a no lose situation.
I enjoyed it, it was such a different challenge to olympic lifting, and better than anything else, it was easier on my knees that weightlifting.
Fast forward a few months, I’d trained every sunday with strongman, I’d started giving Jordan a structured program, which was constantly being tweaked in little ways as I made new discoveries myself.
Jordan started telling me about a comp in Melbourne, and saying I should compete. I agreed, and not long later, I’d completed my first comp, winning the
event with a 4th, 3 firsts and a second.
I think the thing which really got me involved from there was the people, I’d had plenty of experience with competition, and a win, while good, isn’t everything. The strongman community is a good group of guys (and girls), who train hard, compete hard, but on the whole get along really well, and help each other out when they can!
Phil Burgess: What do you do as a job, and how do you fit your training around this? Has your training changed?
Chris Rae: At the moment I work 2-10pm weekdays in a security monitoring centre.
I also do specialist personal training and workshops specialising in weightlifting technique at Crossfit Adelaide.
Fitting everything in is tough, and prioritising is important, but on the whole, I love what I do, moreso the coaching than the actual job!
I make a plan, I stick to it as much as possible, I also make sure I take advantage of opportunities. If I get a cancellation, I get in an extra session lifting, if another client comes in… I do what I can.
These days I”m a lot more focussed on balance in my life, and taking advantage of EVERY opportunity.
When time is limited, you make sure you take advantage of it, and while I do still predominantly train with weightlifting lifts, I do so a LOT quicker than I used to.
A session used to take me up to 3 hours to get through, these days I”ll do 2/3 of what I used to do in an hour. It actually works pretty well, when looked at in the context of a strongman comp.
I used to train for an event where each lift took a few seconds, where in strongman you can be expected to do 75 seconds of a maximal effort. With that in mind, I have a dedicated day of strongman event training.
I also do a crossfit session a week where I coach. I also try to fit in a day of pure strength work, which really tests me. So to summarise I have a strength based day, a day of event training, a day of crossfit/cardio (not my favourite day), and a couple of weightlifting/power-based days.
Phil Burgess: Ok now for one of my wife’s favourite questions – Where do you live? And if someone was to visit what would be the 3 places they should go and see, or things they should do?
Chris Rae: Currently I live in Adelaide, South Australia and as for three things to do:
1) THE BEACH.
I lived in Brisbane for 6 months, and if you want a beach there, you’ve got to go to the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast for it. I live 3km away from the beach, and most people who live in Adelaide are less than 10km away from a beach. Most of the coastline is decent beaches, and it is hard to beat in summer!
2) BIKE TRAILS.
For the more adventurous people out there, the joys of living next to hills, there are alot of decent bike tracks around the place, and nothing beats a good hard slog up a tough track to a good spot up in the hills overlooking the city and the sea, and then a mad, fast, descent back to home base.
3) MEET THE PEOPLE
Finally, as someone who has travelled a fair bit, lived in a few different places, and spent a reasonable amount of time in different places. I’d recommend getting out and meeting the people.
Adelaide cops a bit of flack for being an over-sized country town, and to some extent that may be deserved, but the end result is a lot more laid back, easy to get along with people.
Go to the major cities on the East Coast, and everyone seems to be too busy to sit back, and just enjoy the ride, and they lose for it. Being around a group of laid back people enjoying the ride, having fun, and not taking everything too seriously… hard to beat!
OK that wraps up part 1 of the interview, later this week we will release part 2 where Chris will talk about his past Olympic Weightlifting Career, Being Banned, and whether he will return to this sport.