Michigan woman wins world's best female bodybuilder title – Detroit Free Press

Andrea Shaw’s journey to Ms. Olympia, the highest-ranking female bodybuilder in the world, started 25 years ago in an eighth-grade aerobics class.
Benjamin Nolan Middle School of Detroit didn’t offer fancy equipment or much in the way of organized sports, but Shaw said her teacher taught her that didn’t mean she couldn’t make her own structure. 
Two decades later, Shaw prepared for the show of her lifetime as gyms closed, and the world descended into a pandemic.  
Shaw kept her old gym equipment in her basement and kept in close contact with her coach, John Simmons, who’d won his own title and now trained Shaw. 
On Dec. 18, Andrea Shaw won the Ms. Olympia title in Orlando, Florida.
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“It definitely wasn’t until I got into college that I knew I was going to be a hundred percent responsible for what I was able to look back at in the mirror,” Shaw said. 
Shaw threw herself into studies during freshmen year at Wayne State University in the exercise science program. 
 “That really started to get me to think on the next level of studies — how the body works when it comes to exercise.” 
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In her academic pursuit, Shaw said she neglected her physical health and gained about 20 pounds that year.  
“I kind of got to a point where I was looking at what I saw in the mirror and I wasn’t happy with what I saw,” Shaw said. 
To address her health, Shaw said she took small steps in exercise and diet. 
“A lot of people think taking action is doing something huge, like going to the gym every week. Well, I started out with three days a week,” Shaw said. 
Rather than cutting foods out, Shaw said she made substitutions, like baked chips in place of regular chips, and spinach wraps rather than regular bread. 
She began to research bodybuilding, and in 2008, Shaw joined her first bodybuilding competition.  
“A lot of women, maybe more than would be willing to admit, have certain body image issues and insecurities rooted in their appearance, but I quickly found that those things can be remedied just by creating small little goals that lead to bigger results of feeling better about how you look and how you feel,” said Shaw. 
But it wasn’t a straight shot to the top from the first show. 
“I didn’t start out saying ‘I want to be Ms. Olympia.’ I had to really grow in my confidence first,” Shaw said. 
Shaw took an eight-year break after college to continue her studies and get more “real world experience”. She interned at the Detroit Medical Center, worked in the physical therapy department at Beaumont and got her group training and personal training certificates.  
“I knew I had great potential, but I had to continue to refine it just a little bit more,” Shaw said. 
By 2016, Shaw returned to competitive bodybuilding.  
“There was nothing that I was finding that would force me to get into my very best shape, aside from doing physique and fitness competitions,” Shaw said. 
Shaw worked her way up from working out three days a week to every day. Now, she spends eight to 14 hours working out weekly. 
Celebrating her wins matters to Shaw, too. Once a week, Shaw indulges in a cheat meal, to celebrate a week of success. 
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“If I got through six out of seven days of eating good and staying on track, I would reward myself,” Shaw said. 
As Shaw’s successes grew, so did her goals. 
“It was not a relentless pursuit of perfection. It was what else could I do to be better,” Shaw said. 
Looking forward, Shaw said she wants to work on defending her Ms. Olympia title. But that’s not all she’s up to. 
Shaw said she plans to continue her work as a personal trainer. From 87-year-old women to athletes looking to win a title of their own, Shaw’s doing it all. 
“I definitely want to continue to do that with them and form them, because it gives me so much joy to be able to help them and show them that they can give back to them(selves),” Shaw said. 
Most of her trainees are women, and it’s how Shaw prefers it. 
From menstruation and menopause to caring for the household, Shaw said, “I know more about women’s needs. I know more about the intimate things maybe women don’t get a chance to talk to a man trainer about.” 
Shaw also plans to make guest appearances at local shows, model for women’s clothing lines and travel to Germany where Mr. Olympia of 2020, Mamdouh Elssbiay is, to hold training events together.
The Mr. and Ms. Olympia titles are awarded yearly. Elssbiay won $400,000 with this title, and Shaw was awarded $50,000. 
Shaw said she also plans to go back to school, hoping to one day hold her doctorate.  
“Now that I’ve won the Ms. Olympia and I’ve kind of validated that, yes, I’ve got a talent in this area, I want to go back and get even more education. There’s nothing that replaces what we know,” Shaw said. 
But Shaw said Michigan will remain her home base, through her endeavors. 
“I’ve built up so many relationships here I feel like it’s going to be worth me sticking around a while,” Shaw said. 
Founded in 1974, William and Norman Dabish started Powerhouse Gym as a martial arts supply store. They slowly added equipment, and eventually, the shop transformed into a gym.  
Romanian immigrant Stan Piros started as floor guy and worked his way up, now manager, of a world-renowned gym with over 200 locations. The Highland Park location where Ms. Olympia trains is the original powerhouse.  
“I take a lot of pride in this, because of the fact that it’s such a historical location,” Piros said. 
From the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, to Terminator Two’s Robert Patrick, and previous eight-time winner of Ms. Olympia, Lenda Murray, Highland Park’s Powerhouse gym has seen more than its share of legends.  
“These days, you have those fancy, schmancy gyms with all kinds of equipment. Basic tools and free weights are the ones that hard-core lifters are using,” Piros said. 
This “treasure chest of equipment,” as Shaw calls it, extends into rows and rows of gear.
“I’ve been working out there for almost four years, and I still haven’t gotten on every piece of equipment,” Shaw said.  
Shaw’s big win was a celebration for everyone involved.
Piros said, “We are extremely proud of our Ms. Olympia … it could not have happened to a nicer person.”
Contact Minnah Arshad: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @minnaharshad. 
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