Mari Asp aka Fit Mari - Breaking Hearts & Records Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - January 2009
Gymnast Gone Powerlifter To Figure Competitor Back to Powerlifting!
CRITICAL BENCH: Critical Bench is here with fitness and strength house hold name athlete, Fit Mari AKA Mari Asp. Mari Asp, welcome back to Critical Bench! A lot has happened to you since we last interviewed you. Before we discuss your intense story, introduce yourself to us.
I am Mari Asp, born June 8, 1975 to Paal and Jorunn Asp in Lillestroem Norway. At a young age, I began training gymnastics and ended up traveling the world competing internationally. My parents were supportive of my gymnastics and as a result, I became National champion by the age of thirteen. Once my ability to be competitive in gymnastics was gone, it was suggested I try "powerlifting". Within a short time, I became the Norwegian Powerlifting champion.
After a few years as a powerlifter, I decided to try Fitness when Lena Johannesen inspired me. Although I worked hard getting in shape for a Fitness competition, it takes a lot of discipline, but it didn't give me the challenge I wanted. I am not into the "all pretty" look. I like it when the competition day is the biggest challenge, not just the preparations. I went back to powerlifting. I found that the strength I already had from gymnastics was just waiting to be used more.
In June 2002 I moved to Los Angeles, California.
I have since set numerous California and American Bench-Press records. I have worked out with many of the biggest names in bodybuilding, powerlifting and fitness industry. Found friendship in people driven by the same types of things. I got experience in that world with some really driven people like Odd Haugen, Ed Coan, Charles Glass, Mike O'hearn, Lou Ferrigno and Scot Mendelson…….. For a little girl from Norway, this was a big deal to me.
CRITICAL BENCH: Wow, you do have a very impressive background! For those who have heard of Mari Asp, as you can see from this former Critical Bench interview she has achieved a lot! In August 2006 you tore your triceps and labrum in your shoulder. Is that true?
Yes it is.
CRITICAL BENCH: What happened? Tell us about the experience and what it was like for you mentally.
In August of 2006 I did the USAPL California State Championship. I did not get my opener. During my 2nd lift, something happened in my shoulder and arm. I heard a "snap", and felt pain. I still had one more lift left.
I "put" the pain to the side. Went in, and got up 336lbs, and white lamps.
The pain was not as bad while I had the bench shirt on, but when I took it of the pain came on as if a truck hit me.
I thought I just stretched something, so I had no rush getting to doctor.
A few weeks went by, but I was still not getting better. I was "forced" to go get an MRI.
The MRI showed that I had a little more serious injury than I thought.
I had to get his fixed, if not; there is absolutely no chance for me to lift again!
The long road started.
My whole life using my body is what I been doing, and now…. it was taken from me, and not something that was fixable in 3 weeks.
After the 1st surgery, my right arm was wrapped around my waste for 5 weeks. I could not lift it at all, was not allowed to, or able to. The Labrum was re-attached and could not risk it ripping off again.
I needed help with everything. I went from being on top of the world, record-breaking athlete, to someone who could not wash my own hair.
The 1st surgery was February 21st 2007. The 2nd one was May 26th, and then the last one was in November 2007.
I had no chance building myself up in between the surgeries, and was therefore on rock bottom when 2008 came around.
"I went from being on top of the world, record-breaking athlete, to someone who could not wash my own hair."
CRITICAL BENCH: That is a lot of adversity you had to face. Then, in 2007 you had 3 surgeries and in the middle of those you had a severe kidney infection. What was that like for you?
The kidney was not a fun experience. I was hospitalized after I came home from watching the USPF Nationals in Vegas in August 2007. I was there to meet my friend Hege Nielsen, and watch Ed Coan do his last meet. I made it to the competition, but never got to see Ed lift. I felt like I was getting the flu, and went back to the hotel room, and pretty much stayed there and by the pool (where I did not have to move much) the rest of the weekend.
Not having too much energy after my surgeries, this kidney infection really took me down. The doctor told me if I came in one day later, it could have been too late. I stayed in the hospital for a week and when I came out, I weighed only 114lbs.
After coming home it took months before I started getting my energy back. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I ran out of energy very fast. Then I had another surgery in the end of November.
CRITICAL BENCH: Then you came back and competed in worlds. What drove you to come back after all of that? How did you go from being in an injured state to then making an amazing comeback?
Right after I got the invitation from Amy Jackson, my boyfriend Brad and I were on our way to San Jose to Watch Jason "JP" Peterson do his 1st pro boxing fight, then to watch him do his 2nd one at the Playboy mansion, 2 weeks later, and winning them both. JP gave me the inspiration I needed to get back in the gym. Also knowing this would be my 4th national team, in the 3rd sport, for the 2nd country (Gymnastics, powerlifting and Fitness, for Norway and now the US) was a huge inspiration. It was time to wipe the dust off my lifting belt and give my 100%.
I started going to the gym 5 days a week. Eating a little more, and making sure I got my vitamins and minerals, but not forcing myself to eat anything. I eat when I was hungry, and not by the clock.
I decided not to over train this time. I had to start easy and slow to get my body used to lifting again, and avoiding getting injured.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your thoughts to those people who are afraid to hear about your injury story or ask you about it? What are your thoughts for those who feel bad for you and for those who are totally inspired by what you have to overcome?
I don't think anyone should be afraid of hearing about my injuries, or to ask me about it. If you don't ask, you will not learn. With my experience, I hope people that have questions ask them, so they can avoid injuries like those that I have gone through. For those who feel bad for me…….have them call me or e-mail me, and I will give them my account number. Because being injured like this, makes it impossible to work. So donations are more than welcome.
For those who are inspired…..I hope I can inspire more. If what I have been through can help others in doing better, or making them believe they can go out and do it too. That is awesome!
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice for other lifters who might be facing extreme injury or adversity of any type who want to give up?
Never to give up. If you really want something, you make it happen.
If you are facing an extreme injury, it is important to have people around you that support you, and give you the time you need to heal. Stress will never make you a 100%. Let yourself heal all the way. Listen to your body. Know the difference between good and bad pain. Good pain is pain that will not hurt you. Bad pain is when you know something is going to break or tear. Don't push the bad pain too far, before you go and get it checked out.
CRITICAL BENCH: You broke a new world record. Tell us what you lifted in kg and pounds and what the record meant to you?
I lifted in the 56 kg weight class/123 lbs, and benched 142,5kg/314 lbs.
2nd place is 1st looser. It is all or nothing.
CRITICAL BENCH: What has been your favorite, most emotional and powerful moment during your powerlifting journey?
My most emotional, favorite and powerful moment was in Florida after my last lift, where I broke the world record. To do that, after what I have been through, with my boyfriend there, who has supported me through everything meant everything! Also, my mom and dad came all the way from Norway to cheer me on. They have not seen me compete in 7 years, and it meant the world to me that they were there.
CRITICAL BENCH: That's awesome they were able to see you compete. During that contest it was your first time representing America, what was that like?
I am very proud of being Norwegian but the Norwegian Powerlifting Federation made it almost impossible for me to compete and enjoy my sport if I was to represent Norway in the future. So being able to lift for the US team was an extra little victory for me.
CRITICAL BENCH: How is powerlifting different in America compared to in overseas?
In America I think the lifters are better at having fun together. Cheering each other on, helping each other and doing what makes sense.
In Norway it is all by "the book", and for f*** sake, don't think you are better than anyone else!
You also have to be member of a lifting club to compete over there. Not everyone has a lifting club close by, so I enjoy the fact that you can lift for your own "team" here.
I enjoy lifting in and for America!
CRITICAL BENCH: How is your personal training going? How do you inspire your clients? Is it harder to work after all of your surgeries? Did you have to build your business back up again?
With all the surgeries, it was very difficult for me to be able to work for a very long time. Now I am back at scratch, and have to start building my personal training business up again.
I have also moved, and I am now in Dana Point area in southern California.
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you enjoy doing away from powerlifting?
I enjoy going places. It doesn't have to be far, or cost money, but just to see something different. It can be everything from another beach, to another coffee shop. I like to go on motorcycle rides, and I have a thing for rollercoaster's!
The big dipper in Santa Cruz is probably my favorite.
I enjoy doing all these things together with my best friend and boyfriend Brad.
CRITICAL BENCH: Mari, is there such thing as being too strong?
CRITICAL BENCH: That is the spirit! What is your diet and routine like? Has it changed?
My diet? What diet? He he. Since I was injured, I put the word diet in the closet. I eat what I want, when I want.
When I injured myself, I lost my appetite. It was more of a challenge to get kcal in me.
During 2007, I pretty much only managed to drink Muscle Milk, and some regular milkshakes. Muscle Milk, so I could get the proteins, carb and good fat in me. The milkshakes to get some extra kcal.
When I started training again in June 2008, I tried to get a couple of meals of solid food in me. Like steak and potatoes, or chicken and rice. In addition to some Monster Muscle, and Pre-Formanse from Cytosport..
I eat when I am hungry, and not by the clock. My body tells me when it is time to feed it.
CRITICAL BENCH: How has your perception of powerlifting changed since you were injured?
While being injured and sick, I had no income, because I could not work. I was so lucky to have support from a great boyfriend, that is not rich, but manage to make ends meet. When you go and do what I did, coming back after injuries, and winning the world championship with little or close to nothing. I wonder how I could have done with full ride sponsorship that would have given me the opportunities to go and get the kind of care that top athletes usually get! I wonder……..???
CRITICAL BENCH: Being talented in all, what is harder would you say powerlifting, bodybuilding or strongman?
That would for sure be strongman.
CRITICAL BENCH: What goes on in your mind before a big lift?
My way of focusing is to get rid of everything in my head. I have done my lifts so many times over and over again, that I should not have to think about technique or how I should lift. Just go out and do it. The best way to do that is to think of nothing.
CRITICAL BENCH: Got advice. Speaking of advice, what is the best and worst advice you were ever told?
Lets starts with one of the worst, or dumbest. A few years ago, several people said to me that I should not train with Charles Glass, because he only knew how to train bodybuilders. Charles is the bodybuilding guru, but what many people obviously don't know is that Charles used to be a very good gymnast, he also done powerlifting. He won the Ironman several times, and at that time, the Ironman was powerlifting and bodybuilding combined.
So Charles and I both have pretty much the same background. Who else would know better how to train my type of body? Glad I did not listen, because I went from a 236lbs bench press to a 363lbs .
The best advice I got was from my boyfriend Brad, who was the one "forcing" me to go take an MRI of my shoulder and arm at the end of 2006. He actually drove 400miles from the Bay area to come down and make sure I went and got it done, because he knew something was wrong with me. I just didn't want to realize it.
CRITICAL BENCH: Mari, what a journey you have had! How do you want to be remembered?
As a person who never made myself someone to feel sorry for, but appreciated as a strong person even in a bad situation.
CRITICAL BENCH: With your attitude you will always be remembered as an amazing lifter and as an amazing human being on all levels! Mari, it has been fun interviewing you today. In closing, who would you like to thank?
To get where I am right now, would not have been possible without the help and the support I have got from some very special people
I first off would like to start by thanking Brad Bloch. The meet in August of 2006 was actually our 2nd date. He came to watch me lift in Modesto, when I got injured. Not being together for very long, he knew that I needed help. He opened up his home for me, and took care of me when I was at my lowest. He picked me up from the floor and took me to the ER when I had my kidney infection. Then when I asked him to help me, and be my coach for the world championship, knowing he only seen one bench meet his whole life, there was not a question about it. He was there a 100%. He even put himself in a bench press shirt one day we went to train at Scott Mendelson's gym, so he could feel what I feel when I am lifting. He deserves a huge Thank You! I hope one day to be able to do for him what he has done for me.
Then a thank you to my mom and dad, for all the support through my whole life, and for coming to the US to see me.
Brads parents for the support while being sick, and for helping taking care of things outside the gym.
Lena Johannesen Natividad for being my friend, "big sister" and supporter.
Dr. Gerbino, for doing all my surgeries, and being the best doctor I ever had.
Jon Wiebe, Chris Hecht, Mark Harris, Jeff Calman, Carmine Gangemi, Hege Nielsen, Heidi Sighovd, Dave Hammond, Steve Denison, Ryan Miller, Bo, Andre, Kjell and Red, Timmy Boy, Tina Lithner, Gabe Sorensen, Shonie Carter,
Thank you so much to everyone, for everything from making my trip possible, to the phone calls, flowers, e-mails, hospital visits, unforgettable times and hugs.
Also Inzer for giving me bench press shirts, and being the best powerlifting gear in the world. To Cytosport for giving me excellent supplements to recover and build myself up.
At the end, I want to make a special thank you to a very special friend that is no longer with us.
Captain Matthew "Jett" Schaefer lost the fight to complication around cancer January 7th 2009.
Knowing what he was fighting, being in the middle of chemotherapy when I did my world championship Nov 20th, he was one of my biggest cheer leaders.
Jett was a pilot, model, and one hell of a guy.
Rest in peace Jett.
Mari Asp - 2008 World Champion & World Record Lift!