Interview With Bencher, Bodybuilder, Strongwoman & Figure Competitor Christi Witmer By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - April 2009
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, we talked to you a long time ago and your interview pictures were from 1999. Although, you were successful, much has changed since then. What has gone on with you and your training since we have last interviewed you?
Wow! Has it been that long? A lot has happened since then. I have continued to compete in Bench Press competitions reaching my highest bench of 380 lbs so far. Along with benching I have been successful in bodybuilding winning an overall, capturing the Florida Strongwoman title and winning in figure competitions. Mike and I now have a wonderful little boy named Ryan.
CRITICAL BENCH: I find it very impressive that you can enter powerlifting, bodybuilding, figure, strongman and succeed in all of those sports. After making many different achievements you have been sponsored by Bud Lyte from BMF Sports. What was that like for you?
I'm thrilled to death! I have been competitive in benching, strongman, bodybuilding and now figure for the last 9 years and it is nice that people like Shawn Lyte come along and "pat" you on the back and tell you "good job" with a sponsorship. For all the blood, sweat and tears that we as competitors have put into our sports that we are passionate about. I would like to thank BMF Sports for the chance to represent them in my competitions.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi lets break your accomplishments down one by one for a minute. First, tell us about bench pressing 380lbs. Where did you achieve this bench and what was it like? How did you celebrate?
I hit the 380 lbs bench in the APF at Boca Raton, Florida. I was so excited! I really didn't know if it was even going to happen... I hadn't been able to hit one rep on the bench for about 4 weeks before... My shoulder was really bad, to the point that I had 2 cortisone shots in them already. I would just "handle" the weight the best I could every Saturday and hope that I could compete at the upcoming meet. I really wanted to hit a bigger number! I knew I was good for it if my shoulders would let me. Everyone was holding their breath for me. It felt so awesome when I did hit my bench and it was sooo easy... never any hesitation! However, unfortunately it was my last bench. My shoulder was shot after that. I play around with the benching now but I really can't go to heavy any longer... 225 lbs is as heavy as I go.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, in Bodybuilding you won an overall? What was that like and how did you celebrate?
I really had a great time doing this show. Winning is always fantastic! The best way to celebrate after a bodybuilding show is to EAT.... And that is just what I did! Mike and I met up with a few power lifting buddies at a Steak house. The best part was the dessert!
CRITICAL BENCH: Then in strongwoman, you captured the Florida Strongwoman title. What events did you do well at that day and how did you celebrate?
I laugh about this title. I was in the middle of dieting for my first figure show and was about 4 weeks out. We were going to watch the strongman show and support a few competitors. I had no intention of entering until about 1 or 2 days before. In fact I have never even considered really doing a strongman show. So I had never played with the implements. And to top it off I was carb cycling and I had been on low carbs for about 4 days! It just sounded like fun and the weights of the events were something I thought that I could handle. I just wanted to try it. We had a 360lbs tire to pull, 110lb incline log press, 185lb keg load, farmer walk dead lift for reps (something like 160 per hand) and the 360lb tire flip. There were girls from all over Florida present.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you do in figure competitions and what was the experience like? Christi, how is figure like compared to hardcore bodybuilding, power lifting and strongman for you?
Figure has been the toughest for me. I have had to really work at not posing too "large" . After bodybuilding it was difficult to not show off muscle. I just had to learn to stand there and not flex. My first show I placed 6th in the open class. Afterward I spoke to the judges and was told that I stood too "LARGE". So, I took their advice and entered another show 2 weeks later, and came home winning my open tall class.
CRITICAL BENCH: You have achieved so much in many different aspects of the iron game, all in one person- like an iron dream. What is next for you?
I plan on competing in figure, strongman and would love to try my hand in a Highlands Game! I also am going to try and qualify for Nationals later this year.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, having experience in both worlds, how is the power lifting scene different than the body building scene? How would you compare and contrast the worlds as you have done both?
I believe that power lifting is full of a "put up or shut up" attitude. There aren't as many glares and the cattiness in it as there is in the bodybuilding world. Both take extreme dedication to be at the top! I love the look of bodybuilding but my heart will always be with power lifting.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, one of the reasons why you are super strong is that you married Mike Witmer who is one of the most old school and hardcore strength athletes who I have ever met and I met hundreds of iron freaks in this industry. Please, tell us about how Mike has helped you get stronger.
My husband has always gone above and beyond to help me with anything that I have ever set my mind to. From power lifting to figure. He not only pushes me past any limits that I could have ever imagined for myself, but he has been there for my meltdowns while dieting to pick me back up and give me the motivation that I needed to hear to get focused once more. He many times has set his lifts on the back burner just to assure mine. You ask how he has made me stronger......he has taught me how to be a champion. Mentally and physically!
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you and Mike meet?
Mike and I actually went to high school together, but we met again in the gym years later. I was just on the quest to lose weight and get back into shape. When I met Mike he was training for a bodybuilding show. I was interested in fitness competitions at the time but wasn't sure about how to go about getting into them. He offered to personally train me and head me in that direction. We began training together and we jelled together as training partners.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, explain what each experience is like for you mentally?
Guys who try to impress you and out lift you. Then they away run after you show them that you can out lift them. This has always tickled me. I might wear pink but I NEVER LIFT LIKE A GIRL! I enjoy being strong.
Being on a bodybuilding stage. I love bodybuilding and figure. Figure has become my favorite because of the muscle elegance that it shows! I just love the look of the pro figure girls! It's awesome to be strong and have the figure look!
Being on a power lifting platform. Nothing compares to the rush of the lifts!
Being screwed. NO one likes the idea that someone received something that they feel entitled to. This is what you know can happen anytime you step in to a judged event. Know it and accept that it will sooner or later happen to you. I don't like it. BUT, I just live to fight another day and let it drive me! It definitely makes me trainer hard!
Winning a championship. CLOUD 9!!! Should sum it up! It is wonderful to know that all the time and stress I put myself under everyday and every workout has paid off!
The ride. I wouldn't want to miss any part of the ride. It's nice to be out of the norm. The thing about power lifting and figure is that no matter which one I'm competing in, I always get the same reaction from society, shock or amazement. Whether I'm lifting more than they can imagine or having the body that they say that could never get. It is what separates us from the rest of the world!
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes Christi different from everyone else?
What you see is what you get with me. I don't pull punches. I don't try to be something I'm not. I work hard to achieve what I want. And I do what it takes to get me there. I'm not afraid to take a step in a different direction if I feel like I have achieved everything that is within my grasp in that field! I wouldn't change anything about me!
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, what are your thoughts on the following people:
The people who fall in love with you- Ah, how do I answer that question! LOL
The people who are afraid of you- I hope that I'm not that scary looking. Never be afraid of me... I don't bite!
The people who you light a fire up their asses- Bring it! I welcome the competition....your only as good as those you compete against!
People who are shocked by your achievements- People who know me know that you never know what to expect out of me next. But expect me to be a threat at it. I may not beat you this time but I'll worry the hell out of you always!
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, why is it better to be a freak of nature (through hard work) than a dime a dozen average Jane?
Not everyone likes the muscle that I carry but everyone respects the work and dedication that it takes to achieve it. It's nice being different. I really don't want to just blend in with every other girl. If everyone was the same - what a boring world this would be!
CRITICAL BENCH: I would like to pick your insightful mind a little more. Tell us, what is your advice for people facing extreme adversity of any kind?
God only gives you what you can handle. Never be afraid to step up to the challenge. If you want something bad enough than you'll do what it takes to achieve it! Keep pushing!
CRITICAL BENCH: Outside of the gym, what do you enjoy doing?
Being a mother and wife!
CRITICAL BENCH: You and Mike had a son named Ryan. How is your son Ryan?
Ryan is a little gym rat. He had his picture in Powerlifting USA before he was 1 year old!
CRITICAL BENCH: Has your routine changed over the past 10 years?
Not a whole lot has changed. I still stay with basic old school movements!
CRITICAL BENCH: How has your perception in regards to training and life changed since you have became such a big time force in iron sports?
I try to stay humble! I learned a long time ago that it can be taken as fast as it comes.
CRITICAL BENCH: Christi, how do you see the future of power lifting? How do you compare and contrast raw to shirt benching?
I see power lifting heading back to Raw. I loved benching in a shirt because I just loved the puzzle that it was to master it, but I believe that the raw is a good move for the sport! I just think that the gear is creating a monster. The lifters are handling weights that their bodies are never meant to handle. If the gear ripped then your fate was in the hands of the spotters....
CRITICAL BENCH: What goes on your mind before a big lift? What about on the bodybuilding stage?
You know. I really don't stress much. I just picture the lift or the pose perfect in my head and not get to worried. This is supposed to be fun. I try to keep it that way!
CRITICAL BENCH: What sport is harder bodybuilding or power lifting would you say?
Bodybuilding! I find myself looking in the mirror ALL the time judging my body. Plus the dieting is killer. In power lifting I just lifted and enjoyed it!
CRITICAL BENCH: You use to be big into gear lifting but now you're going RAW. I think it is great that you can be successful in each but what is it about RAW that draws you?
I loved geared benching. I love the mechanics of the shirt and the lift. It was like a puzzle to me and I was good at it. The other lifter in the gym would ask me to watch their bench to see what was going wrong and to tell them what to do with the shirt to fix it. But I contribute my injured shoulder to it also. You put your body under extreme weight that it wasn't meant to handle.
The raw lifting is just FUN! There isn't any unnecessary stress put on you. Your lift is your lift... no one can take the credit away from you and give it to your shirt!
CRITICAL BENCH: What was the best advice that you were ever given?
The best advice given to me wasn't from power sports at all. It was given to me when I rodeoed. Someone once told me you can learn something from everyone. Even the biggest idiot might have the trick to fix your problem. Or at least give you idea that could send you in the right direction!
CRITICAL BENCH: Well, Christi it has been an honor talking to you today. What a past decade of success you have been in the world of strength sports and most of all, what a ride! I'm sure you can look back at your training journey and say "What a ride it has been!" In closing, who would you like to thank?
Oh yeah! I want to thank my sponsor BMF SPORTS for giving me the opportunity to represent their company! Justin Harris of Troponin Nutrition for doing so a fantastic job with my diet! I could never do this without it.
And nothing would be possible without my husband and family. Mike puts up with a lot from me when I'm gearing up for a contest and he keeps me focused. I love him dearly!
Thanks for all the support from my friends and followers. Love you all!