If you are a fan of Game Of Thrones, then you ought to be familiar with Hafthór Björnsson for his work as Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane. If you are a fan of Strongman-related competitions, then you probably know Björnsson as the current World's Strongest Man, notably the first person to have won the Arnold Strongman Classic, Europe's Strongest Man and World's Strongest Man in the same calendar year.
Yet Hafthór Björnsson is currently in the midst of what may be his hardest challenges of all. On December 5th, Björnsson will be lifting a few "krazy" things that consumers are choosing through submissions on his and Krazy Glue’s social channels. Later in the month on December 15th, Björnsson will be competing at an event with the ultimate goal of setting an all-time "total" record in powerlifting.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Hafthór Björnsson by phone, and highlights from that chat are below. The audio of our call will be posting later this month through my podcast, the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz, as co-produced with PureGrainAudio.
Who or what was it that first got you into training?
Hafthór Björnsson: I've been active all my life. I grew up at the farm. My grandfather was a farmer for over 30 years. As a child I remember myself lifting up rocks, doing all kinds of outdoor exercises. I started at a young age. I was playing around with the weights. I guess I was around 17, 18 years old, when I decided to take a break from basketball - so I played basketball in my younger years, to try to build up more muscle.
What inspired me to do so, I guess, was other inspirational athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on.
I know that you've competed in the Arnold Classic. Was that something that you had applied to do or someone recruited you to compete there?
Hafthór Björnsson: After the Arnold Classic, first of all, in Columbus, Ohio, for example, that's one of the most hardest competitions to qualify to. You have to qualify yourself to be able to compete there and it's very hard. You have to compete in one of their shows to qualify to the Ohio one. It's a very well respected show and only the strongest 10 in the world compete each year to find out who is the strongest.
I actually won that show this year. I placed first place. After winning that show, if you win that show, you are interviewed by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, which is a unique moment... For anyone in the business, industry, it's a very special moment.
Is it true that your competition at the Arnold Classic led you to audition for the WWE?
Hafthór Björnsson: Well, they, WWE, they contacted me a couple of years ago and they wanted to see if I was interested in joining the WWE. But I, at that time, was already doing Game Of Thrones, already competing in some and doing very well there. I liked what I was doing and I didn't want to change my lifestyle...
I like WWE, but it's a very specific job. You just travel and travel and travel, just beating up some guys. I wanted a little bit more different, like all the things going on in my life. I wasn't willing at that time to do that.
People in their professions or their industries are usually friendly with other people. They're not necessarily in competition. Are you able to be friends with a lot of other strongmen or is there just too much competition?
Hafthór Björnsson: On the day when we're competing, yes, I am friends with all the guys but, of course, when you're competing on the day it can get sometimes heated up because we are all in there to win it. We all put up so many hours... So much overtime into being as strong as possible. It can get very heated in the moment.
The nickname "the world's strongest man," how does that make you feel when somebody like Mark Henry uses the nickname world's strongest man?
Hafthór Björnsson: Back in the day, like back in 2002, Mark Henry was the world's strongest man. He is a super-impressive man. He won the show. The first year he won, the first year that the Arnold Classic was being held. He won that competition. I'm not sure if people know that, but he was and is a super, super-impressive guy.
Ultimately besides you being the world's strongest man and having a lot of projects, is there something that you wish more people knew about you as a person?
Hafthór Björnsson: I don't know. I'm just a regular guy... I live my life. I wake up every morning. I have breakfast. I have some emails. I kiss my wife good morning. I have a good breakfast. I'll start the day.
Got it, so just a regular guy that's managing to be the world's strongest man...
Hafthór Björnsson: Yeah, I guess. When I say "regular guy," I have a regular family. I'm very close to family, very close to my father and my mom and my sisters. I have two sisters. I am actually the middle child. Yeah, when I look at myself, I do think I'm just a regular guy. I might be doing crazy things and I've been successful in my life, but I think anyone can be successful if you have a dream and you want to say you want to do something. You just have to put your mind to it. You have to believe and you have to put in work. Being consistent, being, you know, you have to just put in the work.
That's what I've been doing for the past 10-plus years. I've been putting in a lot of work. I've been very dedicated, eating my six meals every single day, training almost every day. I've had to sacrifice a lot of things. I haven't been partying. I haven't been drinking, staying out late. I guess I can be sometimes very boring husband because my wife and friends, they tend to go for a vacation... I'm like, "Oh, man," because I'm always thinking about training, eating, and just making sure I'm getting better. Vacation isn't about that. It's about relaxing, enjoying each other, and just taking your mind off everything, just relax. I find that sometimes hard to do. That's something that I'm trying to work on, obviously, to make everyone in my family happy.
That's wonderful. You said a lot there. Usually I end my interviews by asking people if they have "any last words for the kids," and I think you just answered that whole thing.
Hafthór Björnsson: Awesome. I'm happy to hear that.