Marcus Kleveland will be the first to tell you he’s not fit in the traditional sense. The snowboarder prefers freshly groomed snow over a cramped and sweaty gym. Even coming up with new tricks while playing video games is better than the thought of pushing and lifting iron. Given all he’s accomplished at just 24 years old, it’s hard to argue with his philosophy.

Known for his creativity and style, Kleveland will be a favorite in Big Air, Slopestyle, and Knuckle Huck this weekend at the Aspen X Games, which runs from Jan. 26-28 and will televised on ESPN.

Muscle and Fitness caught up with the Norwegian star to discuss why he’s not sweating the gym currently, how he overcame a potentially career-ending injury, and how he’s been able to utilize his gaming to land tricks.

Marcus Kleveland performing a high flying trick
X Games Images

From The Sticks to the Snow

One of Kleveland’s favorite games is I-Illusion’s Shredders. The studio says the game is their love letter to snowboarding and was created with a “for riders, by riders” ethos. Given the absurdity action sports games can have, Shredders is realistic in its approach to the focus being on landing tricks.

“I remember playing SSX and doing these crazy tricks that I thought were undoable,” Kleveland says. “But now we’re basically doing the tricks that we thought were undoable, which is kind of crazy because video games should be crazy. And it just tells that the level of snowboarding is crazy right now.”

All it takes is viewing a crazy trick from multiple angles on the video game for Kleveland to transfer that over to when he’s actually on his board. He also enjoys playing Call of Duty to help take his mind off of snowboarding and even likes to practice on a Formula 1 simulation rig. With another passion being cars, he says he’d love to one day get behind the wheel of a vehicle to compete.

Olympic snowboarder Marcus Kleveland performing a rail trick
X Games Images

No Gym, No Problem

Marcus Kleveland recalls 2020 being the last time he was routinely training in the gym. It had nothing to do with testing his deadlift or bench press max. It was all part of programming to help return strength to his right knee after he had shattered his kneecap while practicing for the 2018 Dew Tour. It’s not that Kleveland is averse to the gym. He just feels the only way for him to get better at the sport he loves is to continue doing it and enjoy it as much as possible.

“I never really looked at snowboarding as a typical job or something that I have to do,” he said. “I love the sport. I’ve always had super fun when I go out. You can do it with friends and family. “Once you start thinking of something as a job, it’s easy to lose the joy in it.”

Marcus Kleveland Never Really Processed How Bad His Knee Injury Was

For any athlete, hearing that you might never be able to compete again from a doctor has to be even scarier than any potential injury. This was Kleveland’s reality in 2018 when his kneecap was “crushed into a lot of pieces.” Maybe it was youthful defiance or that snowboarding had been his love since he started at the age of 3.  But when Kleveland heard those words, he went about getting his body prepared in order to be ready to compete again.

“I think I never really processed how bad it was,” he said. “For me, I didn’t want to let that sink in. It was like, I’m for sure getting back and I’m gonna be 100%. I didn’t care whatever the doctors were telling me.”

Marcus Kleveland says he never doubted himself or got to a place of depression during his rehab. His family and friends helped keep his spirits high. He also played a lot of video games and kept his mind busy. He missed the next two years before making his return at the X Games in 2020.  That year he took home silver in Big Air competition. Given the injury occurred before he could even step foot into a bar, when he speaks on returning from an injury, he sounds wise beyond his years.

“I feel like once you get injured, you just gotta think positive,” he says. “Whatever’s happened has happened already and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to be positive and look forward.”

Olympic snowboarder Marcus Kleveland performing a sky high jump
X Games Images

Nerves Come with The Territory

The X Games is one of the biggest events of the year. Competitors want to put on a good performance and show their best. Even with being a 13-time X Games medalist, Kleveland says he still gets nervous. The nerves are more so a result of being hyped due to the crowd and trying to top himself. His confidence never wavers as he’s truly already prepared from the work he puts in before approaching the starting gate.

“I just try to ride a lot of snowboard before the contest, just to be able to really do the basic things and really visualize the runs that I’m about to do,” Kleveland says. “That helps you to believe in yourself because you’ve done these tricks thousands of times before. It’s just a matter of putting them down when it counts.”

Music from Travis Scott and Don Toliver usually also helps Kleveland mellow out and focus on the task at hand.

Follow Marcus Kleveland on Instagram @marcuskleveland.  Also tune into live coverage of the X Games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.