By Nicole Brodzik
Lisa Marsh said all she wanted to do was run on a treadmill.
It had been over seven years since she was working out regularly, and as a former athlete, she wanted a way back into running during Minnesota winters.
But then she met Merrick Morlan, and now, a little over two years later, the Waconia resident is about to suit up for her second Muay Thai fight.
“She basically started as a New Years resolution,” Morlan said. “I had bigger goals for her back then than I even told her.”
The two met at Lifetime Fitness, where Morlan was training at the time. Marsh joined the gym to get back in shape over the holidays and met Morlan during a free personal trainer consultation.
“It was just a coincidence that the time I had available and he had an opening,” Marsh said. “He asked me about my fitness goals and I told him I didn’t really have any and I just joined the gym to run.”
Morlan was teaching kickboxing classes at the time and invited Marsh to join one. He had spent time overseas as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and saw Marsh as a good candidate for the sport.
Marsh, however, wasn’t sure martial arts would be a good fit.
“I had never even watched it on TV,” Marsh said. “I wasn’t sure because I have kids to put to bed, but my husband told me, you know, you’ve put the kids to bed for seven years. I think you can go try this class out. I was hooked from probably the first or second week.”
A year later, Marsh was suiting up for her first fight. Her second is on March 4 at Canterbury Park in Shakpoee, Minnesota.
“My first step was to get in shape, and then it was to get stronger,” Marsh said. “It’s more about a personal goal. It’s not about going and beating someone up. It’s not about going and proving anything to anyone else, but myself.”
Today, Morlan trains Marsh in his gym, 3soteric Life, on Shoreline Drive in Mound. The gym has a boxing ring, an MMA cage, punching bags and other equipment for training fighters and teaching martial arts. Morlan said most of his clients come for classes and very few of them end up fighting, but he knew from the start Marsh would be an exception.
“She’s feisty. She’s stubborn. She’s determined. She’s disciplined,” he said. “She has all the mental aspects you need. I thought, oh, that girl should really get in the ring.”
It took some time for Marsh to get her footing in the sport, but she said she’s excited, and nervous, for her second fight. She said martial arts has become a part of her life and the gym has become like a sanctuary.
“This is a place that I can come and I’m away from my family, but I’m also away from my electronic devices, cell phone, social media,” she said. “A lot of time my daily routine is to get the kids on the bus, go to work and then come here before I go home. So it’s actually been really good for my home life, too, because there’s an hour and a half everyday between what happened at work and being a mom.”
Marsh has two boys, one in fourth grade and another in first. She said they are a big part of what motivates her, and they often get in on her training.
“Oh, they think it’s cool,” she said. “They come watch me train. They come help.”
Morlan said kids are welcome at the gym and many of the moms he trains bring their little ones to class.
“We lock the kids in the cage with their iPods or toys,” Morlan said. “They love it. The mom’s do too, because they know the kids can’t get into trouble in there and they can focus on their workout.”
Marsh’s two boys will not be at her fight on Saturday, however.
“That’s where the husband draws the line,” she said.
Even without her littlest supporters in the audience, Marsh will have plenty of support at Canterbury Park. Her extended family and friends will be driving in from her hometown in Iowa and her friends from 3soteric Life will be there cheering her on. She said she isn’t looking too far ahead, but can’t imagine her life without martial arts.
“This would not be anything people would have guessed that I would have ventured into,” Marsh said. “It’s part of who I am now. I would feel like a part of me was missing without it.”