In hot pursuit of the Olympia title he feels is his destiny, Derek Lunsford moves mountains of iron and follows a diet so strict it would make a soldier on MREs shudder. But the engine that runs the effort and keeps this rocket ship of sculpted flesh accelerating toward the showdown for the Sandow is his bulletproof mind. Step inside Lunsford's head, and you may implode under the weight of the challenge he has shouldered. He's a no-nonsense competitor.
His advice is simple—but not easy. Follow his four tips to maintaining a champion mindset and start forging a path to the gains of your dreams.
1. Have a Higher Purpose
"I used to think that just building my physique to become an Olympia champion was enough, but I realized that I have to have a higher purpose for what I'm doing, that there's even more of that in front of me," Lunsford says.
That higher purpose means staying focused on the right reasons, like being a positive role model for his legions of fans and doing everything he can to spread iron fever. To that end, he has launched his own platform hoping to reach as many people as possible through online training and one-on-one coaching.
A higher purpose also means taking the high road on social media.
"It would be so easy if I went online and just started talking smack about another competitor. I could probably double my following. But that's not my path," he says.
If you want to succeed, find your higher purpose and keep it in mind in everything you do.
As great warriors have demonstrated throughout history, there is no victory without sacrifice. Lunsford's strict diet and formula-one metabolism mean that even with refeeds every three hours, he always feels like he's starving. Choosing to be great means that he has had to embrace the solitude of iron and forgo many of the things that other people can't live without. For him, it's all worth it.
"My goal is to be an Olympia champ, and I'm starving more for my goals than for food," he says.
If you're hungry to achieve your goals, follow Lunsford's example. Success is as much about what you give up as it is about what you do.
3. Embrace the Misery
When champions like Lunsford step onto the exalted Olympia stage and reveal the arsenal of muscle they've spent the past year building and chiseling, they're at an absolute aesthetic apex. The only way to achieve that look, however, is with a diet and fluid-cutting schedule that becomes stricter and stricter as they approach the big day until there isn't a gram of fat on their bodies.
"When I reach the point where I have so little energy that I can barely get up off the couch, and I'm so lean my butt hurts when I sit in a chair, I know I'm ready," he says. "That's when you're ultra-shredded."
It's punishing work, but that's what it takes to be the best, so Lunsford embraces the misery. Nothing will be easy about reaching your goals, either, so when the going gets tough, embrace the suck.
4. Make the Gym Your Job
We all know the guy who loves walking around the gym wearing wrist wraps and unlaced combat boots, swigging from a gallon jug of antifreeze-colored fluid and pausing to gnaw the ear off anyone who will half listen. He takes more time getting just the right view of himself in the mirror than he does actually smacking plates. Not Lunsford.
"I want to be a positive role model and will say hello to people who come up to me, but I keep it brief," he says. "This is my job, and I'm hyperfocused on what I'm doing. On the drive to the gym, I'm meditating on the workout I'm about to do. I wear headphones into the gym, don't make eye contact, and get right to it."
If you want to make gains, treat the gym like it's your job. Punch the clock, use smart training techniques, and pump up your results—and save your social hour for afterward.