Derek Lunsford Shares the Emotions Behind Competing at the Mr. Olympia
An insightful discussion about competitive anxiety from one of the very best.
Anyone who watches how bodybuilder Derek Lunsford carries himself in public likely sees a picture of energy and confidence. However, it doesn’t seem like that’s always an accurate descriptor. That’s because even this elite competitor and former 212 Olympia champion (2021) deals with nerves before the big moments.
On Oct. 13, 2022, Lunsford uploaded a video to his YouTube where he candidly discusses what it feels like before he steps onto a major bodybuilding stage. For an athlete judged by the minute details of his mass and physique, it’s a valuable perspective and, on a human level — it’s a relatable one.
Lunsford’s discussion about his feelings on competition happened amidst a Q&A during one of his usual training sessions. When a question about his potential nervousness came up, the bodybuilder said it was not so black and white. Rather than be wholly frozen with anxiety, the athlete maintained that any stress he feels comes mixed with healthy excitement.
Any nerves Lunsford does feel also aren’t necessarily prevalent once he steps on stage. The pomp and frill around the general moment seem to be what conjure any butterflies in his stomach.
“It’s more the build-up, the anticipation backstage,” Lunsford clarifies. “They call your name, division. [You] start getting pumped up, touch up tans, and then wait for 30-45 minutes.”
In that waiting time, before the lights come on and before he’s judged closely, Lunsford said it might be easy to overthink matters and get in his own head. Though he knows some things are just out of his control. With that knowledge in hand, he tries to stay even-keeled and in a calm mindset about his prospects.
“It’s going to be what it’s going to be,” Lunsford explained. “I don’t get nervous about people watching. I just want to know … when I’m on stage, I’m giving my best.”
What Lunsford appears to actually struggle with is public speaking. The bodybuilder said he’s better at it now than he used to be, but it’s still not necessarily a duty he relishes as a public-facing figure and one of the biggest names in his sport.
“I was so nervous talking in front of people,” Lunsford said of his early competitive days. “My palms would get sweaty, I was just really nervous … You’re pretty much obligated because you’re a public figure. You need to be able to talk in front of people.”
“I just kept doing it and kept doing it and kept doing it. I kept making myself [speak on stage] even when I didn’t have to do it and I didn’t want to do it. […] I still am not super comfortable with it, but I’ve gotten better. I’m not saying I’m getting better at giving speeches, I’m saying I’m better at not being so nervous about it.”
Lunsford might have another significant public-speaking task ahead of him. The athlete is transitioning to the Men’s Open division at the 2022 Mr. Olympia, where he’ll try to topple respective titans like two-time reigning champion Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, Brandon Curry, and Nick Walker. Should he succeed, the bodybuilding world will see Lunsford’s growth in front of a microphone and an audience firsthand.
Featured image: @dereklunsford_ on Instagram