"Someone out there is working harder than you are, has better genetics and is simply better than you....you always want to push to the next level.”
As Canada's newest IFBB pro in the men’s physique division utters these words, one can see the mentality it takes to grind day in and day out pursuing a goal that most don’t have the discipline and determination for. This humble man has been pursuing his goal of the perfect physique, placing very well at the shows he has done. Darnell has certainly been a hot topic in the men’s physique world lately. Darnell doesn't believe in giving a minimum amount of effort for what he wants, and this same school of thought is what allowed him to climb up the ranks of the OPA to now achieve the pro card that is coveted by so many. Darnell knows that it doesn’t only take genetics to be successful in this sport, but pursuing your passion with laser like focus is what matters most.
Darnell was always involved in sports growing up; he actually began weight training to improve his performance in Football and Track. “You ain’t catching me in no booty shorts!” were his first words when someone suggested he do a fitness competition; little did he know what the future held for him. In 2010 he became very serious about weightlifting and some friends at a local gym helped him out with basic diet and training principles. In 2011, Darnell decided to check out a show in person, and the rest is history, he wanted to push his limits and take his physique to a new level. Darnell agreed to answer a few questions for all our OPA newsletter readers, and here is what he had to say:
Juan: Hey Darnell! Thanks for being available to answer some questions for our readers and to let us look a little more in depth into your fitness career. First of all, congratulations on your recent win at the North American Championships. We know you have been trying to get your pro card for a few years now, what kept your motivation high and the drive to keep coming back for it?
Darnell: I actually never had plans to become an IFBB Pro until more recently. At first I just wanted to challenge myself. This sport allows you to compete with yourself every day, pushing yourself in the gym, sticking to a diet and making daily improvements in your physique and work ethic. Last May at the Mississauga Luchka O’brien show was my return to the Regional stage and I learned a lot that day. I went into that show with the mentality that winning is all that matters. Now let’s be real, this is a sport, everyone wants to win, but my mistake was letting that type of mentality overshadow the blood, sweat and sometimes crazy man tears that went into that prep. I placed 3rd and was ready to quit with no intention of going to Provincials 4 weeks later. Lying in bed a few nights after that regional show, it hit me…my girl actually smacked me across the head…so it literally hit me. I thought to myself: “I can’t control the judges or the outcome of these competitions, all I can control is what I do leading up to the show and how I present myself on that stage.” So instead of making my number one priority winning, I made it my goal to beat myself. When I stepped on that stage, my goal was to come in better shape than last time. Every day in the gym I pushed my limits and every time I passed a donut I would look the other way!
I went onto Provincials and ended up winning my class and overall….man, I was really surprised. I carried this same mentality for all my shows onward. I was banging out international shows like Mexico, North Americans and the Arnold with a top 3 placing, even winning my class in Mexico. A pro card was never my main focus for those shows, I was just happy to be on an international stage and to battle with guys from across that world representing the OPA. I was very grateful for the amazing experience; it was all about improving my physique and my posing with every show while challenging myself. With this mentality, I kept my motivation high and it wasn’t until after the Arnold that I told myself: “It’s time for a pro card”, so I made that a goal.
Juan: Wow, this is a great story showing what can be achieved with such work ethic. Now, was there ever a moment where you second guessed your ability to obtain this Pro Card?
Darnell: I knew going into Nationals that I would be the guy everyone was looking at, no one from Canada in the men’s physique division was making the kind of noise on the international stage like I did in 2014 and 2015. I’ve never had the luxury of handouts in life, I’ve worked for everything I have and I went about the same way in my nationals prep. This was my hardest prep because I busted my tail with one goal in mind; a pro card. Coming home without that card left me heartbroken and doubting myself. “I gave this my all and came up short, maybe my all wasn’t good enough…maybe I wasn’t good enough.” All those thoughts went through my mind. Getting motivated to do the North Americans was hard but with the support system of my family, my coach and my friends at the gym, I picked myself up and kept pushing. I was helped to remember why I do this and was aware that the end result was out of my control. All I could do is to make sure I bring my best physique the next time I stepped on stage.
Juan: And you have been doing just that, always improving your physique from show to show. What kind of diet, supplement and training principles do you feel have worked best for your body to achieve these phenomenal changes?
Darnell: Diet and training principles that work best is whatever my coach says. There’s a science to figuring out the body and experimenting. I’ve been working with Jason Green long enough that we know what works and what doesn’t work for me. My training programs are constantly changing, shocking different muscles and can be directed to focus on certain muscles we want to develop more than others. My diet took some time to nail down, I get away with a lot and I actually look better when I keep some dirty food in my diet up until one to two weeks out of a competition. I’ve never been a great dieter, but I’m getting better at staying consistent. I use Fusion Supplements throughout my prep and offseason. Even if I wasn’t sponsored by them, I’ve been using Fusion for years now and their products have proven to be reliable and have aided with my development over the years.
Juan: Wow, a lot of competitors would say “I could do that if I had his genetics” or they are always blaming their shortcomings on genetics. You mentioned you “can get away with a lot”, do you feel this is your biggest strength is in this sport, if not, what is? And at the same time, what do you think your biggest downfall is?
Darnell: I won’t sit here and say “I’m the hardest working guy out there”, nor will I say “my biggest strength is my genetics.” Even though I don’t do half as much cardio or dieting as most of the guys I know. The first show I did real cardio sessions for was the 2015 Arnold Classic, and by “real” I mean 25 minutes on the stairs three to four times a week….for the last 3 weeks. When I tell fellow competitors this, they laugh in my face like it’s a joke. But that doesn’t mean I sit back and rely on my genetics or that I take shortcuts. So to answer the question, my biggest strength is my mental ability to keep pushing. Every show I get better, I don’t ease off the gas, and when I face obstacles or “disappointments” I don’t make excuses. I hold myself liable for how I perform and rely on no one else but myself to succeed. My mom would always say that I was a stubborn little boy. Whenever I want something, I will work my ass off to get it.
My biggest downfall….personally I don’t think it’s a downfall, but ask anyone close to me and they hate this about me. You will never hear “good enough” come out of my mouth. I’m never satisfied with my physique; I’m my biggest critic when in prep. Key words though, when in prep. This only applies when I’m getting ready for a show and not in my day to day life. Now that I am a father to a little girl, it’s important when she grows up that I teach her to be happy and content with her body.
Oh…… and Sour patch kids and Tim Horton’s peanut butter cookies are a big time downfall.
Juan: You mentioned you have a daughter, and I’m sure you want to set a good example for her like you just mentioned. Do you feel physique sports can lead to self-image issues and eating disorders? And if so, what do you think is a good message to spread to our youth about competing in sports where their body is being judged?
Darnell: I think many sports, not only bodybuilding can lead to self-image issues and even eating disorders. Even the way social media portrays the fitness industry can mislead young people into thinking that this is the end all and be all. What people tend to forget is that what we do is actually not at all very "healthy". We go to extremes to get ready for a particular day, but to maintain that particular look for an extended period of time is nearly impossible. You need to accept your body as it is day 1 from when you start this journey. Yes, of course you want to grow and develop your weak points, but accepting your body will allow you to have the self-confidence to show it off no matter what condition it is in. I would love for my daughter to grow up and follow in my footsteps, but she will learn to love her body on show day, in offseason, 9 months pregnant and post-partum....no matter what condition it is in. Accepting your body and knowing that you have the power to change it at your own will is a great peace of mind.
Juan: There’s a lot of athlete’s that look up to you and what you have achieved in this sport. What do you recommend for up and coming Men’s Physique athlete’s that want to get to the competitive level you are at?
Darnell: I recommend making sure they are doing it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because you want to be famous in the fitness industry or to impress your friends or some girl. Do it because you love it, do it for yourself. Do it because you embrace the challenge every day to improve yourself. If you do this for the right reasons, everything else will fall into place and you will have a long competitive career ahead of you.
Juan: What are your future plans in this sport and what kind of footprint do you hope to leave in this sport?
Darnell: Simple, I want to be that guy that everyone is looking over their shoulders for. I want to be at my best and prove to myself that my best can stand on a grand stage like the Olympia. I don’t just want to stand there; I want to be a contender. I believe in myself and believe I have what it takes to be one of the best, not only in Canada but in the world.
Juan: What do you feel is the best method to keep increasing awareness for the Men's Physique division? If you could change anything about it (judging, physiques, politics etc.) what would you change?
I don’t think anything really needs to change. Men’s physique has quickly grown and is slowly taking over. Guys look at this division as an obtainable look and it’s starting to get a lot of attention. I do think we need to increase awareness of men’s physique in Canada. The amount of Pro presence and contenders on the pro stage needs to increase as it is currently limited. Look at the long list of MP competitors for the 2015 Olympia; there are only 2 Canadians. That will change shortly, after looking back at this year and the Canadian talent that have turned professional. I can assure you we will be making some noise on the pro stage in 2016.
Juan: I agree with you and I am looking forward to watch you on the professional stage representing Canada. Thank you very much for chatting with us and giving us an insight into the journey of becoming an IFBB pro. Where can we reach you or follow your journey on social media?
Darnell: I’m currently only on instagram, follow me @darnell_dnice. Can’t wait for this to come out! Thank you!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.