Best known for his performance as Game of Thrones’ terrifying villain ‘The Mountain,’ Hafþór “Thor” Björnsson is so much more than a bulky giant.
This year, the six-foot-nine athlete became the first in history to win The World’s Strongest Man, the Arnold Classic Champion and Europe’s Strongest Man titles in one year – something he knew would happen from the moment he started competing. And the mindset it took to get there is a lesson for all.
It started with a vision, but took a lot of hard work
“I always knew, in my hearts of hearts, I would win World’s Strongest Man,” Björnsson told Men’s Health. He was once a member of Iceland’s junior national basketball team, but by age 20, injuries forced him out of the game.
However, Björnsson always loved being fit and staying active. He started working out at Icelandic strongman Magnus ver Magnusson’s gym Jakabol – which means nest of giants in Icelandic – when Magnusson approached him about joining strongman competitions.
At the time, Björnsson was 230 pounds and worked as a bank security guard. But from that moment on, he set one goal for himself: become the world’s strongest man. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, and he knew he would have to make sacrifices. But for him that was part of the game.
“You don’t get to be the best unless you dedicate yourself to what you are doing,” he said. And indeed, Björnsson’s unshakeable work ethic paired with a firm belief in himself not only made his dream come true, but also took him to heights he never would have expected.
Toa achieve his goal, Björnsson had to stick to a grueling workout schedule and constantly eat. In fact, the 400+ pound Viking had to eat 10,000 calories a day – meaning he’d force feed himself no less than six times a day.
Simply maintaining the necessary body weight for his achievements became a full-time job. And of course, the impressive titles he set out to grab, meant trying and failing over and over again. Björnsson competed for the World’s Strongest Man title eight times, placing third and second three times each. Yet he never stopped, not even when he lost by a mere half point.
The right mindset can elevate your life as a whole
That single-minded focus also ended up bringing love in his life. Although by 2015 Björnsson was already a global sensation, his current girlfriend Andrea was not interested. He asked her out once and she declined. She declined the second time as well. But Björnsson didn’t give up, and on the fifth occasion, she finally said yes. They now share a house.
And the back-breaking workouts and constant eating paled in comparison with his biggest sacrifice on the road to greatness: being away from Andrea and his family, especially his beloved daughter. “To me, I am not only proving to everyone that I am the strongest man in the world… now I am the strongest dad,” he said.