Get in Shape with Celebrity Trainer, Gunnar Peterson
BOYT: When and how did you get started in the industry once you recognized that transforming the lives of others was your true calling?
Gunnar Peterson: I was a big kid. I started to get control of that in college through working out, and after college I added better nutritional choices. That’s when it started to sink in that this was what I wanted to do. It’s very empowering to have the ability to make changes physically without taking desperate measures. One day when I was coming out of the gym someone approached me about being his workout partner—then he asked “How much do you charge?” So I had my first customer. My business grew from there. At first it was just a way to supplement my income, and I thought it was cool to get paid for doing something I was always doing anyway. I got certified, figuring that would set me apart; after that I just kept finding ways to grow my clientele by standing out from the training crowd.
BOYT: What is the name of your gym?
Gunnar Peterson: There is no name. It’s me and another trainer with 5,000 square feet. We do one-on-one sessions only, so there are never more than four people here at the time. We’re the place to go if you prefer a more private situation. If it’s not what you choose, then you probably won’t like it here.
BOYT: You work with athletes and fighters. Who are some of the fighters you’ve trained?
Gunnar Peterson: I’ve trained Vernon Forest, a two time middle weight champion and Michael Moore, a two time heavy weight champion. I’ve also trained Mike Tyson.
BOYT: You travel a lot to train. In terms of mentality and intensity, are there any differences between training on the West Coast and on the East Coast?
Gunnar Peterson: I don’t know if we can break it down like that. I think you can find high intensity and low intensity on both sides of the country. In terms of trends like Group X programming, as far as my experience goes, I think places like Equinox on the East Coast are really innovative and up-to-date.
BOYT: Do you have different workouts for females and males?
Gunner Peterson: Workouts vary by the individual. I write different workouts for different clients every single day. I literally go home to do my homework. I put stuff together based on previous work I’ve done, what they’ve told me during the workouts, what their goals are, what’s hurting, and if they’re a morning, afternoon or a night person. Their energy usually differs during different times of the day.
BOYT: What are the minimum and maximum recommendations for cardiovascular activities?
Gunnar Peterson: I think this depends on the person and time of day. There are multiple studies out there that tell you people have a higher level of energy in the morning on an empty stomach. There are also studies that say it’s better to work out when you have something in your stomach. I think it just depends on the person. There are people who can eat fast food and still be ripped. Other people are diligent with a strict diet and work out multiple times a week or more who find it hard to get the abs in shape.
BOYT: Is there a piece of gym equipment that you think everyone should have if they have a hard time leaving the house?
Gunnar Peterson: If it’s a cardio piece, then it should be something you can actually do. Studies show that open kinetic chain exercises, like running, always burn calories at a higher rate than anything that is closed kinetic, like an elliptical. We know that open kinetic chain exercising is the way to go, but if you tell me, “I hate running. I will never run. Why would I get a tread mill?” why would I tell you to get a tread mill? It’s not effective if you don’t use it.
BOYT: What do you recommend for a 30-minute cardio interval program on the tread mill?
Gunnar Peterson: I would say, mix it up. I would say 4-5-6 and 6-5-4. You would do 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes and vice versa to do a complete 30 minutes. You should do this in three different pieces. Intensity has to be varied from person to person.
BOYT: Assuming it’s a healthy person who is active, is there a line of supplements that you stand behind?
Gunnar Peterson: I don’t have a brand that I back right now.In general, I would say definitely look into a multivitamin supplement. If you have that full-speed and high stress lifestyle, you might want to look into additional vitamin B. Then work on getting your sleep, hydrate and hydrate while you’re working out.
BOYT: Do you use supplements regularly?
Gunnar Peterson: Actually, I love Gatorade. I went to the Gatorade Science Institute and watched them feeding tubes into people’s noses and checking the osmolality of different formulations and how quickly each gets into the bloodstream, how it replenishes the body, and more. I definitely went in skeptical. It turned out to be very impressive. The science behind that and the fact that they use actual scientists make me want to do their program. That’s why I’m doing their 1-2-3 G-Series program. You can work at a higher level for a long period of time—to me, that’s rare. They did a study where they’ve released people to a food buffet post workout and the people who had ingested 125 calories of their product during the workout consumed 600 calories post workout. The ones who did not use the product consumed 1000 calorie post workout.
BOYT: Do you recommend specific food regimes? Should people completely exclude any types of food from their diet?
Gunnar Peterson: I suggest doing what I do—try to eat foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. I also suggest that people take a diet and make it their own. That’s how diets are born—from other diets. If raw foods do not work for you, try foods closer to their natural state and add protein. If you want rice for lunch, then have rice for lunch.
Pre-workout, I drink juices so I can have some calories in me; I do a Gatorade pre-workout. During workout, I do a G2 or a G9 Natural. Post workout, I do live oats with blue berries and protein powder. Throughout the day, it’s different vegetable juices, fruits, and lean proteins. I try to stay away from processed foods and complex carbs later in the day because for me, that doesn’t work. It helps me stay at a certain body fat. I do a lot of stuff based on trial and error.
You try to make good choices more often than not. I have kids, and I know there are just some things you do in a pinch. At the end of the day, I’m only human.
BOYT: How do you balance your lifestyle with training and your family?
Gunnar Peterson: Because of my traveling schedule, I’m with my kids every other week. My oldest started training with me last year. Normally, I get up early at 3:45 a.m. and do my workouts. I see my clients and then I’m home every night by 6. On the weeks that I don’t have my kids, I’m at the gym later. I’ve never missed a day of training. Some days I have intensive trainings and other days, I do a 20 minutes stretch.
BOYT: Who do you admire in your industry?
Gunnar Peterson: A strength coach at Duke University, Sunny Stockholm, gave me a job in the varsity weight room one summer during summer school. Other than that, I listen to tons of guys out there— Juan Carlos Santana, John Damon, Walter Norton, Greg Miele, and more. These are the guys that I see often. I like watching people voluntarily take on more responsibilities to grow and improve.
BOYT: What advice would you give for someone who wants to become a celebrity fitness trainer?
Gunnar Peterson: I think you can be the worse fitness trainer in the world and can have one or two celebrity clients, the fitness industry and media will think highly of you. On the other side of the coin, you can be the best trainer in the world without any celebrities on your side and find it a huge challenge to get your name and opinion out there.
I get a lot of emails from people who say they want to train celebrities. I always ask them why they want to train celebrities. I never set out to be a celebrity trainer. It just snowballed. I say join the fitness industry if you think you have a real voice in fitness and you have an opinion and philosophy you want to share with people. Then, if you think you have a connection to a celebrity, now we can talk. I think that’s valid.
About Gunnar Peterson
Gunnar Peterson is a Beverly Hills–based personal trainer whose clients include film and television celebrities as well as professional athletes. Gunnar has been a personal trainer for more than sixteen years and is often sought out by television and print media for his fitness expertise. He is a founding partner of Outside Shot, a fitness product development company. He lives in Beverly Hills.