How Celebrity Fitness Trainer Gunnar Peterson Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Success is fluid. Everyone has days where they feel successful and other days where they feel like utter failures. The key is to stay up beat, push forward, and give back.

As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gunnar Peterson.

Gunnar is a Beverly Hills-based personal trainer whose clients include celebrities, professional athletes, and everyday people. Gunnar is also the Los Angeles Lakers’ Director of Strength and Endurance. He is widely recognized for his expertise in functional training and his commitment to developing and implementing innovative fitness techniques. With over 28 years in the fitness industry, Gunnar’s dynamic approach, boundless energy and (sometimes risky) humor only add to the effectiveness of the experience his clients enjoy. With a client list as diverse as his training methods, Gunnar emphasizes strength training modalities that can be transferred from the gym to daily life, from training camp to championship game. He has worked with athletes from the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, USTA, professional boxing (male AND female!) and various NCAA sports. Many film and television celebrities have also sought Gunnar’s guidance in preparing for roles and have stayed on to become year-round clients, making him a cornerstone of their fitness regimen.

Gunnar’s innovative approach and his devotion to pursuing and communicating only the most credible and effective fitness information have resulted in several corporate partnerships and business opportunities. Gunnar currently enjoys relationships with Propel/Gatorade, Adidas, SmartFit, MitoQ, Theragun and SleepScore Labs.

After piecing together countless gyms for clients over the years, in 2016 he officially launched his Gunnar Gym Design company in order to bring his training style to life worldwide, as it is in his Beverly Hills gym. His residential as well as commercials gyms are well received in the US and abroad. In 2017 Gunnar partnered with the Dream Hotel Group and designed a Gunnar gym in their Hollywood location.

He is the developer of Core Secrets, a project done with the Gunthy-Renker Corporation, that is an 18 DVD fitness system featuring full-body and body-part specific workouts focused on strengthening the core of the body. In the Spring of 2010, Gunnar released, in partnership with Giam and Shape magazine, the ‘Best Ever Hollywood Workout’ DVD. He released his first book, G-Force, in January 2005 (Regan Books). Now out in paperback as The Workout, the book is about training, making it a part of your life, creating and maintaining a positive mindset, as well as improvising to keep workouts effective and interesting. Through his own fitness product development company, Outside Shot, Gunnar has created The Bottom Line™, a total body exercise machine, The RAC™, an accessory that incorporates weighted upper body work with Spinning®, and Hoop Hands™, a basketball-specific resistance training aid.

Gunnar is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a graduate of Duke University. He is an editor and wrote a regular column for Muscle and Fitness magazine for over a decade, he is on the advisory board for Fitness magazine as well as contributor to Clean Eating magazine. Gunnar is also regularly featured in Allure, Elle, In Style, In Touch, Us, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, and other magazines. His television appearances include The Today Show, Fox & Friends, CNN, CNN Headline News, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Extra, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Lala’s Full Court Life, Revenge Body and numerous shows for E! and VH1.

Gunnar resides in Beverly Hills with his wife, 4 children and 3.5 dogs.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up moving around and traveling quite a bit. I always had, and still do, a wonderful support system in my parents and my brother. I went to boarding school in Switzerland and then to Duke University. I’m trying to think of something to complain about, but there really is nothing…

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

That was a dream, but alas, it went unfulfilled, so I became a strength coach.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My Mom. From day 1 until today. She is unwavering. I literally believed I could do anything. In fact, I still kind of do. Thank you Mom!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I was playing football in Houston, Texas as an 11 year old, I rarely if ever played in the games. The coach put me in one game (as a lineman, I had a bit of a weight issue) and when I got down into my stance I looked into the stands and saw my Mom, who attended every game even though I rarely played, and I waved to her to make sure she saw that I was in. The coach saw that and pulled me out on the next play and told me I wasn’t focused, etc. He was probably right, but as an 11 year old I was embarrassed! The lesson is to be present, especially in sports and even more so in a team sport so you don’t let your teammates down!

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

Do the work. There are no easy roads. The sacrifices aren’t really sacrifices if you use your time wisely.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I try to always have a lot of irons in the fire! I have a gym design business that is cooking right along, some equipment projects, another book in the works, and some TV ideas that we are meeting about. There is so much to do and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

I focus on diaphragmatic breathing to optimize oxygen intake. It also helps me recover after movements in the gym and it definitely helps me relieve stress if something is bothering me. I’m no pro, always a student, but I feel better every time I slow it down and focus on my breathing.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I’ve worked in a gym environment for over 3 decades and the distractions are too numerous to list! I look at my clients in the eye and I make sure that I am an active listener. When I lock in, I couldn’t tell you what song is on in the gym because I’m thoroughly committed to the exchange I am having with my client. I also take a supplement called MitoQ. MitoQ works at the cellular level to make sure my energy is optimized. Having the energy helps me keep my pace up and my focus dialed. It has taken me many man hours to have this at my disposable, but I know it’s one of the reasons that people come back. Everyone deserves to feel important, especially when they are in a one-on-one environment with you.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Of course. Success is the stepchild of repetition! Yes, there are other factors involved, but without repetition, the success isn’t coming. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

I get up early. I never skip my workout. I have a system for my clothes, my supplements, my meals, my training, my business responses, everything! And most importantly, my wife and kids support me in everything I do. Without them, there is no way I’d be able to move the ball down the field. You have to have your support system in line whether it’s family, friends, pets, co-workers; you need everyone aligned.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

Keep it positive! You wouldn’t let someone talk badly about a friend or family member so don’t let anyone talk badly about you-especially if YOU are the one doing the talking!

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Success is fluid. Everyone has days where they feel successful and other days where they feel like utter failures. The key is to stay up beat, push forward, and give back. I respond to emails and DMs, I take time to get to know and to speak to others in my field. The only time I’m the smartest guy in the room is when I’m alone with my dogs and that’s by design. Although one of my dogs may take exception to that…

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

There are 2, sorry: 1. “Don’t mistake movement for achievement.” 2. “It’s easy to lose sight of your commitments if you are always looking at your options.” They make me stop and think and reframe what I am doing. They are written on the windows in my gym. I try to never stray too far.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would always like to have breakfast with my parents and my brother. And I’d really like to have breakfast with my wife and all of my kids. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s magical. They may not be the business people, VC funding, or sports people you had in mind, but I know I would leave that breakfast happier and wiser.

Learn more about Meditation