Gunnar Peterson is the personal trainer behind many sports and Hollywood stars. The motivational workout guru works on an individual basis with his clients to push them towards their goals of a better lifestyle whether you are Jennifer Lopez or Mike Tyson. The fitness expert stops by to talk about helping Sylvester Stallone for his role in Rocky Balboa, some workout advice for people of all ages, and his thoughts on why many pro athletes still try to take steroids, HGH, or anything else to cheat the sports system.
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Chris Yandek: You are known as the trainer to the stars of Hollywood and professional athletes. What entertainers or athletes have the best regiments for keeping in shape and why?
Gunnar Peterson: “Well, I’d like to think any of them that train with me do. It’s the ones that make the right choices outside of the gym, the ones that do what they have to do in their time in the gym. In the other 23 hours of the day they make the right choices when they are at the table, they get their rest, they hydrate properly, and on their off days they do something somewhat active. They keep the body moving.”
CY: What has it been like to have been the trainer that’s influenced Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaghey and why did these two clients come to you?
GP: “I think most people come to me because I have great parking in LA. That’s clearly a big plus. I don’t know if I influence the lives. They come in and they do the work and hopefully I can guide them through something, achieve the results they are looking to achieve and avoid any injuries along the way. I think a lot of people get plagued by injuries or they train too hard too fast, men especially. Something happens and they derail the program and they never really get off the ground. If I can get people to stick with it and build up gradually they can get the results that they came in after and over time they will stay and that works for all of us.”
CY: You are featured in the Rocky Balboa DVD special feature Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight. How many months did you spend with Sylvester Stallone and how functional was his training, is he strong?
GP: “Well, Sly has trained with me for over five years. This was almost a natural segway in what we’ve been doing together. I heard about Rocky on and off from the very first day I met him. I am glad to see that the project actually got made at the theaters. I loved the film. I thought it was closer to Rocky, which I think is everybody’s favorite. As far as functionality goes, I do a lot of functional work with my people. It’s not just about how the body looks in the mirror. That’s pretty much a byproduct of the work we are going to do. It’s are you able to pick your kids up? Sly has little kids. Are you able to do whatever it is you do around the house or other sports or other activities? Can you enjoy your vacations without risk of energy? We were functional from that standpoint. Is he fit? Is he strong? Yeah. Absolutely. He definitely packs a punch. I’ve held a heavy bag for him. I have seen him to go to town on the weights. He is a strong dude. I wouldn’t mess with him.”
CY: While Stallone exhibited good muscle mass in Rocky Balboa, he was not as defined as in past years and past films. There are examples of men in their 60’s who have maintained razor sharp definition. What happened to Sly?
GP: “I’d like to hear who those guys are. If you remember the scene in the gym where Tony Burton says blunt forced trauma that is what Sly was going for and I think he achieved that. He had a look. If you remember the weigh in the guy looked like a tank. He can be as lean as he wants to be. It’s just a matter of training for that and he trained to look like he could absorb the punches. He trained to look as though he could deliver a blow and would rattle the current heavyweight champion of the world. I think from that standpoint he achieved exactly what he was going after.”
CY: What tips do you have for people over the ages of 40, 50 and 60 when it comes to training?
GP: “Lift weights. Don’t kid yourself with the cardio. Cardio is a necessary evil. You gotta do the cardio, you gotta keep your heart strong. It helps keep your body fat down. If you think you can do the cardio and skip the weights you are kidding yourself. To get the most out of your body you need to do some form of resistance training whether it’s body weight exercises, Pilates, raw iron, selectorized machines. What ever it is you have to lift weights. You want the muscle mass. You want the density so your body burns calories at a higher weight all day long so that it is working for you when you are outside of the gym. It also helps keep you lean because you are burning calories at a higher rate all day long. It’s not just the cardio that keeps the definition there. It’s lifting the weights as well.”
CY: Regarding Sly, were there any injures or any issues when you were preparing him for this role?
GP: “He’s an active guy so he came into a couple of things here and there, but he is also a warrior. When it came down to shooting the movie, he gets in the ring the way he does every day in real life. There was nothing that was going to derail him.”
CY: How is the stuff you prepare for an actor that might be getting ready for a role different from the training of an athlete maybe during the off season or even the regular season?
GP: “Well, a lot of times the learning curve is especially different if it is a seasoned athlete who has had any number of strength coaches or performance coaches along the way. They have already done certain movements so there is a muscle memory with it. As far as training, you have to remember it’s two arms, two legs, a head, and a torso. It moves in three planes of motion and you just have to work from their ability up. Don’t set the bar too high. Much rather set it low, have them breathe through it, and build it up than set it high, have them not make it, and then you have psychologically be disheartened or physically injured. That is the worst.”
CY: From an interview I conducted with Antonio Tarver in December for the movie he said, “We had Gunnar Peterson and I know what Gunnar Peterson puts people through because he put me through it.” You’ve trained other boxers like Mike Tyson, but what kind of physical preparation did you put Tarver through for his movie role?
GP: “I have trained a number of fighters. I have worked with Mike Tyson. I have worked with Michael Moorer. For Tarver, I didn’t put him through any boxing workouts obviously. I put him through stuff that was going to help him have a look. He was having to go from light heavyweight to heavyweight and you want to make him look like heavyweight champion of the world. I maybe trained him a little differently than his regular fight training stuff, but all in all he had to look strong and be strong. The guy has incredible speed and talk about how lucky I was to work with an athlete of his caliber. It was unbelievable. It was fun. He comes in every day with a smile on his face. He’s just a fantastic guy all around.”
CY: Over the last few weeks a company by the name of Applied Pharmacy is now under investigation for a nationwide illegal selling of steroids and there are many past and former pro athletes on the sales list. As a trainer to many athletes, why do you think there is still a group of professional athletes that still try taking steroids, HGH, or even THG when if get caught the circumstances usually ruin their professional careers or image?
GP: “I think a lot of people think they are either above the law or that they won’t get in trouble or that it’s worth the risk. I don’t think they really understand, a lot of them if they do get busted. Forget this physiological downfall and the problems that can come from this, but I think that if they do get busted they don’t realize the impact that it has and how far reaching that can be down the line in terms of re upping somewhere or in terms of endorsements, public speaking, that kind of thing. You don’t want to have anything like that on your record. It’s really not worth trying to cut that corner because you aren’t gonna get that far ahead and the risk is just not worth the possible reward.”
CY: Is the sports society to blame though because we seem to want our athletes to be bigger, faster, and stronger or what would you say the reason this is happening by today’s standards?
GP: “I think it’s human nature. It’s like if you are in traffic, sometimes if you think you can cut through that gas station on the corner to make it through the light and you don’t have to wait and you aren’t going to get a ticket, I think there will always be one or two guys that does that. You just gotta realize you aren’t playing by the rules. Ultimately you aren’t doing the best you can from a career standpoint. You are always going to know at the end of the day what you did.”
CY: I am currently 5’9 and 140 and in my early 20s. I know it’s important to exercise early in life, but what kind of exercises would you advise I do at this point?
GP: “You should have a comprehensive program that includes cardiovascular, that includes resistance training, that includes flexibility, that includes movement. If you are in your 20s you are coming out of school so you probably had your mandatory PE or some kind of activity leading up to entering the work force where there is no more mandatory stuff. You want to make sure your body is getting the movement. You have your brain and your body and you are working your brain every day, but you gotta do something for your body. If you don’t use it you will lose it. That works for your balance, movement, strength, and flexibility. You gotta get out there. You don’t want to spend your life trying to earn money and have autonomy and be able to make the choices you want, but then not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
CY: Finally, what should we do as far as that group of Americans that are overweight and really want to change their lifestyle? What would you advise to them?
GP: “I would advise you to get started. Get started now. It may sound corny or cliché, but I find so many people who are going to start the first of the year, they are gonna start on Valentines Day, they are going to start on their birthday. At the end of it all, no one cares when you start it. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need a benchmark date. It’s not like you are going to celebrate your one, two, five, or twenty year anniversary so get started. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your offspring. You owe it to your spouse. You gotta get started. As far as the Rocky Balboa DVD, kick back and enjoy it because it is a lot of fun. I am working on another book right now and I have my core secrets program out there. I am just training as many people as I can because luckily for me I am enjoying the day to day as well as the bigger stuff.”
Rocky Balboa on DVD is available March 20, 2007. The DVD features deleted scenes, a movie commentary from Sylvester Stallone, and a behind the scenes look of the movie.
You can find more information about Gunnar Peterson and all his projects at his official website www.gunnarpeterson.com