Gunnar Peterson To Mike O’Hearn: The Secret to Fitness Longevity Is Always Striving For Your Full Potential

The renowned personal trainer is interviewed by Mike O'Hearn in Peterson's private gym.

The fifth episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show presented by Generation Iron aired on July 1, 2022. The bodybuilder and former American Gladiator interviewed renowned celebrity personal trainer Gunnar Peterson.

Peterson has worked with countless professional athletes, music artists, actors, and other celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Pete Sampras, Mark Wahlberg, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to name a few. Check out the full interview below, courtesy of Generation Iron‘s YouTube channel:

[Related: Interview: Former MLB Pitcher Kyle Farnsworth On Winning Gold in Bodybuilding Debut]

The episode opens with O’Hearn waxing poetic about Gunnar’s private gym with walls lined with signed sports jerseys. O’Hearn basks in the unseen power he feels knowing that it is a place people walk into to improve themselves — an ongoing motif sewn through each episode.

The pressing question that O’Hearn yearned Peterson to answer was: what is the difference between those who maintain their discipline for health and fitness over the course of their entire lifetimes as opposed to the people who are “flashes in the pan” training for one gig? Peterson’s response was succinct:

It’s the work ethic.

Peterson doesn’t differentiate by professional field, sport, vocation, or anything else. He’s drawn to “high achievers” who want to get better for reasons beyond the potential for financial return. Peterson feeds off the energy of those who strive to build fuller lives for themselves and those around them.


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[Related: ICYMI: Watch Terrence Ruffin’s “Most Painful” Posing Routine at the 2022 Cydney Gillon Peach Classic]

Peterson believes that maintaining a high level of fitness into one’s later years isn’t just a matter of health but a matter of enabling aspirations. Being physically fit will allow people to attempt and potentially achieve things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to later in life, whether that’s exploring the world, hiking a mountain, or even teaching their child to horseback ride.

In a professional setting, Peterson thinks being a personal trainer is a transactional relationship with his clients that goes beyond counting reps and programming exercise routines. He is involved with his clients’ lives to understand what kind of training they will need in the near future. For example, when training an actor for a movie, Peterson is aware of the moves they are likely to do in a fight scene and will adjust training sessions to better prepare them for that shoot.


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[Related: ICYMI: Watch Terrence Ruffin’s “Most Painful” Posing Routine at the 2022 Cydney Gillon Peach Classic]

Bodybuilding or Body Destroying?

Peterson makes a point to O’Hearn about the misconception as to what bodybuilding is. In Peterson’s view, training in the gym is breaking the body down so that it can rebuild itself to be bigger and stronger during recovery. That recovery outside the gym is really where “body building” happens. Getting sufficient nutrients, sleep, and recovery is what ultimately serves all the work performed in the gym.

The body is so forgiving.

Compared to the mixed martial artists and other professional athletes that Peterson trains, O’Hearn thinks that training as a professional bodybuilder is the simplest because recovery is integral to the process. Other athletes need to recover to continue training, but oftentimes their sport also requires a learned skill or technique — a cage fighter needs to learn how to throw a punch and control an opponent on the mat, a tennis player needs to learn proper serving technique and back-hand follow through. The closest parallel in bodybuilding competition is properly posing.

Peterson adds to that all the variables of travel and potentially changes in diet during travel for professional athletes who need to move from city to city for their jobs, like baseball players or basketball teams. The way to balance all of that from Peterson’s point of view is to treat training like a diet.

Shoot for 100 percent, [knowing] you’ll end up somewhere between 80-90 percent. If you [think] you’ll end up at 90 perent [and not] try that hard, you’ll probably end up at 60 percent.

The takeaway is that even when you’re unlikely to hit your full potential, behave as though you will.

Featured image: @gunnarfitness on Instagram