A day in the life of Explosive Performance trainer Sam Gunther

The site director at One Life Fitness spends his days creating custom workouts that blend strength, conditioning, quickness, agility and more.

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The alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. Sometimes, he snoozes. 

“Some days are harder than others,” says Sam Gunther, site director of Explosive Performance Reston at One Life Fitness. “I would say four days a week, I am out of the house at 5:30 a.m. or earlier.” 

Prior to retail shops opening their doors in the area at 10 a.m., Gunther has already worked for nearly six hours, organizing schedules for his trainers, responding to emails and training with clients. He’s been in the role for just over three years, and has watched the location’s clientele triple in size. 

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“We’ve even added more [physical] space,” says Gunther. “It’s been really cool to see the growth, especially how many new trainers can bring in new people, and to see their successes.”

Gunther got involved with personal training and overall health by growing up as an athlete. He played basketball. He played football. He dabbled in soccer. Then he went off to run track at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia. 

“I realized I couldn’t go hard all the time. It was a full-on project, I had to eat healthy, I had to take my ‘easy’ days easy, and recovery was really important,” says Gunther. “I got a holistic approach, and the more I took advantage of those things, the faster I got.” 

He tapped on the shoulders of coaches and professors while studying exercise science. 

“I learned so much by doing that,” says Gunther. “I was interested in my own way, so I would ask them what they suggest and what things they experienced and that grew into, ‘How can I make other people better in certain ways?’”

Now he spends a majority of the day on his feet with his own clients, working on the physical exercises and science behind gaining speed and agility, having quicker reaction times and strengthening certain areas of the body. 

His days can be 12 to 13 hours long at times, and they all start with that crack-of-dawn alarm clock. 

“From 6 to 9 a.m., I either have adult groups that max out at four people, or I have one-on-one clients,” says Gunther. “I might have some runners that want to come in and work more on flexibility or stability, and then I have some guys who just want to get their butts kicked before work.” 

“Around 9 a.m., I’ll knock out more emails, schedule last-minute programming, grab a snack. Sometimes I get a workout in, but who really knows?,” says Gunther. “And then at noon, I’m back with training again. I have a few guys from my Parkinson’s group come for a smaller group experience.”

Gunther’s Parkinson’s group meets every Monday night with roughly 12 to 18 people. Aside from getting in general exercise, he gets the opportunity to bring in rewarding, helpful movements that focus on fine tuning deteriorating muscle skills and what he calls “BIG movements.” 

“There’s working on BIG movements such as giving yourself a hug and then expanding your arms to be really big, or doing a toe touch, followed by a big reach,” says Gunther. “And then we’ll do some very fine movements, like with the fingers where they have to move each individual finger and thumb, and that kind of throws them off a bit because it’s really small movements.” 

The afternoon means more emails, another snack and heading straight into afternoon training. Gunther works with Middle Creek Country Club’s developmental tennis programs a few times each week, and has steady weekly clients too. Their ages range, as well as their goals. 

“I try to train everybody as an athlete. I feel like everyone has a sport, and I’m really competitive, so I have that mentality anyway,” says Gunther. “Whether their sport is lacrosse, volleyball, whatever, or everyday stuff like, ‘I want to be able to pick up my grandchild,’ or go for a jog every now and then and not have lower back pain, everyone has different goals but our work just depends on what those goals are.” 

Back in September, Gunther also had the chance to bring his training to the professional stage. He was approached at the gym by none other than the Washington Capitals video coordinator, who invited him to run one of the 13 stations for the team’s preseason training day. 

“It was really cool to see that championship culture at the highest level,” says Gunther. “They are not far removed from winning the Stanley Cup. It was cool to see how a professional team runs things and seeing how certain athletes move and test what they can do. It was also so cool to see Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie come through to get tested. I hope I get to do that again, but I was definitely really, really honored that he thought of me to do that.” 

Moving forward, Gunther is always on the lookout for teams that need a trainer or clients who simply want a different approach to personal training. The company as a whole has worked with the Washington Spirit, a few national-level athletes, and were one of the only training facilities authorized by the NFL during the 2011 NFL lockout. 

“The best part is building relationships with clients at the gym. You get to see what’s going on in their life and then also see their growth and treatments. People have a lot of doubts going into something they might not like at all or feel uncomfortable doing, and seeing them lift that heavy weight or run that 5K faster than they ever have before, I think that’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I like seeing them achieve the goal that they had when they didn’t think they had it in them,” says Gunther. 

Interested clients can reach out via Instagram or the company’s website, and get a free one-week trial of training. Just make sure it’s before Gunther turns out the lights at 9 p.m. 

“Some people stay up way later than I do,” says Gunther. “I can’t seem to stay up past 10. I’m out.” // One Life Fitness: 11445 Isaac Newton Square S., Reston

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