Interview with an Athlete: Gavin Westenburger from Gladiator Strength Training

This is the second post in my Interview with an Athlete series of posts. In this post, I interview Gavin Westenberger, Founder and Head Strength Coach at Gladiator Strength Training. 

Give me your elevator pitch. What is Gladiator Strength Training?

Gladiator Strength Training (GST) is an online one-stop-shop for personal training and coaching, lifting apparel, articles, media, recipes, and hopefully this year, we will also be offering our own line of supplements to help our athletes excel. GST has only been live since November 2013, and with the guidance and experience of myself, and our team, we can push anyone to get into better shape, or become the athlete that everyone fears.

One might look at your website and think that you only hardcore, extreme athletes. Is this true? 
All of our athletes are experienced lifters and competitors, but we can get programs and training together for anyone of any fitness level. At GST, we want to help anyone and everyone who is willing to put the time in, to become a warrior and take that next step to achieving their physical fitness goals.

“At Gladiator Strength Training, we build warriors, one rep at a time.”

Gavin, top left, with some of his gladiators, including Huggy Bear!
Photo courtesy Gavin Westenburger

Some people say that being fit is a fad right now. What are your thoughts on this?
There are aspects to the fitness industry that can be considered a “fad”, but being fit in general is not a fad. People have been striving to better themselves since people started setting goals. Fitness in my opinion is not a fad. Fads by definition fade away over time, and I see more people stepping into the 2 gyms I train at these days, then I ever had. People are finally realizing that if you want to be happy, feel better, and have a more
comfortable life, then exercise and fitness at some level is key.

We want to show people that anyone can start as a beginner/novice gym-goer, and after some good wrench time, they can be fit, strong, and happy. Despite what you may see on the webpage, I started out only bench pressing the bar (45lbs). 16 years later I can bench almost 600lbs and people need to realize that real progress takes time.

The only fad nature to fitness I see are the fair weather or bandwagon gym-goers who think they want to work out; they think they want to spend hours a day getting fit, and after a week, or two, or three, they realize that getting into better shape and being fit is hard work and they slowly fade away from the gym.

Tell me a little bit about Gladiator Kitchen. What inspired this? What in the world is the Tuna Shake Challenge?
Gladiator Kitchen was a way for me to reach my clients, my fans, anyone who checks up on the page, and show them quick and easy ways to make good, healthy food. I like to help people when it comes to fitness. I like to push my friends and clients to their next level and another way I can help is to show them good ways to prep food.

The inspiration came from a chat with my roommates and friends about the page and it just kind of materialized. We all thought it would be a good idea, and I just went for it. I have only put out one episode so far, and the next one, which is the tuna shake challenge, should be up this weekend.

So that tuna shake challenge . . . well it is just a post workout shake that only has orange juice and canned tuna in it. I know a few guys who have tried it and couldn’t make it past 2 or 3 sips before they either stopped or lost it. So for the 7, maybe 8 viewers I have right now, I am going to make the shake and attempt, on film, to finish the entire thing without giving up or throwing up.

Why the heck would anyone want to drink that??? Is it at least good for you?

The benefit to the shake is that, post workout, you need simple carbs (namely sugar) and protein to help you and your muscles recover. Orange juice has a lot of good natural sugar in it, and tuna is more or less just pure protein. . Mix them together, and presto! instant top-notch post workout shake. Not sure about the taste…

What type of degree(s)/certification(s) do you have?

I am a certified NCSF (National Council on Strength and Fitness) personal trainer and I am also an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) professional member. I have had my personal training certification since I was a sophomore in college, so 2008. I became a professional member of the NSCA in 2013 to expand my knowledge base and have access to the great materials the NSCA has, to help myself and my clients succeed.

As for my degrees . . . they are completely unrelated to personal training and fitness. Can you believe a meat head like me is also a rocket scientist? My undergraduate degree is in Aerospace Engineering. I also have a Master’s Degree in Engineering and Project Management and an MBA. I worked as a contractor for NASA for almost 9 years before making the transition to training full time (which has been a bit tough), and try to do something I really love as my career.

Gavin The Rocket Scientist Meat Head, right, with some of his buddies.
Photo courtesy Gavin Westenburger

What are some of the challenges you face with trying to get people to sign up for a training session?

Personal training is a luxury item for a lot of people, so the hardest part, even for people who think they want training, it committing to paying for it. Even at $125.00/month, which is what my rate is currently, it can be tough to get people to sign on.

My intro package is an 8 week minimum, because honestly you can’t really start seeing any kind of progress in a 4 or 5 week period. Training, getting in shape, getting fit is the long game. It takes time. I have been in the gym since I was 13. I will be 30 this year and I still haven’t gotten anywhere close to where I want to be physically. I have a low rate when it comes to personal training and building up a client base is tough. I am hoping I will pick up a few new clients in the next month or two as it warms up and people start getting their tax money back, maybe the cost won’t be so much of a burden, and they will finally take that next step to becoming a warrior at the gym.

GST founder, Gavin Westenburger, lifting just a couple pounds…
Photo courtesy of Gavin Westenburger

What have been some of the challenges you have experienced with setting up your business?
The biggest challenges have been the cost, and generating or finding content to populate the webpage. I wanted to offer information and recipes as well as training for my clients and page visitors. It takes more time than a lot of people realize to find content, or generate content (like writing articles and filming/editing video) on top of editing the page as often as I can to make sure that all of my visitors have the newest content

One other challenge has been steering traffic to my webpage to try to get the hits and business I need to keep everything running. Since we went live in November, the webpage has had about 8200 unique webpage visits and is growing daily. But I would like to double or triple the page traffic in the future to generate as much business as I can.

Getting the business running, just like making improvements at the gym, takes time. The mantra is “baby steps. . .”

You can find Gavin and GST online at, on facebook, or on twitter @GladiatorST.

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