"The Secret Is Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable" — Meet Openfit Trainer, Val Gutu
Openfit’s newest trainer, Val Gutu, is a self-described “unicorn” — an ex-military, drill instructor type with a cheerleader demeanor that makes working out fun.
Growing up in an army family in Moldova, Val came to the U.S. with the philosophy that the body can do anything the mind dictates. The 25-minute workouts in his new program, Bodyweight Bootcamp with Val Gutu, capture the uplifting, can-do attitude that made him an Instagram sensation. It’s all about simple, efficient movements that improve strength and cardiovascular conditioning.
We caught up with Val to learn about his infectious smile, why fitness is important to him, and the American food item that blew his mind.
Openfit: Tell us about how you started working out.
Val: I was that type of kid that was shorter, smaller, and skinnier than everybody else. I just started developing later, and when I was 16, I developed a complex and started to question myself. I asked my dad if something was wrong with me, and he just told me to have patience, and sometimes guys grow later than girls. So that summer, I really started going to the gym, using the weights, and going harder with working out.
It felt good to have people ask, “How did you get this body? How did you get those abs?” I was just trying to catch up to everybody else. I was just striving to grow up. I worked hard, and I became like that guy everybody was striving to be. It was a cool moment, and I really enjoyed that feeling. People look at you with respect when they see the hard work you put in on your body.
How did you turn your workouts into a career?
Before I came to America, I was starting to get more and more clients doing military-style boot camps. The groups brought so much energy, and I thought, wow, there’s something magical about it when you get all these people together supporting each other. When I came to the United States, I realized group classes are really a thing here, and there were opportunities.
My biggest challenge was I didn’t know English. I had all this energy and desire to express it, but I didn’t know how to put it in words and articulate it. My first real goal when I came here was to learn to speak a new language. I did something super new and challenging, so I think people in my classes can probably relate to that.
How did social media help?
Social media helped a lot because you get to build your own community. You get to interact with people and get their feedback. It also motivates you because you have this army of people who want you to give them more: more workouts, more information.
Social media helped me develop my own brand and style. That type of energy from the community really pushes you. I motivate them, but they motivate me more.
What is the Val brand?
I feel like people relate to an on-the-go lifestyle that allows you to do multiple things, especially with working out with your own body weight. The gym is so complicated, but with super-functional and effective short workouts, I’m showing that you can essentially use your body as a machine. I feel like people relate to that.
I’m also really good at sharing the story of my habits. Little details that make me stay on track to keep progressing and reach my goals. The secret is being comfortable with being uncomfortable, so whatever comes your way, you just face it and have no fear—just courage and excitement. I promote that in my workouts so you can apply it to regular life. Mental toughness is so needed, and it helps with a lot of things.
What is your relationship with food?
I use food as motivation. I always have a delicious meal in mind. That really keeps me on track, so when I finish the week strong, I get that emotional satisfaction. I love burgers, ice cream, and sweet potato fries — just simple foods with no sauces or crazy stuff. I just discovered Americans eat pancakes, so I challenged myself to eat 10 at one time. My dream pancake is chocolate, bananas, and strawberries. I’ll literally eat a bunch of pancakes together as a cake.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
While my demeanor appears tough and serious, once we get moving, you’ll see my smile, and you’re going to see that it’s good-spirited and comes from a good place. I keep it on the bright side and tell jokes to carry you through the workout. You have to find that joy because you cannot be serious all the time. Working out doesn’t have to be too tough. When you’re moving your body, connecting to everything, and someone’s making you feel good, it makes the process more fun.
With the cast in our workouts, there’s team energy, and we use it to connect with the people at home. When it gets challenging, we want them to feel that energy and use it as extra support and apply it to their regular lives. By finding that perfect level of not too challenging and not too easy, you can just have fun. You might have a bad day, but you can always come back stronger and hustle and try to do better.
What does your family think about your success as an influencer?
My family sees it as a great thing. They’re proud, and they love what I’m doing. I’m still trying to explain it to my grandfather. He always asks me what I do. I tried to simplify and clarify that I’m a teacher at physical training.
So, he’s like, “Oh, you’re that guy that makes kids jump around?”
And I say, “Kind of, but with adults. But yes.”
They’re happy, they understand what I’m doing, and I think I’m doing great things.