Making the Most Convenient Fat Loss Experience at Phatburn with Paul and Chris

Good morning, Fringe fam. Peter Keller here, obviously, with Fringe Sport. I have the pleasure today of talking with Paul Wintergerst and Chris Jackson of Phatburn. Paul is the CEO and Chris, how would you describe yourself?

Chris Jackson: I am a studio leader.

There you go, I love it. Why don't you guys tell us a little bit about Phatburn? Where are you guys, and what do you do?

Paul Wintergerst: Phatburn is a fitness program in White Plains, New York and Stanford in Connecticut. What we do is pride ourselves on making the most convenient experience for a person to lose fat, and we do that by not only combining the training in our studio with nutrition coaching, but we also have a chef who provides meal prep, which is delivered to the gym for our members to pick up after their workout. When you come to Phatburn, you're getting a trainer showing you how to work out, a coach showing you how to eat and holding you accountable as well as tracking you, and then a chef actually cooking the meals for you, which you're picking up and warming up.

Wow, I love that model. Something that's really interesting, I see a lot, is a lot of people join gyms obviously looking to lose weight or specifically looking to lose fat. What they don't realize is, as we say, 90% of the battle is in your kitchen. How long have you guys been doing this?

Paul Wintergerst: Phatburn has been around for six years. We started out just with friends and family, and then we were operating out of a few other gyms in New York City, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, and then we opened up the first Phatburn about four years ago in White Plains, and then secondly in Stanford, Connecticut, about two years ago now, maybe a year and a half.

I love it. How's the model? Obviously, you've seen some growth over that time. Where do you see this model going? Are you going to continue to open brick and mortar? Are you expanding more online? What does the future look like?

Paul Wintergerst: It will be brick and mortar, so the hole that I see in the fitness industry is there's a huge move right now away from big box gyms into boutique fitness. Orange Theory is crushing it, Soul Cycle and spinning is crushing it. I think Phatburn is going to fill a nice niche of those type of people who like the boutique studio kind of facility, and also the randomness of changing up your workouts with Class Pass and going and visiting different studios, but maybe not getting an actual result because they don't know how to piece it all together. With Phatburn, you can get that experience, but you can also get the guidance and accountability you need, and the food to make sure that the results go hand in hand with the fun experience of working out in a group of people, and with your friends and all that kind of stuff.

Amazing. One thing that I've dealt with personally, and I know a lot of people out there deal with it, is at a certain point, doing exercise becomes either a routine or relatively easy, but the dietary side becomes quite a bit more difficult or possibly crushing, because it's day in, day out, every meal. How do you guys address that stress on your clients?

Paul Wintergerst:  The stress of eating the same thing?

Of eating clean, let's say. Less so eating the same thing but more not eating the chips and salsa and instead eating the paleo-ish or whatever your paradigm is for healthy eating.

Paul Wintergerst: Got you, I understand now. We address the mental side of things just as much as we do the nutritional side by putting our members through a challenge every three months. We actually have one starting here in a week, and that way, people can focus in on a finite amount of time, in our case, 28 days where we expect them to be adherent to the plan and then after those challenges are over and they get a result, then we keep them in a maintenance phase, which mostly just focuses on their workout and a lot more lenient on their dieting and the goal there is just to maintain the result they've got during the challenge. In three months, when you're ready to re-engage and your mind is not as worn down, you can do another challenge and you just stack challenges on top of each other, and that's how we build their results up and maintain them in between.

Chris Jackson: To add onto that, during the challenge as well, we like to really keep track of their habits. However they created their fitness result, how many workouts they did, how many Phatburn approved meals they did, and vices like sugar, glasses of wine. We tell them to refrain from that the best they can, but everybody's human. Whatever you got as a result during this time in the challenge, we track all those things so then when you're at maintenance mode and you ease your mind a little bit and take "your foot off the gas pedal," so to speak, you know how many drinks you're allowed to have and how many of those naughty meals you're allowed to have in order not to backslide so much.

That's why we like to really track them during the maintenance phase, and make sure that the results that they got don't backslide 2 pounds, 3 pounds over, really. If they start going 5, 6, 7, we're like, "Hey, look. Let's have an intervention, let's sit down and talk. What's going on?" Stuff like that.

Do you really have interventions with the clients, like sit them down and say, "Hey, what are you doing?"

Chris Jackson:  Yes. Definitely. It's called a 1-on-1 consultation, and 1-on-1 nutrition coaching. Everything's really around the mental mindset about that. Just today, actually, I was speaking to somebody in an informal manner, but she was a little upset that she gained six pounds so I saw her in the locker room where you had a nice, lengthy conversation, and she was on the verge of just giving up, but we found out what her old patterns were and I just gave it to her straight. Not in a way that's condescending or rude, in a way that's really uplifting and helping, so she can see the blind spots and why she's self-sabotaging. We're all pretty skilled at doing that with our clients, as far as bringing the mental game to the nutrition.

Wow, that's awesome. Paul, this will be for both you and Chris. What kind of training do you give your studio heads, your coaches, your trainers, to deal with those sorts of conversations with your clients?

Paul Wintergerst: We use something here, there's a bunch of in-house, I guess, acronyms and systems that we use. One is a calendar where we track how many Phatburn approved meals a client has over a week or over a month, how many workouts they've had and what extra they've eaten. I'm really against any kind of tedious tracking which involves calories and inputting specific foods into apps, because I just think most people start and stop those things. We keep that tracking process really simple, and then when they sit down with a coach, if they present that calendar to us, we can talk through the logistics of how to begin to coach them.

We then also coach them with an acronym called REEAP, which is Results Equals Expectations plus Accountability plus a Plan. A lot of the beginning coaching in Phatburn is not so much the nutritional nitty gritty as it is, as Chris said, the habits and working on the actual logistics of being set up for success, to eat properly in the situations that they are in for work and for after work and for around their workouts, rather than telling them exactly what to eat, which does come later. As somebody drops body fat and starts a goal of wanting to increase their muscle, we'll have those conversations, but I'd say with 90% of people in Phatburn, we're just really getting their logistics nailed down first. Did that answer your question?

It does.

Paul Wintergerst: The question was you asked me how we train them. We train people ... First of all, we hire people who walk the walk, which is really important to our company and our values. That right there is half the battle, and then it's really just familiarizing each coach with our tracking system and our logistics and how we expect people to perform during their challenges.

Got it, I love it. One thing that you had mentioned, again, you had mentioned these 28 day challenges that you run every three months. That would be basically if a client did every challenge, it would be one month on, two months off, as far as the nutrition challenge. Am I understanding that correctly?

Paul Wintergerst: Correct.

Do you find many of your clients are doing every challenge, or do they more typically do a challenge and then stay on maintenance for longer than that two months between the end of one challenge and the beginning of the next?

Paul Wintergerst:  I'd say about 50%. We have a lot of new members, who always do the first challenge, and then we have a decent base of 25% of our members who do every single challenge, and then there's probably 50% of our members who will do two or three challenges out of the four during the year. They may take one off or maybe traveling or something like that. We do have probably 30 or 35% of our members who actually opt not to do the challenges, and they just might have a different goal of just wanting to work out, or not even having a specific weight or body fat percentage goal or something like that. I'd say 50 to 60% of our members consistently do our challenges.

Do you notice any correlation between members who do, let's say, multiple challenges, and their fitness or fat ... Health levels, and those who are more around to just work out?

Paul Wintergerst: 100%. The people who do the most challenges definitely get the best results.

Makes sense, right? They're the most dedicated.

Paul Wintergerst: Exactly, and there's just a plan and there's actually something tangible, we're tracking it. We can show that.

Chris Jackson:  We got to have a fine balance between giving people what they need and giving people what they want. As Paul and I always talk about, people want to feel like they're getting a result more often than not, than actually getting a result until they realize that summer's around the corner or they got a wedding to go to or their clothes are getting too big or something like that, then that's when they really want to adhere to the nutrition and things like that, or get in the challenge.

Definitely. One of the things that, I come a little bit from the Crossfit world, and one of the things that I used to joke around with people is that Crossfit fools people into coming with the workouts and the camaraderie, and then it achieves a lot of those body changes because there's such a heavy emphasis on the paleo diet, the zone diet, and that sort of thing so a lot of the body changes are actually dietary, but they're the Trojan horse or they're what's inside the Trojan horse, let's say. I don't know if you guys agree with that.

Chris Jackson:  It definitely sounds like that, the camaraderie of Crossfit is amazing, and the workouts. They're really challenging, and I think the whole concept in Crossfit, the instant gratification of performance based training. It's amazing because you get to trace just getting better and better by performance numbers and just by wanting to perform better, you're going to want to eat better, a well, so that makes total sense.

There you go.

Paul Wintergerst:  I also know there's a whole bunch of Crossfit boxes that have paleo type meal plans that deliver to their studios. That's accomplishing somewhat what Phatburn will do. I feel the only missing piece to that is the actual coach, which is the intermediary between the person cooking your meals and you. The cool thing about Crossfit is that a lot of Crossfit people actually are in great shape and probably have an awesome idea about how to eat healthy already, so just plugging them in with a meal plan service makes total sense.

The demographic of Phatburn is a little ... Actually, a lot different. We have more people who might have to come in here and lose 30, 40, 50, even 60 pounds, who are not as familiar with their way around a gym or how to eat correctly, so that middle man of the coach telling them what to eat, tracking them to show it works, and then having the convenience of the chef to cook it helps people start their fitness journey a lot better, whereas this is my opinion, somebody in Crossfit is probably already well down that journey in their own life.

I think that there's a little bit of a mixed bag in my personal experience. I didn't mean to make this call into a discussion of Crossfit in no way, I want to be a discussion of Phatburn. Bringing it back to that, and thank you for that, you, in the pre-interview, Chris had mentioned that there is something that you guys have, the closest thing to the golden egg of how to fall in love with making fitness stick for people who have challenges in doing so. Tell me a little bit more about this golden egg that you guys discovered.

Chris Jackson: What would you say to that, Paul? What would you say our golden egg is? Bringing the horse to the water. You can't really force them, to make them drink it, but close.

Paul Wintergerst: For me, the word is convenience. It's just my opinion that the more convenient you make something, the more likely it is for people to continue to do it. When it comes to fitness, there's so many different things that work. You just talked about Crossfit, we're talking about Phatburn. People go for runs, people go on bike rides, and then there's all different kind of diets. Whatever combination you use of whatever fitness regimen and diet you do will probably work for you, as long as you keep doing it. I think the more convenient you can make it for somebody to work out and eat correctly, the more amount of people will actually hit their goal. The golden goose or whatever, the golden egg that you referred to, I would say, is convenience.

Chris Jackson: I definitely have to agree with that. When you're coming into Phatburn, you want everything laid out for you. You want the workout already programmed. You want to know that you're going to be taken care of by the trainer. You want to know your way around the gym, easy as pie, and then if you have to pick up food and you know if you're a working professional, and sometimes you don't cook for yourself at night, but then you go to your company's cafeteria or you just go to the deli or the pizzeria or something like that.

We make it as convenient as possible, and try to take as much guess work out of it. If something is as easy as that can be for you, not saying working out is easy because when we train, we train really hard. We got all the tools in our bag to get after it. As far as making everything just one, two, three, all you got to do is show up. That's what we do, so that's what we feel like the golden egg is.

Awesome, I love it. One of the things that I wondered about being a golden egg is also community. I love your talk on convenience, but it seems like that, I've seen, is something that could provide a lot of positive peer pressure to help enforce people coming, or have them even want to come. What do you guys think about that?

Paul Wintergerst: The great thing about working out in a group is the inherent bond that you build with the people that you work out with on a daily basis. The way Phatburn works is people just naturally gravitate to a certain time. The 6:00 AMer's always work out at 6:00 AM. We even have a 5:00 AM class, but the 7:45 PM people usually always work out there, so you naturally just get to know all the people that you're working out with, and you're seeing them three, four, five days a week. Funny enough, one of our core values here is family, which we spell with a PH because Phatburn is PH. That's the easiest one because it happens naturally, via our members just being really cool, awesome, amazing people getting along with each other, kicking their ass during a workout. It's one of the most gratifying to see, too, which I'm sure Chris will agree with just watching it.

Chris Jackson: 100%. If you ask the typical client at Phatburn what's the number one thing that sticks out to them? They're going to say probably family first and then the convenience of everything. It's just like how football teams, basketball teams, or any team sports come together. People suffer together. They know what each other's going through and you lift the next person up when they're having a rough time. That's just how everything shines through, so the community aspect is ... It's very important.

I love it. We're about out of time. This has been really fascinating. I've loved talking with you guys. Where is Phatburn going next? You had talked to me earlier about a brick and mortar expansion, or brick and mortar is the future. Are you guys opening new locations? Are you looking to do a franchise model? You had mentioned a couple of boutique ... Let's say competitors or boutique studios that are out there, so where are you going next?

Paul Wintergerst: The first location was proof of concept, which we've done. Stanford was proof of replication. We're going to open up our third studio in New York City possibly even this year, if we can pull it off, and that will just put us in the big leagues, in quotation marks. From there, we're going to attempt to open up multiple studios at once. Whether we franchise it or keep it privately held, I don't know the answer to that yet, but I think we can put a great dent in the northeast, Connecticut, Jersey, New York area, and especially Manhattan where we can probably have 5 to 10 Phatburn's just there, and continue to expand our brick and mortar presence with the type of caliber coaching that we've been giving and also service the food in the northeast. That's the immediate, I guess, three year plan.

I love it. If somebody's interested in finding out more about Phatburn, where is the best place for them to go? Website, Facebook, what's good?

Paul Wintergerst: Sure. They go to Right now, we're offering free trials and 3-day free trials at the moment, so they can come in, try a workout. A coach will sit with them either before or after. We'll actually review your goals, not just pitch you a whole bunch of programs. We'll see what your goal is, and then we'll give you our honest opinion on how long we think it will take you to achieve that, using a Phatburn program, and then make a recommendation of which program we think will suit you best.

Chris Jackson: That's Phat Burn with a PH, so

Pretty Hot And Tempting, right? I think that's from an old Chris Tucker movie.

Chris Jackson:  That's it.

I love it. I'll link it up in the show notes. Paul, Chris, this has been a pleasure. Thanks for spending some time with me and have a wonderful day and for all of our listeners and readers out there, go lift something heavy.



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