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Georgia-raised Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers on fitness, nutrition, and his favorite 'snacky snacks'
LISTEN: Users of Peloton, the exercise-machine/social media company, can choose a vast selection of workouts. One of the company's most popular instructors, with more than 280,000 Instagram followers, has roots here in Georgia: Matt Wilpers. GPB's Peter Biello chats with him.
Users of Peloton, the exercise-machine-slash-social media company, can choose between what seems like an endless selection of workouts guided by friendly, funny, and fit instructors. One of the company's most popular instructors, with more than 280,000 Instagram followers, has roots here in Georgia.
Matt Wilpers is a Georgia State University grad who grew up in Marietta. He recently spoke with GPB's Peter Biello while at Peloton’s stop in Alpharetta during "Peloton On Tour."
Peter Biello: So how does it feel being back here in Atlanta?
Matt Wilpers: It feels so great to be back. The first thing I did this morning was go run in Piedmont Park. And of course, I ran into my colleague Jon Hosking, and we ended up doing a workout together around the oval. And it's so awesome to go through Atlanta and see how — how much Atlanta's progressed. And it's just always progressing and it's really beautiful. I love it.
Peter Biello: Are there favorite spots you have to work out? You mentioned Piedmont Park. Is there a trail that you like to run or bike or somewhere else that, that you return to time and again?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, my goodness. Oh, downtown Atlanta, obviously. Piedmont Park's amazing and running through Atlanta. We used to do a lot of workouts down here, but then I also trained a lot at the Chattahoochee River. And there's a there's a couple different entrances, including Sope Creek and also on Collins Drive. But that was really what set the foundation for me and my running career. And my mom actually got me on the bike there as well, in Sope Creek, and that's how I got into cycling. And so she took us mountain biking on those trails to get us ready to go skiing with her because we — she told us we couldn't go skiing if we were unfit. And so she got us on the bike and put us through the paces.
Peter Biello: When you were growing up here, did you ever have the sense that you'd make fitness your profession?
Matt Wilpers: You know, I didn't see it coming at all, to be honest. I just loved doing it. And I — but I quickly realized during high school and then college that fitness was how I could really get through life, handle stresses, but also study. And it just became a way of just being able to control [and] help manage my mindset, but also manage my body. And I never thought I'd see it becoming a profession. I thought I was going to become, when I went to college — I was talking about this earlier — it was computer science, or it was going to med school or somewhat going into the business world. And after taking physics and a computer science class, I quickly realized that those were knocked out. So I focused on business.
Peter Biello: Right. You were a CPA for a while.
Matt Wilpers: Yeah, at Georgia State, got my degree in accounting and finance, and I was pretty convinced I was going to eventually go into finance.
Peter Biello: Yeah. And how was it making the leap from being an accountant to being an instructor?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, man. Well, it wasn't a straight line. I was working on a bunch of startups on the side, fitness startups. And I just knew that accounting wasn't going to be the end-all, be-all for me. And I had kind of dabbled in going back to school to get my GMATs and get in heavier to finance. And I just realized I wanted to spend some time sort of exploring and finding my true passion. And when I was coaching and working with people that's really [when I] discovered my true passion. That was all on the side, happening while I was at — while I was an accountant. And so I made the transition, worked on those startups in the fitness space, decided maybe it wasn't all it cracked up to be. And then I decided I was going to go to med school and of course while I was doing all the classes to go to med school, all the opportunities in the fitness space started really happening. And eventually they became too good to want to go any further with med school. So I made the jump. But it was tough because fitness is not necessarily that traditional career path that most people take. And I always thought I was going to be the traditional career path kind of guy, and that's just not how the cards fell for me. So here I am.
Peter Biello: A Peloton class for you as the instructor is part workout, part performance. You're going to have — you're having to keep users engaged for, you know, you do those Power Zone Endurance rides, those 90-minute classes. And sometimes there's nobody in the studio with you. It's just you and a camera and producers. So how do you find that part of the job, not just doing something physical, but also entertaining people through a camera?
Matt Wilpers: That’s a great question because at the end of the day, my goal is to get people to do what they need to be doing but make it more fun and accessible. And I've spent a lot of time training as an athlete, but I've also spent a lot of time coaching. So I know both sides and I know that it's like if you get the person invested in what they're doing, you remind them what they're doing and then you structure their time appropriately, you can really make time fly by. And that's kind of my goal is, is to make quality training more accessible and more fun and engaging so that more people want to do it, because I think everyone wants to get results. So let's make that fun and engaging and informative because I know I used to teach in Central Park at like 5:30 in the morning, and the only way I could get people to show up is if I put together a great workout that helped move the needle towards their goals. But I would try to teach them something every time and make it fun and engaging. And I found that was really the recipe to get people to show up again and again and again at 5:30 in the morning.
Peter Biello: During your workouts, you often refer to food as fuel in your workouts. So for people trying to get in better shape, I mean, how much of the effort is going on in the kitchen and how much of it is going on in places like the gym?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, man, there's a saying: "You can't outrun the fork," which is so true. If nutrition's not dialed in, the rest of it's really going to be hard to make progress with. And I made this connection my freshman year of college. I used to — now you get to college, you have your parents been cooking for you your whole life, and then all of a sudden you get to cook for yourself. And at Georgia State they didn't really have a meal plan. So I was stuck having to cook for myself. So I was eating frozen pizzas and all kinds of junk. And eventually the seniors took me out to the farmer's market and got me cooking and eating better nutrition and my performance gains and how I slept, everything improved. And so that's where I really made that connection. And so it's like when I think about that's when that transition really happened. You got to realize, you got to make that connection between what you're putting in your body and what you expect to get out. And if what you're putting in is not what you want to get out or jiving with what you're going to get out, you got to fix that mismatch and get realistic with your diet. Because food is fuel.
Peter Biello: And is food always just fuel for you or is it or sometimes is it still purely pleasurable for you?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, it's definitely. I mean, you can find — that's the thing, it's like we can find pleasure in food. I love having chocolate here and there, but you got to watch, you have your volume. And you have to disconnect, you kinda have to disconnect food from emotion a little bit, too, because a lot of times we think we deserve to have — to have the world from a food standpoint. But if we reward ourselves in other ways, I think that's a healthier relationship with food.
Peter Biello: So is that the way you disconnect it? You find a reward in a different way?
Matt Wilpers: Yeah, I try to find my reward in different ways, for sure. And like, whether it's an experience or spending time with people. It's not necessarily just food. A quick way to sabotage your training session is just to stuff your mouth with junk after a training session. That’s not going to help you. It's going to put you back. And you just spent an entire training session trying to make gains. So you got to — I mean, it's fundamental.
Peter Biello: I asked the Atlanta Peloton Facebook group what they might have wanted to hear from you.
Matt Wilpers: I heard about this through the grapevine.
Peter Biello: Oh, you heard about this! Okay, great. Well, lots of good questions there. You may have seen a preview, but I'm going to read this one exactly as Rosa wrote it. And the question is, "What are your current go-to snacky snacks..."
Matt Wilpers: Oh, my goodness.
Peter Biello: "...besides bananas?" She's using your words there.
Matt Wilpers: Oh, my favorite go-to snacky snacks. That's hilarious. Well, let me think about that. Banana, almonds. Like when I'm studying, those are clutch. I love it. And then let's see here. Snacks? My wife's a big chip person, so she's always got chips around. And so every once in a while, I sneak a chip in.
Peter Biello: Just one?
Matt Wilpers: No, just a few. Just a few. I'm trying to think of other snacks. Really, just fruits. And one of my favorite snacks, honestly, is getting fresh vegetables with hummus. That is like the best snack ever. Do that and some fruit. Like we love having different types of fruit around. Like, for example, I just said, you know, we bought a bunch of mangosteens as well as lychee. I love those fruits. And it's just a fantastic snack. But the other thing, too, is if you have a training session, you can't have like something that's going to sit in your gut and make you feel terrible. Fresh fruit, fruits and vegetables are really the way to go.
Peter Biello: We got this question from Kate, which I'll paraphrase: "How do motivate yourself to run on days when you don't want to?"
Matt Wilpers: Well, I think it's important to listen to your body and understand when you when you don't want to, well, why is it? Why is it that you don't want to? Is it because you had a bad sleep? Is it because your nutrition is not dialed in? Or is it because maybe you're overtraining? And I think you have to really ask the question, "Why do I not feel like this right now?" And sometimes the answer is: Don't do it. Sometimes the answer is don't run. But oftentimes, there's something else in our lives that we need to fix and you have to decide, well, okay, well, if this isn't what I want to do, but I need to do it, then you can realize that the need is there to do it. And one thing you learn in athletics is if you want to achieve something, you have to do it. And a lot of athletes are really good at saying, "Well, this has to get done if I want this to happen. So you just need to do it." Get tough, have discipline. But also, if you find yourself not wanting to do things, you need to you need to look into that. You need to dive into why. Otherwise, it's like, what do you want your goal that bad? Is it that important? Or do we need to have another self-talk?
Peter Biello: Several people wanted to know are there Atlanta food spots that you just have to hit while you're here?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, that's a great question. Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. I hope to hit them but, you know, I am traveling with the family right here. So we'll see. I'll name some names. I was just at the headquarters here in Atlanta with Peloton, meeting some of our engineers. I go, "Where's everyone going for barbecue right now?" And, you know, in my head, it was Fat Matt's when I was here in Atlanta. And so everyone's like, still Fat Matt's. So I'm like, all right, I got to go. And then near the Cheesecake at Cafe Intermezzo.
Peter Biello: I have not had that.
Matt Wilpers: That was so good. I love sweets, so maybe I'll sneak in one of those. I don't know. And then what else is there? Is—? Oh, Flying Biscuit, of course. It's good. And then my favorite, my team's favorite breakfast spot was the Highland Bakery with their sweet potato pancakes. I love — I love those. Oh, my goodness. So that place is blown up since I was here.
Peter Biello: Did I see you get a chance to meet Spencer Strider?
Matt Wilpers: I did. And that was so much — I could talk to him for ages.
Peter Biello: Talk about people who are dialed in to their workout. I mean, he's notoriously great at sticking to it, even in the offseason.
Matt Wilpers: I actually talked to him a lot about his training. I felt like I was interviewing him.
Peter Biello: What did you learn from him or what did he learn from you?
Matt Wilpers: Oh, my gosh, we had such a great time. He gave me a lot of tips on like throwing baseballs, obviously. I want to talk to him about the different grips. I grew up playing baseball before I ever got into running and everything else. And I asked him about his training strategy and No. 1, how he got started. When did he when did he realize baseball was really what he was going to go for? Which was fascinating. And he told me he was 3 years old and he was like, I knew baseball was going to be it for me. And I go, "When did you start first working with a coach?" And he goes, "not until high school," which means he was self-taught through all that time. And then through high school, he was lucky enough to work with one of the top high school coaches in the country. He made a big difference with him. And then we started talking about his training regimen now. And just similar to what we talk about for endurance athletes in the offseason he's going big on heavy, heavy weights. Also working on endurance. But in the on-season he's gotta to taper that off a little bit and focus on more just muscle activation, taking care of what he's built in the offseason. A lot of times pitching and going through games is helping him with his — with his cardio. But he is — that man's training constantly.
Peter Biello: It shows.
Matt Wilpers: He's an athlete through and through. And I really appreciated — how wonderful conversation. He's really dialed in with the "why" behind what he does and his attention to detail. He's going have a long, wonderful career.