37 min read

From High Notes to High Planks: The Sean Vigue Story

From High Notes to High Planks: The Sean Vigue Story

I started working out regularly when I was in college, and like most guys who get into fitness, my motivation was aesthetics. But looking good can come at the cost of feeling good. In grad school, I'd spend several hours in front of the computer working on statistics or research papers and jump right into a soccer or basketball game or a weight training session, paying little heed to proper form, conditioning, or recovery. And I became increasingly prone to injury.

A few years ago, I ended up spending more than a week mostly bedridden thanks to a herniated disc. My physical therapist recommended I start regularly doing Pilates, which would help significantly with core strengthening to take the load off my lumbar spine.

I started looking on YouTube for someone with whom I could follow along, and came across a particularly charismatic instructor who seemed to really enjoy what he was doing and whose videos were always filmed outdoors. He was a stark contrast to either the aggressive drill sergeant fitness instructor pushing you to do one more rep or the dull yoga instructor intoning mysteriously in the background.

Instead, you'd see him gracefully moving through poses in front of the shimmering waters of a sun-soaked Florida lake, keeping an eye out for the nearby alligator. Or you'd see him flowing through Pilates movements amidst a wintry Wisconsin landscape, with snow blanketing the ground around him, his only concession to the cold being his woolen socks. Occasionally, he'd sing parts of a showtune or aria in his deep baritone, or share stories about his parents or his dog or the time he spent in the birthplace of Joseph Pilates in Germany. It was clear that he found tremendous beauty in his work. So I reached out to him to learn more about him and his journey.

Sean Vigue ("Vogue but with an I," as he puts it) is one of the most renowned online yoga and pilates instructors. And the lakes and snowy fields are more than just settings; they're symbols of Sean's transformative journey — one that began surrounded by the beauty of nature and took him past the drama of opera houses and Broadway productions and led to the peaceful poise of a fitness mat.

Sean's path from musical theater to becoming Disney's acclaimed yoga and pilates guru is as unexpected as it is inspiring. The stretches and poses which started as a pre-performance routine gradually took the limelight, driving him to start a popular YouTube channel, pen bestsellers, and redefine fitness for men. In a world obsessed with aesthetic perfection, he champions the sheer elegance of motion, the beauty of mobility that comes with paying attention to the fundamentals of conditioning, and the profound joy of teaching. With him, fitness isn't just about appearance; it's about feeling beautiful and capable.

You can watch or listen to our conversation below, either on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts. Please do take a moment to subscribe and leave a review if you haven't already, since it helps others discover our show. An unedited transcript follows.

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Interview Transcript

Brandon: I'm really grateful you've taken the time to chat with me. I'm a big fan of your work. I found your videos about five or six years ago, I think, when I was recovering from an injury. I think like a lot of guys. I'd like to work out or just jump right into sports without any warm up, any conditioning. Then I ended up with a number of injuries, including a couple of herniated discs. Watching your Pilates and yoga videos has always been really — working out with them has been really helpful for me. So thank you for putting your work out there.

Sean: My pleasure, Brandon. My pleasure.

Brandon: I want to ask you about how you got into this interesting combination of music and fitness. What was your childhood? Where did you grow up, and what did you love to do as a kid?

Sean: My childhood. I actually grew up in Southern California in a city called Manhattan Beach. My dad was from Milwaukee area, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mom was from Iowa. They both ventured out to California in the early '60s. That's where they met and got married in '65, I believe. My sister came along in '68. I came along in 1974. So we lived out there from '74 to '79. Pretty close to the beach. My dad was an aerospace engineer. He was in the army and then on the GI bill. He got out and went to school at Northrop Tech, I think, in California. Then he worked for TRW Systems in Redondo Beach, California as an aerospace engineer. On the side, he started buying up properties, a lot of rental properties, and even a few oil wells. Then they decided they wanted to raise my sister and I in the Midwest, near where they had grown up. So we moved there in '79. But we still had business out there, so I would spend summers going out there a lot and working on some of the properties, and working on the oil wells, and going to the beach, and going to Disneyland. It was a very good childhood. Out in the country in Wisconsin and some of the summers in Southern California was very nice.

Southern California
Photo by Gustavo Zambelli / Unsplash

Brandon: Were you outdoors a lot? Because your videos are --

Sean: Always. We were just talking about that before we went live — that filming my videos, probably 98% of them, I filmed outside. It's the closest thing I feel one to therapy. Filming is therapy for me. But also, being kin. Because I was always outside, whether it was in California or in the country in Wisconsin, running, crawling, jumping, all those things. We have a four-year-old son, and we're up in Wisconsin right now. We spent a lot of time up here. It's just amazing because I get so much inspiration here. Because this is where I grew up, and this is where I did all these, where I started becoming who I am now. Being outside all the time, playing all the time with sports and with friends, and always being very, very active. They were beautiful days before social media and cell phones where you could go out all day long and come home with grass stains all over you. A little beat up but very excited that you're out playing all day.

Brandon: Yeah, I grew up in Oman, in the Middle East. I was out all day, but I don't think I had any appreciation for the rocks. I mean, it was just really scorching heat and sand and rocks. There are beautiful mountains there, but I don't think I paid any attention to them. I just played soccer and usually just getting sunburned all the time. As a kid, were you an athlete? Were you into sports a lot? Would you have imagined as a kid getting into fitness as a career down the road?

Sean: Well, that's funny. Because as a kid, you don't ever think. Adults think about fitness. Kids think about playing. They think about going out and having fun, being in the moment. You play sports. Sports were always very fun to me. My parents are very good. They gave me the option if I wanted to do sports. I did flag football. I played soccer, some basketball, hockey. Hockey was my sport being in Wisconsin. Actually, there's a lake here, not far from where I am right now, called Lake Neshonoc. I filmed by that lake a lot when I'm in town. That's where I learned to skate for hockey. All of us four- and five-year-olds were out there in winter learning how to skate on a frozen lake. I love that, because that doesn't happen much anymore. Now they have an indoor hockey rink here. We had outdoors. Everything was very rugged back then.

That also is why I like filming outside too. I like that the elements can be a little nasty, that it can be a little hot. There can be animals running around. There could be bugs. There could be dirt. Who knows? There's even poop you got to watch out for.

Get a quick workout with Coach Vigue here

But I like the idea of — I don't like setting up too much. I'd find where the sun is. I look at the background. I always have what I'm going to do, and then I just go with it. That was my childhood a lot, too. I can't intellectualize my childhood because it was all instinct. It was all pure joy, a lot of it. I mean, there's always hardships. You have to have those as well.

That's what I had been doing with my son too. It's getting involved in rec programs while we're here. We were just out playing tennis as a family, which is fun. I see myself — I think it's what most dads do, of course — in him all the time. I see my dad — God bless. My dad passed away over six years ago — in him. They never met. But I see I'm the nice middle link between them. How my dad was with me, I'm very much the same way with my son too. He's passing it down.

Brandon: Nice. How did music fit into the picture when you were a kid? How did that come along?

Sean: Music? My parents got my sister and I in piano lessons. I remember I learned the Chinese dance from the Nutcracker on piano. I memorized that. I just played it over and over until I memorized it. It was always The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. I remember I played that in music class in grade school. It was a phenomenon for a day because I played this song, and I had it memorized and everything. I think it basically started there.

I always liked musicals. I was drawn to musicals. I grew up with The Music Man's, a lot of Oklahoma, a lot of famous movie musicals. I always thought I liked the drama. I liked the music. I liked the combination of music and action. Movies. Movies, I liked musical scores. In my bio, the amateur historian, because I really like researching film and cinema. It's something that gets me up in the morning. It gets me moving. It definitely pertains to fitness as well. It all seems to wrap up together. That's why the fitness career seems to be tailor-made from where my childhood came from.

Brandon: For a lot of people who are coming, I would think of — maybe this is my childhood. We had the kids who were into music and musical theater, and so on. Then you have the jocks and the athletes. Then there were separate groups. If you were doing the theater thing, then you weren't really into sports. I don't know. As you went through school, into high school and into college, did you find those dimensions separating? Or were you still able to integrate them?

Sean: That's a great question. Where I grew up at West Salem High School here, there wasn't much difference. We did South Pacific as a summer musical in my junior, then Oklahoma in my senior year. Because I played a lot of sports. I bounced all over the place. I never really fit in with one click. I had a lot of interests. I get along with anybody. So many of the other guys, especially in the musicals, were also athletes. They play football. They play basketball. But we all really love pitching in and putting on a show, because you help out with everything. You help build the sets. You rehearse all day, and you perform. It's so much fun.

We used to do it back in the gym. Now they have a theater, a proper theater, here. But the gym was really neat, this big, old, hot sweltering gym. But you pack 500 or 600 people in there in folding chairs, and you do about four or five shows. It was fun because we weren't just the theater people. We just really had a genuine interest in it. We were in choir. I got into choir because I like to get back rubs from the girls. The girls would always want — they give back rubs. You'd sit there before class would start. Like, oh, my shoulders. How tight was I in high school? I started that way. In high school, I wasn't really much of a singer at that point. I played piano and stuff. That's when I got into college that I really started taking voice lessons and then training in Italian opera and German opera and music theater. That was a little later when my voice matured a little more.

Brandon: Okay. I remember one of your videos is a story about starting to work out because of this girl you wanted to impress. Could we hear that?

Sean: Oh, yes. Well, her name was Becky. Where I am now, it's actually where she lived. It's probably not far. It's that way maybe. Let me flex. Wait. That's the fitness field. It's probably about seven miles that way. When was this? Between junior and senior year, I really liked her. She's very pretty. I didn't really know much about her. I just liked her. I asked her out on a date, and I remember I drove. It was way out in the country. So it's like a 30- or a 40-minute drive from town. My fashion sense wasn't that great. It's still not that great, but I'm looking at my calves because I was wearing jean shorts. I was flexing my calves. Because I was always self-conscious about my legs at that time. I was flexing my calves, and we went out. We went to McDonald's and saw What About Bob. I remember we're the only ones in the theater. I think we had fun. I don't know if we went out again.

I started working out in my room because of that. At night, I would start at midnight. I had a couple of dumbbells and a barbell, and maybe a couple other things. I had a window-unit air conditioner I found in my parent's basement. I stuck it up in the window with towels all around it to keep the air in. I started just working out. I would climb in the bed at three or four in the morning just to go to sleep. I started eating Chef Boyardee ravioli all the time, beef ravioli. I can't eat that anymore. I had it few years ago. It made me sick. But I just wanted to gain weight. I was really skinny. Once you start working out a little bit and people start noticing, it's catnip. Oh, wow. Because I was always kind of short for my age. I was very short. They call me shrink sometimes. And to get some muscle on me, I went to Bandcamp. People started to notice my shirts got tighter. I don't think I ever went out with her again. I don't even know if she has any idea. I've not seen this woman in probably 20 or 30 years. But that was the impetus. I remember I did a video on it. Was that 10 years ago or something about this? It was the impetus for me to start working out.

Brandon: Then you're in college, and you get into musical theater. What was that life like in opera? Were you hoping to become a professional? You were a professional opera—

Sean: Professional singer. I went in actually undeclared. Because the university in town closed their admissions early, so I went to the private Catholic university called Viterbo. It's in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Fantastic school. I was undeclared, so I've taken all the core classes. Then I somehow got in with some theater people, because I'd always done theater. I've been very dramatic. I auditioned, I think, for The Miser by Molière. I got in that ballpark. That steamrolled everything. I started singing. I started taking voice lessons. I played Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro. I played Papageno in The Magic Flute singing recitals and concerts and stuff. I did non-musical theater shows also.

My parents at first were hesitant, because they didn't know anything about it. But once they started seeing a lot of success in the theatre department and music department were so good. A lot of times, the theater department and music department, they didn't really mix. But I went back and forth all the time. I was doing theater shows and directing and playwriting. Then I would go up to the fourth floor and mingle with the music majors and sing, and take lessons, and do recitals, and do opera. It's that kind of classical education model. I'm actually studying a lot right now in regards to my son, classical education. I naturally gravitated towards that in a way, just soak up as much as you can. In the world of theater, if you're going to go professional, you just have to have an arsenal in you. The better you can sing, the better you can move, carry yourself. And you want, like any great profession, longevity. That's where the fitness came in as well.

Brandon: Right. Because you were, if I recall, you had to dance. Then you need to figure out.

Sean: I wasn't a natural dancer. I just never thought that way. It was a park and bark, where you stand and you sing. Park and bark. I had a girlfriend. I did summer theater up in Bigfork, Montana a couple of times. She just said, "You have heavy feet." She was right. My feet were just heavy. I never realized that. In the world of fitness now, it's all about awareness, body awareness. I had very heavy feet. I had worn Dr. Martens all the time. There are always thumping around on the stage. Mentally, once I was ready for it and then you want to be a triple threat — sing, act, and dance. You want to be very cohesive — then it started to open up for me.

Brandon: Okay. It was around this time you got into Pilates, right? How did that happen?

Sean: I used to go to New York a lot. Because my best friend, Peter, he still has a place on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. I met him doing theater in Montana at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse. He was just texting me before I started this podcast. He's in New York with his girlfriend. I used to take a lot of dance classes when I was in New York. I'd go there to audition, see a lot of friends, a lot of girlfriends and stuff. I would go to Broadway Dance. I forget the exact address. I used to enter the arc I think over there. I'm trying to think of these trains. I would get up every morning, take over there, and then walk back through Central Park. It was in those classes that we would do sometimes a yoga style warmup, also with some Pilates. That's the first time I heard about it. At that time, they had a Pilates class at Broadway Dance. This was probably back 1999, 2000 around then when I first started going to New York quite a bit.

Broadway musical Hamilton
Photo by Sudan Ouyang / Unsplash

Brandon: Walk us through your journey of this. Because you were doing theater professionally, right? You're performing night after night. How did you go from there to then starting to teach Pilates and yoga? What was that?

Sean: Well, I always did fitness. I like the old, what do you really want to do? Well, go buy a magazine rack and what do you grab first? What do you grab second? What do you gravitate towards? For me, it was always Entertainment Weekly. That's theater and fitness magazines. I like those two together. When I was doing theater a lot, I always would go to the gym. You see, theaters would provide a free gym membership. So I would do that. Squeeze it in whenever I could. I made it the habit. I want to go to the gym. But that was before I even started doing Pilates and yoga, really. I just did bench and squat and lifted heavy. I was about 25 pounds heavier than I am now.

But it was doing "West Side Story"s. I did a lot of "West Side Story"s, which if you know is a lot of dancing, a lot of fight choreography, a lot of jumping around. You're doing sometimes two shows a day, nine shows a week. That's when I started. I remember going on the stage. It was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at the Dutch Apple Theater. Going on stage, the curtain was down. I was doing stretches before the show. I'd never done that before, stretches and also some core work which is maybe a little Pilates-based. Then I started studying Pilates a little bit more. Then I would start doing little classes with some of the other cast members wherever I was working. Because when you're doing shows like this, especially if you're doing a repertory, you're doing maybe four shows in rep over a summer. So every night is a different one. You're in rehearsals a lot during the day. Is this the recipe for disaster if your body is tight, if you're not singing properly, if you're not getting enough sleep, not taking care of yourself? I mean, I was in my 20s. I'm 49 now. So 24 or 25, even then, people get injured all the time. Pilates and yoga, stuff like that, you could do it anywhere. So I started doing those kinds of classes with some of the cast members.

Brandon: You then yourself have to deal with injuries?

Sean: I had a back injury doing Fiddler on the Roof at Actor's Playhouse in Coral Gables. That was back in 2004. I was the Russian. I always played the Russian in Fiddler on the Roof Fyedka. Do you know Fiddler?

Brandon: Yeah.

Sean: It's a long musical. It's a classic. But Fyedka is nice because he's not on stage a lot. But when he is, he sings and he takes one of the daughters away. But we're doing that Russian dance where you cross your arms and you're down and up, down and up. Some popped in my lower back. For a whole week, I was laid out. I just laid around with pillows all around me. I was 29 years old. I wasn't very old. But that was a big one. It's funny. It was after that.

The Pilates for Athletes book that I wrote a couple years ago, the whole intro is about that injury and how I could do some massage, I could do this. But unless I took it into my own hands, it wasn't going to get better. That's when I really discovered Pilates and doing it myself. Up to then, I had not done a lot of core work. I did more weight training, which is great. But I hadn't worked the center: the abdominals, lower back, hips and glutes. So that's how I segwayed into Pilates — to get me up and running again.

Brandon: I also recall you had gone to Germany, to the town where Joseph Pilates is from, is that right?

Sean: I was. I didn't know. That was Mönchengladbach in Germany. I went there to teach English for Berlitz, because I studied German for a while. I went to Cologne to learn how. I taught for a little bit, and then I came back. I didn't know that's where he's from. I hadn't really done Pilates. It was back in early 2000s before I had really gotten into it. It was 2004 when I injured myself. So it's just 2003 I think, summer of 2003. Wow. That was 20 years ago. It was when Attack of the Clones came out. Because I went and saw Angriff Der Klonkrieger. That was the German one. I saw it in Dusseldorf. I think it was in English. Everyone drank beer in the theater, which I thought was really fun. Of course, it was Germany. But yeah, I went over there for a bit trying to find myself, like we're doing all the time. But then I came back. That's when I jumped back into theater, I think. Then I jumped into teaching not long after that, maybe a couple of years after that. I started setting myself up for that.

Brandon: Did you have to put a stop to your theater career and say this is not happening?

Sean: When I went to Germany?

Brandon: No, I suppose between when you start getting introduced to Pilates and start doing this seriously and then starting to teach. What happens to your music career at this point? Did you make a conscious decision to stop that?

Sean: The nice thing is that contracts usually last three to four months. So you can do a contract. The goal was, for a long time, for many years, just to work. Once you stop maybe a couple of weeks off to go see my parents or go to New York, do something, and then jump into another theater, another contract. But I started off as a personal trainer. I did that. I took my test to Miami. I was actually doing another production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, Florida. I like to shout out these theaters. Because a lot of them are still there. They're still cooking. I did that. In the evenings, I was studying for my personal trainer exam through ACE. So I went down to Miami and took that test.

Once I stopped that contract — that was a four-month contract with Hollywood Playhouse. It was great — and then I went and personal train for a few months at a club called Club Fit down in Fort Lauderdale. I did that, which was very different because I just stopped cold. I've been doing theater for about 10 years and extreme. Then I went to the gym, and I did that. Then I moved up to Orlando area. Then I would jump back and forth. I did stuff with Orlando opera and then I personal train. Then it was in Central Florida where I start, I got certified for Pilates and yoga.

Brandon: Then was it teaching fitness from that point on, or did you continue to do music?

Sean: I started taking the classes, and I did some certification. Actually, what I first taught was spinning, indoor cycling. I did that, a few classes. The manager at, it's used to be called Celebration Health, she fired me. I still don't know why. She fired me over a voicemail. Pissed me off. This is a Vigue thing. My dad is the same way. I thought, well, this is just going to really embolden me to see what else I can do in this fitness business. I just started off. I mean, personal training is one thing. But leading a class, a spinning class, is different. You're in front of people. I was eventually hired back there, actually. I taught some yoga there and Pilates. I taught spin for a number of years. But yeah, I was fired. They fired Coach Vigue. I still don't know why. I remember I called her back. She would not talk to me. She ran from me. I was nothing but professional and polite. I went and talked to her bosses and everything. Like here's the deal. But that was the drive to get me certified in Pilates and yoga. Then I went over to Disney World. Then everything just exploded after that.

Magic Kingdom
Photo by Cody Board / Unsplash

Brandon: Yes, say more about it. You were teaching at Disney?

Sean: Actually, it was the woman who fired me who recommended. I talked to this guy who managed a gym over at Team Disney, where my wife used to work. It's a huge building. It's also called Mousecatraz because it's just massive. It's right across the street from Downtown Disney which is now Disney Springs. I went over there, and I talked to him. We set up I think a Pilates class. I started teaching that. That was the end of 2005. No one came to the first class. One lady came to the second one. I celebrated by going to Target buying some DVDs. Then there was the Christmas break. I came back early January, and 15 people showed up. A whole bunch of them were from Animal Kingdom. They were salary cast members. They said, "We love you. Come on over here to Animal Kingdom Cast Services." So I did that.

Then I got into cast activities through Walt Disney World. They put me on Disney University feature animation, Imagineering. I taught there for a few years. I would go once or twice a day and do a class for the cast members. I would do some fitness conferences for them sometimes. I did that for about nine years at Disney. I got in trouble once because of a video. I don't remember saying it, but I said, "Hey, I'm Disney's yoga and Pilates guy." Someone saw that. He said you can't say that. So I had to put a little disclaimer on it. It's like, I'm not really. I don't remember saying that. But the Disney lawyers wanted to have a talk with me. I'm like, I don't want that. I can just say I'm an outside vendor. It was phenomenal. I even did lunchtime classes a lot. They were like three-month contracts. You do a class of three months. You go find a conference room. Everyone clears all the desks and chairs to the side. You do it. Put them back, and you leave. It's a wonderful experience.

Brandon: You weren't doing theater or music at this time at all?

Sean: I didn't have time for it. No, I don't think I was — I started doing videos in 2009. I started teaching at Disney around that time too, I think. So everything was in its early gestations, kind of feeling every edge, still feeling everything. What can I do with this? YouTube was still pretty young. We didn't have the capabilities we have now for all these live videos. There were some live videos, but the quality was so bad. I didn't know how to market them. But I think, Brandon, in the last 20 years, I've tried about everything. I've had a good time seeing what works and seeing what doesn't.

Brandon: Did you miss theater and music?

Sean: I did. But doing fitness does fulfill a lot of those needs that I have. To be in front of people and to teach people is very neat. It's an interesting job. If you say do this, then everybody does it. You scratch your nose, and half the class scratches their nose. If I do that today, I think I'm like oh, I itch back in my head, and half of them will stretch, triceps stretch. Oh, I'd flex my arm. Here we go. But I do miss it sometimes. I was getting burned out. You can't do something so long. The way I am is, I jump headfirst into it. I never just did a show here and there. I worked all the way through. Even when I wasn't working, I was learning new repertoire. I was taking dance classes. I was keeping myself in shape, networking, which is probably the most important thing if you want to keep working. It's networking. I slept. What is it? I ate, drank and slept theater for about 12, 13 years.

Brandon: How would you evaluate that? There are a lot of people who — my wife, her background is in opera performance.

Sean: Really?

Brandon: She got burnt out by the end of college. She just felt it was just too — I don't know. She didn't perform professionally. But it's a difficult world for a lot of people. Were you thriving in it?

Sean: Well, one thing is, I sang opera but I didn't do opera. I did some. I did do opera like Orlando opera. I did some okay smaller roles with them. I sing around. The opera world is brutal. I used to subscribe to Opera News. What voice type is your wife?

Brandon: Soprano.

Sean: Soprano. Was she interested at the time before she got burned out taking it into the professional world?

Teatro La Fenice, VE, Italy
Photo by Giusi Borrasi / Unsplash

Brandon: Yeah, the thing that really, one of the things — there were many things that discouraged her from going forward. One of them was just being on the road all the time and not getting to — she was like, how am I going to? I want to start a family. I don't see how that's compatible with this. She knew friends who were in a different city every week, and that wasn't appealing to her. But then, there was also just a lot of nepotism. In order to get the role you wanted, you had to suck up to this person or sleep with that person. I mean, that was the kind of environment. So, she was like, I don't know.

Sean: Oh, yeah. Some of that has come out recently, I've heard. It's brutal because it demands such perfection. I mean, Pavarotti was booed. He was booed at La Scala. I mean, that's just the Italians, I think. But he cracked on a high C, and they booed him. They booed Roberto Alagna. That's just how it is. I mean, that's how the opera world is. I read Opera News. Just the reviews and like, oh, it was an amazing performance. But boom, boom, boom, boom. But that's the critique.

One of my best friends, I'll actually get to see him tomorrow. His wife is from St. Petersburg, Russia. She's a professional opera singer. I love talking to him about the world of opera. Because he used to work with a lot of operatic bases from Russia. He would bring them to Europe in the states to perform. So I'd like to bend his ear because I'm fascinated by the opera world. I know it's something I would never want to go into, because my mind is not that exact to just have to put that out all the time. I adore opera though. I've been teaching my son about classical music and opera. We play these fun CDs or albums where they've put fun lyrics with classic melodies. Then we just listen to the melody after that. I love that. I love getting those into his brain.

Brandon: Well, you did a fantastic job. Your fitness videos, I find them very entertaining because you have this. The theater background is very, very clear. You've almost got an improv sensibility because you come up with really witty funny things all the time.

Sean: Hopefully. Sometimes, I just talk. I don't know what I'm saying, but I'm glad you like it. Whenever I hit record, I just talk like I normally would.

Brandon: Yeah, it feels like going out for a run with a friend or something. That's what it's like, which is what I find compared to like, alright, next set. Next reps. There's more than just the fitness. There's this almost self-disclose. I learned about your life. I learned about Addy, about your son, about your parents.

Sean: Oh, Addy. I'm just chomping at the bit. I have a regulator in my head that's on all the time when I film. But how much should I say? I'm always living in the past, present, and future when I film all the time. Because I'm in the past, I'm thinking, okay, where were we? Then present, what are you doing now? Where do you want to take this? Then also, how much do I want to say about what we're doing? How much do I want to talk about things that just popped into my head? Because the movement sparked so much imagination and creativity with me. I don't know if it's like that with everybody. But when I move, my brain just explodes. I have all these great ideas, and I want to talk about things.

It's Sean Vigue Fitness. I'm not part of some larger corporation or something. It's my name with fitness at the end. So once a while, some will say, "You talk too much." No, I talk exactly as much as I am supposed to. If I don't talk much, everyone is like, "Why aren't you talking?" I want to talk. I want to share things. I want to share anecdotes. As you said, I want people to think like they know me. I don't have any affectations. I'm not going to feed you a bunch of BS about yourself. I don't know you. I'm just going to talk about life and challenges and inspirations.

Brandon: It's great. How did the books come about? How did you decide to start writing?

Sean: I was in the parking lot at Disney University to go in to teach. I got an email from Fair Winds Press. I had never thought about writing a book. They reached out to me and said, "Hey, we have this idea for a yoga for athletes book. We're looking for an author. We kept doing searches of yoga for athletes and such, and you kept popping up." They want to talk to me. Then the next item rolled back. I'd never thought about writing a book. I talked to Jessica — she was great— on the phone. We got it set up, and that led to my first major book.

Then I started also writing eBooks. I went through a period of a year where I cranked out about five or six of them. Then I got Pilates for Athletes. It was with another major publisher called Hatherleigh Press. I did that. I never thought I would write fitness books. That was a nice little add-on. But it encapsulates everything I've done. You take everything you do, and put it onto parchment. You put it onto a book. If you want to see a representation of what I do here, here's one of my books.

Brandon: How was the writing process for you? A lot of people struggle with writing. But did that come naturally? How was it for you?

Sean: Well, if you have a good editor, it's okay. I write like I talk, which is good. My grammar, my syntax or grammar can suffer a little bit. But they want my voice for the book. I'm not that wordy. I like to get right to the exercises. I can write stuff. I know there's other fitness books out there where people will spend 20 or 30 pages talking about their journey. I'm like, who reads that? I don't even think your family members would read that, because you probably tell it to them all the time. So I like to just get right into it and say, "You want this? Do this. You want this? Do this." Because it's the movement that does the real speaking.

I adore having books. I like having something physical in a digital world. The books are also digital. I was at Barnes and Noble actually yesterday. I dropped my son off at karate camp. Then I popped over there, because I know the manager. They always have me come in and sign books here in La Crosse. He's John. Shout out to John at Barnes and Noble and McCraw. He's fantastic. He's like, "Do whatever you want. Go film." I'd take the books, and I went to the stage in the children's area. Nobody was there. I don't film when anyone's around. But then, I was getting ideas to do these fun videos. They had a couple of my books there. So I was doing that. It's a nice other facet to the Sean Vigue Fitness brand. That's the theater part, too. If you want to bring some of the theater in, just doing things with the books, filming little short videos.

Brandon: How has this been for you, getting onto YouTube and getting a following there, that whole process of filming? I suppose, would you call this mode of working beautiful? Is there beauty in it for you?

Sean: Oh, yeah. I like your podcast title, Brandon. I like that. I mean, how often do we really look for beauty in things? I tell my son that all the time. Always be thankful. Be thankful all the time. I said it's a beautiful day. Look at this, if he's complaining about something. And I say it for myself too. But I find, in its own way, the movement, the creativity behind it.

Years ago, it wouldn't make any sense. I'm going to film this workout video, and I'm going to upload it to a place called YouTube or wherever. And somebody over in Australia, or Japan, or Italy is going to do it with me. They're going to do it, and then they're going to comment about it. If I see it, maybe I'll answer their comment. Back in the day, in grade school, we were taught to write a little letter and tie it to a balloon. We'd all let the balloons go. And no one ever wrote me back. I always pictured my balloon was stuck in a swamp somewhere. We're up in Wisconsin. Somebody's got somebody in Florida. I'm like, wow, that's amazing. That's why I love doing — I was telling my wife this podcast, like this. Because it's so great to talk about. Because there's not a lot of people who do this online fitness thing. There's only a handful of us. I'm friends with a lot of them. That's why I love talking with them, too. Because it's such an interesting way to make a living or a partial living. But yeah, I see beauty in that Lake Neshanoc behind me yesterday. I filmed, and I just stood there for a couple minutes and had all these memories. I just love it up here. I keep pushing it, but I don't want to go back to Florida. I like being up here with the hills and the streams and everything. It's quiet, too.

Lake Neshanoc
Photo by Snejina Nikolova / Unsplash

Brandon: Yeah, this was one of the things that really struck me about the videos that you do. It's that you're sharing not just the beauty of movement, which I think is also really important, and of conditioning and flexibility and these things which we neglect. If we're focused on just sort of fitness for the sake of aesthetics or just trying to compete, I think it's neglected. But then, the beauty of nature comes through and then you were having fun doing this. Do talk about the conditioning aspect and the movement aspect too. Because you mentioned it a lot in your videos on how important it is to feel healthy. There's so much emphasis it seems in the fitness industry more generally just on the aesthetic aspects, right? What is it about that?

Sean: Well, I live and die a lot on inspiration, which gets me into trouble too. I have to work on balance. Balance is very important, balance in the brand. Because sometimes you love it so much, you can't stop. It's like, no, I got to pull back for a bit. I do strength training. I'm a guy. I like to see the muscles pop out. That's why I started working out. It was to impress a girl. I just turned 49 a little over a week ago, and I've always liked feeling good. It goes back to being a child, to being a kid and running, jumping, playing. I just wrote out a new series. I've been dabbling — dabbling or dabbing? Dabbling. I got a series of videos for new dads, or dads in general but especially new dads. Because I get so many emails and comments, Brandon, from dads. Like, "Oh, I tweaked my back lifting my child because the baby—" Do you have children?

Brandon: I have six children.

Sean: Why am I telling you? I have two. Well, if you count Addy. How do you even have time to do this? Wow. That's incredible.

Brandon: I have no hobbies. So this is it. So, yeah.

Sean: This is good. This is your free time. Well, congratulations. That's wonderful.

Brandon: Thank you.

Sean: Six. Wow.

Brandon: But you know, it's partly the reason why I'm following your videos and so on. It's just so that I can pick up my kids and not injure myself as I—

Sean: You don't know what you're going to do with them. I was just writing out a series last time. Okay. If you like to run better with your child, do this exercise. There's Dane right outside the door. To crawl better, to jump better. I was going to do some short videos with him. He likes to film with me a lot. His attention span may go, but I'll grab them while I can. That's a big niche. I have a huge niche with workouts for men, yoga for men, Pilates for men. So I want to bring that into dads as well.

Authors, you say, write what you know a lot, which doesn't always make sense. Because George Lucas wrote Star Wars. What the hell did he know about outer space? He made it all up. But you write what you're experiencing because that's what you're passionate about. I like to get my son involved too, healthy living, healthy movement. What was the question? I was zoned out. My son was—

Brandon: Yeah, I don't know. Just about the contrast between the emphasis on mobility and conditioning versus the dominant emphasis on the aesthetic aspects.

Sean: What I teach enables people to move much more cohesively and fluidly into the aesthetic aspect. Because aesthetic comes more with the weight training, with the HIT training, the cardio training, the intense stuff. So my basis, what I do, what I tell people is, make your basis core strength and flexibility training. Because that will enhance anything else you do — anything, from powerlifting to gardening. It will enhance that if you have a strong center and a pliable, mobile body.

Brandon: Yeah, that's great.

Sean: And there's the beauty, right? Is that the beauty?

Brandon: Yeah, definitely, certainly. I think that feeling human. I mean, not human in the sort of broken sense, but in our capacity for strength and flexibility and so on is crucial. I'd be curious to know. Just with yoga and Pilates, there's also ways of getting in touch with your body and then with breath and more of a sense of presence. Some people have a spiritual aspect to yoga in particular. Does that matter for you? How does that feature into what you're doing?

Sean: They can. The nice thing is, I tell people. I'm a Christian, so I pray a lot when I train on my own. I just pray and always give thanks for that. I tell people it's movement. The movement can unlock whatever you want it to unlock. I can't control that. Only you can bring that in. You can take it as far as you want. You can keep it as just a merely physical workout. You can make it a mental workout. You can make it a spiritual workout. I am merely a guide. I have my own uses for it, which can fluctuate as well. I get comments like, "Thanks for not bringing in such and such." I'm like, well, I'm not going to preach at you. I don't do that. Some fitness instructors get preachy about things. I'm like, no, I stay away from that. You could buy me a drink. I'll tell you what I think about things. But I'm not going to do it in a class. I like to keep it very neutral. Take it as far as you want. Take it wherever you want. Just don't hit the person next to you.

Brandon: Right. For people who have not really spent much time trying out yoga or Pilates, what would you recommend? How would you distinguish them? Who should try what? Are there any tips you have for people who have not really pursued either of these?

Sean: Well, if you've never done it, it just depends on what you're comfortable with. We have YouTube. I mean, there's no shortage of online instructors, I would say. Find my stuff and go to YouTube. Just type in Sean Vigue, my name. Vogue with an I. Write in what you want. You want beginner stretch? You want beginner core? You want beginner yoga? You can find it. There's multiple workouts. There are so many different ones. You could scan through it, watch it first.

Photo by Anupam Mahapatra / Unsplashyoga

Really, that's what's nice about it. What I find more with men is, some men go to classes, but most of them like to work out solo, like the warrior mindset. They like to do it at home. In my classes here in town, I think I have two guys and 30 women that come to the classes. That includes Pilates. A lot of guys will say, "Hey, I didn't come to class, but I did your workout at home." They like that. They like that a little bit more. So you find what works for you. You have plenty of options. Some people like the live class. Do you like going to a concert or listening to it on your headphones? It just depends. There's really no way to make it more accessible to people. People ask me, how I can make it more accessible? I'm like, well, it's there? Take it if you want it. It's free. It's right there in front of you. Make it your own. Enjoy.

Brandon: Yeah, great. Sean, what's next for you? What do you see in the next few years have in store? Are there things you're aspiring to do? Plans? Aspirations?

Sean: Well, I'm working on a new book, Fitness for Kids. That's not the title, but it ties into what we were talking about. That'd be good for you. It's for six kids. I started it. I like to go write at bookstores. That was in Central Florida. I was thinking about, when I go to the playground with my son and watching how he moves and adapts and interacts with other kids and interacts with all the playground equipment, it's basically movement and athletics 101 just watching a three- and four-year-old do that. How quickly he adapts. One day, your heart is in your throat watching him do something. Then the next second, he's fine within the span of maybe a minute. It just depends. He was swinging on the bars, all this stuff. It never bothered me. A number of weeks ago, like oh, okay, Dane. I'm not a helicopter parent. But you just kind of want to — I actually caught him yesterday. He would have fallen pretty bad if I didn't catch him. But we can't always be there to catch them. That's life. But that book, I've been tinkering with it. I've gotten more serious about it. I'm a little ADHD. I'm sure people can tell that. So getting the thoughts from here, boom, down in the laptop or down on a piece of paper. But that's a big one.

I was just at a national commercial for apartments.com too. They contacted me, because some of the people with their ad agency do my workout. It's on YouTube. You can go to apartments.com and just scroll down a bit. You'll see the headshot. The screenshot is me and Jeff Goldblum. The video was from when I lived in Colorado. Then they had him just walk onto the screen, and I'm doing this funny boat pose thing. I love stuff like that. I've been in a few movies. I get, "Hey, can we use your video for this?" Sign a contract, and they pay you pretty well just to use it. So it'd be cool to get more national commercials like that.

My family and I are looking at where are we in regards to Dane. He's four, but where we really want to be? Because we have to decide one place for his schooling and stuff. So that's something we need to work on also. I don't have as many hours to work on the fitness brand as I used to be because of Dane. But that's perfectly fine. I don't mind. I work when I can. I spend a lot of time with my son, whether enrolling him in camps or things or just spending a lot of time with them. I love spending time with him. We go out and go fishing. We go read. We're always learning something. So being a dad is just the most incredible thing. That's what I focus on the most.

Brandon: Awesome. Do you have any advice for folks who are in the fitness industry who are trying to figure out how to live it in a more beautiful way, I suppose?

Sean: I've mentored a lot of other instructors, especially in regards to doing videos. Because videos can scare the heck out of people, because it's really putting yourself out there to critique. I always say, find what style of fitness really makes you come alive. Focus on that. Don't try to do something that you think people want to see but you're not that comfortable with it. A lot of times, society will say you can do anything you want. Yeah, but focus on your strengths. Things can build off of that. Find the things that make you come alive.

Like you said with me, you can tell I really enjoy what I do. You don't want to watch somebody who looks confused, or distracted, or painful. It's just painful. You're like, what are they talking about? Why are they doing this? They don't seem happy about it. So find that, and focus on that first. And just do it, do it, do it, do it. Teach, film. Teach, film. Get out there and do it. You got to make yourself uncomfortable. It has to be uncomfortable for a while, and then it will fall into place once you get that out of the way. In theater, if I did an audition for a while, I'd be so nervous about auditioning, going up in front of people I don't know or a big cattle call. But after doing it a few times, I start feeling good about it. You relax, and there's the flow right there.

Brandon: Yeah, that's great. It's amazing to see how you've integrated your theater background and then certainly your love of nature into the work you're doing now. That's fantastic.

Sean: That's good to hear that. Because I just do it. It's nice to hear someone say it. It makes you appreciate it more. Because some things are just instinct, right? You just go out. This is what I do. I love it. But it's nice to intellectualize it sometimes. So thank you for that. That's why I love being on podcasts like yours. It's so great to talk about this stuff. It energizes me.

Brandon: Great. I'm so glad. Well, that's it for my questions. Are there anything else that came to mind you want to share on this topic on your beautiful work, what it looks like, what it means to you?

Sean: No, I really like that theme, Brandon. That's great. Beautiful work. It's a very grateful theme. If you're going to do something, no matter what it is, do it. Do it with integrity. Do it with honesty and focus. I think that's a wonderful thing to teach people.

Brandon: Awesome. Great. Well, Sean, thank you. It's such a pleasure. I'm really delightful to meet you.

Sean: My pleasure too, Brandon.

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