BY PAULO MURILLO | PHOTO BY ANTHONY DURAN
The Phoenix Effect’s Seth Browning & September’s cover model on current trends in the world of fitness, getting sober and meeting Britney Spears.
A certified personal trainer at Body by Browning and senior fitness instructor at The Phoenix Effect in West Hollywood, Seth Browning took a leap of faith when he moved to Los Angeles earlier this year. “I left a failing business in the OC and took a gamble at training in the bright lights of LA,” he reveals. “I had $300 in my pocket, self-determination and a lot of faith that everything would be okay.”
Things are more than just okay for Browning today. He has a list of loyal clients who follow his lead at his boot camp classes, he trains people one-on-one at Mansion Gym, he’s done some runway modeling, and his handsome face is currently up on a billboard in West Hollywood. However, he says none of his current success would be possible if it weren’t for his five years of continuous sobriety.
In an interview with THE FIGHT Browning, born and bred in Orange County, talks about the world of fitness, getting sober and how losing his fitness mentor trainer Jovin Raethz to an overdose of GHB made him determined to carry on with his legacy.
When and how did you get into the fitness field?
I had my first gym membership when I was 15 years old. I’m 33 now, so I’ve been working out for 18 years, which is a good selling point for my clients. I decided I wanted to be a personal trainer when I was 20. I got certified, but then I went to college, so I didn’t do anything with it. Two years ago, I decided to go for it and I got certified through 24-Hour Fitness.
What are some current trends in the world of fitness?
I’ve seen so much change in the fitness field, it’s crazy. I see people use more body weight like TRX. People want to look longer and leaner, more holistically inclined, rather than look big and bulky. I see people taking care of the whole package more.
What are the benefits of boot camps, versus one-on-one training?
The Phoenix Effect is designed to burn a lot of calories and put on lean muscle while having fun, but when people want to take their body to the next level, they usually train privately with me. Most people who see the best results are the people that take boot camp twice a week and train with a trainer twice a week. The combination of that is a really badass way of keeping you lean and ripped.
It must’ve been horrible to lose [fitness trainer and friend] Jovin to a GHB overdose earlier this year, when you yourself are sober.
It was heartbreaking. We were close. It was one of the hardest weeks of my life, because I had to pick up where he left off and take over his classes. I was crying on a daily basis and then having to show up to boot camp with a smile on my face. It was very hard. I had to win these people over again and get them to smile, so it was a remarkable experience and a testament to the human spirit. And those boot campers stood by me just as much as I stood by them and now his legacy continues through me.
Were people morbidly curious about the way he died?
To talk about the circumstances of his death was really hard, because it wasn’t congruent with his life. Jovin loved my sobriety. He respected it. He honored it. And the sober people loved him in his boot camp classes. He brought this light and life and health and he was inspiring, so it’s just tough on so many levels for me. I’m not going to sit here and lie. GHB will kill you. You take too much of that stuff and it will kill you. You may not have a problem. It could be your first time, but you better know what you’re getting into. That person was taken from me and I feel very strongly about that. I miss Jovin very much.
What made you decide to get sober?
That’s a heavy duty question… I decided to get sober because the way I was living my life wasn’t working and I realized I was out of options and I didn’t want to die.
How has your life changed since you got sober?
Oh, how has it not changed? When I got sober, they would tell me everything changes or nothing changes and the only thing that has to change is everything. I was willing to do anything, so everything changed. I lost like 45 pounds. My skin got better. I looked younger. My quality of friends is better. I’m a better employee. I’m happier. Everything has changed for the better in every single aspect of my life.
What would you say is the most challenging thing about sobriety?
Accepting life on life’s terms. If I’m having a hard day, or going through some bullshit, I can’t go slam a vodka soda. I’m forced to confront my problems and sort my shit out and for that I’m totally grateful, but it’s hard. Sometimes I wish I could just escape, but I can’t.
Do you think it’s possible to get addicted to working out?
I think people can develop an unhealthy relationship with fitness… a lot of times people in recovery will become addicted to working out, because our addiction doesn’t necessarily go anywhere, it’s like water seeking release, whether it’s food, sex or the gym. The rush, those endorphins, that clarity, that feeling of power that comes from working out can be addictive, so I say take a day off and just chill.
What are some gifts you received in sobriety?
Every day sober is a gift. Every day where I don’t have to lie, cheat or steal… when I can show up to work on time, where I can work hard and earn my worth, every day when I can make someone laugh, or smile—those are the gifts. Some other gifts of sobriety are topical. I’m accomplishing my dreams. I’m on a billboard in West Hollywood. I teach a great boot camp and I have a solid following of people I love. I have an amazing group of friends. I have a very functional relationship with my family. I’m healthy. I have six abs that show—I never had that in my 20s. And I met Britney Spears.
What does being sober have to do with meeting Britney Spears?
I was in Vegas for a sober event. The plan was to go see Britney—I’m a die-hard fan. I know one of her dancers in her show. Fifteen minutes before the show, he texts me to ask me where I was sitting. He had a scary looking security guard take me backstage to do Freak Show—the song where Britney serenades you. For a second I was too terrified to get in front of whole stadium, but I decided I was going to have courage and live in the moment. So this scary security guy interrogated me and one of the questions he asked was, had I been drinking? I told him, I don’t drink. He didn’t believe me at first. The next thing I know, I’m strapped into a harness and being spanked by Britney Spears. She walked me across the stage like a dog and introduced me to the crowd. We looked into each other’s eyes and she serenaded me. I’ll never forget it. It wouldn’t have happened if I had been drinking that night. That was a real gift of sobriety.
For more on Seth Browning visit bodybybrowning.com or find him on Facebook and Instagram under insta handle sethenator.