Meet the Guy Behind All Those Cool Videos on SparkPeople

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few weeks back, we shared a peek inside the SparkPeople offices. Paul had just returned from paternity leave and his co-workers welcomed him with a new office!
You said you'd love to know more about SparkPeople, so we've decided to launch a new series: Meet the SparkPeople Team. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll be interviewing various SparkPeople employees. The behind-the-scenes folks here are really excited to tell you a little about what they do at SparkPeople!

Paul was the one who inspired this series, so we thought it only fitting to let him kick off "Meet the SparkPeople Team."

Name: Paul "Terminator" Elfers

Position at SparkPeople: Software Engineering Manager

Age: 31

Family: Lovely and charming wife Amy and two daughters--3-year-old Anna, who is incredibly articulate and cheerful, and newborn daughter Leah, who is a great sleeper--a big coup for the parents of any newborn.

How long have you worked for SparkPeople?
I've worked for SparkPeople since August of 2005--so, getting close to 4 years. However, I actually did a small amount of consulting work for SparkPeople in 2000/2001. I've known Chris ("SparkGuy" Downie) and worked with him for about 10 years now--first at eBay and now here at SparkPeople.

Tell us your proudest accomplishment at SparkPeople or a fun fact about your job:
Wow, it is hard to choose! One sort of funny thing, I think, is that the Coach Nicole videos sort of grew out of something I did for fun one afternoon: the SparkPeople Office Taste Test.

I had this idea to do something silly to show people eating gross foods that they weren't prepared for. I hoped it would be sort of funny and something that people would send around. To get the desired effect, I paired gross foods with normal foods. One example was lemonade paired with lemon juice. So, people first drank lemonade, and they assumed that next they were going to drink different lemonade and choose which they liked better. Instead, they got lemon juice as the second drink, and they were not ready for it. So, we ended up with some funny reactions on camera. To try and be fair, I drank all the gross stuff myself, too. We strung all the reactions together and punctuated it with "Nutrition shouldn't be this hard." It wasn't any big deal, but it was fun.

One side effect, though, was that people said, "Hey, you can shoot and edit video? We want to shoot some stuff with Coach Nicole." So, Nicole and I came up with the first video idea--the desk workout. It wasn't really a big plan, just something that happened. Now, of course, people can't get enough of Coach Nicole and her videos have been watched millions of times.

How do you stay in shape?
I try to be open to any kind of activity, but my mainstays are jiu-jitsu, weight lifting and running.

Jiu-jitsu is a martial art, but it is an atypical martial art in a lot of ways. For one thing, there is a focus on live sparring against a resistive opponent. That means if you and I spar and we're both trying to win. It isn't one person practicing a move and another person just helping them. This lends itself to higher intensity workouts. It also has a quality like playing a video game–where you want to learn the cool moves and be able to win and beat your buddies. Also, it always sounds like a good idea… versus some more traditional ways of working out that can seem like a chore.

Also, unlike a lot of martial arts, the emphasis is on ground work. It looks a lot more like wrestling than like karate or anything like that. I got involved about 7 or 8 years ago, and I am a blue belt under UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel. I hope to earn my purple belt from him this year. (Editor's note: Paul has since earned his purple belt! Congratulations!) We'll see. I get it when he decides I’ve earned it. (Paul is on the left and Jorge is on the right in the photo. It was taken when Paul earned his purple belt!)

I do weight lifting and running with guys from the office. My main workout partner is fellow SparkPeople employee Jeremy Martin. He and I lift weights and run about 4 days a week. We sometimes mix things up and try things like circuits, shadow boxing, or seasonal stuff like playing basketball, football or tennis. But, most of the time, just vanilla weight lifting and running. :) This year SparkPeople put together a cardio theatre with treadmills and a projector to play movies. In the winter months, which are kind of severe here in Cincinnati, we have really enjoyed having the cardio theatre.

What's your favorite food?
It is tough to pick. For "normal" food, it must be pizza. For "fancy" food, I'd say Indian food. I love Mater Paneer.

What's your favorite indulgence?
I try not to go overboard too often, but when I've been good about things for a while and feel like I've earned it, I love to have some junk food while watching a movie or sports.

Also I love caffeine – coffee and energy drinks like sugar-free Red Bull or Monster. These things are not good for you. You shouldn’t get hooked. But, I am and I love them.

How do you feel when you exercise?
When I'm doing things right, I'm totally in the moment and the part of my mind that worries and gets preoccupied with things shuts off. The workouts themselves might not look as peaceful as yoga or meditation, but the effect is the same.

What do you do to de-stress?
I find most of my workouts to be de-stressers, actually. Outside of working out, I like to read. I like cheesy guy stuff like noir novels. I’m reading Raymond Chandler right now.

What is your passion in life?
My passion in life is working on a small team of good people and doing something creative as a part of that. I've been incredibly lucky that all the jobs I've had mostly conformed to this model. Of them all, SparkPeople is by far the best.

How has working at SparkPeople affected your life?
I think I've learned a lot about myself and my own healthy habits, or sometimes the lack thereof. Also, even though my part of the company is not interfacing directly with our users very often, I still enjoy knowing that so many people are helped and grateful for the site. I don't know that my part of it is that critical to what people love, but I'm sure some things I've built have helped some people. I like knowing that.

What's your favorite breakfast cereal?
I put raw oatmeal in my protein shakes. That's about as close as I come to breakfast cereal!

You can see my recipe (actually, Jorge Gurgel's recipe!) here.

What did you eat for dinner last night?
We ate chicken medallions with spinach and a little cream cheese. I think that’s what it was! It was a meal donated to us by friends since we just had our second daughter, Leah. Our friends have been super generous and our fridge has been full for two or three weeks! I'm sure Amy and I won't know what to do when it is time for us to cook ourselves again.

Do you have any hidden talents?
I'm a pretty good singer at "Rock Band." Ok, probably not.

What's your favorite SparkPeople feature?
For me personally, it is the good old Nutrition Tracker. I'm the worst person ever at guessing how much I've had to eat or how much I should eat. I'm way better off just tracking. It is a night and day difference when I'm being good about tracking verses when I'm just mentally keeping track in my mind.

What questions should we add to this feature? Do you like this new series? We'll be scheduling other SparkPeople employees in the future!

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Congrates on your purple belt! My son and I have been training for several years. He just completed at NAGA a few months ago and placed first in his age bracket in intermediate and 2nd place in advance (purple and higher). I was proud of him. Jorge and Rich Franklin are awesome!! Take care. Report
This is fun!
Hi there, it's nice to meet you!
I'm looking forward to meeting all the other people behind our Great Site! Report
I found this blog entry via Coach Nicole's blog on the new balance board. Just want to give a shout out to my new persoanl photographer...PAUL! LOL Report
Thank you for this new series. I love it! DONNAEDA hit the nail on the head: "The website means more when you know the faces behind the scene." I'm really looking forward to meeting more of the SP staff.
~ Dotti Report
This is a very good ideal. I am looking forward to reading about other spark people staff. Thanks for sharing yourselves with us! Report
Jorge is HOT! Can you do an article on him next? :) Report
I enjoy reading and meeting the people behind this wonderful site. Thanks for sharing your life with us. God bless, Ginny Report
I really like meeting the the people behind the names - congrats to Paul & Amy on the new babe Report
It was very interesting!! Report
Paul, thank you for sharing your story! It will so neat to get to know all of you more, one blog at a time. Yippee, congratz on the purple belt! Watch those energy drinks, you know all about draining chi that you don't really have - that's my only mommy comment, honest. I hope you're having a wonderful time w/ that new baby! Report
I loved hearing your story.....I am one of those people that need to continue to read the healthy lifestyles and examples from other people. It reinforces my determination and motivation. I love this series....Congrats on the new addition to your family. Report
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Paul. It's nice to meet you! Congratulations to you and your wife on the birth of your daughter Leah. And to you for earning your Purple Belt! It is interesting to hear the stories of Spark employees. Keep them coming! Report
Paul, thank you for sharing. It is nice to know more about the "people behind the scenes". I found this article very interesting. Report
Love this series! Keep it coming! And congratulations on earning your purple belt, Paul! Report
Yeah! I liked reading it. :) Report
This is a great series. I really enjoy learning about all those who work for Sparkpeople.

I really like this new feature. Keep them coming! Report
Great new addition, thank you! Report
thanks for giving us a peek of your life and activities. Report
I like learning about the Sparkspeople people. Very fun. Report
I live in Cincy and have been thinking of taking MMA classes and Jorge's gym is one that I've been looking at, price is a big factor though. Congrats on the Purple belt! Report
Thanks for this interview. Paul you seem to have a quit interesting life. Congrats on your new daughter and the purple belt. And a lovely wife and another daughter. Life is good! Report
Thanks for this interview. Paul you seem to have a quit interesting life. Congrats on your new daughter and the purple belt. And a lovely wife and another daughter. Life is good! Report
This is a great topic! I look forward to reading all the rest! Report
Love this series, it's always great to know the folks that are out there helping us along this journey. I am truly committed to SP and I have been a member only since 3/5/09 and will be for a very long time. Paul, thanks for all the hard work that you do in the IT Department!
Daryl Report
Nice meeting you Paul! Report
Very nice to meet you Paul, congrats on Leah, Thank you for being part of the best website...SparkPeople and all your contributions. Continue the good work. Report
I love this series! It's great getting to know the people behind this wonderful website. Report
Congratulations Paul and Amy for your new bundle of joy - Leah! Paul, thanks for the work you do to keep this site functioning. Thanks! Report
Congratulations on your new baby. Enjoy those little girls they grow up fast. Great story! I think this is a good series to keep going. Thanks! Report
Yes, I am enjoying the series. Future goals would be a good question to ask. Report
I love to meet the staff. Good question is "Where do you see yourself in 10 years, since Sparkpeople is about setting goals." Report
I love to meet the staff at SP. The website means more when you know the faces behind the scene. Thanks and congratulations on your new little one at home. Report
What a great new idea for the Daily Spark!! I am looking forward to getting to know the Spark team! Thanks for all you do. :) Report
Two girls? You're a blessed man - congratulations! Report
This was really cool and I enjoyed it so much. It is really good to have friends and family to help out during this point in your life. Congratulation on your new baby girl! Girls Rule!! I am one of eight girls from my parents! Report
Great article. I always wanted to know how the SP team is doing. Thank you all for your efforts. It makes a great difference in our lives. Report
I think this is a great series! It lets you relate to the people of spark people. Also finding out that they are just like you helps. It lets you know that you can do this and that you are apart of something great! Report
I love this new series! Hi, Paul! Congratulations to you and Amy on the birth of Leah. Report
I recognize that employees are hired on skills, not size, but I would like to know if SP folks lost or gained weight while working here, if they are more active than they were on other jobs or more mindful eaters. Thank you Report
Inspirational new feature. It's great to meet the people behind the computer screen! Looking forward to future installments. Report
I LOVE this great "Meet & Greet" SparkPeople Team article.
Hi Paul "Terminator" Elfers. Congratulations to you & Amy of your newest sparkling bundle of joy - - little Leah!
Thanks for everything you do for us man, that keeps things running so smoothly at SP Central.
Enjoyed reading your "introduction" and glad you're on that special Team!
SPARKLE72023 Report
Love that we are getting to know everyone at SP. I love this site and would love to join working at SP!! LOL seriously though, Congrats on baby Leah. Oh and congrats on the purple belt
Thanks again for this new insight into your lives.
Tracy Report
The new feature is fabulous! It helps me see that your staff members really walk the talk on healthy living. Have you ever gone to a wellness presentation where extremely overweight people talked about being healthy? Getting to know people who live your program is fantastic. Report
I love this new series. It's really cool to see how all of your employees are involved in being sparkers too! from top to bottom this company walks the talk. Report
I want to work for Spark people! It sounds like a great, encouraging work environment. Seriously, if you ever want to add anything on spirituality, I'd love to be your go-to gal. Report
These questions were great! The only thing I'm curious about, and this is pretty personal info, is their height and weight. I like to see how "healthy" healthy people really are, and this is one indication. Report
Great blog. It is nice to get to know who works for SP. Paul and Amy congratulations on your newest addition. Report
What a great idea! It's nice to meet you! Report
thanks for this series- it is great to know about those who are employed by spark

Congratulations Paul on your new little one and on your purple belt! Report
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