Words & Interview by Faith Briggs
Photography by Guil Valentim
We had the chance to feel the burn, and to keep feeling it in our sore muscles for the next three days after we worked out with Shelby Schuh in his class entitled The Hustle. Shelby was an awesome instructor, he asked if we wanted to go a little easier in order to take photos and when I said that might be a good idea, he launched into a series of TRX band squat jumps, burpees and medicine ball slams. I’m pretty sure he asked that question so that I felt heard…but there’s no way I was going to walk out of The Lab without a killer workout.
A few days later and I now know why. I’m back at the gorgeous studio at 1030 SE Belmont when the whirlwind of creative energy that is Jessi Duley walks in to meet me with a huge smile, a big bag of groceries and a two-year-old named Fox. She rocks a ponytail mohawk and is barely midway through her day of teaching.
Jessi calls The Lab a "test kitchen for innovative cross-training" and wants to offer something more than a workout. She wants to offer an experience that makes people better - better people and better at life.
"I’m all about a busy body and a quiet mind, for me working out is a mental release. It always has been. Its why I started BurnCycle, essentially to make better humans. If we could work through everything in our heads, we would, but we cannot, so I think physically moving helps us. My thought is if I could just make your day, start with just your day, then you can go change policy and be whatever it is you need to be. I believe in the ripple effect. Let me be the nutrition or the fertilizer you need to get there! You’re gonna leave clearer, more confident. I want us to be better parents, better partners. If we can come together in these spaces and work through stuff. That’s the idea, that’s what we do. Finding ways to help people move and help people come together is at the core of what I want to do. The feeling you have when you're done working out, I want that to be your standard of living."
At this point Jessi jumps to her feet, pumping her arms and faux experiencing the shock of energy you feel after crushing an incredible workout. I’m right with her, I know that feeling. This is the point when we both have to laugh at ourselves and acknowledge the fact that there’s a little bit of buy-in that she's asking for, but there’s a reason for it too.
"No one is there [in class] because they don’t want to better themselves. You don’t know what it took for the person to the right or to the left of you to get there that day. It sounds cheesy but I think its optimism, it’s the feeling: 'We can do it, humanity is good!’ I mean it’s also science and endorphins. But the idea is to surround yourself with people who want to live like that too.”
I could hang out with and talk to Jessi all day. Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious and I can tell it’s what makes this place so successful, she’s driven by the desire to bring something good into people's lives every day, and it shows.
Let’s get into what actually happens at The Lab x Burn.
Class sizes are small, fifteen people max so that you have personal attention. You can lift heavy weights with great form in The Grit or feel like you're back training for a big game in The Hustle. With smaller class sizes, trying something new is approachable. That’s a big reason why Jessi started The Lab. After doing a series of community engagement pop-up workouts called BurnMVMT, she wanted to create a space that was less intimidating than other alternatives. “We’re all about approachability and it's a space where we get to be creative. We can do self-defense workshops, we are having a Town Hall Meeting with Ladies Get Paid, we are doing voter education. I want to raise the collective volume, amplify people's lives.”
Jessi is aware that everyone comes to work out for different reasons and so she wanted to expand beyond BurnCycle. She herself said that after three kids, she realized the importance of cross training. "I want to bend down and pick up my kids and be able to jump at a concert for three hours.”
This space is the solution.
Special thanks to class participants:
Addie Thompson, Tina Ezawa Valentim, Anthony Thomas, Scott Olberding