Hello Refinery Family!
I write this next to the window on my flight home from Chris’ birthday weekend trip to New York. My soul is brimming with inspiration, my heart is grounded with gratitude, and my mind’s eye is gazing homeward. In the Kayser family, it’s a new school year for three of the kids and a year of adventure and work for one of the kids. My mind is also on you, the people of The Refinery, my second family – the faces and bodies and personalities and music and experiences that are the physical embodiment of my daily journal. I wonder how I can turn my lessons from the summer into blessings for our gym, so to educate and motivate the trainers and you to be reaching our potential.
Last month, Frederik and Ace and I (and a few new fitness friends) went to West Hollywood for a “fitness retreat,” where we took classes from a variety of smaller “boutique” franchise fitness studios. We went for diversion, for inspiration, for a new experience, and simply to explore what’s trending in our industry. Something I noticed there was a pattern of 1) small movement spaces, filled with 2) darkness and pulsing music, 3) a cardio machine or exercise tool where we spent half of our time (think: stair master, treadmill, specialty boxing bag, or rower) and 4) workouts that seemed generated from a spreadsheet. I was rarely sure that the trainer or coach actually wrote the workout I was doing or was personally connected to it or the bodies in the room. There was one place this was not true and it was a place like ours, locally owned, with only two locations in Los Angeles, as opposed to a national franchise chain. This said, I thoroughly enjoyed the workouts and the energy of them. I was on vacation with people I love working out with so it was a win-win. It was just an observation from a person who has chosen to create a one-of-kind boutique gym, and one that is very different from the places we were working out.
I just started thinking about The Refinery. Where we don’t have cool lighting – I prefer natural light so I can see the bodies I’m coaching. We don’t have microphones – I prefer the need to be close enough to be heard. We don’t have pulsing music- the music is the backdrop, not the punchline. I wondered “Am I off trend?” And “Do I care about being cool anymore?”
You likely know that I turn every trip I’m on into a “fit trip.” When Chris and I are in New York, we have a a few favorite places to work out and then we try some new places too – and this year was no exception. We re-visited a locally owned, one-location gym like The Refinery (but New Yorkified. It’s way louder and younger and the trainers are fitness models) and the coach remembered us – from 2019! (It’s likely because we are 20 years older than everyone but whatever!) We visited the 305 Cardio Dance Studio where Kaylyn Buckley, our Thursday evening 305 Dance instructor, trained and taught classes. I wanted to see what the scene was like in the NY studio since this is the first time I’ve ever cross-pollinated with another brand. (We were also 20 years older than everyone in the room but again… whatever!) We also went to barre and cycling classes at boutique franchises that don’t have locations in Portland. They were good workouts, and very much mimicked the LA experience, dark room, loud music, highly scripted. Who was in the room had no impact on how the workout was created. The instructors were more like performers and less like coaches. I like entertainment, and I have mastered these movement patterns so it worked. I just wonder what it’s like to be a person that regularly attends these kinds of classes. Are there places with natural light, no microphones, and a diversity of music in New York City? Does anyone there want that or even know they might like it?
So I ask myself, in a world of franchise “boutique” fitness, with studios in every town in every region across the county, what is The Refinery and why is our uniqueness important for you and your fitness? I’ve been marinating my thoughts for a minute and this is where I’m at right now:
We are a community first and foremost. Your trainers know YOU, your injuries and modifications, your general weekly workout schedule. We know where you were on vacation and when you missed too many classes, and we check in on you. We know when you have a baby, or when you are going through a divorce, or when you had an emergency appendectomy. It’s like that here. You know your coaches – and things about our lives and interests and personal history. You know the majority of the faces around you, and you likely know their names and maybe even something about their kids/ pets/partners/and where they grew up. You notice when they aren’t there. You might follow the Refinery, the trainers, and your workout homies on Instagram, where there is a further insight into each other outside the gym. We aren’t trying to get “likes” and gain some form of social status from one another. We are actually connected in a way that is made of substance.
We customize everything. Every single trainer knows your name and cares about the YOU beyond the one or two hours you’re in the gym. The workouts we write are for the bodies in front of us. I think “this group has tight hips, I need to address it.” Or “this group needs to work on their speed and footwork” and plan accordingly. The music we choose takes into consideration the vibe and folks in the room. Sometimes Mitch puts on funk and soul on a Monday cause that’s the vibe. “Corporate headquarters” didn’t say “choose one of these playlists for today’s workout.” Mitch looks around the room and thinks “this is what this group needs right now.” You know his boxing class in two hours is not going to be listening to the same playlist, unless that’s the vibe of that group at that time. Additionally, I often take song requests for my cycling class. I like creating an eclectic mix to ride to, along with learning what the people in my classes listen to on their own. People just text me their requests, and their songs are featured in the workout. The people in the rooms create the culture here, not the sound system.
We see you and hear you. Britany is ready with any modification for every movement she puts in a workout. She can make micro-corrections on the spot, and she knows the shortcuts we all take. She’s paying attention to the individual bodies in her space. Frederik knows what you are working on with your food, IF you let him know what you’re working on. He cares about YOU and your microbiome as much as he cares about the quality of your step up. He isn’t going to naturally harass you about your choices (though I might) however, if you invite him in, he is ready to go on the journey with you. He cares more than you know about you creating a 24 hour a day/7 days a week healthy lifestyle that will bring you longevity – from your morning meditation to your bedtime routine. He cares if you’ll let him. Ace is still figuring us out, and I can tell he kinda likes us free-stylin NEPO-ers cause he’s one like us. I think sometimes he wants to push us all a little harder and at the same time offers us the space to just move the way our bodies are telling us to move. We’re down for his challenge to work hard and be authentic about it.
We are not the performance. We are the directors and producers. You are the main character in your own show. We are the catalyst to get YOU into the Zone – so you can do the work you need to do to move better, feel better, and start your day off in the way that makes you an optimized you. We notice your progress. We notice when you’re suffering a little. We all coach a little differently, but we do it to get you where you are going. Sweet and simple. We don’t need flashing lights and a microphone to do that well.
I think this could mostly be summarized by this – The Refinery exists to build community, improve the quality of life and healthspan for the people who work out here, and to provide professional autonomy for the people who work here. I didn’t embark on this journey 10 years ago to build a brand, or for fame or dollar signs. It might not seem sexy – but guess what! It’s a whole lotta sexy people walking in and out of these doors every day- changing our lives for the better – one workout at a time. I’m here for it- and am glad you are too! I’ve traveled coast to coast working out in my matching sets, and I’ve learned this summer – THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE MY FITNESS HOME (and homies)!
We’re feeling sturdy for September and all it’s transitions!
Mitch is Getting Married!
As Mitch and Megan prepare for their nuptials this weekend, the Refinery team is banding together to cover Mitch’s classes. Please note:
- The Thursday 7 am Knockout is canceled
- Both Saturday Burn and Knockout will be coached by Frederik
- the Monday 9 am Knockout will be a Burn coached by Ashleigh and
- the Tuesday 12:15 Lunchbox will be a mini-Burn with Britany.
Thank you for your understanding!
More Class Updates
Starting this Thursday 6pm 305 cardio dance with Kaylyn is back!
Starting Tuesday September 25th – Flow-Rida/yoga with Ace is back!
Register in MINDBODY!
Shout out to our educators!
School is back in session and as a former classroom teacher, I hold a high regard for all of our members who work with students at every level – from preschool to the university. Big thank you and a warm send off into the hopefulness and mystery that September brings! We are so grateful that you show up for our children every day.
New Podcast Suggestions:
The podcast suggestions were a hit so let’s keep it coming. You know mixing it up can be as good for your brain as mixing up the workout can be for your body!
For your long walks, long runs, air travel, and car rides (and other moments for solitude and inspiration):
“People I Mostly Admire” by Steve Levitt (co-author Freakonomics) was suggested by Melissa Sullivan. This podcast tracks down high achievers and asks them questions that help flesh out the profound in the obvious as well as present new ways to see our role in this world we live in.
“The Drive” by Peter Attica is a favorite of our office manager, Sarah Alfaro. Along with his soothing voice, Peter continually offers a deep dive with a variety of experts into health, wellness, longevity and pursuing excellence.
“How I Built This” with Guy Raz is a recommendation by both Margie Marksthaler and Melissa Sullivan. Guy interviews founders of many successful businesses and hears the unlikely stories of how those companies started as a conversation, or an argument or a late-night brainstorm before they become a household name.
“Absolutely Not” with comedian Heather McMahan is a favorite of Leslie Charuhas. Characterized as a joyful take on life’s craziest moments, this podcast is about the humor and authentic discussion about everyday struggles – no topic is off limits. Sounds like a good time!
“Against All Odds” with hosts Mike Corey and Cassie de Pecol is a favorite of Kate Boyle. Their podcasts centers around thrilling stories of survival – including the story of the Thai soccer team stranded in a cave and their amazing rescue. It’s reassuring to remember that we humans are made for resilience. This one might be a good one when you need a reminder that you can always do more than you think you can!
Thank you for contributing to our monthly series. We are always learning about and from each other, and this is just another way we strengthen our connective tissue! (Keep taking your collagen protein, though.)
Follow us on Instagram @refineryfitnesspdx to stay up on the weekly quote, the weekly nutrition tip, and the going on in the gym! We often include videos to inspire and motivate – and we follow you back to see what you are up to also! Staying connected is the key.