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RIDE OR DIE | Jess Graves, Instructor

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Meet Jess – originally a Vancouver Rider, turned Vancouver Instructor, who now teaches at our Ossington Studio with her infamous class, The Graveyard, Sundays at 11:45am. Jess will make you work hard, overcome obstacles and encourage you to truly show up for yourself – all while boasting a 1000 watt smile and a whole lot of charm.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up just outside of Vancouver in the burbs’ and moved to Toronto almost exactly a year ago. Don’t ask me which city I like better 😉

Can you remember your first RIDE class? How long did it take until you realized you wanted to become an Instructor?

My first RIDE class was with JJ at the Hamilton studio in February 2015 – it was a disaster (me, not the class). I couldn’t find the beat, the choreography was a big no for me, and I was sore for at least a week after. After a four-month hiatus, I forced myself back in the saddle, determined to simply “not suck”. It took me a while (slight understatement), but once I got the beat, I moved from the back row to the second row. Once the choreography clicked, I made my way up to the front row. Once I got to know and love the incredible RIDE community, I was fully addicted to the workout and the feeling.

As for becoming an Instructor, I knew I loved riding and admired each Instructor, but never in my wildest dreams believed I could get up on that podium in front of all of those people and lead a class. It took a couple of friends and several conversations to convince me (aka force me) to audition. Let’s just say I’m grateful for those people who have pushed me and motivated me when I didn’t believe in myself. I owe you one.

How would you describe your teaching style?

It’s intentional, high energy and motivating, while at the same time being playful, intimate, and challenging – which remains true to who I am as a person outside of RIDE. I have a hard time not smiling when I am up on that podium, even in my most serious moments.

Dani “Pizza” Pagnan describes my classes as: “like an after party everyone wants to be invited to, rowdy, loud and always fun.”

Best part of being an Instructor is…

Aside from the sweat, playing music I love and running around a dark room feeling 100% like myself, I can without a doubt say the people: the Instructors, the entire front desk staff and the clients. I love walking into the studio, knowing I am going to see dozens of beautiful faces that I not only love and relate to, but who I have deep admiration and respect for. I’ve met my best friends (both in Vancouver and Toronto), and genuinely feel a part of something so much bigger than myself. I am forever inspired by the people and to the community.

Track you’ve had on repeat?

If you know me and my class, you know my favourite after arms song is “My Princess” by Lexer (extended, with lyrics). Also very into “Let me Feel” by Jeremy Olander is currently playing after my first Toronto Coda experience.


PM. Unless it’s the Sunday 11:45AM “Graveyard” class (does that still count as AM?).

Favourite way to sweat outside of RIDE?

Barry’s Bootcamp with the morning crew. Hands down.

How has becoming a RIDE Instructor changed you?

RIDE has helped me find out who I am. If you had asked me a few years ago if I ever thought I could teach in front of 56 people, I would have laughed (and then maybe cried). RIDE has made me more confident and more acutely aware of other people and their feelings, and has given me a network of friends that feel like family.

RIDE has also changed all of my dance moves into pulses, tap backs and two up two back – which might be for the best anyway (you won’t find “dancing” in the hidden talents question below).

Go-to quote or words to live by?

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou.

Who motivates you?

Tyler, for being the hardest working person I know inside the studio (world record of 30 RIDE’s in 13 days) and outside the studio. My family, friends, fellow Instructors, front desk staff and clients – basically everyone that I surround myself with, which makes me feel pretty damn lucky.

Favourite book?

Can’t choose just one: “To Shake The Sleeping Self” – Jedidiah Jenkins, All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr and When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi.

What’s your #1 life hack?

Crest White Strips.

Where can we find you on a Saturday afternoon in the city?

I live on Ossington, so I usually don’t stray too far from RIDE (because why would you?). You’ll find me either at the studio or Barry’s Bootcamp, followed by fries and a glass of wine at Union with people I love. During the summer, you’ll always find me at Trinity Bellwoods park drinking rosé, getting my tan on and petting all the dogs I can get my hands on. #hideyodogs

Any hidden or not so hidden talents?

I can RIDE an outdoor bike decently fast and far – who would’ve thought, bikes can actually move! And karaoke – I make those high notes my bitch!

If you could brunch with any person (past or present), who would it be and why?

My Aunt. I would love to share a laugh with her again.

Best memory since you joined RIDE?

I have two amazing memories that will always stand out to me.

My first-ever friends and family co-teach with Barb in the North Van Underground. I was incredibly nervous leading up to class, however all those emotions left my mind as soon as the music started. We had the time of our lives, running around the tiny (and ridiculously hot, and quite frankly, weird room) cheering each other and every other Rider on. It was like Hurricane Barb and Hurricane Jess – I don’t think Lonsdale knew what hit them.

Right after class, Julie told both of us we would be getting community classes at the Hamilton studio–- it was an epic milestone of sheer joy that I will never forget. Thanks Barb for always being my stage Mom and number one fan!!

Teaching Dez’s birthday class at the Ossington Studio last Fall was absolutely epic – the room was filled with all of Toronto’s best – the energy was truly electric and nothing quite like I’ve ever experienced. That RIDE will be hard to beat. Thanks Dez for bringing us all together <3

#1 piece of advice for someone looking to have a killer RIDE?

Only you are in control of your RIDE, no one else – so whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth time in that room, let it be and embrace all the feels. Drop your head, close your heads, smile, laugh, or yell – you do you. Just make sure you turn up that tension dial!

What has you stoked on life right now?

Dreaming of summer – patios, sunshine and all the amazing upcoming shows and festivals.

What does RIDE mean to you?

RIDE means grit, inspiration, determination, resilience, no-judgement, acceptance, motivation, perseverance, laughter, sweat, community, friendship and so so much more. RIDE means family. RIDE means home. RIDE is my sanctuary.

RIDE with Jess – find her classes on the Ossington Schedule.