At first glance, the Montrose spin studio named “for the people.” seems fairly conventional. Seconds after stepping into the space off West Gray, however, the sense of community and inclusivity becomes palpable.
for the people. (ftp.) launched last January with a fitness team that truly embodies what it means to be inclusive, diverse, and passionate about creating community. Out instructor Zach West is also a co-owner, along with Tyler May and Mel Valez.
The studio’s instructors are all committed to empowering one another and everyone who signs up for their classes. With a mission to create a safe, inviting space for people to check their problems at the door and ride with a community that wants them to succeed, the entire ftp. team is looking forward to another successful year.
OutSmart spoke with three of ftp.’s LGBTQ team members about how their fitness studio has become such a welcoming community space.
Co-founder and owner
Zach West explains that his journey to becoming a spin instructor was borne out of repetition. “I gained about 100 pounds in college while triple-majoring at Texas Tech University,” he recalls. “Once I graduated, I worked out as a way to lose a few pounds and meet new friends. None of the workouts sparked an interest in me, and I left being mostly frustrated with my ability.”
Then a chance invitation changed the course of West’s life. “I was getting to a point where I wanted to give up on the two small goals I had set. After months of a dear friend asking me to try a spin class, I finally said yes. From my first class, I was immediately hooked.” West went on to lose 70 pounds and discovered the impact that community-based workouts can have. “I decided I was ready to make the transition from the front row to the stage, and I’ve been in heaven ever since. Having my own weight-loss transformation makes being an instructor so much more special to me.”
The gay instructor speaks to why ftp. is unlike other studios. “[The other instructors] and I joke all the time that we don’t know if we are a spin studio, a retail brand, or an events company, but what we do know is that we stand behind the brand.” The team’s mission is rooted in its name. “We wanted to make sure our name represented what we were truly trying to create—a safe, inclusive place that is for the people. All the people. We don’t consider ourselves just a spin studio. Yes, we ride bikes, but what is happening at ftp. is so much more. It’s a place where we strive to provide delight every single time you walk into our space.”
So, what about the workout itself? “You can expect all the jams, all the Beyoncé, and all the fun,” West assures us. “My classes are high-energy with the right amount of sass. For me, fitness has to be fun. That’s what allowed me to make my own transformation, and I take that aspect into every class. I love my classes to be interactive, so expect the occasional dance moment and sing-along.”
Simply showing up is West’s biggest fitness tip for the new year. “Fitness is something that requires work and discipline, so the more regular you are, the more results you will see,” he stresses. “Properly plan your workouts and make them a priority so that you maintain that consistency. One way to hold yourself accountable is to not do it alone. The beauty about the ftp. community is that you have a built-in accountability partner through the friendships you build from the moment you walk through our doors.”
At the end of the day, West and his team want their customers to get the most out of their workouts in the most authentic way possible. “However you show up to the space, just know it is welcoming and we are delighted to have you. Our community has honestly been a large part of our success. They are proud of the brand and have been the best ambassadors we could have asked for. If you want a place to work out and feel seen and supported, ftp. is that place. I’m willing to bet my all on it.”
Co-founder and owner
With nine years of cycling under his belt, Tyler May invites readers to check out his classes. “I am a firm believer that you should find a class that makes you excited to attend and be a part of,” he says. “I learned the importance of movement and breath work in my time as a yoga teacher. I try to be mindful in my classes, and genuinely hope that people leave feeling better in their bodies.”
May is quick to note that if his class isn’t for you, there are definitely other options available at ftp. “You can get a variety of amazing classes, and all of us bring our own special touch to our time on the bike.”
May’s early introduction to the importance of music guides him when he’s crafting play-lists for each of his classes. “My love for music began on car rides with my dad, who taught me the importance of knowing and loving the ‘classics.’ My love for pop divas was developed during my time in New York City during walks to work or dance parties in his shoebox flat,” he recalls. “In my classes, you can expect a considered combination of oldies-but-goodies mixed with fresh takes on all of your favorites.”
His biggest fitness tip for 2022 is to find your space, your community, and commit to the grind. “I am constantly hearing how much people have missed being in a fitness space where they feel welcomed as part of the community,” the gay instructor notes. “I encourage people to find a home where they feel like they belong. It makes it much easier to stay committed to the 5:00 a.m. alarm clock or the stop after work.”
Sergio Moreno, a self-proclaimed “gay(yyyyyyy)” instructor is one of the newest staff members at ftp. “My role in our community is as an instructor. I’m also a regular rider, so when I’m taking someone else’s class, I play the role of front-row screamer,” Moreno says. He brings every ounce of himself to his classes to offer the same experience he had early on in his ftp. journey. “Sweat dates have always been a special part of my relationship with my best friend. She was visiting Houston earlier this year and was absolutely relentless about building ftp. into our weekend schedule—and I’m so glad we did,” he says.
“I fell in love with the space and the community immediately, and sweating with my best friend made my heart full. The ftp. community welcomed me with open arms, and week after week I came back to sweat with people that also became friends. A few months later when I chatted with Zach and Tyler about my interest in starting instructor training, the ‘imposter syndrome’ immediately set in. Zach and Tyler, like a magical pair of fairy godmothers, gracefully smashed my apprehensions and I completed instructor training as their first new instructor. I’m so happy to be learning and growing in such a safe, fun, inclusive space.”
Moreno takes his role as a gay fitness instructor seriously. “I’m very proud to be gay, in general, and I’m particularly proud to be a gay spin/fitness instructor. When the spotlight is on and I’m on the mic, the entire room is locked in to what I’m saying. Over the loud music and fancy lighting, we get to influence the riding experience using our own actions and words. The expectation that our founders have set is that we always prioritize creating an experience that is inclusive, sweaty, and filled with delight. I’m so proud to be a gay spin instructor at ftp., where we celebrate inclusion and use it to build stronger, more authentic connections. Honestly, nobody in our community has time for anything that gets in the way of that.”
Moreno sums up what sets ftp. apart from the rest of Houston’s fitness scene. “I’m sure most places will say their community is the best part of their business. We agree, [but we also strive] to provide delight and connection, even outside the four walls of the spin studio. I think that’s the biggest differentiator. Plus, the merch makes me drool, honey!”
For more info, visit forthepeoplehtx.com.
This article appears in the January 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.