Cheri Byrd wants you to enjoy yourself. Even as you’re pushing yourself to the limits and questioning why you ever decided to take a workout class reliant on what looks like an updated Medieval torture device, Cheri trusts you’re building community. That’s what the CHI50 studio is all about: a genuine love of the Bucktown community, and a sincere effort to bring a new kind of high-intensity, low-impact exercise method to the people of Chicago.
It all started at Lululemon. Or should we say: it all started because of Lululemon. When Cheri worked for them, a perk of the job was free classes around Chicagoland. It was here that she encountered the Megaformer Fitness System, a tension-based workout reformer designed for low-impact, cardio-intensive exercise. Cheri fell in love with the Megaformer immediately, but it wasn’t until she traveled to other cities that she saw just how transformative the system can be, and she saw a void that needed to be filled in her beloved Bucktown. Without any previous experience owning a business, Cheri took a leap of faith and began looking for a location to open her own studio. And it has paid off in ways she never expected.
“I’ve been to a lot of studios where their whole essence is to make people feel like you’re either in the clique or not,” she explains. “The Megaformer is already very intimidating, and I wanted to make people feel as comfortable as possible.” So Cheri made the conscious decision to only have ten machines per class, always mixing veterans with newcomers. The results have been a stunning example of communal kindness. “Because everyone’s been in that position [of being new to the studio], people are instantly friendly with each other. People who have been coming for years will talk to that new person and make them feel welcome.” And kindness seems strictly enforced at CHI50, as those with the wrong attitude won’t last long. “It’s all about the environment you want to create,” Cheri says, noting that it has been essential since day one that she always know the names of every person who steps through the studio door.
That sense of community extends to nearby businesses, too. It’s not just that Cheri is embraced by a neighborhood of people who truly care about supporting local shops, but during her first week open, Zen Yoga Garage welcomed CHI50 with celebratory balloons. Cheri explains that every store up and down their stretch of Milwaukee Ave. supports each other, and actively promotes one another every chance they get. Standing in front of a giant map of the neighborhood which dominates a wall inside the CHI50 studio, Cheri beams. She may not be from the city originally, but twelve years after moving here, Chicago is home. Bucktown is home. And it’s all because of the one word she deems most important above all else: community.
"Every day I get to go into work and be surrounded by people I genuinely like."
That’s what Olive Well loves so much about Cheri Byrd and CHI50. It’s a studio that shows its dedication to Chicagoans by (literally) shaping lives and improving wellness, while emphasizing and giving back to the community that welcomed it in the first place.
You can learn more about CHI50, and sign up for your first class, here.
Photography by Alina Tsvor
Text by Eric Grant