Q&A with The Lab Founder Lawson Harris

Welcome to The Lab, a fitness center described as, "an exercise-seeker’s dream come true." Upstairs at 77 Front Street, one can find Pilates based exercise, a variety of interactive classes including a "Make Your Own (MYO)" class, a sanctuary called the Wellness Lab, and a family of instructors who help each live healthier lives and have more fun. What the Lab isn't? An ordinary gym. DUMBO BID intern Rachel Hamburger chats with the Lab founder Lawson Harris, on mental and physical wellness plus tips on how to stay fit while enjoying the holidays. This family may "kick your ass while making you smile" but hey, what family doesn't?

As you say on your website, “The Lab is a community of people who believe that smart, innovative exercise is the key to happiness” and I would have to agree. Innovation is stimulating! Exercise should be stimulating. Tell us more about The Lab and its innovative approach to fitness.

Lawson Harris: Everyone who works at the Lab has been hand picked and gone through our 650 hours of Pilates and Personal Training education.  They were chosen because they all exhibit a similar "positive insanity" towards fitness, movement and a shear love of teaching.  Our training focuses on giving the trainers the most cutting edge fitness information while allowing their natural personality and style to shine through.  Because everyone is encouraged to keep growing and evolving the natural order of things at the Lab continues change.  The trainers are living on the edge, so they're constantly bringing our clients new and exciting ways to shake the "fitness snow globe" and get motivated in an ever changing environment.


We are always glad to have any innovative business in DUMBO. How did you find your way to DUMBO? What attracted you to opening up a space here?

LH: I moved to DUMBO in 2006 and was drawn by the fantastically edgy, urban vibe.  When I was a kid I went to ballet class every day on the West side of Manhattan.  I always dreamed of living downtown in an open loft with the bare minimum of furniture… enter DUMBO!  I opened the Lab in 2007 and the community was quick to embrace the intensity and freedom the Lab offers.  We're like a fitness store- buy what you need, use it and buy more if you want.  I've always hated the way big gyms hook you in for a minimum of a year and bank on you dropping the ball after the first few months.  We want our clients to get addicted and stay addicted- if we don't succeed in keeping you engaged, you won't be wasting your money on a service you're not using.


With the holiday season quickly approaching, and all the delicious meals that come with the territory, do you have any advice on staying healthy during the holidays while still enjoying them?

LH: Depriving yourself is the fastest way to a binge I know.  When you go to a party let yourself have some of what you really crave, if it's sweets- eat a little of what you love.  If it's booze, go for it, but try a vodka soda as opposed an old fashioned.  In terms of workouts, don't slack because it's the holiday- if anything rev it up- cause you know you'll be consuming more calories!  It's a lot more fun to do it up the night before and take a brisk run in the morning than it is to skip the good stuff and be a couch potato the next day.  I usually schedule a "bathing suit" oriented vacation in January and use the holidays as training time for nudity.


Holiday deterrents aside, what are some simple (or not so simple) ways to continually stay healthy year round with the busy lifestyle that comes equipped with living in such a fast paced city like New York?

LH: I'm gonna bullet point this for ease.

  • Stay away from carbs unless it's fruits or veggies
  • Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day
  • Schedule your workout as tho it were appointment you can't miss- aim for 5 workouts a week.
  • Use a heart rate monitor when you workout
  • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily
  • Exercise in short, intense bursts if you don't have a full hour to dedicate
  • Weighing yourself sucks- don't do it.  If you feel good- you ARE good!


Equally as important, besides physical fitness do you have any advice on ways to stay relaxed and grounded and keep our minds healthy during the holiday season? Year round?

LH: Exercise releases endorphins, the hormones that make you feel happy.  The holidays can be the most hectic, depressing time of the year- skip a workout and your inviting a come down.  It's also precious "alone time" that everyone needs.  Even if you're taking a class, you can enjoy the tribal vibe and still keep it to yourself.

Year round… I dedicate 2 times a week to cultivating time with friends- being yourself with people you love keeps you sane.  I also make sure I see my parents at least once a month.  I know not everyone can do that (or wants to do that)- but my folks keep me grounded and remind me where I came from which is important in the big, wild city.

Bottom line, staying fit makes you happy.  If you look and feel good- you make better decisions, you're nicer to people and good stuff happens.

The-Lab-shoot_0403_E.jpgP.S. Gift the gift of fitness this holiday!