By Ingrid Schnader
When people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more, it doesn’t take long before life gets in the way and they start coming up with excuses.
But in Ashley Dawson’s fitness bootcamp, it’s hard to come up with an excuse.
She meets her fitness group on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Heardmont Park at 8:30 a.m., just in time for parents to drop their kids off at school and head her way. She also doesn’t have any monthly commitments or cancelation fees.
“Life happens; kids get sick, you get sick,” she said. “Other programs charge you if you show or don’t show. But my people are so loyal, and they give me a heads up. So, I think that, too, helps them get out there, knowing that I’m depending on them to be there.”
Her bootcamp is an hour of cardio, core and weights. But until about 10 years ago, a workout like this was totally out of her comfort zone.
“I was always at the gyms – muscle works, step aerobics, spin class,” she said.
Then her friend invited her to an outdoor lunchtime bootcamp. Being a gym rat, she had always done her exercises inside, but she instantly loved being outdoors.
“There’s no mirrors, there’s no heat or air conditioning,” she said. “You’re outside in nature. It sounds cliche, but it’s just a little bit more of an experience.”
She started attending the bootcamp classes more and more, and she became a source of encouragement for the other people in the class.
“It got to the point where people in the class were texting, calling, saying, ‘Are you going to be there tomorrow? When you’re there, you’re so encouraging,’” she said.
She decided to pursue her teaching certification and started her own fitness bootcamp.
Motivation and Ministry
Even though it’s been about 10 years since she started Ashley Dawson Fitness, she said she never gets bored of her workouts.
Her classes are never the same. She’s always trying new things and seeing how her clients respond to different workouts. People never know what to expect when they meet her at Heardmont Park; there’s an element of surprise.
The bootcamp meets rain or shine, freezing or sweltering. Dawson said she’s surprised by how motivated and loyal her clients have been in all types of weather.
If it’s raining, they’ll work out underneath the bleachers so that their mats and weights don’t get too wet. They only move inside if it’s pouring rain.
“But if it’s freezing, they don’t care,” she said. “We’re out there when it’s 100 degrees. I try to say below 30 is my limit, because my hands are cold and freezing. And they’ll be like, ‘It’s 33 and sunny, we can do this!’”
The level of motivation she sees in her fitness group helps her stay motivated, too, she said.
“Having determined, dedicated people come out there totally gets me excited and more passionate for it,” she said. “There’s such camaraderie. Everyone is so kind and encouraging.”
Dawson said she believes that God put each one of her teammates in her life for a reason. Every morning as she drives to class, she prays for each one of them.
“This is like my ministry, if that makes sense,” she said. “I’ve had clients who lost their spouses. I have clients going through horrible marriages, divorces, battles with children. And a lot of people around them don’t know that. But as a group, even though it’s a hard workout, it’s such a comfort zone to be in and workout in.”
She recently had a text from one of her clients that she had been suffering from postpartum depression, and Dawson hadn’t even realized it.
“She talked about how she’d gone into a real dark place and then found my class and my friendship,” Dawson said. “She was like, ‘You and your class helped me get through something.’ I was like, ‘Oh, thank you, Lord.’”
Her class can look intimidating from the outside, but Dawson said all are welcome. It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is. She just makes sure everyone is doing their best.
“It’s a family, but it is one that welcomes,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to think, ‘I can’t go out there because I don’t know that group.’”
For those who have fitness goals in their New Year’s resolutions, Dawson has a simple piece of advice: stick with it.
“Don’t set the goal too high so that you don’t let yourself down or disappoint yourself,” she said. “Whatever your goal is, get it on the calendar and check it off. Make sure you do it.”
You can take a peek at some of Dawson’s workouts by following her at ad___fitness on Instagram.