“I had a gymnastics coach that always spoke to us about using food as fuel,” Ashley Downes, the owner of FitFuel Nutrition + Fitness, explained.

Ashley Downes will open Fitfuel Nutrition + Fitness in the 3rd Avenue Commons. Photos provided.

Ashley’s coach, Barry Dubuque, the owner of Hodgini School of Dance and Gymnastics, would tell his students that you wouldn’t put cheap gasoline in a Porsche or Lamborghini. A gymnast since she was five years old, the lesson has stuck with Ashley through the years. When it was time to come up with a name for the new business she plans on opening in late February or early March, Fitfuel encapsulated the importance of having good fuel—food—to enhance fitness.

She’s not new to training though, the certified ACE Nutrition Specialist who holds a bachelor’s degree in health and fitness from Purdue University has been conducting coaching sessions through Health Pointe since 2007. A few months ago, Ashley decided it was time to take the next step by opening her location at 671 Third Avenue in the 3rd Avenue Commons complex. Fitfuel Nutrition + Fitness will be located on the east side of the building behind Giesler Dental.

The new location will provide fitness coaching and classes from nine local instructors. Ashley will be joined by Blayr Kramer, Missy Krempp, Tammy Love, Jane Balsmeyer, Stacy Kurucz, Audra Mathies, Brook Sanders and Audrey Seger.

“We were talking the other day, and we realized that between all of us, we have more than a hundred years of experience that will be offered,” Ashley said.

That experience also comes with the nutritional expertise Ashley considers essential to any fitness program’s ultimate success. She currently offers four- and eight-week programs designed to help her clients gain an education that will help them maintain whatever goals they achieve with their fitness.

Forming new eating habits is so important to Ashley, that she even offers to accompany her clients while they grocery shop so she can teach them what to look for on the nutrition guidelines and ingredient lists.

“I don’t want to create a meal guideline and throw you to the wolves,” she explained.

Instead, she works with her clients’ goals and helps support them as they meet those goals nutritionally and physically. “It’s not a lose-20-pounds-in-eight-weeks program. Most people I work with do lose about a pound a week, but that’s not the focus,” Ashley added. “The focus is on getting healthy and having a good quality of life.”

Also, to work around her clients’ schedules, Ashley offers access to a special app through which she supplies workouts and meal plans.

The whole body cryotherapy unit will provide the same benefit as 20 minutes in an ice bath in about three minutes by circulating super-cooled air around a person’s body.

The new business will also include some cutting-edge equipment designed to help athletes, or anyone for that matter, recover from injuries. A whole body cryotherapy unit will be available at Fitfuel for anyone to book to help them with aches and pains.

Cryotherapy may seem to call up a plot point in a science fiction movie or book, but the premise is simply based on the health benefits of ice to promote healing.

“You can fill a bathtub with ice and immerse yourself for 20 minutes and get the similar benefits,” Ashley explained. “But that’s not fun.”

Your body’s natural reaction to being immersed in an ice bath is for it to pull blood to the inner-organs to protect them from the cold. While there, the blood is enriched with nutrients and oxygen. When you get out of the ice, the enriched blood is circulated back out to those areas enhancing your body’s natural healing ability while decreasing inflammation.

Most people probably don’t want to get into an ice bath for 20 minutes though. The cryotherapy unit Ashley will offer the same benefit and more in about one to three minutes without getting wet.

“This is for anyone,” Ashley said. “My husband and I are really excited about offering this.”

Ashley and Ryan are both athletic. Ryan had a short stint in the NFL and remains active. Ashley is a trainer who regularly runs marathons and is involved in other sporting activities. “We were constantly icing something,” she said about the time before they found out about the cryotherapy.

But the benefits aren’t just for active people and athletes; the treatment helps with any inflammation. It’s due to the therapy’s many health benefits that Ashley plans on offering access to the cryotherapy even for individuals that are not members of Fitfuel, including local high school athletes.

Along with the classes, nutrition education and cryotherapy, Ashley will also have some equipment including stationary bikes for spinning classes when the business opens. The overall goal is to provide members with a balanced approach to complete fitness.

Ashley plans to move her business into the River Centre in 2019 when it is finished.

Her eyes are on the future though.

The location in 3rd Avenue Commons is somewhat temporary; when the Jasper River Centre opens in 2019, Fitfuel Nutrition + Fitness will move and expand into a full-service gym offering 24-hour access in the commercial portion of the development. With the planned housing portion of the development as well as the nearby Riverwalk and other attractions in the area like the Cultural Center, Ashley jumped on the opportunity to be part of the plans for the former Jasper Cabinet property.

“A friend put me in touch with Jane Hendrickson (who owns BoxerGirl, the River Centre developer) who was looking for a fitness business to go into the River Centre,” Ashley said. “The development is going to be amazing.”

The two met, and Ashley saw a great opportunity to expand her training business and be part of the next chapter in Jasper’s future. That is important for the lifelong Jasper resident who found herself approaching a new chapter in her own life as her youngest son Bode would be heading off to kindergarten. “There was a bit of panic as I wondered what I would be doing all day,” Ashley said. “I’m not the type of person that can sit around all day.”

So she formed Fitfuel and started her plans to build a business.

“I really want to get out there and help people transform themselves, transform their lives,” she said, “and have a better quality of life.”

Fitfuel Nutrition + Fitness can be reached by phone at 812-631-1040 or by email at adownes17@gmail.com. The business also has a Facebook Page and a website, where rates for different services are listed.

Ashley and Ryan live in Jasper and have two children, Griffin, 7, and Bode, 5.