On Business: Fitness Fusion Studio

School 'lunch lady' becomes 'Zumba diva' after work

CorrespondentJanuary 27, 2014 

— Ashley Davidson leads a double life.

During the day, she is a child nutrition specialist at Holly Ridge Elementary School in Holly Springs.

After work, she can be found cheering on sweaty clients at Fitness Fusion Studio in Fuquay-Varina.

“By day I’m the lunch lady,” quips Davidson, 46. “I’m a Zumba diva by night.”

Davidson’s studio features the popular dance-based workout she discovered during her own fitness journey.

“After my son was born, I weighed almost 300 pounds,” she recalls. “I tried everything from starvation to Weight Watchers, but I never incorporated exercise.”

Three years ago, she decided to try a different approach. She returned to Weight Watchers and also joined a fitness club for its workout classes. It was there that she was introduced to Zumba and finally got control of her health.

She has lost more than 100 pounds and says her goal weight is within reach.

“I fell in love with it,” Davidson says of Zumba. “Zumba is exercise in disguise.”

But she ran into obstacles when she tried to find a class that was strictly Zumba without joining a gym. Her solution was to open her own facility. Originally in Holly Springs, the studio moved to its Fuquay-Varina location in October.

Fitness Fusion offers Zumba classes, as well as yoga and Insanity workouts. Davidson’s long-term goal is to include additional workout formats.

Unlike a gym that requires membership, Fitness Fusion welcomes walk-in clients who pay by the class or buy a discounted punch card. Although men are welcome, the studio’s target market is women.

Davidson insists she is not a crazy workout instructor who demands perfection.

“If you take my class,” she says, “I will tell you not to do anything that makes your body cranky. Just keep moving. As long as you’re moving, you’re burning calories. I want to see you smile and sweat.”

Occasionally, someone will say, “I can’t do that.” That’s when Davidson pulls the student aside and shares her own story.

Her “before” pictures, she says, give apprehensive students confidence that they can participate, no matter their fitness level.

“It’s a good tool,” Davidson says. “Some of my girls have amazing stories. One lost 110 pounds, another 55. It is such a blessing.

“I’m not in this to become a millionaire,” she continues. “I want people to realize their potential and that weight is just a number and not who you are. ... When I see their sweaty, smiling faces, I know I’ve done my job.”


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