The Insider

Body Buff

By Jamila Bey
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 9, 2006

After 30 minutes of training with Ashley Weakley, I felt the sensation that someone was looking down upon me. And I had the sense that this apparition was surrounded by a blazing halo of light.

But I'm not a religious person. I don't believe in seeing visions, or communing with angels, or speaking in tongues.

"Okay Jamila, do it again!"

And the realization happens. That's no angel -- that's just Weakley, owner of the new Inferno fitness center in Manassas, leaning over my supine, panting sweaty heap of a body. And that's no halo. It's only the sun reflecting off of her perfectly-pulled-back hair. And the tongues thing -- well, this is a family publication, so I'll admit it was just me swearing and sucking wind.

Now I'm no weakling. I can easily dead lift 250 pounds for three sets of 10. I can take 100 pounds from the floor to overhead in a second or less. But Weakley gave me a 36-pound cannon ball with a handle (called a kettlebell) and made me squat down, touch it to the floor and then punch it up to the sky. I was a little uncertain, but I did it -- 15 times with each hand. Followed with push-ups, three sets of 10 of the dreaded "squat thrust" and then 20 minutes of throwing the hardest punches I'm capable of at my moving trainer target. I summoned my inner Ali, thought about gas prices and pounded away. It felt magnificent! My exhaustion was overtaken by the fun I was having as my gloves made a perfect thwack against the pads.

Boxing is Weakley's sport of choice, one that she gave an amateur shot until losing her contact lenses in her first fight. And in that moment of unclarity, the Manassas native decided that maybe her calling lay outside the ring.

Soon after, she looked around the chain gym she worked at as a fitness trainer and thought, "Hey, I can do better than this!" She learned to write a business plan and spent a couple years amassing the investors and partners needed to open a boxing gym.

The result: the Inferno, her training center for competitive athletes, fighters and regular people. Weakley, 22, also brings in experts to offer classes and seminars -- including Olympic lifting coach Dan John and a session to teach knife fighting techniques. I checked in with Weakley to see how her fitness venture was going.

Tell me about some of your clients.

I train a retired U.S. Marshal who came to me and couldn't even do a one-quarter squat. He's been a client of mine here for a year and is now squat-cleaning almost 200 pounds.

Squat cleaning?

Squatting down and picking up a barbell from the floor to shoulder height. You have to squat down again before you stand up fully. So there are two deep knee bends in that movement. That guy has rehabbed his bad knees by training with me. I also have a client who is a lawyer, so the heaviest thing she lifted was her laptop. She trained with us for about six months, went to the hospital because she seemed to be retaining an unusual amount of water. She found out she was seven months pregnant. During labor the doctors ordered her to not push until they told her to because her abs were so strong she might have caused her baby distress.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company