Visit the Ascent Life Fitness support page, and a member can’t help but feel empowered and inspired by the numerous posts where people share nourishing recipes, fitness goals and daily accomplishments.
“Right now, our social media is going crazy,” said co-owner Chad Powell. There is post after post of Challengers adopting new practices and learning things about themselves. I’m insanely proud of our members’ accomplishments. Our workouts truly show people they are capable of more than they thought they could do, and that’s empowering.”
Ascent, formerly known as FitMania, has changed ownership within the past year. Chad, along with co-owner and wife Jessica Powell, have been working hard this year to maintain the strong foundation created at FitMania, but also strive to progress.
When FitMania opened in December 2009 as a personal training facility, Chad and Jessica weren’t even married or involved with the program. The creators of FitMania, Sherry and Ken Fernandez, first began “boot camp” style classes out in the grass space behind the business without music. Sherry met Chad in November 2012 as he and two of his business partners organized a local race. Sherry asked for their help to promote FitMania’s first Challenge Kickoff in January 2013.
“At that time, Fitmania had 20 or less members,” Chad said. “Just with that event, we signed up another 40 people.” With the incredible success of the kickoff, Sherry offered Chad and his business partners a membership.
Many areas of life have changed for the Powells since their first workout seven years ago. They had been married for less than two years. Jessica, a former Boise State track and field athlete, was a middle school teacher, and Chad worked in sales.
“I remember the pantry in our first apartment,” said Jessica. “It was a lot of Nutty bars, cake mixes, cereals, pasta. In the fridge was just milk and eggs.” Chad nodded in agreement, “All the carbs.”
“We’ve always been active. Chad grew up very holistic — no sugar,” she said. “My family had two drawers of candy in the kitchen. I grew up eating candy and drinking soda.”
Because of Jessica’s collegiate athlete experience, she felt more than comfortable attending a FitMania class. Chad, who enjoyed skateboarding and snowboarding, however, had gained about 50 pounds in his early twenties while focusing on work.
After their first workout, Chad said he “remembered going home and passing out on the couch for a couple of hours. I felt so sick after that workout! It wasn’t my thing to workout like that … much less at 5 a.m.!”
The influence of the FitMania lifestyle happened quickly. In Chad’s first 90-day challenge, he lost 30 pounds of fat while gaining muscle, and Jessica started training classes several months later. Plus, the food in their pantry started to reflect the changes in their lives.
“Now, the pantry is not as full,” said Jessica, “but the fridge is full of good food.”
Chad agreed. “I just loved the no-nonsense approach to nutrition here, which was ‘Eat real food.’ The program worked so well for me because I knew how to provide nutrition for my body. I didn’t know what that was before.”
Chad was working part time for FitMania and part time for a private insurance agency when Sherry asked him to help open and manage a second location on State Street in October 2013.
“It was really cool, fun, hard … not financially fruitful in the beginning,” he said. “I slowly started making my way into management with FitMania, understanding the in’s and out’s and what it takes to operate and grow a gym.”
Jessica and Chad welcomed their first child, Nora, in 2016. While she enjoys the occasional piece of candy, she can be found almost any morning eating fresh tomatoes with her dad in their backyard garden. To spend more time with Nora, Jessica quit teaching in 2017. Now, Nora helps her dad tend to their beehives and workout with mom in the gym and in the foothills.
Almost one year ago, Sherry and Ken proposed a business offer to the Powells. “The timing was really perfect,” Jessica saic. “Ken and Sherry wanted to move on to other things. They didn’t want to see it end, and we wanted to keep their vision and add more of our own vision to it.”
“Everything fell into place really quickly and easily,” Chad said.
Today, you might call Chad and Jessica Powell the Chip and Joanna Gaines of the fitness industry. Through hard work, commitment and self-driven education, this young couple has achieved a lot of success in less than twelve months.
“We’ve seen the strong program that Ken and Sherry built, and I hope we’ve done our best to stick to our roots. It was those roots that changed our lives for the better. But, we do want to add what we’ve learned,” Chad said. “The workouts have taken on that ‘Jessica feel,’ which includes more intense resistance training.
“Writing workouts forced me to do some research –stick to our roots — but also to realize some components were missing that could help our clients be more successful. A big change is being able to appeal to a wider variety of people,” Jessica said. “I watched and learned a lot from Sherry. I hear her in the back of my head asking, “Is it safe? How many muscles does it use? Is it right for our program?”
Jessica said she has enjoyed and appreciated the collaborative effort of Ascent trainers to create workouts and personalizing them for clients.
New changes have been made to the fitness challenges and “custom-tailored” nutrition program, which Chad says allows them to work more closely with members.
“Bring us your goal, and we’ll help you achieve it. It’s worth it to ask questions about behavior to give (clients) a tailored nutrition plan,” he said.
Chad said he is proud of the Ascent staff and trainers that are working together to help clients realize their physical potential.
“Ascent is about progress and moving up,” said Chad. “We don’t do this just for kicks. Our end goal is to create an environment where people can adopt a lifestyle of fitness — physically, mentally, emotionally. It is the type of program that leads to continued fulfillment.”