Story by Whitney Carter. Photos provided by RA Warrior Fitness.
Ashley is the founder, master trainer, and autoimmune health coach of RA Warrior Fitness. The “RA” in her business title stands for rheumatoid arthritis. Her mission is to empower women living with autoimmune disorders like herself. She aims to improve their quality of life through faith, food, and fitness.
“I’ve overcome many obstacles to maintain and improve my own personal lifestyle while managing rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,” Ashley says.
Ashley has been battling rheumatoid arthritis for the last 20 years. She shares that she gained significant weight in the past because she was not as active as she should be. It reached the point where even getting up and moving was painful– until she was finally ready for a change.
“I’m passionate about fitness because I know what it’s like to want to be physically active but can’t. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack healthy joints in the body, causing pain, inflammation, stiffness, and soreness. It can be debilitating and hurt to physically move, but now that I have my condition under control, I don’t miss an opportunity to move my body,” Ashley says. “Movement is my medicine.”
It takes motivation for the average person to get up and do exercise. For Ashley, it takes an extra boost to live a healthier lifestyle.
“[There are days] I get tired a lot. There are some days when I don’t want to show up,” Ashley says.
While there is no secret sauce for motivation, Ashley says she focuses on ensuring she works on herself before working on others. She knows that without getting her mind right, she can never be good for anyone else.
“I start my day with prayer, meditation, and movement. After those are complete, I’m ready to show up to inspire and educate my autoimmune community,” Ashley says. “I also try not to make it about me. I say to myself, ‘How many lives can I touch today? Who can I inspire? Who needs to hear what I have to say?’ If I don’t make a post, what if I missed an opportunity to bless?’”
She was candid, admitting that it is not always about motivation but discipline.
“Motivation comes and goes. I’m not always motivated… at all. Discipline is what keeps me going. Remembering my ‘Why?’ helps me push forward,” Ashley says.
Ashley leaned into the core values of motivation and discipline when she founded RA Warrior Fitness in March 2020, during the pandemic. She describes how the world had just shut down, and people were losing their lives. So many were looking for a place to turn for hope and escape while being trapped at home.
“I seized that opportunity to walk in my purpose and power to help people stay active and fit. I eventually niched down to only working with autoimmune women, as they are who I relate to,”Ashley says. “It’s who I am.”
Ironically, she said it was then that she became the person she always needed to be since being diagnosed. She found the courage she needed to step into that lifestyle.
“There was no one showing people how they could be active and live a joyful life while managing chronic illness. There was no one openly educating people about the importance of eating an anti-inflammatory diet and sharing modified exercises that are joint-friendly,” Ashley says. “At least no one I knew. So I became [that person.]’”
Ashley has worked with hundreds of women around the world in the last three years. She continues to invest in them, herself, and her business. It continues to grow into something she really believes in.
Important to note, she doesn’t just believe what she is saying, she is living what she is teaching. This is evident as of late with success as a professional bodybuilding athlete.
“I’m in awe of how I’ve been able to transform naturally and compete. It’s truly a blessing from God that I don’t take lightly. I earned my pro card last year at my first competition in the figure division,” Ashley shares. “I switched to the wellness division this year as I felt it was a better fit for my body type and personality. I was right!”
Ashley placed first in Pro Wellness at the Natural Fit Federation Dallas Showdown Classic and placed third in Pro Wellness at the On-X Naturals Diva Houston. She said the most exciting part of it all was to have her family there to support her.
Through her journey, which continues today, she said she just wants people to see in her what she knows they can be for themselves– strong, steadfast, and motivated. And most of all, a warrior.
“This is why I do what I do. [I want to] show other warriors what’s possible when you believe in yourself,” Ashley says. “I have RA, but RA does NOT have me.”
Regarding her fitness advice, she said there are three common mistakes she sees people making.
First, lack of consistency. The second is the nutrition piece is off.
“What you choose to eat will either feed your disease or fight your disease,” Ashley explains. “Food is the second pillar of my mission. While there is no one size fits all meal plan, avoiding fast foods, processed foods, refined sugars, and foods like that will benefit anyone’s fitness goals.”
She said her third piece of advice is just to keep moving. Her final words, just when you feel like you have no drive or no motivation, are to think of her story:
“Rise up, Warrior!”