Reese Ashe

Gym: Federal Hill Fitness, 39 E. Cross St.; 410-752-3004; Rate: $45-$65 (hour) Style: Intense and creative Workout philosophy: "It's personally fulfilling to figure out how to put people through hell and still make them like it." Favorite move: "Power Cleans," a type of barbell lift Indulgence: Chocolate chip cookies Model-handsome with a clean-cut look and biceps that strain his sleeves, Reese Ashe is quite literally the poster boy of Federal Hill Fitness. You'll see his solemn gaze of challenge peering from the gym's brochures and its website. It's also been framed and hangs near the front door. And no wonder. Ashe's astounding physique resembles something Michelangelo would carve. "He's so pretty," says the gym's owner, Andrea Shelby. "He's like our little rock star." Trained in martial arts, with bragging rights to a black belt, Ashe, who's 31, has made a home at the Federal Hill gym. There he teaches kickboxing, classes for abs and muscle sculpting. He also developed a "fit club" that has become one of the gym's biggest draws, inspiring people to meet before dawn to run Federal Hill's daunting incline. On a recent morning, he's working with Julie Tsai, one of his most loyal clients -- a former competitive ice skater who counts on Ashe to stay in impeccable shape. She's walking mildly on the treadmill. And he doesn't like it. "Julie? Could you start to jog a little bit, please?" he says. "Really?" she asks. "Really," he answers as she begins to run. Ashe has worked with some of South Baltimore's notable residents, namely Jenna Bush while she lived in town. He has also trained Ravens cheerleaders. Though his voice is soft, his manner is anything but. No one pays Ashe to be coddled. He's got Tsai jumping from a low squat onto a platform. Then she's lifting weights over her head, then she's holding herself up to the chin-up bar, then doing more squats holding a weighted ball. When beads of sweat start to form, she looks at Ashe and says jokingly, "Maybe I won't come tomorrow." They segue into light boxing moves, followed by jumping jacks and then running up and down the gym's steep staircases. The brutal regimen lasts an hour and leaves Tsai depleted -- but still laughing. "He motivates me," she says. "He pushes me harder than I would myself." "It's challenging to find new ways to push them," Ashe says. "If they do the same thing over and over, my job would be pointless." Ashe, who graduated from Baltimore's City College, is a lifelong athlete. Besides his black belt, he played football, studied martial arts and wrestled at Coppin State University, where he majored in physical therapy. "If it weren't for sports," he says of college, "I wouldn't have been able to go." These days, the gym isn't just Ashe's livelihood, it's his life. It's where you can find him seven days a week, and it's even where he fell in love. She signed up for his kickboxing class. He gave her a training session. They hit it off. "She's a bigger athlete than I am," he says with pride. "She keeps tabs on me and makes me eat healthy, even when I want to cheat."
Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun
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