Ashley Armstrong

My story

Joey and I have always had a passion for fitness and have been active throughout our marriage. For our first three summers as The Armstrongs, we led rock climbing, hiking, rappelling and white-water rafting trips in Durango, CO for a Christian outdoor adventure camp. We rock climbed and mountain biked on the weekends, fueled by few cups of local coffee. 

One summer, we actually lived in Slovenia, a small country in eastern Europe. Joey received credit for his masters degree and we experienced the summer of a life-time. We built relationships with local adventure athletes, rock climbing, rafting, canyoning and hiking in the beauty of the Alps. Our local contact there dropped us off about 3 hours from our home-base with our packs, climbing gear, a Slovene dictionary and said, "Good luck!" We hitch-hiked our way back home, relying on the kindness (and homemade Jaegermeister) of strangers. One week, we camped in the backyard/vineyard of a Slovene family; we still keep in contact with the Kobals today. Many times we were fearful standing on the side of the highway, waiting hours for our next ride and not sure where they'd take us once we got in the car. But Joey and I's wedding invitation said, "Choosing to do the adventure together." This was an adventure we would not back down from. 

This passion for fitness became my driving purpose with the birth of our first child, Finn. Finn was born with Spina Bifida, a spinal birth defect that has left him paralyzed from the waist down, among many other complications. He's been using a wheelchair to explore his world since he was 15 months old. Although he can't climb, run or jump the way we can, he still finds a way to MOVE. There is no ramp too steep, no living-room dance party too loud, and no obstacle too difficult for Finn. He's even competed in the Endeavor Games, an adaptive sports event. He is most certainly a miracle and we've seen countless ways that Finn's disability, but unwavering tenacity and courage has inspired others. Life, and specifically, movement, are gifts from our Creator. Don't waste your abilities! If you can move, you should. 

My philosophy of fitness

Focusing on behavior change, not outcome produces the best results. You must get uncomfortable at some point in your workout and push yourself (or hire a coach/trainer) to push you beyond the fear that you can't do it. Training must be consistent and habitual, but there should be variety within the consistency. Go faster, slower, longer. Do your route backwards, shock your body with high intensity interval training, lift heavy. Don't underestimate the power of rest. Bob Harper says, "Rest is a weapon." Fuel your body with real, whole foods that sustain you. 

My background

I taught high school English for three years out of college, and was personal training on the side. I realized that fitness and training are my real passion, so I got my masters in Health and Human Performance from Baylor University. I still love teaching, but I feel I can make more difference by teaching fitness and lifestyle change than I can teaching literature. 

What motivates me

Finn's disability motivates me not to whine when things get tough, but to be grateful for my ability to move my legs. I'm also motivated by my faith in God. I came across Proverbs 31:17 as a teenager, a passage about "the godly woman." It says, "She clothes herself in strength and makes her arms strong." I love the notion of a woman (or man) intentionally keeping their body strong because it honors their Creator. 

My struggles

Daily difficulty of having a child with a disability...along with a one year old daughter. Wheelchair carting, accessibility, finding ramps, getting through doors, bathroom troubles, and possible shunt malfunctions are all daily hurdles for our family. Although we've come a long way, Finn is navigating his way through a world and society that was not built for people like him. It makes my heart sad sometimes...and then in the very next moment, I am inspired and motivated by his inner strength. 


At our gender reveal appointment, the ultrasound tech took us into another room and said the doctor would be right in. We knew something was wrong. We were sent to a specialist and this doctor told us our son had Spina Bifida at level L4/L5. He may never walk, would have delays in various areas, would have to be catherized, and would need a shunt placed in his brain within days of his birth. We were devastated. I was angry at God because I had done all the right things...I took my prenatal vitamins, ate healthy foods, exercised, and most importantly, I had prayed for healthy children since I was 13 years old. I felt like this was a slap in the face. Why would God allow such a bad thing to happen to such "good" people?! Christian cliches like "Everything happens for a reason," and "God doesn't give you more than you can handle," made me more upset. Everything I thought I knew about how God worked was challenged. Through His Word, His Holy Spirit's presence and the kindness of other wise believers, I realized this is not about me or what I've done. This is about displaying God's ultimate goodness despite the bad things in this world. He brings beauty from ashes. Courage from fear. Strength from weakness. In John 9, Jesus' disciples ask him about a blind man, "Who sinned? This man or his parents?" I love Jesus' reply, ""Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." God has big things in store for our Mighty Finn and we have a front seat to sit back and watch it all play out.