Ignition Achieved

new gym sets fire to metabolisms, adds to downtown Eau Claire growth

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

IGNITE, A NEW EXERCISE FACILITY OPENED IN DOWNTOWN EAU CLAIRE’S HAYMARKET LANDING BY THE OWNERS OF FITELITE, OFFERS HOUR-LONG FUNCTIONAL FITNESS WORKOUTS THAT USE MINIMAL EQUIPMENT.
IGNITE, A NEW EXERCISE FACILITY OPENED IN DOWNTOWN EAU CLAIRE’S HAYMARKET LANDING BY THE OWNERS OF FITELITE, OFFERS HOUR-LONG FUNCTIONAL FITNESS WORKOUTS THAT USE MINIMAL EQUIPMENT.

The fitness professionals behind Eau Claire’s FitELITE want to light a fire under your workout regimen with their new gym in downtown Eau Claire.

Earlier this year, FitELITE opened IGNITE – which offers daily fitness classes that combine conditioning and strength training with yoga – inside the newly built Haymarket Landing, 40 S. Barstow St.

“If they’re not having fun, they’re not going to come back.”– Shane Beck, Ignite

IGNITE is next to FE 24 Fitness, a more traditional gym open 24 hours a day. The two exercise facilities are the first commercial tenants in Haymarket Landing, which opened last year across the plaza from the future site of the Confluence Performing Arts Center (and under five stories of UW-Eau Claire student apartments).

Owners Dave Hildebrandt and Shane Beck explain that IGNITE’s classes were created to offer a functional approach to fitness – helping people boost their fitness in a way that improves their everyday lives instead of simply helping them excel only in the gym.

“We really feel this hits a broad spectrum of the population because of the functional fitness (approach),” Beck explained. IGNITE’s program is related to – but not as complex or intimidating as – the CrossFit program offered at FitELITE’s original gym, 3420 Mall Drive, Suite 7.

“Pretty much anybody at any ability can come in and do it,” Hildebrandt said. IGNITE participants range in age from high school students to 70-somethings.

IGNITE’s space, which looks out on busy Barstow Street, is minimalist and bathed in natural light. One wall is covered in wood, while along the other are racks of Tremor balls (which are much like medicine balls) and Torpedoes (hand weights that combine features of barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells). From the ceiling hangs a network of metal bars, which can be used for a variety of purposes, from doing pull-ups to attaching rings.

There are seven IGNITE classes each day, and the workout changes every day. Each class begins with a full-body warm up and ends with a yoga-style recovery session. In between, the trainers say, the workouts are meant to be enjoyable, not exhausting.

“If they’re not having fun, they’re not going to come back,” Beck said of IGNITE members. “Our No. 1 goal is to make this the best hour of their day.”

The original FitELITE gym opened in 2009 and quickly became a CrossFit affiliate. Like IGNITE, CrossFit focuses on functional movement, and the workouts are meant to be intense.

In 2012, FitELITE launched a “Bridal Fit” program, which was aimed at brides and their wedding parties and was meant to be less intimidating. This evolved into a program called “3, 2, 1, Go,” which eventually became IGNITE. (Beck and Hildebrandt thought the new, explosive name was more descriptive.) Eventually, it became clear that IGNITE needed its own home outside FitELITE’s CrossFit gym.

“You could have somebody finishing their yoga cool down at the end, and having a barbell drop next to them,” Beck explained. “That’s not calming.” IGNITE opened in its new Haymarket Landing home in January.

For people seeking a more traditional exercise experience, FE 24 Fitness is right next door. Members – who range from professionals working downtown to students who live upstairs on Haymarket Landing’s residential floors – will find a wide range of cardio equipment and free weights, as well as access to personal trainers. The FE 24 gym is large, new, and clean, and features perks such as individual showers.

Hildebrandt and Beck say they’re trying to create a community in their gyms – an environment in which people are working and struggling together, encouraging each other toward their goals. They see a similar vibe in downtown Eau Claire overall, with businesses networking for mutual benefit. Consider, for instance, that Billy Siegel, owner of Revival Records, curates music playlists for IGNITE. If you like something you hear during the class, you can go down the street and buy it, further supporting the downtown economy.

“We love the energy down here,” Beck said of the downtown. “We love the progress that’s happening.”

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