1006 ocean 040515Ilene Winters, below, plans to open her new fitness studio in a former auto repair shop next door to a Dunkin’ Donuts this month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


ilene winters 040715 2Ilene Winters spent about 20 years on Wall Street, and another decade involved in nonprofit work helping cancer patients and victims of Hurricane Sandy. Now, she says, it’s time to put another passion into play: physical fitness.

This month, Winters expects to open OAR Fitness & Endurance, a training studio, in a former auto repair shop in Sea Bright.

But her leap of faith requires her to tune out some potential downsides. Among them: the Shrewsbury River, just inches away from the building, and what it can do when the weather turns ugly.

“I’m just trying not to think about it,”  she tells redbankgreen.

Though its name connotes indoor rowing, that’s just one component of what OAR will offer, Winters said. What were once four garage bays for tune-ups and oil changes have been transformed into studios for stationary rowing – on 10 Concept 2 machines – as well as boot camp, personal training and crossfit training.

Winters plans to take advantage of the parking lot out front and the ocean beach just across the street in working with her clients, she said. She also intends to put her master’s degree in nutrition to work.

What made her decide to launch her first business at the age of 55?

A year ago, Winters said, she looked at the building with her friend, Kelly Ryan, owner of Boondocks Fishery in Red Bank, who planned to open her second restaurant there. That plan fell apart, but Winters was intrigued by the 2,100-square-foot space, and started thinking of creating her own venture.

Winters, a triathlete, calls fitness “my passion. You should do what you’re passionate about.”

She wasn’t put off by the proximity of the river, whose destructive power was one of several nails in the coffin of the last tenant, the Sea Bright Service Station. Nor was she stopped by the fact that the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, also just feet away, is slated to be replaced sometime in the next decade, a project that will require demolition of the building, Monmouth County officials have said.

“I’m not going to not start my business because of that,” she said.

At the same time, she’s pragmatic, recognizing that she can’t do it all by herself. So she’s hired three coaches to work beside her. “I don’t want this to eat my life up,” she said.

“If it works, great,” she said. “But if it doesn’t, at least I tried.”

OAR Fitness & Endurance is at 1006 Ocean Avenue. Winters hopes to open for business by the end of April, and is now selling memberships.