Keeping fit, happy and healthy in Rappahannock

“The greatest wealth is health.”
— Virgil

We all know January is the month when lots of us make New Year’s resolutions and set lofty health and wellness goals for ourselves, but did you also know February is when most of us fall off the fitness wagon?

According to research by global chain Gold’s Gym, Feb. 18 is the date with the biggest dropoff in membership every year — so we’ve compiled a list of local Rappahannock County all-weather resources to help you stay focused and be healthier, and keep you from the fitness cliff.

Many of our fitness goals involve weight loss and exercise regimes that are unrealistic and difficult to sustain. Plus, during the colder months it’s harder to maintain an active lifestyle when it’s miserable outside, and as more time separates us from those new-year resolutions we lose our motivation.

There is no big secret; to stay fit and well you need a good diet and to move your body regularly, but have you thought about the role sleep plays in good health? A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Another huge reason to catch as many winks as possible is consolidation or memory strengthening. Getting good night’s sleep can sometimes be as simple as getting a little bit of exercise, choosing the right pillow and establishing a soothing bedtime ritual.

Even short periods of exercise, as little as 10 minutes, can elevate the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain that perk up your mood, while longer-term workout regimens have proved comparable to prescription antidepressants. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people suffering from clinical depression who exercised for four months — walking, jogging, or biking for 30 minutes three times a week — reported increases in happiness and self-esteem in line with those who had been taking Zoloft for the same period of time.

Why not join your neighbors and try something new while maintaining your good intentions? Put down that second glass of wine and take advantage of some of the wonderful indoor ways to get fit, happy and healthy.

Of course you should consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise or wellness program.

A Resource Guide

Rappahannock Library

The Rappahannock County Library has a selection of DVDs and books on various workouts, health and wellness that are available to check out free with your library card. 540-675-3780.

Stonewall Abbey Yoga and Qigong Studio

A class at Stonewall Abbey Yoga and Qigong in Sperryville.
A class at Stonewall Abbey Yoga and Qigong in Sperryville.
Courtesy photo

Housed in a serene space and former church on Main Street in Sperryville, Stonewall Abbey offers daily yoga or qigong classes that are suitable for all levels and lots of fun. They welcome new students (in fact, your first class is free) and provide everything you need including mats, blankets and blocks, so you just have to show up in comfortable clothing. Founded in 2012 by Susan Huff and Gordon Wicks, Stonewall Abbey offers classes with an emphasis on breathing techniques and meditation to promote both physical and mental well-being without any kind of attitude.

There are many different styles of yoga, but most classes at Stonewall are in Vinyasa Flow. Vinyasa Flow assists in creating and maintaining awareness and focus on the breath while moving through a series of postures (asanas). This style of yoga builds heat, flexibility and strength, while maintaining focus on good alignment and sound structure. Beginning in February, they will offer Yin Yoga. Suitable for almost all levels of students, Yin Yoga is a perfect complement to the dynamic and muscular (yang) style of Vinyasa Flow yoga. Founder and principal instructor Susan Huff is a registered yoga instructor with training in Vinyasa Flow and Svaroopa Yoga and is also a Thai Yoga massage practitioner.

Also spelled chi-gung, which is how it’s pronounced, qigong is a Chinese term that translates as “breath (or energy) work” and refers to the wide practice of breathing and stretching techniques that began China’s 5,000-year-old medical history. Consisting of a wide variety of techniques on breath control and body positions. qigong allows practitioners to harness qi (vital life force) circulating it through the body. Instructor Gordon Wicks is a certified personal trainer and holds the honorable degree of Sifu (martial arts teacher).

Stonewall Abbey also offers workshops such as Yoga for Athletes, Stress Management Yoga and an Integration of Yoga and Qigong. A recent three-hour Introduction to Meditation workshop was led by Rappahannock resident Victoria Fortuna.

Fees start at $65 for a six-class pass. Contact the studio about private sessions, Thai massage appointments, upcoming workshops and more, or

PTO Rappfit

The PTO's twice-weekly RappFit classes have proven remarkably popular.
The PTO’s twice-weekly RappFit classes have proven remarkably popular. | Rappahannock News

The Rappahannock County Public School PTO offers a fitness class called “PTO Rappfit” at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays in the Rappahannock Elementary School Gymnatorium. It is a 55-minute fitness class designed around cardio, strength and core exercises. Cost is a suggested donation to the PTO of $3 per person per class. Equipment is provided. (A yoga/fitness mat is not, so bring that if you have one.) The class is led by fitness instructor and PTO moms Lindsey Wangsgard and Donna Comer, who donate their time to the PTO. Everyone in the community is welcome.

It’s a great local option for anyone who may want to jump on the fitness bandwagon. It is not an intimidating group, and people of all ages and sizes attend. It is also a great way to connect with the community and the schools, too. Like the Facebook page (search for Rappahannock County Public Schools PTO) to get up-to-date class information.

Mountainside Dance Center

A recreational dance school, Mountainside Dance Center teaches movement and dance within an educational curriculum at all levels and for all ages. Director Anne Williams and artistic director Philip Rosemond teach students the foundation of positions, movements, forms, technique and artistry, so students may learn to release their bodies in space with facility and ease. The intention of MDC is for every student to learn about dance as a process, discipline and practice but with a sense of joy and fun.

Their newest adult dance class, Swing Dance lessons on Friday nights from 7:30 to 9, is open to all.

For those interested in ballet, the Beginning Ballet for Adults and Teens (Tuesdays at 5 p.m. and Intermediate Ballet for Adults and Teens (Thursdays at 5 and Saturdays at 10) are grounded in the fundamentals, technique, method, kinetic basics and universal rules of classical ballet. The classes begin slowly, but as the students learn more and more, it has more continuous movement as a part of the class.

For the less active members of our community, Mountainside, which shares a building with Mountainside Physical Therapy and Mountainside Pilates (see below), also offers Therapeutic Movement Classes from 10:15 to 11 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. This class is for people struggling with recovery from injury, disease-oriented movement issues, age-related issues and coordination issues that are habitual or related to injury. Their Therapeutic Floor Classes each Wednesday from 10 -11 a.m. require slightly more mobility and focus on coordination, strength and alignment.

Call 540-987-9390  or contact for further information and pricing.


Crystal Willis of CrossFit.
Crystal Willis of CrossFit.
Courtesy photo

Crossfit is the popular core strength and conditioning program that was created in California in 2001. The beauty in the CrossFit program is that it can be scaled/adjusted to each individual person’s current ability levels. This scaling also applies to injuries, surgeries, or any other type of limitation you have. Amissville residents Crystal and Justin Willis are the proprietors of CrossFit Warrenton (on Second Street), where they train many Rappahannock residents across all ages and fitness levels. They also offer private training sessions in your home. or email

Rappland Yoga

On Saturday mornings, Kit Johnston holds her one-hour, all-level integral yoga class at Gadino Cellars. She has taught this class since 2006 with the goal of promoting the strength, flexibility and wellbeing of her students. Everybody is welcome; just bring your own mat, blanket, straps and blocks. Kit also offers private classes in her home. It is $14 per class for the drop-in rate and $74 for a series of six classes. For more information, email her at

Mountainside Pilates

Cindy Griffin has been working in the fitness profession for over 25 years. She owns the private training/Pilates studio on U.S. 211, Mountainside Pilates, which offers group classes in Indoor Cycling, Functional Strength and Mat Pilates. Her approach to exercise is integrated programming, based on the latest research and methods, emphasizing proper movement patterns, core strengthening, improving muscle balance and relieving pain. Cindy welcomes the opportunity to work with you to build an efficient workout program, modify your eating habits and teach you new ways to self-manage your wellbeing. She is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, a Stott Pilates Instructor for all levels, indoor cycling Instructor and nutrition consultant. Cindy specializes in: relieving back pain, therapeutic exercise, strength training, weight loss programs and sport-specific programs.

Cindy offers Mat Pilates classes on Monday and Wednesday, Functional Strength classes on Monday and Fridays and Indoor Cycling Classes each Tuesday and Thursday. All floor classes and indoor cycling group classes are $10.

She also offers group reformer classes, private training sessions and personal training at the studio or in your home. The new Mountainside Pilates phone number is 540-878-3290, or email


Little Washington Wellness & Spa: Most of us know massage can help us relax, but massage therapy can do much more than that. It can help you sleep better, boost your immune system, raise alertness and ease pain. Located on Main Street, the Little Washington Wellness & Spa offers a variety of holistic massages and skincare treatments in a relaxing setting. Staffed by a dedicated team of therapists, the menu of massage services includes Wellness, Swedish, Hot Stone, Reflexology and Thai Yoga.

Kathryn L. Walker, certified massage therapist: A nationally board-certified massage therapist since 1998, Kathryn is certified in Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release and has had training in Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Thai Massage, Reflexology and Bella Vie Facial Massage. At 667 Zachary Taylor Hwy, Suite 1, Flint Hill. Call 540-683-9002. 


Green Comfort School of Herbal Medicine: Founded by Teresa Boardwine RN, AGH, Green Comfort operates a school, apothecary and clinic. The mission of the Green Comfort School of Herbal Medicine is to educate and empower individuals to heal themselves using herbal medicine. By appointment.

Wild Roots Apothecary: Colleen O’Bryant is a community herbalist who offers wellness solutions through earth based products and classes.

1 Comment

  1. I was sorry that you didn’t mention one of the area’s gems, but not in Rapp Co. Powell Wellness in Culpeper. Now known as Culpeper Wellness. The therapeutic pool, jetterd hot tub, steam room and sauna are in addition to lap lanes and a full machine gym and INSIDE walking track. The therapeutic pool also has a walking track with powered current that one can walk with or without. A water wheel chair is available.

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