Ronda Priestner has been around the world, helmed her own sailboat, served as a chef on private yachts and been an in-house chef for the rich and famous.

But while she draws directly on those experiences and the knowledge gained from them every day, watching Priestner in the new Mill Valley studio for her Fitwise Pilates practice is to see complete devotion to her craft of the past nine years.

“I truly love what I do,” she says of Fitwise, which is set to open its doors later this week at 38 Miller Ave., suite 19, a 1,600-square-foot space above the Balboa Cafe on the north side of the Mill Creek Plaza building.

Fitwise Pilates in Mill Valley is Priestner’s first foray outside of El Cerrito, where she launched Fitwise in 2007 and built a robust, loyal community – and raves like this: “I can confidently say that I have achieved pain free days. This hasn’t happened in years. I owe it to the amazing knowledge and meticulous work I have been doing with this amazing team.”

Priestner was born in Newport, Rhode Island, where she spent summers and vacations while growing up in Del Mar, Calif., just north of San Diego, a place that she says reminds her of Mill Valley in many ways, with its railroad roots and gorgeous open space and surroundings.

“I feel very at home here already,” she says.

After high school, Priestner went to the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, a move that laid the groundwork for a thrilling, decade-long adventure all over the world, including the West Indies, the South Pacific and throughout South, Central, and North America. Priestner owned her own sailboat and took people on charter trips, serving as both captain and chef. She also worked on private yachts as a chef, and did so as well in the homes of some of the biggest names in the literary, technology and acting scenes.

“When you get into that certain level of clientele, it’s about keeping up in the Joneses for them to a certain extent – everyone wants you if you’re with someone,” she says with a laugh.

But throughout those years, Priestner always trained in Pilates – she taught her first mat class at the age of 11 – and when she decided to “swallow the anchor” of her nomadic culinary lifestyle, she launched Fitwise in El Cerrito.

In doing so, she drew on her culinary background, particularly her focus over the years on dietary issues like Celiac and Crohn’s disease.

“Wellness is such a circle,” she says. “I can tell if a client’s digestion is off just by the way they move. So much of my work is helping people at every age – from young girls and new moms to male and female athletes and certainly seniors – to keep them moving well and keep them feeling young.”

Fitwise offers a full calendar of classes for all ages and all levels as well as personalized training. Priestner says that what makes Fitwise distinctive is that its instructors have decades of experience and are all experts in their fields.

“You are only as successful as your instructor,” Priestner says.

The 411: Fitwise Pilates is at 38 Miller Ave., suite 19, above the Balboa Cafe on the north side of the Mill Creek Plaza building. More info. ​Here’s a look at more of the space:


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