Scenes from pilates and Gyrotonic classes at Fitwise Pilates. Courtesy image.

When Ronda Priestner opened Fitwise Pilates in Mill Valley in 2016, it was her first foray outside of El Cerrito, where she’d created the practice nearly a decade earlier and built a robust, loyal community that raved about Fitwise’s “amazing knowledge and meticulous work.”

Any anxiety that Priestner may have had in making that transition to Mill Valley was quelled by those same forces, as she built a practice upstairs at 38 Miller Avenue that continues to spread its wings, both literally and figuratively. Fitwise has expanded into multiple spaces within its building and now encompasses more than 2,400 square feet, including a space that opens up to an upstairs deck that Priestner says brings her unabated joy.

“We opened the two beautiful glass doors, and as I was teaching a class, the breeze was coming in, the trees were swaying with the breeze and the birds were chirping and it just felt like we were in a treehouse,” she says. “I’ve had that vision for us since we got here and now we’re seeing it happen – it’s a huge game changer.”


That extra elbow room has allowed Priestner to introduce new classes and services that go beyond their longstanding focus on pilates and barre classes and private and nutritional counseling. That expansion includes Gyrotonic classes that are designed to take the body beyond its current limitations using machines that are hard to find in Marin, as Fitwise is the only Pilates studio with Gyrotonic machines in southern Marin.

“People come out of those classes with increased freedom of movement, greater strength, more agility and athletes have proven improved performance,” Priestner says.

Gyrotonic machines have also helped Fitwise expand on its rehabilitation practice, as they allow clients to move their spines to get more movement safely. “It brings you into rotations and spirals that you can’t get in any other environment,” she says. “You have to be able to move fluidly through your spine.”

Priestner credits the expansion to consistency, as Fitwise employs “a group of highly trained professionals for whom this is their career, and we treat them as such in terms of supporting their ongoing education and training,” she says. “As a result, every client that comes in has a better session than the time before.”

That consistency is supplemented by something Priestner picked up in her adventures all over the world, including the West Indies, the South Pacific and throughout South, Central, and North America, when she 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.


“People never get sick of being treated nicely,” she says. “Every time they walk through the door, there has to be a ‘wow’ factor there.’”

Throughout those years on the open seas, Priestner always trained in Pilates – she taught her first mat class at the age of 17 – and when she decided to “swallow the anchor” of her nomadic culinary lifestyle, she launched Fitwise.

“This is what i’ve dreamed about having within a staff,” Priestner says. “I feel very proud of my team. I know it’s not the norm. It’s what I’ve worked really hard for and I don’t take it for granted.”

Priestner says she’s got a lot to be thankful for, but with the days of Fogust likely behind us, she keeps coming back to the ability to have open air classes on the deck. That ability to teach classes outdoors also helps Fitwise cater to one of its biggest demographics: endurance athletes.

“Mill Valley is a mecca of outdoor athletes, and being able to take some of my cyclists and runners outside on the deck to work on their bodies and their lungs is fantastic,” she says.

The 411: Fitwise Pilates is at 38 Miller Avenue on the second floor behind The Hivery. MORE INFO.

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