When Danny Misdom lost his wife of 43 years in November 2019, in the months following her passing he found that his mental and physical health were in need of support.
He turned to Dr. Alina Dawson, who was previously director of fitness at his community center in Leesburg, and she was able to introduce him to her team of physical and occupational therapists to help get him back on track.
“At the beginning of COVID and after just losing my wife, it was the worst time of my life. Alina called and talked to me and helped me emotionally and mentally. It was just amazing working with her,” Misdom said.
With her encouragement, Misdom, who is 70, joined Dawson’s online Zoom classes, became hooked and lost 40 pounds in the process. Now he attends a class almost daily, sometimes in person at her new studio.
“They have helped me immensely with my emotional and physical issues. I had a hip replacement in September and barely missed a class,” he said.
Dawson, a Purcellville resident who has a doctor of physical therapy degree with a specialty in geriatrics, always had a dream of opening her own studio.
When the space became available at 130 S. 20th St. in Purcellville, she decided to take the plunge and opened on Nov. 1.
Dawson also specializes in working with people that have Parkinson’s Disease. Her goal is to integrate her practice with the offerings at the studio.
“It has always been my desire to change the way people see physical therapy. It is preventative care which can help with posture, strength and balance. I try to educate people on the prescription of being proactive and recognizing the benefits of exercise,” she said.
Dawson’s studio, Full Distance, offers classes seven days a week at various times throughout the day to engage all age and fitness levels — both in person and on Zoom.
“We have yoga, body pump, boot camp, Zumba, balance and gait and more — we tailor the classes to various age groups and levels of activity,” Dawson said.
Two other fitness clients, Ro Niemeyer, 71, and Bobbie Brennan, 74, began taking Dawson’s classes on Zoom in March.
Niemeyer and Brennan particularly enjoy yoga, which is a new form of exercise for them.
“It has made a huge difference. It’s not just the class but having someone to talk with — socially and mentally it has been terrific. I am more confident with walking, which has been really eye opening, and it has improved my flexibility,” Niemeyer said.
“She was not intimidating. She spends extra time with all of the students helping with anything they need. Everyone loves her classes,” Brennan said.
Dawson’s students also praise her team of coaches — including Chuck Owens and Katie Conklin — for providing an encouraging and instructive environment.
A few weeks ago when the studio opened, Purcellville resident Lisa Graber began taking the classes out of a desire to regain a level of fitness.
“Alina’s passion is contagious. She makes you want to do it. It is a nice studio with a hometown feel and everyone has a really good time,” she said.
Dawson’s long-term goal is to have Full Distance become a wellness center on all three levels of the building. It will provide group fitness, physical therapy, Zoom classes, massage therapy, skincare, nutrition counseling, support groups and telehealth.
“I want to educate people on the importance of physical fitness especially during COVID. The most beneficial advice I can give is the benefits of exercise. Group fitness is a social activity which is a big key to longevity and quality of life. The group feels like a team and provides accountability,” she said.
For now, Dawson is offering small group, safe, socially distanced classes in-person with strict guidelines for cleaning between classes to keep everyone healthy.
“The Purcellville community is strong, and we are fortunate to be here and help people through various stages of life,” she said.
For more information, visit fulldistance.com.