Fitness instructor creates women-only space in Danville

Published 11:30 pm Sunday, March 12, 2017

Kendra Peek/
Rachelle Villanueva stands behind the welcome counter at Intensity, a women’s-only high intensity interval training facility in Danville. Villanueva opened the facility as a space for women to get physically fit, but also as a space for women to build each other up, to become one another’s support system.

Tucked away in Suite 21 in the Greenleaf Shopping Center, down the little sidewalk between a State Farm Insurance office and the office of Bender Financial Solutions, is a space created by a Danville woman, just for women.

“I want women to have a place to come where they can let down, breathe, celebrate life together,” said Rachelle Villanueva, owner of Intensity, a high interval intensity training center for women.

While the goal is helping women to become physically fit, Villanueva said there’s more to it. She’s on a “mission to train women to achieve physical, mental and spiritual strength and wholeness.”

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“This is a fitness center, and our main goal is fitness and to be strong and healthy. But also, our goal is mental and spiritual,” Villanueva said. “It seems like, now aways, women are competing with each other more than they’re coming alongside each other. We’re all sisters and we need to treat each other that way. This is a good place to start.”

The concept of creating a space for women, a space where they can find support and encouragement, is one that Villanueva has been pondering for some time, but she said she knew God wanted her to wait until the time was right.

“I’ve been through things in my life and times in my life when I felt alone or felt I wasn’t strong enough to make it through. I’m fortunate for the women who walked alongside me. There are women out there who don’t have that. They don’t have somebody to walk alongside them,” Villanueva said.

On Feb. 6, Villanueva said the time was right. Armed with training experience as a Level 1 Crossfit Coach, Villanueva did her research into how to combine her passion for helping women with her knowledge of fitness.

“With my background and my training, I decided to use that as a platform, as a place for women to come,” she said. “I want to provide a place for someone to come find that person or those people (to support them). It may not even be me. It may be another woman on the mat.”

She’s quick to point out that high intensity interval training, or HIIT, is not the same as Crossfit.

“With HIIT, we primarily use body weight. Everything is done on the mat. We do have kettle bells that we use for strength and conditioning. It’s all your own body weight and it’s all about speed,” Villanueva said. 

There are no tires to be flipped, no bars to be climbed and no weights to be lifted — beyond the kettle bells. There’s also no keeping score. 

“We don’t keep score and we don’t keep time here. You’re here for yourself. Everybody’s here for different reasons and we just respect that,” she said, noting that the ladies in the classes have a variety of reasons, mental, physical and spiritual reasons, for joining.

Villanueva said she thinks that HIIT is “less intimidating” for some women.

“From a lot of the women that I know, the high intensity is not as intimidating (as other types of fitness),” she said. “Not to say women can’t lift weights and do all of those things — they absolutely can. And the ones that like that should. This is just the piece (of fitness) that I was attracted to.”

At Intensity, Villanueva has structured classes so they are about 45 minutes long. That includes a period of warm up and of cool down, some strength training and a 10-15 minute workout.

“For women, the time aspect is very attractive. ultimately, you should come here at least four days a week,” she said. “Workouts are 10-15 minutes long, but you go all out that 10-15 minutes.”

“Our cool down time is just spent on the mat, stretching and talking and sharing life. I don’t want it to sound like it’s ‘Kumbaya’ or anything, but it’s a nice, peaceful, quiet time to wind down. A lot of the women say it’s a nice time to wind down after work before they go home.”

To become an instructor, a certification in another fitness realm is required, such as Villanueva’s in CrossFit.

Members are allowed to use the space to have product parties or for Bible studies, something Villanueva is currently doing on Wednesday nights.

Using The Armor Of God, a Priscilla Shirer study, Villanueva said she is using the space to complete that third focus of Intensity — the spiritual component.

When she’s not running Intensity, Villanueva works as an expanded functions dental assistant at Danville Family Dentistry. She also makes vinyl-printed shirts in her free time, has a marketing background and does freelance marketing.

She’s also Mom to two teenagers: Cameron, 16, and Carly, 13. 

“They’re just good kids,” Villanueva said. “Cameron — he’s my handyman around here.”

Carly is part of the proud mom’s inspiration for starting Intensity.

“I want her to grow up around women and girls who are positive and encouraging with each other. She’s in middle school, so I hear it and I see it all the time. The girls there are competing. They’re competing (in) looks and boys and clothes. I don’t want Carly growing up thinking that’s what women do. She comes down and hangs out sometimes. Not all the time, because it’s a kid-free zone as much as possible,” Villanueva said.

“Just teaching her, and everybody that comes here, that women, we weren’t put here to compete with each other. We’re here to help each other. I think all women have unique strengths and and I think we’re supposed to use our own unique strength to help others.”

The beauty of HIIT, Villanueva said, is that it’s made to be modified — that’s part of why she keeps class size to eight.

“Not just for size, but to be sure that everyone gets that personal attention. HIIT — the workout itself is built for the most advanced person,” she said. “It’s my job as the trainer to tweak it or change it for each individual woman, based off of their strengths and weaknesses.”

“Everybody has to tweak the workout.”

Tweak it by as letting some women start their pushups on the wall, working up to pushing off the floor, for example. Whatever modifications have to be made, Villanueva said, she wants everyone to be comfortable with making those.

“It’s written so everybody has to tweak it in some way. It’s designed for anyone of any fitness level,” she said. 

Members have started adding to the decor of the place, she said.

“‘You’ve got this’ — apparently I say that a lot,” Villanueva said, smiling. So, one of the women brought that phrase, framed, to hang up in the space.

Someone else brought a canvas with Proverbs 31:25, which reads, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

Kendra Peek/
Rachelle Villanueva stands in the center of the mat at Intensity, a women’s-only high intensity interval training facility in Danville.

“That’s one of my favorites, so one of the women got that for me,” Villanueva said.

Someday, she said, she would love to make Intensity her full-time focus. But that will take time and relationships.

“I want things to be done right. The biggest thing here is creating relationships. I know that can’t be forced or rushed,” Villanueva said. “It’s a business that’s going to grow a little bit slower than most would want in a new biz, but we’re building strength here. It takes time.”

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.


For more about Intensity for women, find the Intensity For Women Facebook page or visit