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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

Chance, Circumstance, and a Sauna

Updated: Aug 30

This Sunday morning, August 28th, I am writing on a pad of yellow-blue lined paper while inside an infrared sauna. Please note that today’s “posting” is not an advert for the Sunlighten company in Kansas. Instead, I offer my sauna as an example of the two C’s: Chance & Circumstance.


For the past six years, a sauna’s heat has been temporal salvation for a woman who inherited arthritis, a common infirmity which began with my great-grandmother and probably much earlier. For arthritic me the sauna has been a cosmic gift. Yet if not for chance & circumstance, I would not be in one this morning. (IF = ‘big’ two-letter word essential to C & C).


If husband Mike had not won a gift certificate in a golf tournament, I would not this morning be enjoying 131 degrees and a Cardiovascular program, one of six available on the computer screen.

What did Mike win? Eight free sessions at a 24-hour gym. Throughout 2015, each time I passed through Whitestone, headed to the Norris Bridge to cross the Rappahannock, I often had to wait at a signal. And there, located on the corner of the intersection, was a small gym. Each time I saw its darkened windows (and feeling increasingly more unfit), a nagging voice told me to find out about this place called Body Fit. I ignored the voice all that year. Then in spring 2016, Mike handed me the gift certificate he had won for the very same gym. That’s how I met Ramona, Body Fit’s dynamic trainer and owner.

After the eighth class, she offered me a free session in the sauna. That morning as Ramona opened a door on the gym’s back wall, my impulse was to say, No, thanks. I had nothing with me to read, or paper on which to write. I could not imagine sitting in a heated wood enclosure on a bench for 30 or more minutes with nothing to do except sweat. Yet a bossy internal bilingual voice said “Hagalo!” (Do it!).

To my surprise I didn’t want the thirty-minute session to end.

Soon after that day, I started another three-week series of injections in my bone-on-bone knees. I asked the orthopedic’s P.A. if an infrared sauna would be good for me. He said nothing and gave me the first shot. Poised for shot two, he asked, “Are you thinking of buying one?”

“Yes, a Sunlighten.” He again said nothing and gave me the second shot.

“Do you think it’s a bad idea?” I asked. He shook his head and laughed. “No… and I can’t tell you how jealous I am.” After I heard this, I asked husband Mike if a sauna could be my birthday and Christmas gifts for years to come! Ah, chance. I ended up with the sauna and other gifts these past six years. Unless I’m away, I’m in the sauna every day, and relied on it following two knee replacements, not to mention the continuing pandemic.

What about Ramona? She added a second Sunlighten to her small gym on that corner in Whitestone. But earlier she had been told by countless locals that her idea of a 24-hour gym would fail. Well, it didn’t. Instead, she purchased the old fire station and planned to create a truly large gym. The huge open bay in the middle would be filled with equipment and a circular track, besides two other spacious rooms for classes. Ardent work had begun. Then, the evening of November 15th in 2018, her small gym suffered a devastating fire.

Yet chance and circumstance meant a determined and courageous woman was able to move to the new location, even hold classes as renovation continued. Salvable equipment was restored, along with her purchase of new equipment, machines, and saunas. The new fire station is across the street from the old one. A perfect location for the second Body Fit in Whitestone! Ramona has created a unique gym, where it is possible to be with all ages, genders, and ethnicities, here in the Northern Neck of Virginia. And for me it all began with that gift certificate.

Next time: This book would not have been written without the two C’s.



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