Culpeper Premier Fitness in peak condition

By Posted on Nov 05 2013 | By

Firm serves 1,200 clients in first three years 

Sensing a need and fulfilling it is Business 101. Creating and delivering the product is a challenge. Achieving both in a 36-month period is impressive.

IMG_8005Welcome to Culpeper Premier Fitness; two women who are on the move literally and figuratively. Both Bridget Scarbrough and Susan Huff are as in shape as their successful fitness centers.

And not surprisingly, the secret to their success is—get this—experience coupled with hard work. Sound familiar? Hearing them share their backgrounds and how they’ve used their talents to build a thriving small business one realizes being in shape is de rigueur.

Although operating in two different but related realms the fitness mavens combined forces three years ago to offer area residents a unique and holistic approach to wellness. Huff is a former school teacher who specialized in teaching children with disabilities in southwest Virginia. Earning her PhD in Special Education Administration she went on to become a public school administrator and later served as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech for four years. On the side, she taught cycling, fitness and yoga classes.

Moving to Culpeper in 2008, she could not secure employment in her chosen field given the tough job market and went to work for Gold’s Gym teaching yoga, weight resistance training and indoor cycling for two years, later moving on to the Powell Wellness Center.

Her first love was yoga but she realized, “I could starve to death teaching only yoga. There is so much competition out there and much of it is offered at a flat fee. I knew I had the skill set to start my own business.”

In 2010, she opened The Second Floor Studio at 120 West Culpeper Street. During her years in the local fitness scene she met Bridget Scarbrough who also worked at both Gold’s and Powell Wellness. Scarbrough says, “I was an unlikely candidate to become a personal trainer because I never played sports or did anything like that all my life. But I got out of shape and started exercising and things clicked with it,” she recalls.

Scarbrough earned her certification as a personal trainer and specialized in fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle training. After having helped open Gold’s she later moved to Powell Fitness because, “It better suited my interests. I was able to work with seniors and families there,” she says.

IMG_7997Scarbrough also worked as an in-home personal trainer traveling throughout the Piedmont region. The two motivated women were building a working relationship and it was a natural fit when Huff asked Scarbrough to join her studio and forge a business together.  

Two into one
As Huff was growing her business she knew her first love was yoga but a variety of other fitness regimes were well-suited for her studio environment. Scarbrough had logged 27,000 miles on her vehicle in the first year of her in-home personal training program called It’s Up To You Fitness.

Scarbrough had left Powell Wellness Center but serving her in-home clients was becoming too demanding. “I’m a little hyper and like to try different things. I teach kick boxing, indoor cycling, TRX and boot camp style classes. After a year with Susan, I decided to move all my personal training to the studio. My clients are happy to come to the studio so it has worked out well for everyone,” says Scarbrough.

“With my interest in yoga and Bridget’s training in fitness and nutrition we realized by joining forces we’d have a lot offer clients. Our business together has taken off beautifully,” says Huff. It became apparent that the double business structure needed to be streamlined to maximize profits. “We combined our websites and created an umbrella entity called Culpeper Premier Fitness. We still have our two separate businesses but now operate under one name. People began leaving other gyms because we offer a beautiful studio experience plus one-on-one client attention,” says Huff.

Scarbrough says, “Most gym fitness programs are choreographed and don’t easily allow personal advice and attention to be incorporated into a training program. Working out in a studio environment permits us to customize routines to meet an individual’s physical needs and abilities.”

Scarbrough’s emphasis is on her program called “It’s Up To You Fitness.” She created a challenge for participants to realize their weight and fitness goals over an extended period saying, “Many people spend a lot of money at gyms but are not getting the results they want. There is an ‘all or nothing attitude’ that develops. I realized I needed to teach people how to take small baby steps in the right direction.

“From August 2012 to May 2013, my clients lost a combined total of 800 pounds. One woman dropped 85 pounds and ran a 5K race for the first time, although that was not typical. There was even an article in the local paper about her. She was a fitness rock star.”

To achieve such results Scarbrough encourages her charges to skip soft drinks and avoid other unhealthy food choices but not to give up with a failure to do so. “If they fail one day we say ‘Don’t worry’ get back on your routine and diet. It’s a change in lifestyle and that’s why it’s so successful.

“It was a conscious decision not to have mirrors in the studio. Anybody can walk in here and feel comfortable,” she says. She also sends text messages daily to her students asking questions like, “What are you going to do today to meet your goal?” The classes have been so popular Scarbrough had to hire another trainer to assist with the growing number of attendees, especially the evening classes.

“I was at the Montpelier wine festival last year and I had three husbands offer to buy me a glass of wine because the self-confidence their wives had gotten by taking just one four-week class,” says a smiling Scarbrough. IMG_8003Another popular program is known as Total body Resistance exercise, or TRX.  “It’s body weight suspension training,” says Scarbrough created by a former Navy Seal.

The system leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises by simply adjusting your body position to add or decrease resistance. It employs two straps with loop hand holds suspended from a ceiling or door jam that allows a person to do sit ups, pull ups, and multiple core body exercises with no equipment other than the straps. Body weight alone is employed to exercise all major muscle groups. The system has roared across the physical fitness landscape since being introduced in 2005 and shows no signs of abating. “I even have two eighty-year-olds who use the TRX,” say Scarbrough.

The cost their classes are reasonable. A new student pays $80 for a four-week program and $40 each month thereafter. “Once you’re in the program its $10 a week to continue. And that includes training videos for at-home work outs, discussions on healthy eating, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, stretching, cardiovascular and more. It’s an extremely holistic approach to wellness. No one else offers quite the program we do,” says Scarbrough.

On the quieter side
As Scarbrough’s classes grew in popularity, Huff saw an opportunity to expand her love of yoga training. Her pursuit of a quieter lifestyle led her to purchase the iconic Stonewall Abbey church in Sperryville last year and launch a second studio devoted only to yoga.

“The classes in Sperryville are different than at the Culpeper studio. They emphasize the meditative, spiritual, and chanting aspects of yoga. Recently I had seventeen people in one of my morning classes. We serve walk-ins and have relationships with local bed and breakfasts that send their guests over. We offer classes seven days a week.

“The Sperryville location has become so popular next year I’ll be offering a yoga teacher training program. A lot of people are not certified in the best manner and you can hurt people in yoga if you are not mindful,” she says. An interesting aspect of the women’s business it’s that 95% of their clients are women. “A lot men view physical fitness as building bulk and strength. But yoga can be demanding. I’ve had men clients’ teasingly tell me ‘you killed me’ so yoga can produce a good workout,” states Huff.

Huff points out men are underserved in yoga instruction and she will soon begin offering a men-only program in Sperryville. “It can be intimidating for a man to walk into a class full of women. Often men can’t touch their toes because they are classically tighter than women. It’s just the way men are wired. If it works out, we will offer the same class in Culpeper,” says Huff.

Scarbrough underscores the male perception to fitness when discussing her volunteer work with the Culpeper Police Department. “It’s a trust thing. It took a year to build up the men’s trust that I knew what I was talking about and that I could help them—and kick their butt—without using a machine, she says laughing. Culpeper Premier Fitness is emblematic of a well-executed business plan.

The young firm’s success is due to its laser-like focus on fulfilling a need. Huff and Scarbrough do not see a physical expansion of the business since both locations can accommodate their growing client base. The firm has a total of seven employees.

We’ve done pretty well after three years,” understates Huff. We are really happy with our success and look forward to increasing the personal training we do.”


For information on classes and rates at both the Culpeper and Sperryville locations call 540.250.3828 or visit

Published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.

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