Marnie Alton, founder of Barre Belle in Los Angeles and celebrity trainer, has her own vision of exactly how fitness (and wellness) should be. But it took her a while to get there.
At 16, it was recommended to her that she have vocal cord surgery. However, she continued to put it off and eventually her body ended up slowly breaking down on its own — for example, she threw out her shoulder using so many muscles to create sound.
After a semi-intervention by her team, Alton had the surgery late last year, and with it, came three weeks of complete silence. And now, almost like after completing the Whole30 and reintroducing foods back into your diet, Alton is reintroducing herself to life — and everything that entails post-surgery.
In that silence, it occurred to her that maybe what we perceive as “self-care” today is not actually what we, or our body, needs. “I’ll scroll through Insta or something and it will say: self-care, getting a facial. Self-care, buying a handbag. Self-care, getting a massage. Yes, absolutely. 100 percent. But I started being like, self-care, get a GP. Self-care go get your mammogram … care for this body before what I experienced [happens],” she says. “I was starting to break down one part at a time because I was like ‘you are strong, you can do this.’”
And now that she has her voice back, Alton is learning to live again with a new perspective on life and on self-care. And she has picked up a few lessons along the way.
1. Never be scared to do what you love and be around right people.
Originally from Canada, Alton started her career in acting, until after working at The Bar Method she realized fitness was her one true love — self-described as the best friend in the romantic comedy that you are meant to end up with, but it takes dating a few jerks to get there. “I took off for a year to England to kind of soul-search and break up with acting … and all the while people had said that you have such a gift for this fitness thing you should do that, and it just didn’t click to me,” she says. “And I came back and I really had this January first walking my dog ‘aha moment.’ And it almost brought me to tears. This is what I wanted to do. It’s always what I wanted to do.”
And so with all the determination she could gather, she built her studio from the ground up (and with her own two hands) and opened on La Brea in May 2014 — and in turn, created a community.
As a female founder, Alton has seen a shift in the years since she opened shop, which she credits to the political environment and rise of #MeToo. “With the #MeToo movement … and what’s going on politically in the world, they need a space to feel space and they need a space to come and fill up,” she says. “What excites me about that is that we’re providing somewhere where that’s happening. Where people are feeling fed and cared for. And I think that is as much if not a bigger part of wellness than … feeling super confident in your bathing suit.”
2. Set yourself up for success.
For Alton, overall wellness is a completely well-rounded experience. One that she struggled with herself even as she teaches her instructors and students differently. “One of the philosophies that I speak to really often is that whole concept of the airplane mask needing to put yours on before helping others. And I really feel like, especially the women I’m surrounded by, and the ones that seem to be attracted to this type of discipline, they’re kind of doing it all,” Alton says. “They’re raising a family. And they’re following passions and they’re making a difference in the world, and they’re working. Or some degree of all of these things, they are there [at the studio] wanting to be better. But the recognition that you’re coming into this space to get your mask on so that you can go out and be better in the world.”
If you listen to your body, she says it will tell you what you need to hear. “You’re having a conversation with your body, whether you choose to ignore it or listen to it,” she says. “It’s giving you feedback, it’s on a constant feedback loop … find out what your language is with your body.”
3. It is beneficial (and necessary) to have support.
This is one of the biggest sticking points for her: to succeed in life and meet your wellness goals, having support is key. “100 percent [Barre Belle feels like a home]. 100 percent. And you see that. There’s no isolation. If a new client walks in, we immediately introduce them to the five people standing around them,” she says.
“It’s less about the right motivation phrase, and it’s more about continuing and collectively lean into it,” she adds. “Making sure that the community is strong. Speaking to people and having another reason to come into the studio.”
A community which Instagram saw brought to life in Drew Barrymore’s relatable post about her weight loss this past December. Barrymore thanked Alton for helping her lose the weight — an anomaly among the world of fitfluencers.
“My challenge with [fitfluencers] to some degree becomes these well-lit, contorted 23-year-old blonde people everywhere. And that’s just not the truth. That’s not wellness. And that’s not fitness. Even if there’s an inspiring quote underneath it,” she says. “To me, it’s becoming the new thing where we used to look at magazines and think everyone looks that way … I’m not a fan of that. Because I believe much more in spreading a well-rounded idea.”
An idea which, for Alton, Barrymore brings to life. “What I think is great about what [Drew] does in social media as well, is that I do think she is the antithesis of what I just described. She really leans into being exposed and vulnerable.”
4. Wellness is more than just being physically fit.
But it is not always about training for Alton. In fact, her favorite trend is not even about fitness or the gym. Instead, it is about mental wellness.
“This idea of … having more conversations that are real. You are seeing more people, like Drew, talk about how hard it is for her to lose 25 pounds. That’s important to hear. Especially when you’re working at a similar goal,” she says. “That speaks to mental wellness. If you’re mentally well, you’re going to be inspired and motivated and you’re gonna get up and go for a walk and you’re going to feel confident and you’re gonna want to go to the gym and you’re gonna want to eat better.”
5. The best things are tried and true.
Even as Alton embraces her newfound look on life, some things remain the same —especially when it comes to her workout gear. “I’m mildly obsessed with bodysuits. And no designer right now that I’ve found is really sort of leaning into that,” she says. “So I still roll old-school style and go down to the dance shop and pick up my bodysuit.”
She also has a penchant for aromatherapy — her favorite is the True Botanicals Muscle Release Aromatherapy stick. “Aromatherapy is a big power point for me,” she says. “I tend to lean more toward citrus scent. I’m a big fan of any kind of orange eucalyptus blend, anything that feels uplifting and clean for me, I will tend to go do. And then lavender is always my jam.”