Photographed by: Ray Villalon
In an area where spin studios, yoga studios, pilates studios, private gyms, and anything remotely fitness-related is king, it can be hard to set yourself apart and reach that “shining star” status. For Marisa Wayne of Grit Cycle, she has done just that. Marisa has taken her love of fitness and her philanthropic spirit, and married the two in a seamless union that is Grit Cycle. She fosters a high-spirited environment of camaraderie and fun with her intense spin classes, loud beats, non-competitive style, and charitable Karma Rides. With the upbringing of John Wayne and Pilar Palette that harvested an intense work ethic and passion for fitness, it’s no wonder that Marisa Wayne is the Spin Queen of the OC.
Question: How did your love of fitness begin?
Marisa Wayne: Well, ever since the early 80s, I’ve loved high impact aerobics. In the mid-eighties, I went to school and got a degree in exercise science. I lived in Colorado, and I used to work at the health and rec center there. I led aerobics and circuit training classes and, at that time, Steamboat Springs had only one health and rec center, and I thought, “One of these days, I’m going to open another studio up here that’s a little more boutique-y,” because I loved the group exercise aspect. I was never into machines and just doing a workout on my own. I liked having the accountability of showing up for class and having the other people around. I ended up moving away and that didn’t happen, but I always stayed involved in working out.
Q: What inspired you to open Grit?
I moved back to Newport Beach and went to a YAS after my son, my youngest child, was born and thought, “You know, I kind of like this spin thing!” I hadn’t liked it before. They were offering a certification and I thought, “That’d be fun to do.” I just wanted to be a healthy new mom, and I really liked the people there, so I got certified and started working there. After a couple years, it was time to move on So, the opportunity came and I left. Shortly after that, my partners and I talked about opening a studio and tried to find a spot. We started looking and it just snowballed. One thing led to another. We found this building and Scott Burnham, our landlord, helped us with the whole process, and it was very cool how it happened so organically. It’s just taken off and been a great experience.
Q: What can a first time rider expect from a Grit class?
MW : (Laughs.) Well…they can expect to be blown away! There are just a lot of people who come in and are like, “What just happened? That was so much fun! I didn’t get the moves, but I had a great time!” It’s like any sport–you can’t just come in and expect to master it the first time. It’s going to take you a few times to get the rhythm and to get what we do, but you’re going to have fun the whole time. No one’s going to yell at you. Ideally, you should sit in the back so you can watch what’s going on, and just expect to have a lot of fun. Expect to get hot, expect to get sweaty, expect to meet some friendly people, and expect to get hooked! The stronger you get, the more you’re going to turn up the resistance, so it’s never going to get easy. You’re always going to have a challenge, because you’re always going to keep turning that red knob!
Q: Does a Grit spin class work for people of all fitness levels?
MW: Yes. You can adjust the resistance, and you don’t have to stand up the whole time. You can always sit and take a break, or slow it down. I’ve had people recovering from surgery in the same room as Olympic athletes. I’ve had very overweight people in the same room with NFL players. You have your own bike and no one is controlling it–you are. If you need to take a break, you take a break!
Q: What’s your advice for a first-time rider and an experienced rider?
MW: For a first-time rider, don’t kill yourself! Observe, have fun, relax, and bring a lot of water. For an experienced rider, turn it up! Don’t get comfortable. Keep turning the resistance up. You’ve got all the moves down, you know what to do, but you still need to challenge yourself. Maybe use heavier hand weights during the weights [section/portion]. When you start to feel like you’re just cruising, give it that extra quarter or half turn, and challenge yourself.
Q: What are some things to know to ensure you’re riding properly on your bike? Do you have any posture tips?
MW: I like to tell people to keep your hips back over the seat when you’re standing up, and your arms are long to the end of the handlebars. You want to lengthen your spine, your core is engaged, abs are in, and you almost want to feel like you’re lifting your ribs up and away from your hips so you’re creating space. You want to try to stay long. A lot of times, people want to put all of their weight on the handlebars and they hunch over and then they’re like, “My back hurts!” and it’s like yeah, you have to open up, pull your shoulders back, and stay relaxed in your neck area, but engage your core. Loosen your grip on the handlebars; you don’t want a death grip!
Q: How many calories can one expect to burn in a Grit spin class?
MW: That really depends on your size and the amount of resistance you use. You can always wear a heart rate monitor and you can get it pretty close to what you actually burn, but I’d say a little woman who isn’t working that hard burns maybe 300 to 400 calories, and then you have your big guy who can burn close to 1000. Typically, when I’m wearing my heart rate monitor in there, I’m burning about 600, but I’m talking and jumping up and down. Like I was saying earlier today: I know people want to burn calories, and I know that I want to have two glasses of wine tonight, so I want to make sure I can burn that off, but it’s really about more than being skinny or burning calories or losing weight. It’s just really about having that 45 minutes to yourself where you can just forget about everything outside of those doors, have a lot of fun, be with a great group of people, and walk out and feel 1000% better than you did when you walked in. The people are so supportive of one another. It’s just about feeling great, and the side-effects are you looking better, stronger, and leaner, too.
Q: How does Grit set itself apart from the other spin studios in the area?
MW: It’s our community aspect. All spin studios have bikes that you can ride and music playing, but it’s our Karma Rides and our community that set us apart. We do choreography where some others are more road based. If you’re a road biker or road cyclist, typically they would prefer a class that would be more oriented towards sprints and hills, and we do all of that, but we also incorporate the upper body workout with the pushups, the songs with weights and resistance, which really strengthens your core, your legs, your glutes, and your cardiovascular system. We do two Karma Rides per month. We have our Gritty Up, and we’re very much a business, but both Matt and I love this community and really wanted to make a difference in our hometown.
Q: How do Karma Rides work?
MW: When we were originally going to open, we thought we’d give $1 per bike to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. Quickly, we realized there are a lot of great charities around here, and obviously I’m very close to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, you know with losing my dad to cancer and wanting to help everybody that has to go through what my dad and I went through. But we thought we could do one big event, which became the Gritty Up. Then we can switch charities each month, and it’s really grown beyond what we imagined. We’ve had rides for different school PTAs, Movember, abused women, Toys for Tots, no-kill shelters, you name it! We’re really excited to be able to do that. I wish we could do more, and maybe once we get more locations, we’ll be able to, but we sell the bikes at $20 per bike. You can always donate more. The instructor donates their time and we donate the studio. We don’t charge for the cleaning or towels; we give everything straight to the charity. So they typically sell out, and with 53 bikes, $1060 per class, twice a month, we can hand over a minimum of a little over $2,000, which will take care of a little bit. We’re really proud and excited to be able to do that. We also rent the room out, so if people want to have private rides or corporate events, we can do that. We just did a ride, K9s for Warriors, for one of our clients who lost a dear friend. He was a soldier and had PTSD. So this is an organization that provides dogs to soldiers with PTSD, and it helps the dog and the soldier. So she rents out the room, she sells the bikes for $100, $200, whatever or however much she can get in, and they have a party in the spin room! When they’re done, they come out on the deck and toast with some champagne or juice or whatever they want, and those are really fun. We’ve had bridal showers and wedding showers, and it’s just a really cool way to celebrate but also give back a little bit. For [the woman who threw the K9 for Warriors event], it was her birthday. So, your friends have to show up–it’s your birthday!
Q: Tell me about the Gritty Up.
We’ve had two Gritty Ups, which is the John Wayne Cancer Foundation ride. At that time, when we started, we had 40 bikes. I said to Matt, “Let’s see if we can get our clients to raise $1,000 a bike and that would be $40,000. That would be amazing!” and he was like, “What? No way! Our clients can do way better than that,” and it happened to fall on what would have been my dad’s 107th birthday, so we were like, “Okay, let’s shoot for $107,000.” All said and done, we almost hit $200,000. The second year we came close to that, but slightly less, so we’ve raised close to $400,000 in two years. It’s a really fun event. We give you a month do to your fundraising, and it’s a three hour ride in three segments, and after the first 45 minutes the doors will open, and you can switch out your team members. The top fundraising team wins a trip for 2 to Fiji, generously donated each year by Melissa Freese of Fiji Vacations. It’s like a concert the whole time. People are just standing in the back with glow sticks and margaritas and beer, and there will be people spinning and sipping on a Silver Bullet! It’s really a party on a bike! The night before the ride, we do a silent auction party. The first year, we did it at Canaletto, and it was just way too many people, so last year we had it at the Island Hotel, which was really beautiful. We did the silent auction by the pool and I want to say close to 400 people attended. Between the revenue of the ride, the auction, and tickets to the party, we were able to hand over almost $200,000 again. This year, the party is on June 2 at the A&O Kitchen at the Balboa Bay Resort. Tickets are still available at the studio.
Q: How did your dad inspire your love of fitness?
MW: Well, he was very athletic. He played football in college and he loved being outdoors. He loved horseback riding. We were always doing something, on our boat, waterskiing, and fishing. My mom really loved tennis, so we had a tennis club and she really got me into playing tennis competitively as a junior. She was always more health-oriented than he was. He was very active, but she was more about no-carbs, what to eat, and on the cutting edge of what the next diet fad would be. I got it from both of them to always be healthy and active, and to keep it interesting.
How Grit’s unique method came to be
MW: I feel like when the lights are off, you don’t feel like anyone’s staring at you and you can just lose yourself. Originally, I liked the idea of having a lighter, brighter room with fresh air and Matt convinced me that no, it’s better the other way, and he was totally right. I love doors opening at the end of class when the fresh air comes in but, during the workout, I don’t want somebody standing out there and staring in. Some days you just come in having rolled out of bed with mascara down your face, your hair is a mess, and you just don’t want anybody to look at you, and you can just go in there and lose yourself.
Totally! I remember I came in one day after the longest, most annoying night ever, looking like hell, and when those lights were off, I was just free. I was like, “Ugh, this is GREAT!”
MW: Yes! Exactly! That’s what we want.
Q: Now, describe a Grit class to me in three words.
MW (laughing): Oh, this one! That’s hard, because there are so many words. I mean, “fun,” “motivating,” and “high-intensity.” Does that count as two words? Oh–“sweaty!” It’s hard to narrow it down. It’s like asking what you’re favorite song is! “Fun,” “motivating,” and…well, it depends on the instructor, too. “Inspirational.” I feel inspired when I look around and see everybody. And if I go to one of our fabulous instructors and they say just the right thing at the right time, it’s the best. Kaitlin Honeycut is really good at that. She’s a yoga instructor too, so she has all that soulful stuff to say.
Q: Give us your interpretation of the name “Grit.”
MW: Passion and perseverance to achieve one’s goals. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have the passion and the perseverance, it’s easy to just give up. You have to have that drive and the innate longing to get the job done, to do what needs to be done. Sometimes it’s not pretty, it’s gritty! There are some days that you just don’t feel good. There are days when I wake up and I’m just tired, and I couldn’t sleep the night before, and I have to show up and teach a class, but the minute I walk up that ramp, I’m energized. I see the people and I know the personal stories of the people that come to my classes, and they all have endured. Last year was rough on a lot of people and I see that, and see their grit, and I’m just like, “Yeah, let’s do this! Come on!”
Q: If you could have anyone in the world in one of your spin classes, who would you have?
MW: I love this question! Again, so hard to narrow down! But definitely Elvis Presley. I would love my dad, maybe in his younger years when he would have enjoyed it. Also, I love Pink.
Yes! Pink! She’d be so fun!
MW: Wouldn’t she be fun? I think she’d be great! She actually does a private concert for the John Wayne Cancer Institute every other year, so maybe the next time I can hit her up and say, “Come on! Come down and ride the podium with me!” Oh, and Mick Jagger in my class, too!
Q: What is one of your favorite Grit memories?
MW: Definitely the Gritty Up when we saw all of the donations coming in. I would have been happy with $40,000, then we hit $70,000, then we hit $100,000, then $120,000, then I called my brother and was like, “Are you looking at this? Are you seeing this?” and he was like, “Are you messing with me?” and I was like, “No! I’m not! I’m not that smart, I wouldn’t even know how!” So, not just the fact that we raised so much, but the fact that the community did it. The fact that these people who have all been affected by cancer, like one of our top fundraisers whose husband had stage four cancer when they got married and now he spins here! He’s doing great and he’s healthy! The fact that we can make people’s lives more comfortable and better, and hopefully one day cure cancer, and the memory of that all happening as a group was really phenomenal. I remember little bits about every class. Just a special moment where you connect with somebody. Maybe I’m off the bike, and I go up and put my hand out, and someone gives you a high five, just the camaraderie here is like nothing I’ve ever felt. We’re a team.
Q: What do you see for the future of Grit?
MW: I see new Grits! I see Grit all over the place! We’re looking now in South Orange County, and it’s hard to find a location because we’re so spoiled here. We need a lot of parking and, ideally, we’d like to be a stand alone building with a deck, and every time I find a building like that, Chase Bank just got it (laughing). It’s always a Chase! So we are actively searching, but I’d like to have a Grit in a lot of different communities around here and the United States.
1731 Santa Ana Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
949.631.4748 | www.gritcycle.com