She may have lost weight—but that’s not how she found a new appreciation for her body.

By Mallory Creveling, ACE-CPT
Updated February 26, 2020
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Drew Barrymore recently kicked off her own #WellnessWeek on Instagram with an ode to body acceptance and a tribute to her trainer, Marnie Alton.

"The rollercoaster of my body is a challenging, but beautiful ride," the 45-year-old actress wrote in her IG post, revealing she’s often cried about the way she’s looked and has sometimes hated getting dressed. She also urged readers not to compare themselves to people in magazines or those who dropped weight right after giving birth. "If I looked decent on anything I have done since I had my two kids, I have clawed my way there. You can too! However, it is hard to sustain and can take a lot of joy out of life with food," she continued.

Barrymore, who lost 20 pounds for her role on the Netflix show, Santa Clarita Diet, credits Alton for helping her gain a new perspective on her body. "She has helped me. Healed me. Encouraged me to keep going when I felt like being strong was an unsurmountable task," Barrymore wrote about Alton in another IG post, also calling her "poetry in a human being" and "one of the greats."

With a description like that, we had to chat with Alton herself to see how she cultivated such strength—physically and mentally—for Barrymore. Here, Alton spills a few secrets on how she helped the actress train her body and mind.

Her workouts are based on barre—and strengthen the mind, body, and spirit.

Alton, founder of M/Body, an LA-based fitness studio, has a history with dance and a certification in barre, so she brings both into her workouts, including those with Barrymore. She’ll incorporate isometric holds and plié series (think: toes turned out, heels lifted, like in ballet), with small, controlled movements like squats and pulses.

But the basis of every workout by Alton involves the body, mind, and spirit, she says. "We utilize the three pillars of wellness every day. You need to create muscle mass to support bones, especially as women. You need to sweat to keep metabolism and your cardio healthy. And you need to stretch."

A simple key to keeping spirit up when doing 40 push-ups or planks for minutes: playing girl-power jams from the likes of Beyoncé, Madonna, Britney, and Katy Perry. Or repeating the mantras like, "strong backs support soft hearts," and "growth happens in millimeters, not miles," both of which Alton reiterates often to her clients.

She incorporates a lot of core work into her fitness routines.

"For me, I’m always trying to come up with ways to activate Barrymore's core in a fashion she’s not used to," says Alton. To do that, she starts the workout, post warm-up, with jumps from various plié positions. For about eight minutes, they’ll mix dance cardio moves and those high-impact exercises. "We do intervals of impact with jumps, so you get a deep heat from the inside out," Alton says.

Plank and crunch variations also hold a main spot on the workout line-up. Alton loves a rolling push-up for her go-to plank variation (that means you move from a push-up to a knees-down plank to a child’s pose and back to the top, flowing through each step). Barrymore, who's a big fan of crunches, prefers the bicycle variation as a major must-do move.

Her most important lesson: Listen to your body.

Barrymore has come to love her body—flaws and all. "Now I have found that elusive B called balance," she wrote in her Instagram post. "It only took 45 years to find myself. Right where I am supposed to be. And it’s not perfect. But it’s me."

Barrymore says she turns to Alton to help her remember her value. "We hope the people in the wellness world are actually healthy in their hearts and minds," she wrote. "It’s not all about being terminators! It’s about how to find yourself. How to be your best self. But we need guidance and we hope our teachers are smart and wise and sane."

With a belief that everyone just needs to tap into their "inner courageous warrior" by getting to know their bodies better, it’s clear Alton is one of the wise ones. "With Drew, it wasn’t always go, go, go, faster, harder, sweat more, burn more. It was about seeing and getting to know and having a conversation with her body to know what it needs on a given day and then provide that," Alton tells Health. "So we’d lean more into a slower, conscious pace some days. Other days, we’d move, burn, sweat, yell, or get energy flowing."

She urges her clients to see exercise as more than a means to aesthetic gains.

"Mental wellness is more important than a six-pack and that’s achieved through movement and community and listening and getting to know your body," says Alton, adding that toned arms and abs are just a bonus to showing your body some love through fitness.

"When we come at workouts from a place of self-punishment or what we have to or should do, we’re not setting ourselves up for success," she adds. "It’s integral to begin from a space of respect and love for this home that we spend our lives in and carry through everything. So, we need to respect that and honor that and serve that."

Clearly, Barrymore was right: Alton really does sound like "one of the greats."

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