For Heather Marr, fitness is a personal thing.
The onetime model grew up in a small Canadian town with big city dreams. Once she left home, she went to work as an Elite model, struggling to maintain the very specific aesthetic standards the industry demanded.
While that challenge was difficult, it also led her to educate herself on everything to do with aesthetic fitness, developing her own tested strategies. She quickly realized that it’s possible to help women manifest the kind of physiques they desire in a sustainable way, without sacrificing their well-being.
Marr became a trainer, specifically for models, first in Toronto and then in New York City. Today, she has published two books, The Model Trainer Method and 28 Days To Strong. She has model—and civilian—clients all over the world, who rely on her for personalized nutrition, training plans and her impossibly winning attitude.
Here, she describes why, for her, it’s been so important to learn to say no:
Live The Process: As a child, did you envision a career in fitness?
Heather Marr: I definitely did not see myself ending up in the fitness industry when I was young. I was the smart, introverted girl that was good at school—not the athletic outgoing one. I always loved fitness, and it’s been a huge part of my daily life from an early age, but I was not naturally athletic. I loved it and, so, I chose to work very hard for hours daily at the sports I played. Of course, over time, with practice, you get pretty good.
LTP: You started out as a model. What inspired you to take that path and was it a positive or negative experience?
HM: I grew up in a small town in Ontario and one of my sisters was attending the University of Toronto. One weekend, when I was about 14 years old, I went to visit her and was scouted by an agent while I was shopping at the Eaton Centre. That put the idea in my head that modeling was a possibility. A few days later, though, I was back on the bus to my small town, just biding my time until I could escape permanently.
Fast forward a few years: I was living in Toronto with a boyfriend. We were walking down Yonge Street when I was scouted again by an agent—this time from a smaller, more commercial agency. My boyfriend suggested I check out some of the better agencies. I went in on open calls that week and got started that way. The industry has certain standard measurements, and, at the time, I struggled to maintain those using the tools I had. Ultimately, that negative turned into a positive and set me on my current career path.
LTP: What inspired you to go from being a model to fitness training them? What’s different about training a model vs. a civilian?
HM: I had a very tough time with my measurements as a model. I had zero idea what I was doing back then. I was running a few hours every day and my nutrition plan was basically trying to eat as little as possible. Breaking a 35 hip for me (with what I knew back then) was a real challenge and not sustainable. Unfortunately, in those days, this was a common problem that I observed all the time.
My personal experience inspired me to get started later as a trainer: I always take a customized approach. I’m hired by clients outside the industry for aesthetic training, as well. The main difference is that models have to hit certain measurements or certain ranges of measurements, while the public is interested purely in visual aesthetics and health. For example, if I have a 5’11” model with a wide hip bone, we’re probably going to flatten the butt; that would be a non-issue with a regular (or public) client.
When there are no measurement constraints, the way you’re able to healthfully mold the body is really incredible. The non-model clients that I’ve worked with are generally aiming for fit, athletic-type physiques, which is also different. Often times, when they contact me, they say they want a model physique, but when we actually break it down, it’s more of a fitness body. There seems to be a real gap between what many think a model physique is versus what it actually is.
LTP: You’ve written two books now for the public. How does your expertise apply to average folks?
HM: I really enjoy working outside the industry, as well as in it. What often happens in a commercial gym is that the trainer sets the client up with programming for function or strength, even though what they have in mind is specific and aesthetic. When you’re doing aesthetic training, even the angle on exercises is important. It shifts what you’re targeting and, ultimately, how the physique is going to look. You have to adjust training for bone structure, balance, symmetry, etc.
I don’t wish a negative experience on anyone, but it’s always really amazing to work with a client who has had these unfortunate misguidances in the past. Often, they’ve sort of given up and aren’t even aware of how much the body can change with training and nutrition geared for aesthetics. It’s so fun to watch them achieve a figure they didn’t think was even possible.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
HM: Wow! That is a tough one. Happiness to me is being healthy, fit and independent, working as my own boss. I’m so grateful every day for the life I’m living now: I’m in New York City, I have a wonderful group of close friends and the cutest lab/shepherd mix. I’m living the life that I dreamed about and worked towards for so many years—and that certainly makes me happy.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
HM: For me, “Living the process” means learning to say no and stick with it. This is still something I sometimes struggle with, but I’ve been really working on this area of my life. In past years, I really overextended myself, working insane hours seven days a week, pulling all-nighters regularly. I’ve set up real boundaries now at work and also in my personal life.
I’m an introvert, and I’ve learned to turn down and cancel social commitments when I need that time for myself. Learning to say “no” has made such a difference in the quality of my life. This is something a lot of people struggle with—but self-care is not selfish; it’s necessary.
Photo by Niall Staines