Quarantine Q + A — Marisa Wayne

How this successful entrepreneur and champion of charities is navigating a "new normal."


Marisa Wayne has a quiet power about her, an inspiring charisma that is completely effortless. Maybe she gets that from her dad, screen legend John Wayne, but I’d argue that she has an impressive strength and spirit all her own. In addition to being a loving and super-involved mom of two, Marisa also is a highly successful entrepreneur, and one of the founders of GritCycle, the indoor cycling studio that first made waves here on the OC coast with its unique blend of world-class instructors and an unparalleled studio setting and staff — all delivering an amazing client experience. GritCycle now has expanded to seven locations throughout California. More than just a workout, GritCycle has been successful in creating an inclusive community. At GritCycle, every rider is part of the Grit “family,” and many participate in the studios’ frequent Karma Rides that raise funds for various charities, as well as the now famous “Gritty Up,” a combination party, auction and ride that is held annually to raise funds for The John Wayne Cancer Foundation. And, if all this didn’t keep Marisa busy enough, she made the time to sit down and answer the Quarantine Q+A, and even provide a recipe. Enjoy!

Q: What about the current quarantine situation have you liked best - if you had to pick something to like?


MW: It’s been fun spending a little more time with the kids. We have been playing cards and dominoes and watching movies together. Also sitting down for home-cooked family dinners and saying Grace together, trying to focus on all we have to be thankful and grateful for during these times and every day.


Q: What about quarantine has been the most challenging for you and why?


MW: It’s challenging not to be able to be with my mom. She is doing great, but all I have been able to do is drop off groceries. I worry about even going to the grocery store then going to her house. I wipe everything down and wear a mask and gloves but I know she misses us and wants more time together. I miss family and friends, doing the things we have taken for granted for so long.


Q: Where have you been turning for inspiration during this time?


MW: I’ve just been praying. I believe in the power of prayer. We may not understand what’s going to happen but I choose to have Faith, not fear.


Whenever I feel anxious or watch too much news, I try to shut it down by being still and breathing, going outside to see the sun or the stars and focusing on the wonder of a sunset or rainbow and being thankful for the experience of a full life with all the ups and downs.


I also look to my kids. They are being so strong through all of this. They don’t get to see their friends or play their sports or have get togethers and they aren’t whining about it. They are stuck at home with their mom and each other and they are pleasant (for the most part) and helpful and I am really proud of them for not complaining.


Q: How has being in quarantine affected your work?

MW: Well, we are all in the same boat, but having to close a thriving, productive, business (GritCycle) that only strengthens the community was heart-breaking.

We had to temporarily lay off over 100 hard-working, employees who showed up to work with a positive attitude and were the best of the best.

I am confident we will be back stronger than ever and this is only a temporary setback for the greater good, but that was something I never imagined having to do.

Also, in order to not close permanently, we had to figure out a new business model almost overnight. We leased out our bikes, curbside pickup only, and set up livestream classes through Classpass and created an on demand subscription library.

Our instructors have been superstars, showing up and teaching to an iPhone in an empty room and still bringing the enthusiasm of riding with 56 people! We even have people messaging us saying they have Peloton bikes but are subscribing to our classes! We are still fine-tuning production, but I’m really proud of Cassie Piasecki, Katie Frome, Andrea Head and Jill Yasuda for literally figuring all of this out during a pandemic, on a moments notice.

Q: Quarantine cuisine - any new or old favorites you've been enjoying more during quarantine? What and why?

MW: I’ve been experimenting with new recipes, but my staple meal a couple nights a week is a chicken za'atar salad that was inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe. I don’t usually measure so everything is to taste.

Take a couple of skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts and marinate in a baggie with olive oil, Kosher salt and a lot of Za’atar seasoning. You can find it in the spice aisle or Google the recipe as it’s fairly easy to make.

When ready, cook the chicken on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven until done. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then shred by pulling apart with two forks. You can scrape the pan and add the crispy bits too.

For the salad you need:

A bunch or 2 of Italian parsley, washed. dried and chopped coarsely

A bunch of fresh mint, washed, dried and chopped coarsely

Firm cucumbers (baby or Persian are good in season or English Hothouse)

Toasted whole-wheat pita bread

Tomatoes if you like them

For the dressing:

Chop the white part of 1-2 scallions

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 Lemons juiced

1-2 garlic cloves minced

Maldon or any good salt

Mix all together - add the chicken to the salad and toss with the dressing then crumble the toasted pita on top

Q: What is your quarantine cocktail of choice?

MW: That depends on the weather.

On colder days, I love a Duke Rye Bourbon with club soda and a squeeze of lemon on the rocks (sorry bourbon connoisseurs, I won't drink it straight.)

On warmer days, I like Casamigos Reposado tequila, with Topo Chico and a lemon on the rocks, OR I kinda stole a recipe from Billy’s on the Beach where you take Coconut tequila, a tiny bit of Agave syrup, Topo Chico and lime juice on the rocks. It’s refreshing!

Pinot Noir with dinner.

Q: Are there lessons that you hope society/our culture/the world will take away from quarantine (after it’s over) — things we’ve learned as a society during this time?

MW: Realizing “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!”

We are focusing on how to get through this as a nation and the take away is that, together, we are resilient.

Most of us have had to sacrifice, to think outside the box, to morph into a different reality overnight. Neighbors are setting up community pantries, cooking meals for first responders, helping where help is needed. Companies are completely restructuring and figuring out ways to participate in production of face masks, ventilators, hand sanitizers, essential gear for those fighting the front lines. This country is laser focused on working as a united Army and I hope we can realize if we can do this under extreme duress, we can continue to join forces and prosper when the dust settles.

Q: Favorite music during this time?

MW: As a family, it’s challenging to find music everyone likes but we all LOVE Old Dominion and Runaway June. Fleetwood Mac, Florida Georgia Line, Eric Church and Miranda Lambert are all staples, too.

Q: Any tip/s you can share with others that have made this time more bearable for you?

MW: Trying to find projects around the house, cleaning, organizing, keeping your mind busy and productive and feeling better as the end result.

Set little goals every day so you still feel like you’re improving, whether learning a new recipe, practicing a musical instrument for just 10 minutes, using a foreign language app, planting herbs, reading, or watching old classic movies.

Q: If this COVID quarantine "thing" was a character in a movie, what would he/she/it look like and what would be his/her/its traits? Hero or villain?

MW: Probably a villain, similar to Bruce Dern’s character in The Cowboys, who was annoying, ugly, mean and heartless and took down some good people but got what he had coming to him in the end!

Q: What will you appreciate more after quarantine is over?

MW: Pardon my language, but every damn second!! I’ll appreciate the gift of going to work, sending my kids to school, meeting friends for dinner, doing a group fitness class, traveling, and giving big hugs!

Q: Any book, podcast, movie, YouTube, Instagram accounts, albums or any other recommendations you have during this time?

MW: Yes! My kids and I watched, “I Still Believe” before Easter and we all really loved it. It’s a true story.

I reconnected with an old friend who told me to watch a movie he did with his brothers called, “7 Days to Vegas!” It’s on Amazon Prime Video and I’ve watched it twice now. It’s fun and funny and entertaining and I’m not just saying that because we’re friends. I give it two thumbs up!


I also enjoyed the Morning Show, Big Little Lies, Jack Ryan, 24 and the TV series, Younger.