Since high school, Holly Holton has been all about improving her life through activity and nutrition. Her formal education and years of diverse experience have shaped her progressive fitness philosophy as well as her dedication to supporting women in their health journeys.
Holly Holton was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “I grew up in the nursery at the gym,” she half-joked about having parents who were into health and working out. Competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, cross-country, and track were school extracurriculars. And she was a voracious reader of fitness magazines.
A favorite mag was Oxygen. Holly would read about fitness competitions and the women in them for inspiration. There wasn’t much of a support system to tap in Lake Charles, though. “Healthy foods and options were lacking in the South. The food was amazing and delicious, but not the best for being fit,” she remembered. Which made her next act of badassery even more incredible.
At age 19, Holly decided to enter one of the fitness competitions she had read about. But it wasn’t just any old competition; it was Ms. Fitness Universe. The huge event was held in Miami, and she’d be going head-to-head with seasoned pros. Eight weeks of training included a lot of weights (“People gravitate to cardio, but I knew my way around the weight room.”) and intense food and workout plans. Her only outside help was with supplements. “I was 100% focused. Just the idea that I’d be competing with my idols kept me motivated,” she said.
Even though she was “immediately intimidated” in Miami, Holly placed Top Five out of 150 entrants in both divisions. With this incredible achievement, people began to pay attention and ask her how she accomplished it on her own. That sparked the drive to help other people.
“I wanted to be on the preventative side of health, to help people be active and focus on nutrition and not end up sick or in the hospital,” she stated. Her education, which included biology and kinesiology, provided a solid knowledge of the science of body mechanics. To layer in personal training education, Holly moved to Dallas and attended the Cooper Institute. She started working at Gold’s Gym as a trainer while launching a side career as a fitness model. After landing a magazine cover, she decided Los Angeles would be a more opportune place to be. At age 22, she took another big chance on herself.
A family friend secured Holly an office job, and she landed in West Hollywood. Building a female client base while working out at local gyms and by word of mouth, it was clear these woman were uncomfortable going into big gyms with lots of people. With limited boutique studios in Los Angeles in 2008, Holly thought “a women’s gym would be really cool” so she opened Pink Iron in 2008. The WeHo facility offered personal and group training and classes. “I did everything from training to marketing to janitor,” she recalled.
It’s often hard for women to meet other women in a comfortable community, and Holly remembered the struggle when first landing in L.A. “So we created a space for women not only for fitness, but to find similar interests and a home away from home.”
Sadly, Holly’s partner in Pink Iron was also her partner in life and when the personal relationship started to fail late last year, he moved her out of the business as well. Soon after, it closed. “It was a home to me for a decade. The people there were like family. It was bittersweet that it closed.”
Obviously, Holly’s not one to doubt herself or stay down. And she got so much support from the community she created, it took just months to regroup. “My clients pushed me to do something on my own. Without them, I might not have had the courage and strength to do this,” she says. And by “this”, she meant opening version 1 of Burn Babe in a pop-up space on Melrose next to Sportie L.A. (the owner of which is a friend and client). Her studio was a success, and the next step was the permanent space which opened in May.
Holly feels this version of Burn Babe is definitely “more womanly, more me.” She knows what her clients want and is entirely able to give it to them. “Women want to feel comfortable and motivated, and leave the gym feeling happy and not defeated.”
To that end, the classes are time-conscious, flexible, and ever-changing. There’s a different 45-minute workout each day, based on cardio and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Holly explained that each workout includes cardio, functional movement, and strength training to increase metabolism and lean muscle tone. “We throw new things out there so their bodies are constantly responding to new stimulus.” No boredom, no plateauing. Each station has options to push for your best at whatever level you’re at that day.
The classes are small – 20 maximum – and the youngest client is 18 while the oldest is 73 (she’s been with Holly for almost ten years). Some are sedentary and just starting to work out while others do Spartan races. Classes run Monday – Saturday, mostly in pre-9am and after 5pm. Packages are available for monthly unlimited classes. As a Certified Sports Nutritionist, Holly also consults on diet and food plans.
It gets better. Every month, Burn Babe donates a portion of the unlimited memberships to local women’s shelters. “I went through a lot with the end of my relationship and the closing of my business. It was really hard, and having the support system of other women to push me through it was huge to me. This was a really important part of this business; we want to help other women feel empowered and strong in whatever way that we can – it’s not just about us.”
And there’s even more! Your first class at Burn Babe is FREE! Ladies, get to the website today and enjoy this space that is just for you.
7366 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046