I had the chance to check out a super-new, super-boutique fitness trend today – and it totally broke my generally skeptical stance against super-new, super-boutique fitness trends.
The place is called Iobella, and it’s an Argentinian import now located smack in the middle of Santa Monica (5th and Wilshire). The basic concept is this: you get in a pod (they call it a thermal heat capsule), the pod is heated to 98 degrees (think body temperature, so it’s really not that hot), and you complete a 30-minute workout in the pod. Sounds like some sort of dystopian future thing, right? The Soylent Green of workouts?
But I assure you – this is no gimmick.
I arrived at Iobella and was immediately struck by the vibe of the place – there’s a parking lot (no stress, no hassle – hard to find in L.A.!), the front lobby feels like an exclusive spa, and you get your own locker and sandals (hygenic!) before heading into the pod room.
Once there, you work personally with a trainer – either one-on-one (most common, that’s what I did) or two-on-one (if you need the moral support) – but never more than that. There are straps inside the pod that are connected to 3-pound weights; the weight never changes, but the rep count and difficulty of movements do modify with practice (you do the same workout for 6 sessions, then they change it up).
The workout begins with core, moves into legs (focusing on the most-often-heard trouble zones for women – inner/outer thighs and upper/side butt) and finishes with arms (again, targeting he problem areas – triceps and upper back). The movements are definitely Pilates-inspired (think about a heavy focus on core engagement and alignment) but are hard as hell with even the minimal resistance – because guys, once you’re hitting 40-rep sets of ANYTHING on a single leg or arm in a 98-degree pod, that sh*t is going to get real.
Besides the workout being surprisingly challenging, it was also surprisingly relaxing – the micromovements and focus on deep core muscles force you to concentrate on deep breathing, and the heat makes your muscle pain and tension melt away as you move. The more time you spend in the pod, the more time you want to be there – an exercise-induced Stockholm syndrome.
But wait – there’s more. A lot more. Remember I told you Iobella felt like a spa?
Well, that’s because it is a spa. Like, really. They call it a spa, decidedly not a studio, because for the 30 minutes you spend sweating in a pod, you get back 30 delicious minutes of pampering: 15 spent cleansing under a rainshower with charcoal wash (a toxin-eliminating, skin-softening ritual) and fluffy robes, and 15 spent in the most relaxing place on Earth – an oxygen rejuvenation pod.
In this second pod (in a separate, barely-lit relaxation room), alternating warm and cold blasts of purified air massage your body while you lie motionless with cucumbers on your eyes, a soft mask on your face, and headphones playing soothing music, which lulls you into a weirdly invigorating state of bliss.
Are you ready to try it yet?
I walked out of Iobella with the same calm, peaceful feeling I get from an hour-long massage but with the renewed, accomplished feeling I get from a sweaty Bikram yoga session – a winning combination, in my personal and professional opinion. I can see how Iobella could become an addiction (albeit a very expensive one – check the site for more info on pricing, although they DO run deals every now and then), and as an athlete, I can also see how the movements practiced in the session, along with the personalized guidance of a trainer, can eliminate the potential for injury and strengthen the oft-overlooked connective tissues – no small feat for a 30-minute workout.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, tired of your current workout, and looking to try something high-end that will leave you feeling like a million bucks – Iobella is it. I know that today’s first go-round is far from being my last.
Have you ever tried a “fitness trend” (SoulCycle, Zumba, etc.)? What spa/studio have you always wanted to try but haven’t yet?