Even the most jaded fitness aficionados (of which L.A. has plenty) would have to admit Santa Monica's exclusive new Iobella studio resembles nothing else they've seen before.
With its Plexiglas heated workout pods and triple-oxygen spa cabins, it is as much spa as it is boutique gym. And that's exactly the appeal for its small circle of posh clients, who shell out thousands of dollars (the owner wouldn't be specific) for a customized program that includes a personal training plan, a dietitian on call and relaxing cucumbers-over-the-eyes sessions in those O3 pods, which are supposed to soften skin and muscles after your workout.
"We make them feel good," says owner Roxana Lissa, who brought the program, which was developed decades ago in Switzerland, to Santa Monica with partners from Buenos Aires. "It's about the whole experience."
Indeed, after a workout, members have the option to relax for 15 minutes in one of the individual oxygen cabins while being fanned with warm air and surrounded with New Age music.
Think of it as the sleek modern equivalent of those reducing spas your grandmother frequented — only with Pilates and electric muscle stimulation (EMS) instead of those waist-jiggling belts.
On the first visit, clients — women only — are weighed and measured to create a workout plan and weight-loss goals. These measurements are repeated every six workouts, and a new workout plan is created.
All of the 30-minute workouts take place in the studio's workout pods, which are heated to 98 degrees Fahrenheit — "the body's natural temperature" — to bring on a satisfying sweat and assist clients in burning more calories (provided they can maintain the same intensity that they can in cooler environments).
Inside the pod, pulleys at the ankles and arms provide resistance for a challenging but not-as-intense-as-boot-camp toning workout that is done in quick repetition to keep the heart rate up.
By the end of the session, I wasn't spent, but I was drenched in sweat. I woke up the next morning, feeling the workout in my abs and thighs, but I wasn't particularly sore, even after a one-two combination of strength exercises and EMS, which is part of some packages.
The EMS, delivered through electrodes taped to your body while you lie on a massage table, is one way Iobella is upping the ante. It's a practice most commonly used in physical therapy, but it is used here to "reduce localized fat while enhancing visible muscular definition," per the company's website.
Exercise physiologist Jessica Matthews of the American Council on Exercise, questions EMS' benefit in burning fat but says it has shown to be of some limited benefit in strength gains. Still, Lissa says many of Iobella's members are "addicted" to the feeling they get from the service.
They probably also like sweating out a pound or 2 of water weight, as I did when I went. For some people, the evolving program and regular taking of measurements may also give them reason to stick to a plan.
Iobella, 507 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 579-2078, http://www.iobella.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times