tour de sweat

Cal­i­for­ni­ans take their fit­ness se­ri­ously – leave it to them to de­velop to­day’s hottest work­outs.

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

Fit­ness is to Cal­i­for­ni­ans what cof­fee is to Ital­ians – a full-blown re­li­gion. The dress re­quire­ments in­volve a lot of ly­cra and the al­tar might in­clude a sprung floor and wall-to-wall mir­rors. But un­like the cur­rent trend of re­ced­ing num­bers hit­ting Sun­day ser­vice, mem­ber­ship for this mod­ern place of wor­ship is on the up and up. As of 2015, fit­ness be­came a $26 bil­lion in­dus­try in the sunny state of the USA. And, just as they are Down Un­der, bou­tique fit­ness stu­dios are pop­ping up faster than you can say, “Did you put the ash­wa­gandha in that smoothie?” In fact, the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of th­ese stu­dios (think of them as small gyms that fo­cus on a par­tic­u­lar type of group ex­er­cise) has seen them dou­ble in rev­enue in Cal­i­for­nia in the past five years.

The im­pact of this ram­pant en­thu­si­asm for sweaty sal­va­tion is prob­a­bly be­ing felt at your gym, too, no mat­ter your post­code. Cal­i­for­nia is ba­si­cally fit­ness mecca, mean­ing cities around the world fol­low its lead. And with nearly dou­ble the pop­u­la­tion of Aus­tralia, and a load of them reg­u­larly vis­it­ing a gym, you can bet your Nike Frees that if you’ve ever dreamed up a work­out, there’s al­ready a heav­ily fre­quented timetable hap­pen­ing for it some­where in the Golden State. All of this pas­sion­ate pa­tron­age means Cal­i­for­nia is pos­i­tively packed with toned tor­sos and well-honed work­outs.

Se­cretly, I’ve al­ways won­dered if I could kick it (and press it, squat it and lift it) with the firm-bod­ied fit­ness zealots in Cali. So I shelved my stan­dard hol­i­day to LA (which nor­mally in­volves Dis­ney­land, plenty of the free-pour thing and far too many bur­ri­tos) for a jour­ney down High­way 1 of a dif­fer­ent kind. I hopped on a Qan­tas plane em­bla­zoned with the fly­ing kan­ga­roo (which now serves a mid-air Botan­ica green juice, be­cause, of course it does) to test whether my bi­cep curls could cut the mus­tard.

If I had any doubts that Cal­i­for­nia was heav­ing with fit­ness fa­nat­ics, they were as­suaged at San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port. It’s there that you’ll find a yoga room – for all the down­ward dogs and self-re­flec­tion you might want to do be­fore strap­ping your­self into a fly­ing tin can and watch­ing a box set of Veep, while chug­ging on a minia­ture bot­tle of wine. The most sur­pris­ing part of this space is that it’s free. Yep. While air­ports around the world are likely look­ing into how they can charge you to use their oxy­gen, in Cal­i­for­nia, you can find some pre-flight in­ner peace for less than the price of a lug­gage trol­ley. Na­maste in­deed.

My first fit­ness stop is Avant-barre. It was founded by Nini Gueco, a dancer and in­struc­tor who was frus­trated by the rigid­ity of the rules in tra­di­tional barre classes. She added a bit of fun, an in­clu­sive kind of en­ergy that can some­times be miss­ing at the fran­chised barre stu­dios and mu­sic that makes you want to move. The mix proved suc­cess­ful and lithe bod­ies of all kinds started lin­ing up for mat space. There’s a young, rebellious vibe (blame the monochro­matic tanks hang­ing in the en­try­way em­bla­zoned with Avant­barre’s signature phrase, “Badass Bal­le­rina”) that is ad­dic­tive and might just stoke your in­ner Bey­oncé (read: never a bad thing).

If you pre­fer your barre with a side of hip­ster, then try Pop Physique. Founded in LA in 2008 by for­mer pro bal­let dancer Jen­nifer Wil­liams and her hus­band Deric, this is work­ing out for the #fit­spo generation. Clever brand­ing, col­lectable mer­chan­dise, a “selfie sa­loon” for tak­ing #hum­ble­brag “Look at me, I’m at the gym” pho­tos and lots of talk of a “sculpted” booty make it the most fun sweat space I’ve ever stepped a sneak­ered foot into. There were no cheesy mo­ti­va­tional slo­gans, no class­mates clad in the lat­est sport­sluxe out­fit; just a col­lec­tion of happy faces wear­ing high-waisted leg­gings and T-shirts knot­ted to bare the midriff, and a de­light­fully kitsch in­struc­tor. “Em­brace the shakes!” she shouted when a set got a lit­tle too much. It’s a lit­tle like (ba­si­cally the high­est com­pli­ment I can give, in case you weren’t sure). Stretch­ing oc­curs through­out the class, rather than dur­ing a cool-down at the end, which re­sults in the body feel­ing flexed and lim­ber rather than just taut and toned. And like the lights, the vol­ume of the mu­sic rises and falls de­pend­ing on the in­ten­sity of the ex­er­cise. It made me re­alise that if you dis­tract me with the right tune for long enough, I could end up with a butt as juicy as a Kar­dashian’s (#goals #notre­ally).

There are, of course, the purists, and the most “Cal­i­for­nia” of all gym classes is Pi­lates. Revered for keep­ing many a Hol­ly­wood bod lean and clean (and a blow-dry fresh), it’s also the most pop­u­lar work­out on Class­pass in this state. But if you don’t have time to wait out the re­sults af­forded by a tra­di­tional class, sign up for a ses­sion on the Me­gaformer. At Fit Bud­dha in Ven­tura, north-west of LA, gym-go­ers are hop­ping aboard the souped-up re­former ma­chine for one of their nearly 50 ses­sions a week. In­struc­tor Eva Ket­tles hands you an af­fir­ma­tion card be­fore the class – the spir­i­tual pep talk should have been enough warn­ing that I was about to get my butt handed to me. Be­fore she be­came a teacher, Ket­tles took a cou­ple of classes on the Me­gaformer and saw re­sults in two ses­sions, so promptly signed up to go pro. The Me­gaformer can be in­tim­i­dat­ing; the move­ments don’t al­ways feel nat­u­ral, but they’re re­sults­driven. If you’re com­pletely in­sane, opt for the “combo class” – an hour-long pair­ing of the Me­gaformer and a spin on the bike, ca­pa­ble of burn­ing about 4,200 kilo­joules. Yowsers.

If you thought a mash-up bet­ter than the Cronut didn’t ex­ist, then I sug­gest you hunt down a ses­sion of the box­ing/ Pi­lates hy­brid Pilox­ing. It’s an hour-long car­dio spec­tac­u­lar, per­formed bare­foot and us­ing weighted gloves, chore­ographed to thump­ing techno mu­sic. The move­ments range from fas­trep box­ing to Pi­lates stretches, and I think it’s the first time I used the phrase “sweat­ing bul­lets” and re­ally, truly meant it. At least it’s a great way to work off the Cronut.

If Italy is for eat­ing, In­dia is for pray­ing and In­done­sia is for lov­ing, then Cal­i­for­nia is the per­fect place for sweat­ing. Be­cause hol­i­days where you sit pool­side sip­ping a mar­garita and read­ing a book about some­one else’s ad­ven­tures are so 2016.

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