Kinvara Balfour reports from Hollywood where she has seen the future in a hybrid gym-spa – think mini theme park for the body – and experienced a seriously hot sauna pod
There are spas. And there are gyms. I fancy both (a lot) but have always sought a location that combines the two – simply because I’m dead busy. And slightly idle.
Spas are great but they don’t do much in the way of toning the abs. Gyms are alright but they don’t do much to halt the wrinkles. Here in LA, they’ve created the perfect hybrid where both results are possible. Set on Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart (if it has one; I’m still working that one out) of Hollywood, Firm Body Evolution www.fbespa.com calls itself a holistic gym. I call it my favourite new hangout.
The place is akin to a mini theme park for the body, with a series of rides offered in whichever order you fancy. They’re all state-of-the-art and they’re all really good for you. FBE is way ahead of the curve. And when you glide out of the door, your butt feels firmer and your face looks softer. That’s ample body evolution for me.
FBE is so elite, there are refreshingly few people around. It’s a bit like travelling first class. Vehemently discreet, it will not disclose its celebrity clients but I get the feeling there are many. Those who find LA’s current über-gyms Equinox or Crunch too public will love FBE. And the elevator takes you directly from the gym reception into the underground car park so it’s good for those who don’t want to get papped whilst hot and sweaty.
Before my session, I stand on the InBody Compostion Analyzer, a small but seriously brainy machine which tells me specific information about my weight, lean body mass, muscle strength, heart rate and metabolic rate – in approximately 10 seconds. This thing is genius and makes teetering on a regular pair of weighing scales seem archaic: give it five years and everyone will have one of these at home. I guarantee it.
I’m offered Pilates, yoga or kettlebell training but I start by enduring 15 minutes on a Whole Body Vibration Machine which is similar to a Power Plate (so last year) but way better. Its centrifugal action shake all the toxins out of the body and tone it at the same time. The muscles in my butt, thighs, upper arms and abs burn like hell but all I have to do is stand there. It’s the easiest form of exercise I have ever done. Period.
Next, I hit the Pneumatic Compression Machine for a lymphatic drainage massage. There’s no masseur waiting for me with a pre-warmed bed and a bottle of lavender oil; instead, there’s a hard bed, a machine and something resembling an astronaut outfit. I put the plastic Michelin Man-style suit on (think water wings from head to toe) and lie down. High-pressure air is pumped into individual pockets in the suit at timed intervals and my body is squeezed and kneaded to perfection. I feel like I’m somewhere between intensive care in A&E or NASA HQ. Either way, it’s totally fun.
After that, I consider "sunbathing" in front of an infrared facial lamp with fulvic acid mist on my face (mineral-rich, anti-ageing); instead, I climb inside an infrared jade sauna pod for a snooze. What resembles a plastic Egyptian mummy casket is lined with smooth, warm jade stones which heat the body from within while soft red infrared light warms it from the outside. A 30-minute session in one of these coffers purports to burn calories, eliminate toxins, improve circulation and strengthen the cardiovascular and immune systems. I’m sold. I emerge looking hot. In more ways than one.