As I walked through the front door and out of the crisp Californian air, I could smell the sweat.
It hit me almost as quickly as the caffeine infused green smoothie I’d downed just thirty minutes earlier.
The whole room was quiet. A welcome change from the buzz of Sunset Boulevard where I’d just spent my morning.
Passing the front counter, I took a seat and a subtle injection of citrus filled the otherwise humid air around me.
“Please, drink,” the attendant said as she placed a glass and a clipboard of words and warnings in front of me.
I’d walked in to ‘Shape House’ in the trendy backstreets of West Hollywood. A grey and orange chamber I’d been told would rid my body of between 800 and 1600 calories in just 55 minutes.
However, unlike my local gym, I wouldn’t need to lift a finger during the shed.
Behind the palm-lined streets, a different kind of workout stuck out from the shadows.Source:Supplied
As I sat in the waiting room, there was a total sense of calm. No sounds of grunting men swinging kettlebells in a weights room. There was no thrashing of feet against the belt of a treadmill. And there was no instructor chanting “3 … 2 … 1” as a group cycled in darkness.
All I could hear was the scribble of my pen as the people in the rooms around me melted away the weight.
“You will spend 55 minutes in an infra-red sleeping bag,” my sweat therapist whispered as I wrote.
“The bed will get progressively hotter … you just need to lay back, relax and watch Netflix.”
It honestly sounded like the perfect cure to my jet lag and to quickly rid my body of the several glasses of red wine I’d consumed on the flight from Sydney.
As I ticked boxes about the status of my heart, whether I’d eaten recently and if I could physically ‘sweat’ — I realised I wasn’t fully across how the next hour would play out.
“Sooo what exactly am I doing?” I asked as I wrote lies about my recent alcohol intake.
“After we put you in the infra-red bed, it will progressively heat up to around 158-degrees ºF [70ºC],” the attendant explained.
“You’ll get out of your clothes and in to some of our pyjamas and socks to wear during the session. We will tuck you in and you can watch whatever you like.
“But be prepared to sweat.”
I’d walked in to a ‘sweat lodge’ where I was told I’d shed between 800 and 1600 calories in a pair of pyjamas while watching Netflix. I was sold.Source:Supplied
The good far outweighed the bad. Along with the serious calorie shed, I was told the sweat session would flush out “impurities that are embedded in the dermal layer” leaving me with glowing skin. I’d also likely have better sleep following the session, as the bed works by “relaxing muscles, eliminating waste, stimulating repair processes, and calming the psyche.”
Literally melting away the kilos while you watch TV, the sweat sessions are a big trend among celebrities including Selena Gomez, Demi Moore, Emma Roberts and the Kardashians.
As one of the best ways to detox, sweating can flush the body of substances of alcohol, cholesterol, and salt as well as boosting endorphins.
While part of the calorie burn is because of water loss, the other reason for the loss is the amount of energy your body uses to cool down, which in turn burns calories.
As I slipped in to the bed and cocooned myself in to the heavy, heated blanket, I’d never felt more like a burrito than I did in that moment.
“Here’s your remote,” my attendant said, giving me a few more sips of ‘alkaline water’ as I flicked through TV titles.
“I’ll come back in about 30 minutes with a damp washcloth and to see how you’re doing.”
Inside LA’s dirty little workout secret.Source:Supplied
As she left the room, I was on the verge of falling asleep, but that soon changed as the temperature started to increase with each minute.
The infra-red blankets that cocooned me are programmed to bring energy to the body at pretty extreme temperatures. The heat generated by the rays stimulates the body’s response producing increased heart rates and a deep sweat.
As I stared up to the ceiling while the theme song for Gilmore Girls strummed in my ear, the heat wrapped around my feet first. Within minutes, my toes were swimming in my socks.
I could feel the pools of sweat expand around my ankles and the beads began to drip down my forehead, neck, chest … everywhere.
I hadn’t taken note of the time, but as my sleeping bag slowly filled with moisture, I started to feel the burn.
“You will likely feel uncomfortable” I remember the instructor repeating ahead of my session. But her advice was to persevere with the heat and to try and distract myself with the latest and greatest from Netflix instead of panicking.
Pyjamas, Netflix and a warm bed sounds like the perfect way to shed a few kilos. Don’t be fooled, this was the hardest 55 minutes of my life.Source:Supplied
I followed instruction to breathe slowly and just ‘be cool’ during the experience. But as the 25 minute mark passed, my heart started to race and the heat became a little too hot to handle.
I ripped open my velcro sleeping bag to allow my arms free. Fanning my face, I felt like I was cheating the experience (and I was) but I simply couldn’t do half an hour.
As the cool air brought me back down to a comfortable temperature, I bundled myself back in to ‘burrito state’ and promised myself not to break the sweat again until the session was over.
It was at that point I remembered that the worst was still to come.
As the attendant patted down my face with a lavender infused washcloth, she warned me that the final phase would be the toughest.
I was putting myself through something quite extreme, but it was the last 10 minutes that really tipped me over the edge.
I felt like my body was cooking. The sweat was like nothing I’d ever experienced. My grey pyjamas were soaked through and clinging to every crevice imaginable. All I could think of was a cold shower, given the cool washcloth on my forehead had now turned lukewarm.
I think I actually dosed off in the final few minutes, because I jolted as a hand rested on my sweaty washcloth.
As I peeled back the layers, I reached for my phone to grab a selfie. It was a sight nobody should have to witness.
It might sound easy, but 50 minutes in this bed was the hardest workout I’d ever done.Source:Supplied
But after sweating out around 1500 calories, I did feel somewhat refreshed.Source:Supplied
Slowly walking to the relaxation room in my drenched pyjamas, I downed about a litre of water and snacked on oranges to bring myself back to a normal state.
It was a long and challenging 55 minutes, and perhaps the hardest ‘workout’ I’d ever done.
But at the end of the session, I felt clean (despite sitting in my own sweat).
My skin felt tighter and I felt clear. My jet lag had subsided, and I somehow felt energised.
At AU$65 a session, it’s advised you do a maximum one session a day — a challenge I think I will sit out, despite feeling pretty good following the experience.
But if you’re in West Hollywood and not down to sleeping in your own sweat to lose a few kilos, I did find another little spot that’s more in tune with a regular workout — and is a hidden secret with some of the biggest Hollywood heavyweights.
In fact, as soon as I walked through the doors of Rise Nation on Melrose I almost face planted actress Chloë Grace Moretz.
Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, LeBron James and even Lady Gaga are addicted to the high intensity classes, which literally have you stepping up and down over and over again until you’ve burned around 800 calories.
The devices at Rise Nation will make you work up a sweatSource:Supplied
Basically, this form of exercise is the love child between a cycle class and rock-climbing. It takes a little to get used to at first, but once you’re in the motion be prepared to burn off three Big Macs in 55 minutes.
S, with that in mind be warned — if you’re keen to do a workout where you’ll still look cute enough for brunch afterwards, you’ll want to give this one a miss.
But if your days of working out are for when you’re at home, thankfully there’s a whole other side to the West Hollywood area than green juices and gym gear.
I stayed at the Sunset Marquis Hotel just off ‘The Strip’ on Sunset Boulevard, and if walls could talk — you wouldn’t ever need to leave your room.
Spread over three acres of gardens and private retreats, the complex has two heated pools, a recording studio, photography gallery, spa, and a live music venue.
Passing through the corridors, it feels like you’re walking through a museum. Photos, signed guitars and other pieces of memorabilia line the laneways to your room.
Sunset Marquis Hotel is full of rock’n’roll history. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
The hotel itself has housed some of the music industry’s biggest names — including Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.
If walls could talk, the Sunset Marquis would have plenty of stories to tell.Source:Supplied
The Sunset Strip, a short walk from the hotel itself, is best known for music, entertainment and night-life for nearly a hundred years. From live music and comedy clubs (think Laugh Factory and Comedy Store) there’s also a string of bars and restaurants you want need a car to get to.
EAT AND DRINK:
Set in the star-studded foothills of LA’s Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood is home to a number of restaurants and bars where there’s a good chance you’ll clock a celebrity on a night out.
Dark and moody (there’s only candles and lamps inside) try and grab one of the few barstools at Tower Bar inside the Sunset Tower Hotel.
Try and nab one of the few seats at the bar for a killer people watching view.Source:Instagram
The maître d Gabé Doppelt put me at the bar where she whispered “Lady Gaga sits for a cheeseburger each week”. But if you’re more of a sweet tooth, forget Gaga and treat yourself to their sundae. It could feed a small village, but it’s something not to be missed.
The Tower Bar is dark and moody and perfect for celebrity spotting.Source:Supplied
Sure it’s a bar, but you can’t go past the sundaeSource:Supplied
However if you’re after something with a little more light and a slightly longer menu, Lucques on Melrose had some of the best barramundi I’ve eaten.
Lucques on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood had some of the best barramundi I’ve eaten.Source:Supplied
However, the restaurant itself has more of a group vibe, so if you’re looking to dine alone you might want to stay closer to the Strip.
This writer travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of West Hollywood Tourism.
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