YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A HOLLYWOOD STAR TO ENJOY BEING TREATED LIKE ONE. THE GUYS AT DESTINATION FIT4LA CERTAINLY KNOW HOW TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS… AND THEN SOME!
WORDS BY KRIS ABBEY, PUBLISHING EDITOR SPA LIFE MAGAZINE
I arrive in LA after a long overnight flight from Australia, only to queue for two hours at customs. Gotta love LAX in the height of summer! Finally, luggage cleared and passport stamped, I step out into the beating LA heat. A chauffeur patiently holding a ‘Ms Abbey’ sign catches my eye. God knows how long he’s been waiting, but what a sight for sore eyes. Taking my bags, he escorts me straight into a black SUV with tinted windows (so LA!) which has the ‘rock-star park’, and me looking every bit not like a rock star (rather a dishevelled, jetlagged, haven’t slept for 38 hours nobody). Welcome to Hollywood!
We head downtown, weaving through a tapestry of LA freeways, and I glimpse the iconic ‘Hollywood’ sign up in the distant hills. “Up there is where we’re heading”, says my driver. It looks a long way away, but it’s not. Before I know it, we have passed through Beverly Hills with its lovely leafy streets and rich-and-famous homes and are whizzing beneath the palm trees that line Hollywood Boulevard. Five minutes later, after a climb through some narrow winding streets, we are up in the exclusive Hollywood Hills, where I am lucky enough to enjoy a brief visit to the newest, hottest health retreat in LA – Destination Fit4LA.
As we pull up, I am blown away but what I see – a spectacular 4-storey, 10-bedroom mansion. It is sophisticated modern, with a twist of architectural brilliance. Brand new, there are still builders onsite completing an adjoining residence. The marketing material described this place as a “celebrity boot camp”, where movie stars come to get in shape for a role, but I never expected such opulence. I feel like Dorothy arriving in Emerald City.
Destination Fit4LA is what you get when you cross the concepts of savvy real estate tycoon Chasity Clark with celebrity fitness expert Lanré Idewu. The result is an amazing, expansive piece of real estate that offers the ultimate in health and fitness. The goal was to create a destination for people to come and get into the best shape of their lives, beyond that of just physical.
As I scrape my jaw off the ground, I’m greeted by two first-class athletes, eager to show me around. Apparently I’m the only guest in residence today, as the American Idol contestants have just moved out and the next group are not due for a few days. So I have the entire mansion to myself! What, no Brad Pitt?
I’m given the grand tour and find myself wishing I could stay longer. Even though everything is shiny and new, there is already a subtle sense of warmth and fun that is hard to describe. You get a sense of it from behind the backlit karaoke stage. Seriously, this place has its own theatrette, games area complete with billiard table, disco ball, dance floor and bar, and a kitchen that leads out to a beautiful pool and deck from where you can enjoy the view of LA below. It looks like Party Central, a ‘let’s get you fit, but let’s have some fun in the process’ kind of place.
I am shown to my room, which is nearly as big as my entire house at home. It is more like four rooms. The bedroom and living area flow into a dressing room and a massive bathroom, so big it has a fireplace, TV and a bath clearly built for two! The walk-in wardrobe, which is more like the size of a standard hotel room, leads through to my own private Spa suite. More about that later.
Prior to my arrival, I filled out a comprehensive questionnaire about my goals and current state of fitness, health and wellbeing. From this the Fitness Success Teams (FST™) at Destination Fit4LA have devised a program for me. The team includes a personal trainer, nutritionist, counsellor, chef, masseuse and concierge. Calorie-specific meals are prepared fresh for guests each day. There are even cooking classes so you can learn how to prepare healthy meals at home and continue on the path you’ve been set.
The huge stack of pillows on the bed looks very tempting, but my stay here is short so they will have to wait. Instead Lanré and I head out for a walk/jog that takes us almost beneath the iconic Hollywood sign. I’m pinching myself. I have an hour one on one with the guy dubbed ‘the Dr Phil of Fitness’, who has appeared on TV programs such as Oprah, Entertainment Tonight and NBC’s Biggest Loser. I’m disappointed that I’m suffering jetlag, but at least Lanré takes pity and keeps me working at a pace that allows us to have a good chat. He certainly knows his stuff. As a fitness junky myself, I’m in heaven and absorbing his wise words like a sponge. He inspires you to follow your heart and believe the impossible is possible. Lanré is walking proof, having grown up in Africa, where most of his family still live.
Once back at the house, we go to the media room, which is used for educational lectures and videos, and doubles as a good space to do some core work and stretching. Lanré explains it is in this room that people really find themselves. During their stay, guests are non-intrusively videoed. They also record pre-program and post-program interviews. After their stay, it is often watching their pre-program interview that the magic really happens. They see how far they have come in such a short time, having achieved goals they didn’t think were possible.
That is what feeds the passion for Lanré, who loves to see how far a guest can change in such a short time. “Destination Fit4LA is about personal revolution,” he says. “Our immersion program is based on delivering long-term results in a short amount of time, using both fitness and education. Our guests fall in love with this experience.”
After my workout, I’m in for a real treat. This is where my private Spa suite comes in. First up, I have an incredible results-driven facial. After analysing my skin, my therapist gives me one of the most intense facials I’ve ever had. Intense in that she gives me the works, but keeps it within the hour. The products used are her own handmade range, and boy do they work! Even though they were high performance products, they had that delicious smell of pure, natural skincare, as if the ingredients had just been picked. It is the perfect elixir for my ‘been in a plane for too long’ skin.
My next treat is a deep relaxing massage from one of LA’s finest, although I must confess my jetlag finally got the better of me and I was asleep within five minutes. Clearly I was deeply relaxed! I am awoken with a gentle nudge and can immediately feel that the kinks resulting from sleeping in an aeroplane seat have been well and truly ironed out. I have the feeling of being a new person. If you’ve ever had that feeling after a really good massage, you know what I mean.
Dinner upstairs at a big table in the kitchen is the cherry on this glorious cake. Chef Brian cooks up a storm. As I’m the only guest in house, Lanré invites some people over for me to meet. I am entertained at dinner with local gossip and entertainment industry banter from a producer, an on-set stylist and a musician with a bent for real estate. What a great night with good people and fine food… and not a drop of alcohol was had.
After a solid night’s sleep, I have a 6am appointment with Austin Wheatly, the trainer who puts me through my paces. Austin was a pro footballer for the New Orleans Saints and is built like the proverbial. I love a good sweat, so when I was greeted with a wide, wicked smile, I knew it was game on!
Well, I think he tried to cram a week’s worth of training into one session because I was smacked out of the park. But gee it felt good. I got to experience all forms of training and utilised every muscle in my body. It was a brilliant workout and I couldn’t help wondering what awesome shape you’d be in if you had a trainer like this every day. Of course, the session was peppered with light-hearted sledging and constant challenges – a man after my own heart.
The fitness training here is not just onsite, you get a big taste of LA too, with a shopping trip or two thrown in of course. Hills are found to climb, bike paths for cycling, beach volleyball down at Santa Monica – you name it, these guys have it in their arsenal. Just in case I haven’t said it enough, it is all about Fitness with a capital F for Fun.
But now it’s time to leave and I feel very sad that it has all gone too quickly. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to two brothers in Lanré and Austin. I enjoyed my time with them so much, their service and warmth was bigger and more impressive than the house that bowled me over when I arrived.
I hop back in the SUV to go back from where I came. This time I experience a different kind of tiredness. You know, that exquisite tiredness that comes from using muscles that have been idle for too long. If I wasn’t so tired, I would have put up a fight to stay longer.
If you want to get fit in the lap of luxury and see LA like a local, this place is the destination!
Los Angeles, CA
PH: 85 5435 8452
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