Los Angeles continues to set trends in wellness and fitness, and spring and summer are packed with many ways to break a sweat while getting to know the city.
By Vicki Arkoff
Los Angeles is the well-toned wellness capital of America for good reason: The opportunities are endless for enjoying the great outdoors while obsessing over perfect abs and aligning our chakras. Since Southern California is blessed with the best weather in the country, we’re spoiled with a million creative ways to get off the couch 365 days a year. L.A. continues to set trends in wellness and fitness, and spring and summer are packed with many ways to break a sweat while getting to know the city.
Spin Your Wheels
Few cities rival L.A. in fantastic beach running, biking and skating options. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail—better known as the Strand—is a paved, 22-mile beachfront trail that reaches from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach in the South Bay. Bring your own wheels, or rent from any number of local shops, then pick up the path anywhere you like.
The Strand runs through the Venice Beach Boardwalk (aka Ocean Front Walk), SoCal’s second-most-visited destination. The 2-mile stretch became known as the “Roller Skating Capital of the World” in the ’70s when it ushered in the roller skating craze. Skateboards have since taken center stage, especially at the Venice Skate Park (1800 Ocean Front Walk), one of few beach skateboarding facilities in the world. Skate for free, or just watch the fun on the 16,000-square-foot dual bowls and a street section with rails, steps and platforms.
West Hollywood has been called the “most walkable California city,” so it’s no wonder that Bikes and Hikes L.A. (8250 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood) is leading a sightseeing revolution on foot and by bicycle. Its popular “L.A. in a Day” bike tour purportedly burns 2,000 calories in six hours; guests cycle 32 miles by 30 celebrity homes from Bel- Air to Culver City. Shorter rides include the 10- and 12-mile celebrity and Hollywood tours. Most popular of all is the Hollywood Sign Hike, offering morning or sunset views of the iconic sign, the Greek Theatre, Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory and other classic film locations.
Yearning for some learning while you exercise? Los Angeles Conservancy saves city landmarks from the wrecking ball and struts its stuff on docent-led walking tours. Warm nights are ideal for the Modern by Moonlight Tour, which explores the Bunker Hill neighborhood before stopping for a nightcap at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel’s 34th-floor revolving lounge. Other tours include Downtown Renaissance, Art Deco, Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District, and Historic Downtown.
Sunset Ranch Hollywood (3400 N. Beachwood Drive, L.A.) is the closest horse ranch to the Hollywood sign, and it leads one- to four-hour trail rides in mountainous Griffith Park. The slow pace and 360-degree city views offer a rewarding way to reconnect with nature and enjoy a rhythmic meditative state while working core muscles. Believe us, you’ll feel it by the time of your bowlegged and saddle-sore dismount at the end of the Best View & BBQ ride.
L.A. is said to have the highest number of yoga practitioners per capita outside of India, so all yoga styles can be found all over the city in all sorts of outdoor spaces.
Yoga Journal cover model/yoga instructor Lauren Peterson leads Friday-morning donation-based classes at Barnsdall Art Park on the lawn of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. For a mid-day break from the chaos of DTLA, stop by a yoga session at Grand Park. Check the events calendar for Lunch a la Park Yoga reTREAT dates, bring your own mat, and meet up at the Performance Lawn between Grand Avenue and Hill Street.
Also downtown—but 70 floors up atop the U.S. Bank Tower—OUE Skyspace LA holds sky-high Sunrise Yoga sessions on California’s tallest open-air observation terrace. The hourlong class features a live DJ; unequaled 360-degree views of L.A. landmarks, from Dodger Stadium to the Pacific Ocean; a reiki healer to help you relax post-class; and unlimited rides on the Skyslide for a noncaffeinated jolt.
If heights give you vertigo, come down to sea level for morning or sunset yoga sessions at the shoreline with Beach Yoga SoCal. Feel the sand between your toes, and literally connect with the water element.
Escape the Gym
The most famous outdoor gym in the world is just south of the Santa Monica Pier and public beach-volleyball courts. Original Muscle Beach began in the 1930s as a place for people to watch acrobats, gymnasts, wrestlers and stuntmen practice their acts for the movies. It became known as the springboard of the physical fitness movement of the 20th century and remains a popular public park for beachgoers and athletes, who hone their skills on the parallel bars, tumbling mats, rings, swings and ropes.
Flex your own muscles with a $10 outdoor workout at California’s iconic Muscle Beach Gym, the outdoor weight pen that opened in 1951 and became the home gym of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.
You can also learn to fly and perform aerial arts with the greatest of ease with the daring young men and women of the Trapeze School New York on Santa Monica Pier. The flying trapeze, static trapeze, silks and trampoline are wonderful tools for upper-body strength, coordination, conditioning and conquering one’s fears.
California’s official sport is surfing, so there’s no better way to get a “super stoked” workout than to ride the waves.
Santa Monica Surf School is the only surf school in L.A. certified by the International Surfing Association. Aqua Surf School offers all-ages instruction with year-round classes, private lessons and camps at seven Los Angeles and South Bay beach locations. Admirably, Aqua Surf also holds empowering female-only classes with female instructors. And at Zuma Beach, Malibu Makos specializes in fun kids-only surf camps, plus group lessons and private instruction.
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is the fastest-growing water sport in the world and has its share of celebrity fans. It’s fun, easy to learn and provides a low-impact, full-body workout that’s a combo of balance, strength and endurance.
“Standup paddleboard surfing combines a super peaceful activity with a full-core workout,” says Matt Rosas of Paddle Surf Malibu, which provides lessons and equipment. “It’s like riding a bike on the ocean.”
Even a gentle paddle in calm harbor waters can burn 400 calories per hour, making Marina del Rey’s Marina “Mother’s” Beach a smart SUP destination for first-timers. Pro SUP Shop rents SUPs and kayaks at Marina Beach, and ASI and WPA certified instructors will help guide you on special events such as full-moon group paddles. Marina del Rey Boat Rentals also offers hourly SUP, kayak and sailboat rentals, as does the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center. The center also offers rentals for surfing, windsurfing and rowing, as well as classes and guided excursions.
And at YOGAqua, the ocean is your yoga mat. L.A.’s first paddleboard yoga studio offers 90-minute group classes combining a peaceful half-hour paddle with a vinyasa yoga flow class conducted while balancing on SUP boards. “Getting out in nature on the paddleboard acts as a cardio warmup, making the water yoga session even more effective,” says founder Sarah Tiefenthaler. Classes are open to all levels, but SUP experience comes in handy for this challenging workout.
Take a Wellness Day-cation
Beat the heat with an oceanfront retreat at Terranea, SoCal’s stunning resort on the Palos Verdes cliffs. It boasts one of the finest destination spas in L.A. County and takes advantage of its 102-acre property with outdoor Fitness and Wellness Center activities like Full Moon Yoga under the stars, Seaside Cycle cardio workouts on the oceanfront terrace, Aqua Zumba in the spa pool, guided two-hour coastline hikes and Nature’s Gym boot-camp fitness classes (free for overnight guests, $20 each for the public). Highlights of its periodic Immersive Wellness Daycation series have included mindfulness/meditation workshops, ocean kayaking at Catalina Channel’s underwater reserve and outdoor mandala painting with an experienced spiritual wellness coach.
The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills invites spa guests to rejuvenate poolside with a package including a massage, nail treatment and lunch on its elevated pool deck, plus use of its open-air fitness center.
Get in the Swim
Several other luxury hotels stay in the swim by quietly offering pool-access day passes to nonguests. This includes The Standard’s downtown and Hollywood locations; The Beverly Hilton and Montage Beverly Hills if you rent a cabana; the Beverly Wilshire if you book a spa appointment; and retro-chic Sportsmen’s Lodge, which boasts the largest pool in the San Fernando Valley.
Dozens more are accessible via DayAxe and ResortPass, two online agencies that sell ticketed reservations for cabanas, daybeds, VIP chairs and other hotel services normally only offered to overnight guests. Day passes start at $20 at participating hotels including the Fairmont Miramar, Sunset Tower, InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, Renaissance Long Beach and W hotels in Westwood and Hollywood.
The wildest way to get wet is on a kayak tour of the Los Angeles River with L.A. River Expeditions. What was once a concrete run-off channel now has sections of natural greenery, wild birds and even a small rapid. And this boating organization is the only outfitter offering urban kayak tours in both Los Angeles River recreational zones: the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in the San Fernando Valley and the Glendale Narrows Recreation Zone in downtown L.A., near Dodger Stadium and Frogtown.
Photos: Stand-up paddleboarding courtesy Los Angeles Tourism. Sunrise yoga courtesy OUE Skyspace LA. Malibu Makos by Steven Lippman. Terranea spa pool courtesy Terranea Resort.