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The South American Pod Workout Craze Hits the US

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Welcome to Racked's Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage to kick your New Year's resolutions off right.

Photos via Iobella

At first glance, the heated pod exercise machines at Iobella Bodyshaping Spa in Santa Monica, California might seem like something out of Star Trek. But gym owner Roxanna Lissa said the fitness practice of working out in heated glass capsules has been around for years and provides very real results.

"This type of workout was created in Europe 40 years ago," Lissa said. "It's all over Holland, Germany, and Switzerland now, where there are several companies creating this machinery, and it's really big in South America now."

Lissa, originally from Argentina, opened Iobella last September as the first gym in the United States to use heated pods for a structured workout. The plexiglass machinery and workout routines come from South America. Women lay down inside the glass hull with their heads sticking out (or in, depending on preference), and exercise with weight pulleys and resistance bands in 98 degrees for 30 minutes.

"Working out in heated pods activates the metabolism and circulation, and you burn more fat than with other workouts," she told Racked. "We create specific programs to target different areas of the body."

Members of the boutique gym spa pay $125 a session, but the steep price includes a full arrangement of services. Iobella trainers initially measure members' bodies, taking notes on which areas they want to lose inches on and compare muscle to fat. After a computerized assessment, trainers stand beside the pod to instruct a personalized body-conditioning class. Fast repetitions keep the heart rate up, so the routine feels like cardio even though customers aren't moving too much.

Once the workout is complete, members sit inside triple oxygen pods at Iobella's "spa cabin" for fifteen minutes. The oxygen pods are set to 80 degrees and facilitate a "detoxification process that makes the skin glow."

"The spa isn't just about the work out. After you exercise, laying down facilitates the slimming process because your pores are open, and it cleans your toxins, hydrates the skin, and helps with cellulite," Lissa said.

Iobella stresses shorter workouts because, as they explain, clients' focus is more optimal and lengthy, strenuous workouts can negatively impact important hormones. The pods can be adjusted for temperature, but Lissa said working out in the heat increases sweat, blood flow, and muscle tension.

The spa-gym is women-only, and Lissa said they will not accept new clients with a BMI of 40 or above without a note from a doctor, for fear of heart problems or high blood pressure issues. There are currently seven Iobella locations in Argentina, and Lissa plans to eventually expand to other areas in the US.

Lissa said she started the fitness spa—which she will not call a gym—because she wanted to create an environment where women can lose weight while they relax and feel good about themselves. Customers have reportedly witnessed results after just a few sessions and each exercise plan is reevaluated every six sessions with a new customer measurement. Lissa said is it common for people to lose up to two pounds a session...though that might just be from sweating.
· Iobella [Official Site]
· Exhale Trainer Nicole Uribarri's Serious Leg-Toning Lunge [Racked]
· Why is CrossFit So Popular Right Now? [Racked]