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LA’s New Fitness Gurus

Meet the disruptors setting the global health and fitness trends of the future

When it comes to health and wellness trends, it’s safe to say that most roads lead back to Los Angeles. It’s the city that gave us the spin class in the 1980s, Barry’s Bootcamp in the 1990s and the juicing trend of the past decade, all before they reached New YorkLondon and beyond. Now, a new generation of health and fitness pioneers are using their proximity to Silicon Valley, not to mention their social media profiles, to break new boundaries. From making meditation less mundane, to reimagining desserts, to blasting Drake as you downward dog, meet five entrepreneurs disrupting the fitness industry as we know it.

Personal trainer

A Sacramento State University quarterback turned model, Mr Crosby Tailor knows a thing or two about fine tuning a body from the inside out. Dissatisfied with the way traditional desserts left him feeling, the personal trainer began to experiment with sugar-free, nutrient-packed recipes and published the results on his Instagram. With the tagline “eat dessert, burn fat”, Mr Tailor’s efforts (combined with his brand ambassador work for Bulletproof Coffee and Lakanto sugar substitute) have earned him more than 70,000 followers who salivate over his maca, cacao, and probiotic packed creations. His latest obsession? Adaptogenic mushroom supplements such as reishi, chaga and cordyceps. But it’s not all cooking and training; Mr Tailor also found time to make a workout DVD on his low-impact, 30-day transformation program. He co-runs The Wildfire Initiative, a group that promises to improve your mind, body and spirit through hiking, meditation and breathing.

How do you keep in shape?

When I’m at Equinox gym, I do a super-set technique combining either shoulders and legs, or back and chest. I try to keep my body guessing, doing different muscle groups back to back. I don’t do treadmills or that kind of cardio, and I don’t do a lot of classes. I have a low-impact training mentality at the gym, so I’m really conscious of every single lift – something I cover in my DVD. I really focus on breathing because holding your breath can actually raise your cortisol levels.

Has living in LA changed your perspective on health and diet?

LA is a paradise in a bubble of toxicity. It’s so easy to get sick. If it’s not air pollution, it’s that temperatures drop – in the eighties [26-32ºC] during the day to the fifties [10-15ºC] and most people’s bodies can’t handle those sudden changes. Something as simple as taking reishi can really improve your immune system.

What’s so great about mushrooms?

Mushrooms do everything from keeping your immune system on point to providing antioxidants. When I go out with my friends, no one drinks. We’ll take adaptogens and herbs and still have a great time. It helps keeps your energy up. I use cordyceps from Real Mushrooms in place of coffee during the day. Cordyceps work to replenish your chi, which is your life force.

You don’t eat grains, gluten or refined sugar. Do you ever feel deprived?

I used to have a huge sweet tooth, and even though I was eating really clean, even eating ice cream or cookies – including the supposedly healthy kind – a few times a week would ruin my skin and make me feel awful. So, I figured out how to create my own desserts with grain-free flours, healthy fats and Lakanto instead of sugar.

Co-founder of The Wildfire Initiative

Mr Bryan Ellis is not your typical guru. After several years in the music industry, he left the corporate life to explore breath work and meditation. A longtime practitioner of yoga, Mr Ellis went on to co-found the holistic Wildfire Initiative with Mr Crosby Tailor. With a motto of “no bullshit, no dogma”, the group hosts hikes in Runyon Canyon, plus talks which attract entertainment industry executives and the pairs’ creative network keen to discover time-honoured techniques such as qigong as a means to diffuse the stress of their day jobs. Having previously lived in New York and London, Mr Ellis is now settled on Abbot Kinney in Venice.

How do you keep in shape?

I do a handful of things regularly and consistently, but not obsessively, such as breath work with meditation and qigong and neigong, slow moving yoga, calisthenics and handstand work. The strength work tends to be slow, with a lot of static holds. The breathing is the most intense thing I do.

Why do you teach dogma-free meditation?

In the journey that I’ve taken over the years, I never really found a teacher or a method that allowed me to be experimental. My whole approach is really empty on rules, empty on boundaries. The way I work is more freestyle. It’s for people like us who aren’t looking for a belief system, but are looking to loosen that knot in their stomach. We provide a place to go and do that.

You must get a lot of meditation skeptics.

I feel like I’m more motivated by those people than someone who is already educated and interested in this stuff. I often have boyfriends of girls who have dragged them along saying, “I’ll be honest, I never would have done something like this, but I have to say it was great”. I’m connection driven, that kind of thing really makes me do what I do.

Founder of Ocho Paris

Mr Pierre Abena is a familiar face in the fitness world. The Parisian raised, Italo-Cameroonian played basketball as a teenager, and went on to model for Nike, adidas and Speedo. He is now an ambassador for AbXcore, a portable abs sculpting apparatus. This spring, Abena launched his own apparel line, Ocho Paris. Now based in Los Angeles, Abena spends his time between LA and Paris, both cities in which Ocho Paris has design teams.

How do you keep in shape?

When I’m in LA, I always take advantage of being outside by hiking and doing bodyweight workouts. I also box and do Muay Thai.

Why did you choose the name Ocho for your brand?

It means eight in Spanish, but more than that it’s an infinity sign. To me, it means achieving anything you want in life, whether it’s personal or professional.

What’s the concept?

Going to the gym doesn’t have to mean you don’t need to look good. I’ve worked with sportswear designers and high-fashion designers, and I wanted to meet in the middle. We keep everything timeless, because it’s impossible to keep up with trends. We have a designer in Paris and one in Los Angeles, which gives more design perspectives. And much of the line is unisex.

How does fitness culture in Los Angeles differ from Paris?

LA leans more into activewear, while Paris is more high fashion. And Paris has seasons. In LA, there is a strong fitness culture, but Europe is headed towards that. If you look back even five years ago, people weren’t working out as much, but there’s been a boom in the industry recently due to social media. Everyone wants to look like the people they see on Instagram.

Founder of Playlist

When Mr Jordan Cohen moved to Los Angeles eight years ago from New York, the former corporate attorney found lots of options for yoga studios, but nothing that particularly inspired him. So he decided to bring something new to the table. Looking to brands such as Soulcycle, Mr Cohen created a high energy yoga studio aimed at newcomers and seasoned yogis through a common language of music. From its West Hollywood studio, Playlist Yoga sees resident DJs spinning everything from The Rolling Stones to The Notorious BIG. Some of the most popular classes are themed, such as The Weeknd vs Ms Selena Gomez. Mr Cohen lives nearby with his golden-poodle Jackson, one of the studio’s most familiar faces.

How do you keep in shape?

Obviously the workouts at Playlist are my number one, but you can also catch me running on the treadmill, at the beach, or in the streets of West Hollywood. With my headphones on and Drake blasting in the background, running is one of the few ways that I can completely get out of my own head.

LA is full of yoga studios. How is yours different?

I started DJing when I was 13, so music has always been important to me. I liked the physicality of yoga but not so much the quiet, traditional aspects of the practice. Being the kind of guy who wouldn’t go to a gym if I didn’t have my headphones, I thought it could work for yoga, too.

What’s on your yoga playlist?

Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, first and foremost. One of my favorite songs of all time, and the inspiration for our quote on the wall. I also love the acoustic versions of classic songs we play in the cool-down section. They are always unexpected and help people wind down after going hard for 45 minutes.

How does music create a sense of community at Playlist?

Music has always connected people socially. Often students talk to the instructors afterwards to ask about a song, or it gets students talking among themselves. Those conversations usually lead to deeper talks about the practice itself.

Personal trainer

Trainer to the stars, Mr Jason Walsh has become something of an authority on the requisite transformation from camera ready actor to ripped action star. He’s the man responsible for getting Mr Matt Damon prepared for the Jason Bourne films, not to mention Mr Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. Mr Walsh is also the founder of Rise Nation, a popular workout that promises fast results and few injuries via the low impact Versaclimber. After more than a decade on the Los Angeles fitness scene, Mr Walsh has honed his method to focus on the science of how the body works and why, instead of traditional body-building exercises.

How did you get into personal training?

I was always active in sports and that mind-body connection but I never thought of training as something I wanted to do. In college, I was all over the place – I wanted to be an archeologist or a scientist. But when I was started studying nutrition, kinesiology, and physiology at the University of North Carolina, it started to come together.

How has the fitness scene in Los Angeles changed over the past few years?

I’ve been out here for 12 years. Group class training has always come and gone. Spin classes have been around since the 1980s, and then you have your aerobics classes and even stuff like Billy Blanks doing Tae Bo. Right now, working out finally seems to be more than a trend. I don’t see competition in the fitness industry – we’re here trying to help people get healthy. There’s more education out there now than ever, which is great.

What was the inspiration behind Rise Nation?

When I moved here, I noticed that there was a huge gap in specialists, even though it was a fitness mecca. People came to me because they were getting injured in class settings. I wanted to create something that was better, safer and more effective. I still want to educate people about what great training can do for you. I just focus on quality of life, being pain-free, and laying a great foundation so everything can work how it’s supposed to.

Do you approach working with celebrities differently than regular people?

No, it’s absolutely the same thing. I wouldn’t accept any clients, celebrity or not, unless I have the time to train them correctly. Historically, there’s been a method of training to prepare for a role where it’s just calorie restriction and beating the hell out of someone, and that will totally burn someone out. It’s a chronic problem where someone gets hurt, and then lives to work and get in shape only for a movie. I want to teach a lifestyle: if someone comes to me wanting that, then I feel really good about it.