It wasn't just the fact that Leslie Macias' 7 p.m. spinning class at the 717 Olympic building was numbingly hard, leaving even the most well-toned of bodies drenched in sweat. That wasn't what made the class distinctive.
It was, rather, the view. The class is held on the building's rooftop -- 27 stories up.
The wide open space, where half a dozen bikes sit on an AstroTurf lawn, is also adorned with telescopes to better gaze at Staples Center to the south, Boyle Heights to the east and the changing skyline of downtown.
A breeze swept across the roof on a recent Wednesday, flapping the United States flag on the construction crane of a residential tower rising nearby. Macias walked to a bike at the front of the class, stopping to turn on an iPod before she climbed into position.
Adjusting her heart rate monitor, she looked around at the residents perched on bikes, watching her with a mixture of anticipation and dread.
"Ready?" Macias said.
And with that, as Janet Jackson belted out the first few lines of "Rhythm Nation," a unique L.A. gym class began.
Perk for renters
As new luxury high-rises arrive downtown, each new building owner is contemplating how to use amenities to appeal to upscale residents. For 717 Olympic, which opened a couple of months ago near the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street, that means a "concierge" space on the eighth level, complete with wine refrigerators for residents and a cappuccino machine, a private screening room and a fitness center. The spinning classes represent another perk for renters, who pay between $2,500 and $20,000 a month.
"It goes along with the resort-type feel," said Joanna Wiese of Hanover Co., the building's owner. "If you want to go for a wine tasting or a spinning class, it's an added amenity for the building."
Macias, a pixieish woman with red hair, freckles and impressive biceps, is a former Laker Girl and Denver Broncos cheerleader. She was hired as the building's fitness director after working in a similar capacity at a Hanover building in Denver.
Macias said that the first time she toured the building, before residents had arrived, she saw the rooftop space and immediately had ideas about how it could be used.
"It was one of those things," she said. "I came up here and said, how cool would it be if we had bikes up here? And they got them."
For resident Arash Yazdani, a doctor who recently moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, the rooftop classes were a selling point for the building. "I'm pretty active, and it's much more convenient to have the gym at the building," Yazdani said. "The spinning part is very unique to the building. A lot of buildings have gyms, but they are indoors. To have outdoor spinning makes a big difference."
Macias said she's talked about holding yoga classes on the roof too, though that will have to wait until more residents arrive. For now, she said, she is teaching three to four classes a week, mostly in the evenings, when it is cool enough to work out outdoors so high up.
By 7:15, the sky had begun changing color, the first sign that sunset was not far off. A gray cloud had settled over the vista, stretching from Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center to the north, past the former Transamerica tower, to South Los Angeles. The clock atop the distinctive turquoise Eastern Columbia building nearby reminded the five members of the class that they still had nearly 45 minutes to go.
The neon marquee of the Orpheum Theatre flickered to life.
As the smell of barbecue wafted through the open-air classroom -- from someone's patio below -- Macias led the class in a series of "jumps." They stood on their pedals, lifting their bodies off the bikes to the beat of the music.
For the next half hour or so, they would ride up and down imaginary hills, to a variety of music. Lights went on in the distance about 7:40, and soon after, a red neon "Jesus Saves" sign appeared on the skyline as if from nowhere, near the Eastern Columbia clock tower.
The group of five cyclists that started the class had been winnowed to a sweat-soaked three. They peddled with a ferocious intensity as Macias encouraged them.
"Almost there," she yelled.
A few seconds later, as the hands on the Eastern Columbia clock moved close to 8 p.m., Macias sat up on the bike and raised her arms. Night had fallen. The class was over.
"Nice!" she cheered. "Shake 'em out."