I Tried: Life Time, a luxury gym in La Jolla

Is this new upscale gym in San Diego worth the hype — and membership costs?


“I Tried” is a new monthly column where PACIFIC staff writer (and San Diego native) Sara Butler tries new things around the city and shares her experience.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I am not, nor do I think I ever will be, an exercise person. That said, at the beginning of every year, one of my resolutions usually involves an attempt to get back in shape. Er, rather, get into shape in the first place.

So when a new luxury gym — Life Time La Jolla — opened up last December, my ears perked up. Specifically at the word “luxury.” Would this be the element that would finally motivate me to go to the gym? I decided to stop by the upscale facility in mid-January (before my “new year, new me” momentum faded) to scope out the scene.

First off, stepping into Life Time La Jolla feels like arriving at a five-star hotel, starting with the lounge with comfortable chairs and curated decor. Walk past the cafe (more on that later) and check in at the front desk, complete with wood and marble accents.

The two-level facility consists of a huge room on the ground floor filled with more than 200 pieces of training equipment and exercise machines. Head upstairs for the five studio spaces, as well as a locker room and spa.

I’ve never had a good experience at a traditional gym — you know, one with exercise machines — so honestly, I didn’t know what to look for here. But I was impressed by the sheer number and variety of machines, including rows and rows of treadmills, stationary bikes, free weights and other contraptions I didn’t even recognize.

Though I didn’t try any of the machines out, I saw folks of all ages getting their sweat on, and they all looked happy. (At least as happy as one can be working out.)

Then I moved on upstairs to check out the studio spaces, which I loved. Especially the yoga studio. The few times I do work out, it’s usually a yoga class, and let me tell you: Life Time’s space exceeded expectations. High ceilings, huge windows, soft lighting — it’s a serene dream. Not to mention the lavender towels for Shavasana...

But on my visit, I decided to skip my tried-and-true yoga and signed up for the Signature Sampler instead. The class combines a bit of a few classes like UPPER Rx, a strength-building and muscle toning class; and Gluteus MAXout, which targets and strengthens the muscles in and around your legs and glutes with some cardio.

I took Frankie’s 8:45 a.m. class on a Friday morning. (Yeah, I’m surprised I made it there too.) And let me tell you, if this class truly is a sampling of Life Time’s wide range of classes, I’d book them all.

Despite it being one of the hardest workouts I’d ever done (though admittedly, that bar is low), Frankie somehow made the class enjoyable and approachable. The strength-meets-cardio experience required a mat, exercise bands and two sets of weights. Frankie was encouraging without calling anyone out, which made me less self-conscious and way more motivated. Though I had to slow down toward the end, I still walked out feeling exhausted yet energized — and dare I say exhilarated?

Post work-out, I tried a Vegan PB & B Shake ($7.70) at the gym’s eatery, LifeCafe. Though I’m not usually a protein-shake-for-breakfast sort of person, it ended up being exactly what I wanted after Frankie’s class.

I was tempted by one of my go-to morning dishes: avocado toast. Turns out, Life Time Cafe has one of the cheapest avocado toasts — a mere $3! — in San Diego. Or at least, the cheapest in La Jolla. In general the menu prices are moderate, especially compared to other eateries in the neighborhood.

And the best part? LifeCafe is open to the public, so anyone can enjoy its offerings (and free Wi-Fi) without committing to a membership.

After the shake, I headed to the locker room. In addition to rain showers, lockers and vanities, turns out it’s also home to a sauna and a eucalyptus steam room. I am not exaggerating when I say I CANNOT GET OVER THE EUCALYPTUS STEAM ROOM. Seriously, I didn’t even know it was a thing a month ago, but now I cannot stop telling people how much I need a eucalyptus steam room in my life.

I know a gym membership is meant for exercising, but I’d genuinely consider signing up solely for the locker room perks.

Life Time also has a full-service spa upstairs. If you’re the type of person who frequents salons, this is definitely a convenient option. But these services are not included in the membership fee, so as someone who has never had a professional massage and gets her hair cut once a year, this wasn’t really a selling point for me. (However, anyone who books an appointment receives access to the gym for the day, so it does offer a way to experience Life Time La Jolla without a membership.)

Overall, Life Time La Jolla has a lot to offer. I will say that I was disappointed with the lack of amenities like a swimming pool or athletic court. (In comparison, Life Time’s Austin, Texas location includes racquetball, squash and basketball courts, as well as a rock wall, lap pool, whirlpool and even water slides.)

However, the general manager told me that its vision for the La Jolla location is Life Time Living, with future plans to build high-end apartments next door with premium amenities and communal spaces.

My final verdict? If you live in La Jolla — or are eyeing to move into one of the new Life Time Living units, construction TBA — I’d recommend trying it out. Ditto if you work in La Jolla. But for me, someone who lives and works downtown, the long drive into the neighborhood during rush hour would likely deter me from working out. (I should note that there is a complimentary, underground structure, so parking is not an issue.)

Though I won’t be signing up for a membership, I’d consider buying a $40 day pass to take another class, enjoy the rain showers, and indulge in the eucalyptus steam room. And I’ll definitely be stopping by soon for another protein shake and a slice of avocado toast.

Life Time La Jolla, 1055 Wall Street, La Jolla, 858-410-7100,