Inside a fitness retreat led by celebrity trainer Isaac Boots.
I’m doing everything I can to keep my leg continually raising and lowering in time with the music when trainer Isaac Boots issues an only semi-joking instruction: “Be aware of the very expensive face behind you.”
My fellow suffering leg lifters and I laugh, but Boots has a point. All manner of beautiful faces belonging to mature women further beautified by tweakments and cosmetic procedures surround me on the gorgeous Hamptons spa deck where Boots is leading us in his signature Torch’d workout. I most certainly would not want to accidentally clock one of them in the face.
This is a typical comment from Boots, a celebrity trainer who dislikes the term “celebrity trainer,” because he says his non-industry clients are just as important to him as the actresses and public figures whom he personally trains or who tune into his morning Torch’d live streams.
Still, recognizable clients, including Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, and Vanessa Hudgens, and several “Real Housewives” like Lisa Rinna, Ramona Singer, Margaret Josephs, are happy to say they’re Isaac devotees.
“I like to be a little subversive,” Boots says. “It attracts people who don’t take things too seriously.”
His cheekiness, along with the absolutely killer classes he leads, is part of his charm. And that’s even more true at an event like the one I attended—a multi-day Torch’d retreat at Gurney’s Montauk in the Hamptons, attended by fit and bejeweled women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and even one Real Housewife of New Jersey—where Boots can play to the crowd in an intimate, in-the-know bosom buddy kind of way.
“Use your hips,” Boots says in a later class. “This is the Hamptons—you’ve gotta hold onto your houses somehow.”
Inside a Torch’d retreat
Up a winding road nine minutes from the Montauk train station, Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa is the only year-round resort in Montauk that is actually right on the beach. That makes it “hauntingly beautiful” in the winter, says Boots, who likes to visit year round. But this is June and the sun is out on the beach club, even if the wind is a bit biting.
I arrived on a Monday for a 48-hour look at the co-hosted Gurney’s x Torch’d retreat, which other attendees were doing for five days. The retreat’s devil’s bargain is that you stay in a beautiful beachfront room, eat delicious meals, spend your day at the beach or the spa—and you do at least one Torch’d class, every single day. This is of course the draw for the Torch’d crowd who do classes online every day, anyway. This week, they get to do their daily workout on the deck of a spa overlooking the ocean, with their teacher delivering his sassy instructions directly to them.
I got thrown in right away. A Torch’d class began at 5:30 p.m. on the first evening of the retreat. Then we were back at it the next morning at 9:30 a.m., and every morning thereafter.
Boots’ Torch’d method is a bodyweight-based strength and muscle endurance class where you do leg lifts on your hands and knees, pulsing squats, crunch variations, arm flutters, and other small but targeted moves for a seemingly endless amount of time. In other fitness classes I’ve done, strengthening sections might go on for the length of a song, and then you get a break. Not so in Torch’d, where diva tunes spur on near constant motion, while Boots encourages swift transitions saying “quick quick, no time to waste.” Boots also doesn’t believe in modifications; if you can’t do a push-up, don’t get on your knees or find an incline. Simply hold a plank.
“I like saying no dusty asses, ever,” Boots says. “Who doesn’t love a tight ass?”
When I ask Boots about the intensity, he says being in tune with your body, checking in, and taking a rest when you need one, and then coming back to the moves, is important to him. But you wouldn’t know it from watching the Torch’d retreat students, women of a certain age who absolutely crush every set of push-ups, tripod leg sweeps, and single-leg hip thrusts.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Boots says of the efficacy of his method, which he developed while working as a Broadway dancer to stay in shape. “It works for my clients.”
Of course, working out is not the only activity on a Torch’d retreat—although multiple attendees do book private sessions with Boots in the afternoons, completing two or even three Torch’d classes per day. But while not in class, we’re free to lay on the beach, explore town, or do a spa treatment (I got the most relaxing facial of my life, thanks to the Seawater Spa). In the evenings, we have group dinners where the wine flows and waiters bring out plates of perfectly tender steak and fresh seafood. One night, we end the evening with a beach bonfire as one of Boots’ friends, a professional singer, serenades us.
Boots says he designs his retreats to deliver for his clients what he considers a “perfect day.”
“You push your body to its limit in the morning, and then refresh yourself with beautiful fruits and vegetables, and breads that were just cooked, and avocados,” Boots says. “And if you want an Aperol spritz, have it. If not, don’t. And have your dogs here, and run on the beach, and then have a clambake, and have my friends sing to you. You know, that, to me, that’s joy.”
It’s joy for Boots’ clients, too. Multiple attendees were repeat Torch’d retreaters, and everyone told me the reason was Isaac Boots: His personality, his energy, his friendship, his verve. The people he attracts were finding each other, too. A mother from New Jersey was becoming fast friends with an interior designer from Newport, Rhode Island, (where she used to have a “really big house,” but post-divorce, now has something more modest next to a neighbor’s helipad), since they were both doing Torch’d Tuscany and Montauk back-to-back. A corporate attorney told me she liked to come to focus on wellness, while also meeting new people and having activities planned that she didn’t have to do alone.
“I’m not anti-aging,” says Boots. “I’m pro-vitality.”
Working out for 48 hours like a “real housewife” means getting to spend your days devoted to feeling good in the pursuit of both looking good and supporting your health. You’re living in luxury while making friends with women who prioritize the same things you do. You’re talking about how you really don’t eat carbs, while going for that martini. You bust your ass in the morning, and maybe also in the afternoon. You have a teacher who seems to understand you, poking fun with love, while also reminding you to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
“A lot of my clients, a lot of my close, close friends, are mothers who are in their fifties and sixties, and they’re so inspiring,” Boots says. “To see that at any age, taking care of yourself and challenging yourself and being curious about how their body can maintain strength, I think it’s a beautiful thing.”