A BEGINNER TRIES: BARRY’S BOOTCAMP

Anyone that has ever so much of thought of attempting a fitness class in London, has heard of Barry’s Bootcamp.

I knew when I first started this series that a visit to Barry’s was going to be on the agenda…  and if I’m honest, I was not particularly excited at the prospect. Something about the name: Barry’s Bootcamp, well it terrified me.

I imagined an enormous bald man shouting at me as I did high knees in some bleak and muddy park on the top of some random hill in the middle of winter. I imagined shouting and crying and probably a breakdown or two. I never imagined enjoying it.

So if you’re new to the series, I’ll catch ya up. I am a beginner, and I’m trying out a whole load of new shit. At first it was swimming in a public pool, next up it was spinning at Psycle and this week it was an hour at Barry’s Bootcamp. I’ll start by saying: I SURVIVED… just.

As for the details? Let’s get into it shall we…

CLASS: Full Body
LOCATION: London SW1
TIME & DATE: 02 December, 10.00am
INSTRUCTOR: Sarah R

A bit about Barry’s, according to the website:

When you google it, they tell you it’s the best class in the world. I mean, I could call myself the best person in the world, and technically leave that review on a google page somewhere so you don’t necessarily need to trust that as law, BUT, it’s a bold claim they must have plucked from somewhere!

Seriously though, the site itself does say: “this is the room where everything becomes possible. Where you push through the “I can’t” and “if only’s”. Where you run faster, lift more, lean out, quiet down. This is what transformation looks like. Where you become the best version of yourself. 

The workout itself is designed for efficiency. The intervals and strength training combinations are proven to lean and tone your body. This isn’t a fitness trend. It’s just science. And it works. Then there’s the “thing” that happens when the doors close, lights dim, and music turns up. There’s a palpable energy in the room that pushes you one step further. It’s the soul, body, brain revolution that’s uniquely Barry’s.”

There are a few classes available, from “Arms & Abs”, “Butt & Legs”, “Chest, Back & Abs”, “Abs”, “Full Body” (For Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday, Saturday, Sunday – designed, I think, so that keen beans are able to do a different thing every day!)

Like so many other classes, you pay for the classes with credits; it’s £20 for one and one credit per class, but as with most these things the more you buy at once, the cheaper the individual classes become!

There are hundreds of instructors and clubs all over the world, five studios in London alone, some in Manchester and a whole load of them in America, where Barry’s originated.

The Booking Process: 

I booked my spot the night before which meant that I was plopped straight onto the waitlist.

Normally you book online and are able to choose your ‘floor spot’ and your treadmill – the idea of the class is that you switch between the two so having your own allocated space means less crashing into each other and fighting to get as far away from the instructor as possible (oh, just me?).

I was waitlisted but decided to show up anyway – I was really nervous about this, it would have been my worst nightmare to have been turned away (heyyy anxiety) but they assured my that it is normally absolutely fine just to show up as they can more often than not squeeze you in,

Sure enough, it was. I was 4th in line and there was space for me (best thing about Sunday morning classes means people have Sunday morning hangovers and bail on shit!) – there were actually a few empty benches so you probably could just have shown up not on the waitlist – but I’m not nearly brave enough for that.

First impressions on arrival:

You first walk into a bloody big reception area; all glassy and black and white and east-londony –  it felt very ‘cool’ but I am happy to report that it was absolutely not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. It actually felt very ‘chilled’ – it didn’t feel like people even notice me walking in which I loved. Loveloveloved.

The guys on the desk were really nice and happy and helpful – even overthinkers like me couldn’t assume that they were silently judging me and my cellulite for daring to attempt such a prestigious workout. They hand out towels and sign people in and try to find waitlisters like me a spot!

There is also a bar at which you can pre-order protein shakes for the end of the class. Yes they even have ones that intolerance ridden people like me can have!

There are changing rooms behind the reception desk where you can leave any stuff you don’t want to take into the studio with you (jackets etc. – I took my phone and water bottle into the studio with me) – my friend Rory describes them as ‘Premiere League Changing Rooms’, if that sways your opinion at all.

It was busy but it didn’t feel crowded or overwhelming or anything; it felt nice, it was buzzing but the space was big enough that it sort of allowed it all to be a bit more relaxed than it could have been. I’m probably explaining that very badly but somehow, despite the fact it was very cool and chill and stuff, it wasn’t intimating – my nerves all but disappeared when I walked in.

I told the guys at reception that it was my first time and one of them walked me through everything I was going to need to do. They legally HAVE to do this, so don’t feel awkward about telling them that you need to be shown around. It’s incredibly helpful and I wouldn’t really have wanted to do it without them.

The studio:

The room itself is very long and thin, with treadmills lined up all along one wall and the rest of the room dedicated to perfectly placed step/bench type things.

On the left hand side of the door there is section totally dedicated to weights and on your way in you have to go and collect two dumb-belles. The helpful guy suggested I take 7.5kg ones. I laughed in his face and took two 6kg ones instead.

Every step/treadmill has a number and you are either allocated your number when you walk in (if you’re on the waitlist) or find the one that you booked. (you can book your number like booking a seat on a flight – only really difference is that at Barry’s it’s free to choose). You will know before you start if you’re on the floor or a treadmill first. The guy showed me to my floorspace (because this is where I was starting), number 17, (easy enough to find, by the way, just between 16 and 18… duh).

The walls by the way were ALL mirrors, the lights were very low and either did some cool red flashing thing or were basically off. It was a far cry from the images I had of Barry’s being an outdoor, rough and ready event.

I know it’s a weird observation, but the step/bench thing was incredibly fancy. I don’t know what the material was, but it was bloody soft and that impressed me.

The class:

I’m sure all the classes differ massively, but we started in the plank and it only got harder from there. Squats, planks, rows, press ups, weighted burpees, crunches and basically everything else you can think of.

If I am honest, I couldn’t ~really~ hear everything the instructor was telling us to do, but thankfully, thanks in part to the mirrored walls, it was really easy to just copy others. I was definitely not the only one doing this, by the way, I kind of got the impression we were all kind of copying each other and it made me feel more comfortable to be honest.

The routine was great.
– it was very fast moving so nothing killedkilledkilled me.
– you can kind of do it at your own pace…? It kind of feels like you’re doing your own thing so if your legs go into cramp or your arms physically cannot hold up the weight for a second longer, you can just take a sec.
– it worked e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-gggg, not one of my muscles isn’t hurting.

You do most of it facing the mirror which I really liked – I never really understood people who worked out looking at themselves, but psychologically it helped me – I felt quite motivated staring at myself… (until the room steamed up so badly that my own reflection disappeared in steam).

Next time though I do think I will go for 7.5kg weights, as I almost kind of think I might have been able to push myself a little bit harder.

The way our class worked meant that I did the first half of the class on the floor, and the second half on the treadmill. When I checked my Polar App (the heart rate monitor and accompanying app that I swear by for all exercise) at the half way point, I saw that had burnt 270 calories… not bad considering I hadn’t actually ‘moved’ yet.

For me, the treadmill is where the scarymary Barry’s Bootcamp work to match the reputation got me: IT WAS HARD.

(Before I get into this though, I gotta tip my hat to the lovely guy that had set me up at the beginning who reappeared at half time to explain the treadmill stuff to me).

Again, I wasn’t able to hear the instructions but was basically able to copy everyone else/work it out on my own – also the guy next to me seemed to work out that I was USELESS and helped me loads. (So you don’t make the same mistake that I did, when it comes to the resistance bit, the bit where you put your hands on the handles and push, PULL THE RED CORD OFF FIRST because otherwise the machine won’t work and you’ll look like an idiot #handyhintsfromamoron).

I realised after a bit that the instructor was shouting numbers at us and that was either the speed or the incline that we needed to set our machines to.

She would shout things like 8,9 or 10 and we would choose which speed to set our machines to – heyyyy 8 for me! She’d then count us down, sometimes from 60, sometimes from 20 – there was no pattern which helped keep us on our toes. She was constantly shouting instructions which was good – mixing it up all the time made it possible to keep going.

I ought to admit: I didn’t always get up to the speed/resistance I was being asked to get to, because, truthfully, I was slightly scared that I was going to shoot off the back of the treadmill (jelly legs from doing the floor work first!) Also, I was slightly doing that thing of saving myself – I didn’t know what was coming next and didn’t want to burn out too soon. I won’t do that next time… will give it my allllllll.

If I am honest, I didn’t LOVE running for as long as I did – I enjoyed the weight stuff more (lol, I’m training to run a marathon) and so if I do go back to Barry’s I’m not sure it will be for this exact variation of class – I would opt for something a little bit more specialised and therefore a little bit more weight focussed I think.

There is also the option of booking a “DF”, a double floor session which means you don’t need to do the treadmill at all – although if you’re doing that you might be missing the point of Barry’s in the first place, as the treadmill is iconic.

Having said all of that, I was pushed wayyyy harder than I ever would have pushed myself had I been on my own in the gym and that was GREAT. I worked unbelievably hard and genuinely my whole body is aching as I write this.

In total I burnt 680 calories in the hour.

The website does promise 1000 but there was every chance that the fear of the unknown that comes with being a beginner stopped me from pushing myself as hard as I might have done – also, this sort of workout is designed to keep you burning calories throughout the day, and my heart rate monitor was only registering what I did in the hour. Still – it was enough for me to seriously consider a second

Thoughts by the end:

  • It was nothing like I thought it would be, I don’t know why I always thought Barry would be a big bald bloke shouting at me in the park, but it made the fancy shmancy, well lit, great music studio a far cry from what I had thought it would be.
  • The price was a bit of a deterrent. If you’ve got the money, or want to invest what you have into your fitness then I’d say this is FAAAB, but yes yes very spenny.
  • Incredibly sweat-making. Honestly, it wasn’t just me and my apparently enormous sweat glands, everyone in there was drenched!
  • It somehow felt very un-judgemental – I got great community vibes the whole time and it felt kind of friendly and supportive, which I really appreciated.
  • If you don’t know what kind of workout you want, I’d say this is a GREAT place to start – it does everything and is something I never would have been able to recreate on my own – in that sense it is very fab and very much a ‘you get what you pay for’ sort of thing.
  • I will say again, my whole body hurts. It worked me HARD.
  • Honestly, I think if I were to keep it up and start going on the regs, as so many people do, I could expect to see some huge changes to my body… sorry bank balance, we have might have a sacrifice to make.

Top Tips:

  • Book in advance – I found the waitlist thing to be a little bit daunting, I would have been mortified to have been turned away so think I might have enjoyed it more if I’d had a place secured!
  • Take a shit tonne of water because you are going to sweat sweat sweat and will really need it.
  • Put a proper sports bra on – for a lot of these things I wear one of my comfy/fun sports bras but you absolutely can’t do that for a session at Barry’s! When I run I wear Shock Absorber bras (20% off at Figleaves right now!) as they keep me firmly strapped down – was v grateful I decided to put one of these on before the class.
  • Book a spot on the treadmill first, if you can. I was very aware of the fact that my legs felt like jelly when I got to the treadmill and as a result I lacked a bit of confidence. I personally would have preferred to run first and do the weights afterwards.
  • Don’t wear too much – it’s bloody warm.
  • Throw yourself into it 100% – I slightly kicked myself afterwards for holding back on the treadmill and not pushing myself to my absolute limit.

I really very much enjoyed it and at the risk of offering up a weird suggestion, if there is someone in your life who is looking for a lifestyle change or if you’re on the hunt for a way to kick start something new and positive in January I absolutely think buying a week’s worth of classes is a really really good idea.

They regularly offer ‘Hell Week’ offers; Rory – the guy awarding the changing rooms with Premiere League status, who came with me on Sunday was at the tail end of his very own Hell Week and I think it’s a great thing to do.

There was a really cool community vibe with this class and I’d say it would only take a couple of visits before you started feeling part of a family. Can defo understand how it became such a cult to so many people.

Would definitely go back!

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