THE BASICS: Barry’s Bootcamp has reached cult status. The hardcore indoor circuit and interval session that promise to create buff LA beach bodies out of us pasty Londoners was something I was feeling apprehensive about. Barry thinks he’s going to make a buff bronzed beach body of this die-hard cake fan? I commend your optimism, Barry. £20 per drop-in class, multi-class deals available.
THE BITCHES: Carly and Alix
THE CLASS: This visit was my third attempt to try out Barry’s- the other two had valid reasons for last minute cancellations I swear, but actually deep down I think I had been a tiny bit relieved at wriggling my way out of it. This time. This time- NO EXCUSES. Hell, it was a Friday night and the rest of the Day Job were off down the pub. “No thanks”, I’d said, voice wavering, “I’m off to, um…. bootcamp?”.
I was impressed I made it to the door of Barry’s without bolting in the other direction.
Down the stairs I went, and I was in a krunking, pumping exposed brick reception, where a lot of Barry’s converts were waiting patiently to get in and get sweating. I was surprised to see so many people up for a physical slaughtering on a Friday night. The cult of Bazza really is as strong as I had been led to believe!
The electronic lockers almost managed to outwit me as usual, but Alix was on hand to help my tiny brain work them out. We picked up a complimentary towel and as soon as the last class came out, quick swizz from the cleaners and us newbies were in.
Faisal, our trainer, got us all round a treadmill and we were shown the basics. The treadmills were something in themselves- not your usual running belt but what I can only describe as monster-truck tyres. Impressive grip and traction on the trainers, and a nifty dynamic feature that meant you were essentially powering the revolutions of the belt by your little leggies, like an actual hamster wheel. I was a bit scared but also pretty impressed.
The rest of the class were called in and a DJ started (seriously- nice). Everyone was high fived as they jogged into the studio, half of us on the treadmills and the other half on their readily-set up benches. We were up for a 60 minute class, split into 10 minute sessions, alternating between treadmill, floor, treadmill, floor…. repeat until collapse.
Those of us on the treadmill (or “treaders” as we were now to be known) were up to jogging speed immediately. I assumed the machines were in kms and so went up to what I consider a comfortable jog pace of 8kmph. Wrong. Legs were pretty much a blur and I have since realised that, being America, the machines were probably in miles. 8km an hour I can run. 8 miles an hour?
I sheepishly turned the speed down and got comfortable… for all of two minutes. “UP TO THE NEXT LEVEL, TREADERS” yelled Faisal above the music- and we were sprinting like maniacs far too early on for my liking. I’d done zilch exercise for the previous week and inside my little brain was basically yelling at me for being such an idiot and not breaking myself back into exercise gently. SHUT UP, BRAIN. Concentrate on keeping us alive, please!!
And so the ten minutes went on- fast, faster, fastest, high incline, really high incline, really fast on really high incline. The man was beasting us! As much as I moan, this is exactly what I was hoping for, and was watching the days biscuit consumption be un-counted as the distance and calorie dials on the treadmill racked up.
After ten minutes, we swapped with the floor, ready for some toning and conditioning. 50 minutes to go. Resistance bands and some step ups, some lunges with weights, and some bench presses. My body was still shaking from the run, and I wasn’t sure I trusted myself to hold a 4kg weight above my head without dropping it on my face. Weedy little arms just about managed to save the face from becoming a big hole with a weight smooshed into it, and we were up and swapping with the others, back to our last 10 minute session as Treaders.
For the whole class, Faisal ran about confidently like a fitness composer, and I was impressed at how he managed to keep two entire groups going simultaneously, both of which seemed like slightly different schedules within their ten minute slots. I tried to see if he was wearing two different watches but I couldn’t see in the red, moody dark light, and so I am left to conclude that the man actually just has a brain with a stopclock in it.
He yelled a few profanities in our general direction about the fact that we should either give it our all, or else what was the point of being here. The way he said it was to the group, though, not picking on people. And it motivated us to really hunker down and dig deep. I almost let out a roar on the treadmill the third and final time on it, I was so in the zone. Barry, you almost made a crazy lion-roaring lady out of me! Good work, my friend.
After 3 sessions on the treadmill and 3 on the benches (where we worked out core and arms as well as legs), we’d reached our hour, and the lights went really low as people lay on benches and treadmills for the warmdown. On with some Daughter from the DJ (loved the way that, because of a live DJ, the music could match the pace of the class perfectly) and we were guided through our stretch.
Alix and I stumbled out, too stunned to speak for a few minutes. Barry, you killed us.
THE VERDICT: Great vibe, music- great, equipment- impressive, trainer- talented. Barry’s offers exactly what it claims to- a bloody hard workout. A month of this and you wouldn’t even know I was a secret cake-scoffer!
On honest reflection, the class is probably a little intimidating for people who have never ever tried anything like this before. It’s pretty noisy in there, and although I don’t doubt for a second that Faisal was available for questions and guidance, he’s essentially composing a fitness orchestra of about 40 people and so you might feel a bit lost if this is your very first class. I’d suggest maybe 1) go with a buddy first time 2) don’t be afraid to ask the person next to you to clarify something you’re not sure about, and 3) Give yourself a pre-class pep talk; get your mind focused on working to your very limit. You absolutely can’t turn up to this sort of class feeling half-arsed. This is serious fitness, people!!
THE EXTRAS: I can’t believe I am sharing this photo with you. Sweaty is not the word.