“Barry’s bootcamp? Barry? It’s not very aspirational-sounding, is it?” says a friend when I tell her what I’m up to. Well, no. Barry is not a name to conjure glamour. However, in America - from whence Barry hails - this hard sweat, boutique bootcamp’s acolytes include Katie Holmes, Amanda Seyfried, Sandra Bullock and the hottest Jessicas in Hollywood, Biel and Alba. Over there, Barry’s is on a par with Tracey Anderson for the devotion the classes inspire in its regulars (‘Bootees’?) and the many tales of its extraordinary body sculpting results. Now Barry is here, in a newly opened outpost on London’s Euston Road.
My ambition is to do four classes a week for four weeks, to see if it’s possible to effect real change in a limited timeframe (an ambition that has nothing at all to do with pre-bikini-panic, no way, not one bit). Still, it wasn’t going to be easy. Everything I’d read about Barry’s suggested this was serious, sweaty, extreme cardio – no rest, no excuses, definitely no girly breaks for stretching or checking your phone. A friend wrote to me of her experience: “I had to stop and throw up the first time.” She added, helpfully, “Now obsessed.” Nor does the entrance allay a newbie’s fears, with its camo-printed walls, the giant photographs of crop-topped, ab-tastic Barry’s trainers, and a poster reading ‘Barry’s needs YOU!’
Me? Really? I’m not so sure. Once inside, however, things get a lot more comforting – and comfortable. In the changing rooms there are showers, complimentary towels, lockers and Malin + Goetz soaps. In reception there are friendly staff, (‘Barrys’?), branded gym kit for sale, and a protein smoothie bar with low tables and sofas and copies of Vogue to thumb through as you wait, nervously, for your class.
The class itself is held in a semi-dark cavern lit by red disco lights that are as flattering as candlelight. (Really.) A line of Woodway treadmills face a wall of mirrors, while bench exercises are done facing another wall of mirrors, in the space on the floor behind. High BPM club tunes play on the sound system. The treadmills read miles not kilometers, leading to my first mistake, pushing the button up to nine to realise I was at a full sprint. The instructors also watch your speed and are vocal in their ‘encouragement’ if they think you’re cheating yourself even an ounce.
There’s no faking it, and no escaping the mirrors or the image of myself, puffing through the first of three, ten minute bursts of sprints, hill runs, (at 10% incline), backwards trotting (completely disorientating), and sideways galloping – interspersed with three, ten minute bursts of crunches, deadlifts, bicep curls and burpees, surely the most hellish exercise on earth. The trainers are not the shouting, spitting sergeant majors I had envisaged, but lean, model-attractive, smiling torturers who know exactly what to say and when to make you go a little bit further.