I tried Barry’s Bootcamp. Here’s what happened.

Written by Mikaila Kukurudza

Standing in a red-lit room lined with treadmills and Lycra-clad bodies, I anxiously awaited my first session at Barry’s Bootcamp. The Sunday morning class was packed with exercise enthusiasts eager to try out the world-renowned workout (a hybrid of sprint drills and strength training) at the newly opened location in downtown Toronto. Not only is it the first Barry’s to open in Canada, but at over 8,000 square feet, it’s also the largest.

Perhaps one of the most excited to see Barry’s finally come to Canada is Regional Vice President, Laurie Campbell, who has strategically planned vacations around the brand’s locations for years. “You can ask my husband—every time we travel I tell him we need to stay at the closest hotel to a Barry’s.”

With 21 locations in seven countries, Barry’s Bootcamp has organically earned its slogan, “The best workout in the world,” by its loyal following. And it’s no wonder. With an estimated calorie burn of up to 1000 in a 50-minute class (a single session consists of four 15-minute intervals of resistance training and treadmill sprints), for many, the full-body workout they get from Barry’s is unmatched by any other.

As for the intimidation factor almost certainly felt by all newcomers, Campbell doesn’t sugarcoat the experience. “I remember walking in being nervous. Even as a fitness professional, I was like, ‘Should I be here?’” says Campbell, who braved her first class in LA, the birthplace of the original Barry’s. But she encourages newbies not to let their nerves get the best of them. “Everybody is new once, and you’re only new once.”

As for this nervous newbie, there was no turning back. I grabbed my weights and headed to station F11 (at check-in, everyone is assigned either “F” for “floor” or “T” for “treadmill”). As the music thumped out of the state-of-the-art sound system, our instructor Michelle shouted instructions into her headset. Exercisers on the treadmills began jogging while those of us at the strength-training stations on the floor (platforms with a mat and dumbbells of your choice)
followed along through each set of squats, deadlifts, lunges, and mountain climbers.

After the first round on the floor, already sweating and muscles burning, I fired up my treadmill and got to work, alternating between jogging and sprinting as Michelle yelled out a mix of instructions and encouragement. A couple of girls to my left were clearly hardcore Barry’s followers and were whooping and hollering, even through the toughest sprints.

“There is such a strong sense of community and people getting to know each other. People become really attached to the brand,” Campbell told me. “So when you’re first entering it, it feels like a club you don’t know yet, but as soon as you step on the treadmill, you’re a part of the club.”

Once I figured out the flow of the class, it didn’t take long for me to feel like I belonged at Barry’s. But if you’re worried you’re not cut out for this kind of club, don’t sell yourself short. Like any workout, Barry’s Bootcamp is as difficult as you make it. From reps on the floor to speed on the treadmill, you control your effort throughout the entire class. And of course, modified versions of the exercises are always an option.

I have to admit, with all of the sprinting, sweating, and switching stations, the 50-minute class flew by. After a quick stretch session to wind down the class, I walked out of the red room dripping sweat and already craving more.

I’m not sure if it was the bursts of sprinting on an incline or all the push-ups, but there was not an inch of my body that wasn’t sore the next day (and the day after that). Barry’s classes are perfect for those who’ve hit a plateau, are bored with regular gym workouts, or just love having their butts kicked. And if you’re feeling a little nervous the first time you hit the treadmill, just remember, you’re only new once.

First timer? Here’s what you’ll need to know:

1. Book early and arrive early. Almost every Barry’s class is full with a waiting list. Make sure you’re not late to avoid someone on the waiting list claiming your spot! The facilities are beautiful, so come early to enjoy the change room, peruse the merchandise boutique, and get in the zone before your class.

2. Pre-order your smoothie. Barry’s Bootcamp Fuel Bar has a smoothie flavor for everyone! Before heading to your class, choose your smoothie, charge your membership profile (no debit accepted), and it will be waiting for you on your way out. I personally loved the Real PB and J.

3. Eat an hour or more before your class. You are about to jump, sprint, and lift with intensity. Having a full stomach will only slow you down, or make you feel sick.

4. Tell your instructor you’re new! It will make your first class so much more enjoyable if you can get some direction before it begins.

5. Bring water and come ready to sweat. This is not a class you want to do if you have a hangover or are under the weather. If you’re not ready to give it your all, give someone else the chance. Bring a water bottle into class but know everything else is taken care of for you. The change rooms are fully stocked with towels, straighteners, spray-on deodorant, and everything else you can think of.

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