We're sitting in a dimly lit West Hollywood gym, recovering with some of the US’s best trainers, along with models, politicians and wannabe actors. We’re all different, yet for a few minutes all the same: out of breath, a mess.
Not long off the plane from Sydney, it’s hard to fathom I’m at the epicentre of a global fitness craze. I’ve just finished my first session of Barry’s, the high-intensity treadmill- and weight-based workout arriving in Australia this month. And I’m hooked. But it took the whole session to win me over.
To kick off the full-body workout, I’m stationed on a treadmill, a soft introduction in theory, though I’m immediately confronted with my own reflection in a full-length mirror. It’s another well-designed psychological ploy: when you’re running in a class, hurtling directly at your own image, you’re given no option other than to face yourself. And as corny as that sounds, the psychology works. An hour of glaring into your own eyes forces you to contemplate your existence, your reason for being here, or at the very least, your fitness level.
Six minutes on the treadmill is doable, especially with speed variations at your fingertips. I’m sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for a minute – perfect for stoking the metabolic fire.
I’m then welcomed to the floor by head trainer Blake Bridges and instructed to pick up a pair of dumbbells for a six-minute strength phase. Any illusion I was under that there would be a chance to catch my breath is scotched. Barry’s runs a tight ship, and you’d better not just be along for the ride.
How heavy should I go with the dumbbells? I scan the room for the gym equivalent of a pacer and find my choice is limited to guys who are either ripped or extremely ripped. So I end up following the lead of the nearest Barry’s body, who of course reaches for the heaviest weights on the rack. (This specimen turns out to be the buff Republican Senator Aaron Schock, who’s been on the cover of the US edition of Men’s Health.) I have an inkling I’ve gone too heavy.
We’re immediately thrust into a series of goblet squats, lunges and man-makers, over what seems like the longest six minutes in history. I’m left begging for a return to the relative tranquility of the treadmill.
We repeat this back-and-forth between treadmill and weights another three times to round out a solid 55 minutes of conditioning, during which we’ve hit every major muscle group. Jetlag be damned! I was determined to thrive in the darkness.
It becomes obvious why Barry’s counts Kanye West, David Beckham and Justin Bieber among its regular clients. NThe session serves as an effective workout requiring minimal independent thought and Barry’s definitely has value for the committed trainer.
Barry’s workouts are unapologetically difficult and at times quite intricate, providing a likely step-up if you’ve been your own personal trainer for a while.
“It’s not for people who don’t want to work hard – that’s the distinction,” says Gonzalez, analysing Barry’s place in the market. And the more I talk to Gonzalez, the more I see how this works in their favour. It’s obvious that the idea behind Barry’s isn’t to be so exclusive that people feel too intimidated to join. It’s to be so inclusive that they hold everyone to the same high standard.
It’s a fresh take on fitness, combining luxury and sweat, and it’s likely to drive demand for premium workout experiences. If Australian-born fitness cult F45 were to have a love child with luxury health spa Equinox, I’d imagine the outcome would be something along the line of Barry’s.
“You would think that if that’s how you message clients, people would be reluctant to come,” says Gonzalez. “But really what it does is improve the success rate for us. When people come they’re committed to change and they’re ready to do ‘the thang’.”
‘The thang’ Gonzalez refers to is a killer workout . . . and hopefully the resultant Barry’s body. And with a total of around 25 minutes of interval-based cardiovascular exertion, combined with another 25 minutes of strength work, ‘the thang’ works.
BOOT CAMP BLITZ
TEST YOUR BARRY’S READINESS WITH THIS SCORCHING ROUTINE
DIRECTIONS: Take one minute’s rest between the treadmill and floor circuits. Do 3 rounds
0-1 Jog @ 8, 9, or 10km/h
1-2 Increase speed by 2km/h
2-3 Increase speed by another 2km/h into a run
3-4 Recover: walk or jog
4-5 Jog @ 9, 10 or 11km/h
5-6 Increase speed by 2km/h
6-7 Recover: walk or jog
7-8 30-second run @ 10, 11 or 12 km/h; then a 30-second MAX sprint
0-1 Chest Press 1-2 Hammer Chest Press
2-3 Lat Pullover
3-4 Triceps Skull Crusher
4-5 Seated Overhead Triceps Extension
5-6 Triceps dip
7-8 30 seconds of crunches, opposite knee to elbow