Barry's Bootcamp is a rarity in the ultra-competitive Los Angeles fitness scene, still packing them in after 18 years while other boutiques and trends have come and gone. Its signature treadmill and strength workout is in 32 locations, from its original West Hollywood gym to New York and even Norway. But as this brand has grown, can this elder statesman of boutique fitness still bring the burn?
Yes, yes it can.
It's the intensity that keeps people coming back. Barry's estimates its hour-long high-intensity interval training workout burns700 to 1,300 calories, depending on effort and body weight. You'll feel like you left it all out on the floor after this sweat fest.
Stepping into the long dark room in its Hollywood location, I grabbed my assigned Woodway treadmill, an exercise step, small mat and weights. Each day of the week has a specific strength focus, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday offering total body workouts.
It's best to get there early to get set up — especially if you're a first-timer — because once the class starts, the pace is nonstop, and in many locations, you are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other exercisers.
Once the music starts pumping, it sounds like a party — with old-school hip-hop and rock such as Eminem and AC/DC, along with newer tracks from Drake or Justin Bieber — only this party doesn't involve much talking, just the occasional cheer, whoop or gasp for air.
You'll find that you need to shut up and listen, because the instructor is constantly shouting instructions for both the strength and cardio groups; from how to ramp up the speed or incline on your treadmill to the correct form for that chest fly.
The workout alternates between 10-minute periods of runs and sprints on the treadmill and equal amounts of floor work on the step, such as biceps curls, skull crushers, rows, chest presses, squats and lunges of all types.
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 the most challenging, this is at least an eight.
In the total body class that I took, you start out running at an already challenging speed of 7 to 9 mph on the treadmill, add in inclines and finish with sprints. For regulars, that sprint can go as high as 12 mph. You'll go faster than you think you can, even if it's just for 30 to 90 seconds at a time.
Still, instructor Allie Cohen insists that Barry's can be done by everyone.
"You don't have to be an expert, you can take everything at your own pace."
Most fitness beginners would probably find it frustrating, however. And even though Cohen and other instructors will correct your form, cheer you on and provide modifications for strength work, there are a lot of people packed into the class, which could put an exercise newbie at greater risk of injury.
The crowd at Barry's is serious about challenging themselves and serious about whipping their bodies into the best shape possible. You won't see anyone lounging on their step or chatting on the treadmill. That's what the juice bar in the lobby is for.
People come to Barry's to get one of the most challenging workouts in the city. They seek that sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing they pushed themselves harder than the last time. If beast mode is your default, this is your place.
$28 per class, or less when bought as part of a package. Six Southern California locations, in Hollywood, Irvine, Sherman Oaks, Venice, West Hollywood and San Diego. www.barrysbootcamp.com