We Tried This: Barry’s Bootcamp

We tried a seriously sweaty boot camp workout that high-profile celebrities swear by.

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Barry's Bootcamp

As Healthland’s reviewer of workouts both wacky and strenuous, I’ve jumped on trampolines and hung upside-down on acrobatic yoga silks. This week, I resolved to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground and attempt a Hollywood fitness guru favorite: Barry’s Bootcamp.

Barry’s Bootcamp is a Los Angeles-based company with studios along the coasts. The classes pair traditional boot camp-style workout routines with high-energy tunes and red disco lights. Which explains why the late-night revelers leaving their last club of night/morning whom I passed on my way to my 5 a.m. session would probably have been more comfortable in the dimly lit studio than I was at that early hour. By the time I was fully awake, I was sprinting on a treadmill through the darkness as The Outfield’s “Your Love,” blasted over the speakers and my instructor called for higher inclines.

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The class is split between high-intensity cardio and weight lifting and the key to the workout is not knowing what to expect. In a full class, participants divide into groups with one group running treadmill intervals as the other group crunches, lifts weights and holds minute-long plank positions. No single class is the same, and it’s the unpredictable nature of the regime that keeps it fresh and effective, attracting a slew of celebrity devotees like Jessica Biel and Kim Kardashian.

Despite the early start, I wasn’t feeling groggy and sore afterward (the burning quads came later). Instead, I was energized and dare I say–ready for more? The classes aren’t easy, and at times it felt nearly impossible, but if you’re looking to scorch calories, it’s a go-to. Classes aren’t cheap at $32 a session, but packages that discount individual classes are available.

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Barry Jay, the director and founder, has made the New York City studio his home base, which gave me a chance to ask him about the popularity of his workout and how everyone can get the most out of the high-intensity sessions.

What makes this workout so effective?
There’s a combination of mental and physical factors combined. Mentally, it’s exciting and fun. There’s red lights and a variety of music, for instance today was 80s Friday. You set yourself up mentally and think, ‘I know I won’t do this on my own, but if I get there, I can get through it.’ That’s where the physical enters. This workout is everything you need. We focus on arms on Monday, legs and shoulders on Tuesday, back chest and abs on Wednesday, all core on Thursday and full body on Friday through Sunday.

Why do you change-up every session?
Our goal is to shock the body. Every time you come in you get something different. You don’t know if you’re going to get 30 minutes on the treadmill at once or if it will be broken up with time on the floor. I have people come in and say, ‘Barry, is it 30 on 30 off today? Please tell me!’ They don’t know what to expect and there may be something coming that’s really challenging for them and if it is, that’s probably why they need to do it.

Our bodies want results and an important part of working out is surprising your body. You can get into a rut after always starting in the same place, lifting the same weights, doing the same exercises. You don’t want to do the same thing every day and your body doesn’t want to do the same exercises every day. It’s going to stop responding well. To get the maximum results, shocking your body is a key factor. We are big believers in that. We want to give you something you didn’t have the last time. A run you didn’t have yesterday. Weights you didn’t lift yesterday.

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How does the group aspect influence results?
That’s the wonderful thing about the workout. As much as you don’t need to keep up with the person next to you, you can still be inspired to do your best when they’re doing their best. There’s a camaraderie that happens in that room. When you come often enough, get to know your group. Many people are friends now and they’ll razz each other during class. After awhile, you know what the person next to you is capable of.

Who can take this class?
Honestly, everybody. I have people who have lost over 100 pounds in this class. I believe everyone has in them their personal best and it’s not about you keeping up with the person next to you. It’s about pushing yourself to your personal best. I have a girl in the class who I love and adore and has a good 80 pounds to lose. When she sprints to a level 6, it stuns the whole room. It’s amazing because you look at her and think, ‘she is working her ass off right now.’ She is going to get what she wants because she’s showing up every day and she’s changing her eating, and she’s working her hardest.

There are always modifications too. I’ve had pregnant women come in and people with bad knees and bad backs and people who are older. I am under the belief that there’s always something else you can be doing if you can’t do what the rest of the class is doing. If you can’t sprint because of bad knees, then walk.

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How often should someone take the class to start seeing benefits?
I say at least three times a week and that’s the truth. If you come once or twice, it will always feel like the first time and the results will be slow coming. It’s like if you ate right once a week and you didn’t get results. You should eat right six days a week and cheat once a week. So if you come at least three times, you will start feeling like your running is better, your lifting is better and you’re keeping up easier. You start to see the results you came here for. People will ask why they feel like they’re dying during class and they tell me they only come on the weekends. That’s why. There’s a whole week in between so you’re always going to feel like you’re starting over. Consistency is another key factor like shocking the body. Boot camp is challenging. It’s fun and it’s for everyone, but it’s called work for a reason. It’s not easy and you need to be consistent to really get it under your belt. Even I can feel that way. One week I could only make it twice, and I felt like I was starting over. After a few days, you feel like you’re back in your groove.

What should you do right after the workout to recover?
Eat. Within 30 to 45 minutes, eat your good protein. It really is important to eat egg whites, chicken, spinach. For all working out, I say take a day of recovery. Recovery is a big part of working out. Our muscles need to heal if we are going to push ourselves the rest of the week. Some people do six days of working out, I am a big believer in five days. If you come here and this is your workout—do five days a week.

Do you do this workout? Is this how you stay in shape?
Yes. I love it. I love getting drenched and I leave class completely soaked. Honestly, you take this class and you get in sick shape. I am consistently blown away by the changes I see in people coming here.

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