Think of an exercise bootcamp and the image of a soggy, muddy, hellish workout in a park usually comes to mind.
There you are red-faced, huffing and puffing over endless push-ups, while yummy mummys stroll past with their tots and hot guys kick footballs close to your head.
There’s usually a male instructor playing the caricature army man and barking orders, too.
When I signed up to try Barry’s Bootcamp this is what I envisaged. But as Barry’s version of a bootcamp claims to help you burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour and promises ‘the best workout of your life’ I still wanted to give it a shot. Stupidly, I read that word ‘best’ as ‘most enjoyable’ rather than ‘toughest’.
The website offers up Kim Kardashian, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes and Jake Gyllenhaal as its celebrity clientele. Lily Cooper recently tweeted:
As my normal gym routine didn’t seem to be cutting it anymore I was keen to push myself.
Barry’s Bootcamp has just opened in London, having previously only operated in the States.
It was the first indoor bootcamp concept of its kind, running 7 days a week 365 days a year. There are an average of 10 classes per day, beginning around 5am and running almost every hour until 8pm.
I followed a few fit looking women in through the door and down into a basement decorated with camouflage walls and filled with buff individuals sipping on protein shakes and chatting in the corridors.
A friendly receptionist showed me to the changing rooms (they have ample fluffy towels and lovely smelling products) and then it was time to face the red room of pain. Red because of the dark lighting – perfect for hiding the inevitable downpours of sweat.
I was introduced to Ollie, the by no means intimidating trainer, handed a towel and put on a treadmill to warm up.
Half the class was to work on the treadmills while the other worked out on the floor. Ollie managed to synchronise, time and motivate both groups at the same time, for which he earned my respect.
The hour full-body class was broken down into four 15 minute sessions. 15 minutes on the treadmill and 15 on the floor, and repeat. After the first half an hour I seriously considered throwing my sweat drenched towel in.
On the treadmill we were pushed through interval cardiovascular exercise for some serious fat burning. It all started off nicely at a gradient of four but quickly escalated to the highest gradient on the machine – 15! We were running, jogging and sprinting up hill and I was mainly trying not to be the one that fell off the end. The benefits of such intense cardio exercise are known to include improved energy levels, lower blood pressure, increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels, reduced risk of heart disease and improved endurance.
Just as I thought I was about to pass out it was onto the floor for what at first seemed like a welcome break but soon turned into its own kind of hell.
Ollie instructed us through strength training – using weights heavier than I’d normally dare pick up – with the purpose of building up our muscles tissue. Muscle tissue burns about 15 times as many calories as fat, even when you're not exercising, so it’s worth having plenty of apparently.
There was squats, lunges, dips, more squats, bicep curls and more and I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one in the room that appeared to be flagging.
Then it was time to get back on the treadmill for even more bursts of sprinting and then back on the floor again for some abs hammering. Phew.
The Barry’s Bootcamp slogan is not wrong; it definitely was the ‘best workout’ of my life. Best, in this sense, meaning hardest. But after it was over and we’d all given ourselves a little clap I actually thought “I must” do this again. Never mind the fact I could barely walk for the next three days (the result of being a newcomer to such an intense workout), Barry’s Bootcamp did its job and left me bursting with endorphins.
One class at Barry’s Bootcamp London costs £20, which is really very reasonable if you compare it to the cost of a personal trainer for an hour. The price is discounted if you book packages and it’s probably a good idea to do it that way, as once you’ve coughed up the cash there’s more incentive for you to go back to the basement.