I’ve been inside a gym once in my life – on a family trip to Mexico where making use of the hotel amenities seemed like a good way to pass time between Mojitos.
My gym aversion comes from a place of intimidation. I’d rather pound the pavement than stand awkwardly, idly trying to work out where to put my feet on the leg-curl machine. But before you cast judgement on my exercise routine, you should know I’ve played community soccer for the past 12 years – and I’ll attempt an occasional jog around the block when I’m feeling particularly spritely. In both of the aforementioned activities, a luxury I’d apparently taken for granted is fresh air. More on that later.
When my editor asked me to take part in a Barry’s “Red Room” class – at the first Melbourne location of the cult LA-based fitness studio – I was excited in the same way I remember being for my first day back at school after the holidays knowing I hadn’t done the summer reading. Eager yet apprehensive. Just like English, running is my thing – so how hard could this really be?
Spoiler alert: it’s bloody tough. The studio offers high-intensity interval workouts combining 25 minutes of cardio on the treadmill with 25 minutes of strength training on the floor. This combination is said to have you burning up to 1000 calories in a single class.
Barry’s (which recently shortened its name from Barry’s Bootcamp) now has a presence in nine countries, including the US, Singapore and Norway. It’s known to be a favourite of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, David Beckham, Harry Styles and Jessica Alba.
Classes take place in the Red Room, a dark basement-like space with all-red lighting, mirror-lined walls and the kind of music you’d expect to hear in a nightclub. And to participate, I had to sign a waiver.
So, let’s preface this recount by mentioning I’ve never been on a treadmill before. My biggest concern before class was the uncertainty of how to work the machine. Thankfully, trainer Shannon Belcastro walked us through the ins and outs of the operation before getting started – speed, incline, emergency safety cord.
We get started with a slow jog. I’m familiarising myself with the buttons, the pace, the sweaty mess staring back at me in the mirror. And I realise Belcastro never taught me how to transition from holding-onto-the-treadmill to hands-free. There I am, mid-jog, hanging on for dear life, contemplating how best to prevent serious injury if this ungodly machine were to fling me off, Roadrunner-style. Belcastro’s doing the rounds. “You’ve got this! Push harder! Keep going!” he’s yelling to my classmates who have clearly done this before. “You have to let go of the treadmill, you’re just making it harder for yourself!” he cries in my direction. Gulp.
After some deliberation, I let go. It’s liberating but terrifying. I flash back to the year 12 athletics carnival when my body was moving too fast for my legs and I body-slid over the finish line of the 200-metre sprint. Except this time, there’d be no sliding, I’d just fall over myself – a tangled mess. Thankfully, I keep it together. The realisation that I’m running without the wind in my hair is a stark reminder of why I don’t usually “gym”. The air is still, I am not. As we increase speed, there’s no relief but for the profuse sweat beads keeping me (somewhat) cool.
But that sweat poses an issue when we move to the floor and I need to grip hold of the dumbbells. My scrawny arms can’t take the weight or the intense speed we’re moving at. Shoulder press. Squat and press. Push-up and row. Burpee with dumbbell press. Deep breath.
The workout is sweat-inducing, heart-racing and exhilarating. Included in the session are three four-minute runs, weights, abs and squats, a one-minute snatch-dumbbell-press manoeuvre, and finally a one-minute sprint.
I’m buzzed, my legs feel like jelly, but all is well when we pick up our post-workout shake at Barry’s Fuel Bar. In the shower, I wonder how on earth I’ll make it through soccer training later in the day.
Three-class packs start at $75 and are available online.
Barry’s South Yarra
Level 2, Como Centre, 299 Toorak Road, South Yarra
0406 196 107
Mon to Fri 5.30am–8pm
Sat & Sun 6.30am–1pm