The road to health is paved with good intentions

It’s almost 6.30pm on a dull Friday evening, and the hoard outside the ominous Red Room at famed fitness studio Barry’s Bootcamp grows larger in size. The reception is swamped with guests checking in. No better way to start the weekend, right? The instructor of the upcoming HIIT Total Body class then arrives and engages in friendly chats with her regulars. Just as the clock strikes half past six, I follow nervously behind the crowd, into the large, crimson, ambient-lit room.

Here’s where the brief first-timer orientation to Barry’s conducted at the reception aids me. The gym is exactly as the printed layout shown earlier depicts—treadmills on one side, floor on the other, numeric labels on both; equipment by the back. I was also informed during my orientation that the HIIT Total Body, like most classes at Barry’s, is routinised, calling for a switch between treadmill and floor. The class that I attended had an even distribution of both: treadmill twice, floor twice. The ratio of treadmill to floor is very much dependent on the class type and the instructor’s class plan, so no one workout class at Barry’s is identical.

“Treadmill three, Floor three,” I recall my allocated spot, manoeuvering the dim gym space. But when I find it, I’m stumped. Someone’s in my spot. Thankfully, the alert studio manager notices, and directs me to the next available treadmill.

As I step on, I notice an obvious Barry’s regular to my left. Calm and composed, she was already at level three, a speed walk. But before I could even attempt to get to that same pace, the instructor shouts over the music: “ seven, eight, nine”. And right on cue, the treadmill users begin picking up the pace, hitting one of the speed levels called out. I select what I thought would be a comfortable seven, but soon enough, I sensed stitches in my left waist and my legs struggled to keep pace.

The sprints are rather short-lived, due to the nature of the workout class and HIIT in general, which make them bearable; speed walks occur between those sprints. Logically, the instructor introduces the treadmill inclines after the class is familiarised with the sprints. I naively assumed the level five incline was the toughest level at Barry’s, but I would soon realise it’s nothing compared to what I would later endure.

Then, it’s time to hit the floor. The class now switches positions, and I head to the back of the room to pick up dumbbells, before situating myself at Floor one. We start on exercises with dumbbells almost immediately after walking push ups. Still dizzy from getting off the treadmill so quickly, beads of perspiration form above my brows. Some get into my eyes, and I frantically rub them away, eager to persevere through the pain.

The cardio exercises take up one to two minutes each, and changes on the trainer’s command. Those on the floor get a little more help from the trainer, as she moves across the room to explain exercises and correct body postures. I fought hard to keep my hips square for weighted lunges, and received correction for my stance during the arm exercises, which will prove useful when I practice lifting weights at the gym.

Eventually, I returned to the much dreaded treadmill for the second and final round of sprints. It was this round that left me thoroughly drenched in sweat and worn out for days. Shortly after a couple of manageable sprints, the call to hit the incline comes—a level 15. Just as I key the number into the display, a wave of regret hits me. I look down, and the front of the treadmill rises threateningly, in what seemed like an attempt to mock me.

I immediately place my hands on the handlebars for safety measure while running against the now incredibly steep treadmill, and was chided for it. Yet, I didn’t dare let go; I imagined sliding right off the treadmill and brutally injuring my head on the floor behind me. For a long time, I grappled with the intensity and pain, before being allowed to return to a 10, which made all the difference, in the face of death. I was finally relieved of my pain when we got back to a five, then a walk.

It goes without saying that it’s important to find the beat when doing cardio. Here, the instructor plays mostly loud, fast-paced remixes of pop and rock songs, at a staggering Barry’s standard of 130 beats per min, so while it’s not hard to find the beat, keeping to it definitely is.

The final switch arrives, and joy radiates from within me—the end is near. Once again, I go to the back of the studio, and this time, it’s to obtain a sandball. I choose the lightest one and get into position on the floor. Routines with the sandball are more interesting, and they require a tad of muscle memory. We did figure-eight leg exercises with the ball, along with some abdominal ones.

The class ends with a typical cool-down session, and those who have willingly forked out over $10 for a protein shake head over to the Fuel Bar to pick up their pre-ordered smoothies.

I consider myself relatively active, attending classes twice a week—I've been into spin classes lately—and after attending this world-renowned HIIT session, I finally had many of my questions (and doubts) answered. Yes, the studio is indeed quite unlike any other and all classes are conducted in a Red Room. And no, I didn’t die, but I definitely ached for an entire weekend.

Skeptics of Barry’s may be right to assume that there’s nothing you couldn’t do yourself. After all, most workout sessions are dependent on the determination and strength of the individual. It’s not about comparison here. Barry’s is an experiential studio through and through—from the ambience to the customised classes and insane level of intensity. You won't find such an experience anywhere else.

So if you're deliberating whether you should join up, ask if you're willing to do so for yourself. For me, completing a class here is an achievement. I can now say I came, I saw and I conquered Barry's Bootcamp—barely.

More info on Barry's Bootcamp Singapore here.