Let me start off by saying that this review is NOT what I expected it would be.
More likely than not it will rub you the wrong way, either because of what happened or because I decided to write about it.
BUT, I promised you guys brutal honesty in these reviews, didn’t I?
So, here goes…
Barry’s vs. Orange Theory
If you read my review of Orange Theory from last week, you’ll notice a lot of similarities between OT and Barry’s. Both of these companies create workouts using bootcamp-style circuits and treadmill intervals, but there are some notable differences that I’ll make sure to touch on…
I arrived a little after 8am for an 8:30 “Full Body” class. I headed straight to the front desk to check in, and I told them that it was my first experience with Barry’s. One of the girls at the front desk gave me a brief rundown- and I mean brief.
She reminded me of the treadmill number and corresponding floor space that I chose when I signed up online. She then pointed out the locker rooms and the Fuel Bar…and that was it. She didn’t offer an intro to Barry’s or any explanation of the class, so really there was no point in showing up so early even though the website recommended it.
The 7:30 class filtered out around 8:20, and we waited outside for a few more minutes while the treadmills and benches were cleaned. Our instructor opened up the doors promptly at 8:30 and we went straight to our chosen treadmill or bench.
The room had a club-like vibe, with dim red lighting and loud (but not too loud) hip-hop music. It was also fairly warm inside the studio. Heat usually doesn’t bother me, but this was a steamy/humid heat, which made it uncomfortable to breathe during the treadmill sprints.
The room was split in half -the treadmills and the benches- and everyone hit both sections twice. Each rotation lasted about 10 minutes, which means the total workout time was 40 minutes (excluding transitions and cooldown stretching).
Just like with Orange Theory, I started on the treadmill…
1. Treadmill Section
Barry’s uses Woodway treadmills, which are quieter than regular treadmills and are meant to soften the impact on the knee and hip joints. I had run on Woodways before and I like them, but they might be a little weird if you aren’t used to slat belt surface.
The treadmill section was broken into intervals, and it was very similar to Orange Theory’s treadmill portion of class. It started with a couple minutes of warming up at a comfortable jog, and the remaining 8 minutes were a mix of jogging, running, and four 30-second sprints. After each sprint we were told to recover, at which point everyone jumped their feet to the sides of the treadmill for a quick breather as the treadmill speed slowed.
After 10 minutes on the treadmill, it was time to do some strength work.
2. Strength Section
The strength section was where the “Full Body” aspect came into play. The equipment consisted of booty bands and dumbbells that were used in conjunction with the bench. The instructor gave a quick demo before each move so everyone knew what to do.
I can’t remember every move, but here’s a list of most of them:
- Band fire hydrants
- 3 squat + 3 side steps with band + 3 squat jumps
- Plank shoulder taps into burpee
- Chest press + single arm press
- Chest press with legs elevated 90-degrees
- Squat + lunge combo
- Oblique sit-up with opposite leg lift
- Reverse crunches
After the strength section, my group headed back to the treadmills to essentially repeat the first half of class.
And here’s how I REALLY feel about Barry’s…
The Good Stuff
- The workout format
As with OT, I really appreciated Barry’s ability to effectively combine cardio and strength training into one class. This type of workout gets people away from straight steady-state cardio and into strength training, while still providing the metabolic conditioning and heavy sweat that most people crave from a group workout.
- Cleaning in between classes
It’s so easy to forget how germy the gym can get because we’re so used to the nasty smells and sweat puddles. (Since I was there so early) I witnessed a couple of Barry employees do a full wipe-down of the treadmills and benches before we went into the studio, and I definitely appreciated not having to sit on a bench pooled with someone else’s juices.
- Lifting heavy
I want to tear my hair out when I see people- women, especially- underestimating their strength and choosing 2lb dumbbells (why do they even make these?) when they could be using 10s. Our instructor encouraged the men to choose 30lbs+ and the women to choose 20lbs+, which were good recommendations given the focus on larger muscles- glutes, quads, pecs, etc. However, this assumed everyone in the class had a minimum level of strength training experience, which leads me to the not so good stuff…
The Not-So-Good Stuff
- Newbies beware
There’s a section on Barry’s website for First Timers that basically says ‘the workout is super hard, but you should try it anyways’. While I appreciate the encouragement for people to push themselves and try new things, I don’t think Barry’s is the way to do that. Similar to OT, Barry’s doesn’t have any beginner classes, and the intensity and lack of modifications in the regular class would likely lead a newbie to injury.
I wouldn’t recommend Barry’s unless you already exercise regularly and you’ve nailed down the proper form for the big strength moves- squats, chest presses, lunges, etc. There was very little direction for how to actually perform these moves, and even in the darkness of the studio I could spot a lot of issues with form.
- Nicknames could use some work
Since there’s only one instructor (as with OT), it was often tough to distinguish which side of the room he was talking to- the treadmills or the strength side. I liked that he would start each direction by addressing either side, but he did so by using the terms “Treaders” and “Shredders”, which were near impossible to distinguish in a loud room filled with machine noises and grunting.
- Fire Hazards
Workout out in a dim/dark room can create a fun vibe and I’m all for it, but only if it’s safe. For example, I dim the lights in my spin classes because I know people won’t be moving around once they’re setup on their bikes. I don’t think the level of darkness at Barry’s was a good idea, especially since the class I did was only half-full and it was still pretty tough to transition between the treadmills and benches without tripping over dumbbells.
- Pricing and class size
Barry’s is a little pricier than Orange Theory at $30/class, and the first class is $20 (no free trial). As with OT, buying sessions in bulk will get you a discount.
Barry’s was larger than OT in terms of class size- actually, about double. There were 23 treadmills and 23 benches, so I imagine a full class would be 46 people, which seems super tight. The class I attended felt pretty crowded and it only had about 25 people.
Why I left feeling angry and disgusted…
Let me start by saying that I hope this incident is unique and not representative of the Barry’s culture, but I can’t say definitively either way since I only attended one class. I hate that this happened and I hated writing about it, but I promised you guys 100% transparency in my reviews, so here’s what happened…
Class was almost done and I was working through the end of my second round of strength moves. The move we were doing at the time was a reverse crunch, which is when you lay on your back with your feet up in the air, and use your abs to curl your hips and butt off the floor (see image to the right).
While I was doing the move, the instructor came over and stood above my head, yelling in my face to keep pushing. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of “instruction”, but to each their own. But then he did something completely unacceptable…
He walked over to the other side of my bench and slapped me hard on the ass.
It pains me to say that I’ve gotten so used to ass slaps- at parties, in bars, on the street – that my first reaction to this incident was nonexistent. It wasn’t until class finished and I had a second to breathe that I realized exactly what happened. Now, I’m sure that many of you reading this have had at least one if not many experiences like this (and worse). We often convince ourselves that these episodes aren’t big deals and we’re probably overreacting, but in reality there is just no excuse for this shit. It’s infuriating to think that this man thought he had a right to touch me at all, especially in that manner. As a group fitness instructor and trainer, I cannot even fathom doing something like this to any of my class members or clients, and it disgusts me to even think about it.
If I could go back, I would’ve called this guy out right when he did it and embarrassed the hell out of him in hopes of keeping him from doing it to anyone else.
Since I’m well aware that what happened to me could happen to anyone, at any studio, with any instructor or even another class member, I’m not going to tell you never to go to Barry’s. My experience aside, the class was fun and challenging, and I would recommend it to anyone with a baseline fitness level and strength training experience. If, on the other hand, sexual harassment in the name of encouragement is part of the Barry’s culture…then stay the hell away.
Would love to hear some comments/questions on this one…I know you have them. If you have a similar experience and want to share it personally, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I reported my experience to Barry’s corporate headquarters in hopes that they set their instructors straight, and have since received calls from a Senior Director of HR and the CEO himself. They were both very apologetic and appreciative of me for bringing this experience to their attention (since these episodes often go unreported). They provided some details on what they were doing to handle the situation and prevent it from happening in the future. I’m not certain of the best way for a company to deal with things like this, but I imagine Barry’s came close. I appreciate their attention to the issue and I hope they did everything they need to in order to keep this from happening again.