Q&A with Barry Jay, Co-Founder and Partner
Barry’s Bootcamp is like no other fitness routine – the classes take place in large industrial-inspired spaces (think exposed brick, concrete, and metal) with luxe touches. With dim lighting and bumping music, it is closer to a dance club than a fitness space. The workout, designed by co-founder Barry Jay, is all about pushing yourself farther than you thought you could, alternating between strength work on the floor and sprints on the treadmill. Classes are large — upwards of 40 to 50 fitness-goers in Barry’s red-hued workout space — all designed to forget that you are actually working really, really hard.
How did you come up with the idea for Barry's Bootcamp?
I got into fitness while living in Los Angeles and working at the front desk at a gym. One day, a trainer didn’t show up for his class, so the manager told me to get in there and substitute. To my surprise, I was pretty good at it! And, of course I had a blast. People started calling the gym and requesting I get on the class schedule — and three other instructors quit, so I was given their classes. I had 27 classes a week, and didn’t miss one in two years. John and Rachel Mumford, Barry’s Bootcamp Co-Founders and Partners, happened to be students in my classes.
After that place closed down, I was at the gym missing the group atmosphere. When I did get to classes, as fun as they were, I wasn’t getting a full gym/weights workout and had to hit the gym after. I also wanted sexier lighting! So I thought I would create an effective method that incorporated both of those, vital strength training and cardiovascular elements, into a fun, group setting. Not only would it be a more efficient way to exercise than spending hours at the gym, but it would have that great energy you can only get when working out alongside your peers.
What do you think gave Barry's the momentum to grow into a national chain? What do people love about it?
When John and Rachel Mumford and I first sat down to create this brand, we never dreamed it would grow into the phenomenon it is today. We started out with one studio in 1998 in West Hollywood, California, and soon started to expand throughout Southern California and beyond. Even then, when our fun, unique, and effective workout was starting to really catch on, we never could have anticipated the global expansion the brand is experiencing now.
We always believed, though, we were onto something with the format of our workouts. From the get-go, people responded favorably to the intervals of treadmill and free weights that make up a typical Barry’s workout, because they were not only having a great time working harder than they imagined they could, but they saw results quickly.
Is there any theory behind having such large classes?
People feed off each other in a group setting. That’s the beauty of “group fitness.” When you’re on the treadmill next to someone who is pushing to a high speed and you can feel them giving their “all,” you’ll likely be driven to do the same.
We also wanted to establish a cool, club-like setting, that would essentially take your mind off the fact that you were working your butt off. When you’re having fun and the energy is high around you, the time during your session just flies by, and before you know it, you feel empowered and accomplished — and you’ve burned a ton of calories.
What would you say to someone who thinks they need to steer clear of Barry's because they are not a runner?
Barry’s Bootcamp is challenging; there’s no denying that. But, it really is a workout for everyone. We’ve had clients come in with upwards of 100 pounds to lose and they start off with baby steps. They’ll walk and jog until they work their way up to a run, then a sprint. Additionally there are people who work around injuries and only walk, and some people who come in and stay on the floor and choose to do weights only for the hour — we call that “double floor.” Running isn’t required, just encouraged! Furthermore, you get to grow at your own pace with your treadmill speeds, though you’re always pushed to try for your personal best in each class.
To those who say they don’t think the workout is for them because of their inability to run fast or far, I would say the most intimidating thing about Barry’s Bootcamp is the name. In reality, the workout is a far cry from the typical “boot camp.”
What do you think is the biggest strength of the Barry's workout?
The efficiency, the results, and the fact that it’s a fun environment. You can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour-long session, and during that time you’ve checked cardio and weight training off your list for the day, and you probably had fun doing it. The great thing about Barry’s is that it’s a hard working atmosphere and very encouraging; you get caught up in the energy and work harder because of that. It’s like having a personal trainer in a group atmosphere — the friends you make will also be there right beside you, egging you to work hard and vice versa.
Any piece of advice for our readers?
Your body can do more than you think it can. We’ve all heard the term “mind over matter,” and I believe this really applies to people starting out at Barry’s Bootcamp. Believe in your mind that you can reach a certain speed on the treadmill or hold a plank for 30 seconds, and your body will follow.
Any last words?
Barry’s Bootcamp is truly a workout for anyone and everyone. When you’re in that studio and the lights are low and the music is blasting, everyone is on the same level because you’re all going through the same thing.
An interesting side note: 2014 marks the brand’s 16th anniversary and we just opened our 16th location in NYC’s NoHo neighborhood this October. We think 16 locations in 16 years has a nice ring to it!
Barry Jay is Co-Founder and Partner of Barry’s Bootcamp. A native New Yorker, Barry moved to Los Angeles where he fell into the “L.A. party scene,” living in a world of late nights and fast food. Barry found his calling when he took a desk job at a popular fitness studio in West Hollywood. Within a year, he became one of the top instructors at the studio. His revolutionary exercise program, combining drill sergeant tactics and a night club party atmosphere, would form the foundation for what would become Barry’s Bootcamp, “The Best Workout in the World,” with thousands of enlistees 365 days a year.