By Barry Jay and Joey Gonzalez, Founder and CEO
When we opened the first Barry’s Bootcamp in 1998, our vision was very clear. We were creating something that wasn’t around yet, and it was called a “Bootcamp” for a reason. The workout was built for people who only had one hour a day to workout. I wanted to show them how to maximize that hour, so I married the gym workout with group fitness, bringing in sizeable weights to eliminate the need to hit the gym after taking a class. The club-like red lights were hot, sexy, and very different back then — no one was doing that yet, and I thought it would prompt people to work harder. Working out had always been built on showing up and doing your best, but Barry’s Bootcamp demanded the best.
The atmosphere we created at Barry’s; the red lights, the variety of music, the size range of free weights, the organized days of the week — it was all new. The class was challenging, a lot more challenging than fitness fans were accustomed to, at the time. I remember encountering many who weren’t up for the challenge, but thankfully even more who were. The haters made us momentarily question our concept, but I recall telling my business partners, “It’s not for everyone.” The key to failure is trying to please everyone. I decided that staying true to your own self was the way to go.
"The class was challenging, a lot more challenging than fitness fans were accustomed to, at the time."
Pretty soon people recognized the great results we were providing, and the atmosphere we created was cultivating friendships among the clients, the instructors, and the staff. So I made the call — I wasn’t going to make it easier. I was going to keep it as is, and let those who want to work hard and get the best results find us. And they did.
The Academy came a month after opening, and was designed to help people commit to their workouts. The Academy caused people to show up the same time every day, and they began bonding. I never expected the level of community that was born from this workout. I’ve never seen such strong friendships within the fitness community as before a Barry’s class. The intensity of the workout also plays a part – people push each other and cheer each other on. It’s been an incredible gift to see this grow over the years.
"Our front desk tells first time clients, ‘Don't be a hero.’ This is our friendly way of acknowledging and dealing with the fear factor, and encouraging people to go at a pace that feels comfortable."
“At the beginning, we attracted a cult following which consisted of the most elite athletes. This made the degree of difficulty high and left little room for the less athletic audience,” says Joey Gonzalez, CEO of Barry’s Bootcamp. “Although we're still considered one of the harder options in the boutique category, our classes are open to people of all levels, and our instructors make an effort to make everyone feel safe and welcome. Our front desk tells first time clients, ‘Don't be a hero.’ This is our friendly way of acknowledging and dealing with the fear factor, and encouraging people to go at a pace that feels comfortable. Inevitably, as they continue to attend Barry's, the instructors start to push a little harder, and more importantly; the clients raise the bar and push themselves harder.”
Over the years we’ve made some changes; we’ve adjusted the muscle groups worked each day of the week, we’ve changed our type and brand of treadmills, and we created our signature Fuel Bar, offering people a healthy post-workout option. Also, the monthly flex pass and outside sources like ClassPass were never envisioned in the beginning, but time and evolution of the fitness world took care of that.
Back when we started, I had a theory that if someone was choosing to try a Bootcamp, they must be looking for a Bootcamp environment. If you were late, you ran the stairs outside. If you didn’t show up for The Academy, your trainer would call you at home. If someone pushed themselves to their absolute limit, they got a free t-shirt. These things were never done back then, and in many ways they helped put us on the map. But as the locations kept expanding and our client base grew, those things fell to the wayside. In the beginning, new instructors would take my class to get familiar with format. Now our instructors go through specific training to teach a Barry’s class. Claiming we are the best workout in the world is a huge statement, and it requires everything from the instructors and staff, to the treadmills and bands, to be top notch.
While the brand has grown, the workout has remained true to itself. Now 22 locations later, we still provide the highest intensity workout, and the most fun you can have doing it. When we opened the first store, I taught 40 classes a week and my partner worked the desk. We’ve obviously come a long way since then. Barry’s has become a very high-end brand with the best instructors this industry has to offer.
"Today we are a part of a fitness community that’s more diverse than ever — and the new perspective is positivity."
Today we are a part of a fitness community that’s more diverse than ever — and the new perspective is positivity. It’s incredible to see how many fitness options there are to keep people in shape and in many ways we, the boutique fitness studios, feed off each other. There’s an underlined competitiveness, but for the most part, a mutual respect and a sincere happiness that people are prioritizing fitness. The clients are serious, devoted, and passionate about being in shape. They love the workouts to be challenging, and have truly woken up to the importance of weights – women, too, are picking up bigger weights. Strong really is the new skinny.
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.
Joey Gonzalez is the CEO and a partner in the Barry’s Bootcamp franchise, as well as a top celebrity trainer trusted by A-listers in both Los Angeles and NYC. Initially a customer and fan of the brand, in 2004 he began his tenure first as an instructor, then worked his way up the ranks to manager. In 2006, Joey partnered with Barry's Bootcamp to help bring “The Best Workout in the World” to San Diego and New York City, in addition to becoming a founding member of the Barry's Bootcamp Franchise Co., he soon took on the role of COO and partner, and in summer 2015 was named CEO of the company. While continuing to teach several classes per week, Joey has dedicated his life to expanding the brand across the country and overseas – opening new studios, collaborating with fashion designers on retail offerings, and overseeing the training of new instructors.