Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto: Just How Scary Hard Is It, Really?

Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto

I’m mainly a runner. Translation: while doing several hours of cardio is just another Sunday morning, my neglected upper body looks as if I might appreciate some help hefting my carry-on into the airplane’s overhead. Clearly my arms and abs could use more attention, so when I heard about the opening of Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto—the company’s very first location in Canada—I was keen to try the famous HIIT (high-intensity interval training) method, which alternates between the treadmill and strength exercises.

Born in Hollywood in 1998, before boutique fitness studios were a thing, the workout counts celebrities like David Beckham and Ellie Goulding as fans. Maybe it’s the word “bootcamp” conjuring drill sergeant vibes, or the doomsday-red shade of mood lighting, but the class has acquired a daunting reputation. In fact, everyone’s first question about Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto seems to be: how hard and terrifying is it, really? If you’ve never done the class before, here’s what you can expect.

The space: The brand is in the midst of a global expansion, and Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto—an 8,000-square-foot space right downtown, at 310 Richmond Street West (near John Street)—is the company’s largest studio in the world to date. In the Red Room, each class can take 47+ people at once, with the group split between the Woodway treadmills and the benches before switching places. The music is loud and the lights are low, creating the nightclubby ambience so trendy in gyms right now.

The Toronto location also features a Flex studio, where you can take a 50-minute stretch class called Release before or after your sweat session. Afterwards, freshen up in the Oribe-stocked bathrooms, browse the stylish merch (like sports bras from HPE and Varley), and grab a juice or smoothie to go from the Fuel Bar.

The workout: The signature Barry’s Bootcamp class, $32, lasts 50 minutes, about evenly divided into four sections (i.e. treadmill, strength, treadmill, strength). There are intervals within each section, so if you’re worried about running hard for 15 minutes straight, you can rest assured your effort will vary (from jogging to running to brief spurts of sprinting, and back down to recovery). Plus, you always control the pace, so you aren’t pushed beyond your limits. Chris, the super buff trainer who led my class, goes by the nickname The Cuddly Canadian, which gives you a sense of his unscary motivational style. If you’re an experienced runner, especially if you’re well acquainted with speed work, the treadmill segment is no big deal.

For the strength training, you’re asked to grab two dumbbells at a weight you consider heavy (I went with 12-pounders). Some exercises were straightforward (e.g. chest presses, mountain climbers), and others more advanced (the deficit push-ups with one hand on a step, or the one-arm chest presses while simultaneously moving legs in a bicycling motion). For me, the upper body moves were the strugglefest (surprise, surprise), but because the workout is so fast-paced, you only have to endure a minute or two of anything you truly hate.

Overall, the workout would suit those who get bored easily: the specific mix of moves differs by the class’s focus (choose from full body; arms and abs; butt and legs; chest, back and abs; or just abs), and the time passes quickly.

The aftermath: I did my Barry’s Bootcamp class at night, and the next morning I felt pretty normal. Maybe that wasn’t so hard after all, I thought to myself. But I’d judged too soon: the DOMS kicked in about 24 hours post-workout, and my arms and core were achy (in a satisfying way) for days. So just how hard is Barry’s Bootcamp? You have nothing to fear—but yes, you’ll feel it.

Barry’s Bootcamp Toronto, 310 Richmond Street West, 647.631.2287, 50-minute workout; $32 for one class.