Meet The Men Bringing The Next Big Fitness Craze To Australia
From a tiny studio in West Hollywood, Barry's Bootcamp has evolved into a worldwide brand.
With their first Aussie studios opening, the men hoping to make you sweat have big plans for their fitness empire. But to know what's coming, you first need to know where it all began.
"When we first started, in the very beginning, what we did have was an idea," Barry Jay told ten daily while sitting on the floor of their WeHo studio.
Without the red lights and cracking music, you could assume the studio was like any other exercise class, with rows of aerobic steps dotted around the floor and a row of intimidating treadmills lining a mirrored wall.
"I don't like bright white lights," the original Barry explained.
"I don't know if you've worked out in those old studios, but the lights were so bright and I looked horrible in the mirror. It didn't motivate me to feel right," he said.
In 1998, Barry took over the small studio space, overhauling it to what was to become his signature atmosphere. "It was one of the first thoughts I had," he explained, "Red was hot, sexy, fiery".
Although treadmills hadn't become a part of group classes at the time, the late '90s saw a boom of spin classes and group fitness aerobics. Barry saw an opportunity to not only include treadmills, but to craft a workout that would also bring intense strength training to a class environment.
"I just thought, why don't we take real sizeable weights and bring them into a class atmosphere?" Barry explained.
Since moving aside from the company, the founder is still an integral part of the brand -- after all, he's the original Barry. Since 2009 the organisation has slowly been building, with the launch of their first studios outside of Los Angeles.
Now, in 2018, with more than 40 studios worldwide, Barry's can be found in London, Dubai, Milan, Toronto and finally, Australia.
In September, Barry's launched their first Aussie studio in Sydney in the hands of Blake Bridges, an all-American athlete and trainer, as well as his partner Heston Russell, an Aussie that served in the Army for 15 years, the pair backed by the Fitness & Lifestyle Group (FLG).
Blake was on a trip when he and some mates decided to stop in at one of the New York studios.
"It just happened to be Barry's class, we didn't mean for it to be," he told ten daily.
"After class [Barry] came up and -- I feel like if he sees fit people, he asks what they do -- he told me about the new Hollywood studio about to open in L.A. and asked if that was something I would be interested in."
Having just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Blake's plan was to find a career that somehow focused on health and fitness. So, taking a chance on the offer, he moved out to Los Angeles where, for the first few months, he stayed in Barry's guesthouse and worked the front desk.
"Then I became a manager, I became an instructor... I've done every job at Barry's," he said.
Heston and Blake met when Heston visited the Barry's in LA. Staying in touch after first meeting, they soon began a long-distance relationship, which they continued for 10 months before Heston made the move to LA.
"Blake and I started dating in April 2016, and we just really got tied into the Barry's crew [in L.A.]," Heston explained. "At that point the private owners of Barry's corporate had opened back up to international franchise opportunities and they were like, 'You're Australian, would you think about applying?'"
"We didn't really jump at it straight away because we were so fresh together," Heston said, "I already loved Barry's, but Blake and I were very new, so one of our first adult conversations was 'What do you think? Why not give it a go?'"
It's a risky move bringing a new, shiny fitness class into any territory, but the pair wasn't fazed, with the backing of FLG they launched their Surry Hills studio in September, with a second Sydney location to open in October in Martin Place and a Melbourne studio to follow.
The brand had been teasing their Aussie arrival on Instagram for months before their official launch, their grid being a place where everyone's gorgeous, toned and look happy on treadmills -- an impossible feat by any stretch of the imagination. Stories, even published by this website, focused on the celebs that had walked through the door. Still, at the end of the day the pair believe it's a fitness program for everyone.
"A lot of people are scared to try their first class," Blake said, "but as long as they come in and commit to that first one, their eyes are opened and they see it's doable."
"The red room is the great equaliser," Heston added.
It's one of a handful of catchy phrases the brand has like "Life happens and Barry's helps" or "Work (out) hard and be nice to people".
The workouts are tough, but scalable. Each trainer brings their own personalised touches to their workouts, from choreographing their own playlists to dimming the lights, blasting fans and pumping tunes at certain points throughout.
Blake glides around the WeHo studio, paying attention to the group on the floor while still instructing the group on the treadmill. The way he instructs both groups simultaneously is seamless and impossibly attentive.
The Aussie trainers were hand-picked by Blake and Heston and taken to the States for founding instructor training. "Personality is key," Heston explained about their selection process. "If they don't have a large Instagram following or aren't established in the fitness community, [Blake] can train them to be fantastic trainers."
If it's anything like the US, the Insta following will come, with many trainers becoming mini celebs and influencers from their profile at Barry's.
While it's shiny and new to Australia, the pair aren't concerned about being seen as a fad or a temporary craze.
"I can see the skin-deep perception that it's another new thing, big and bold from America, but it turns 20 years old in October. Back in the day when it was a dingy red room," Heston said, "there were no facilities, nothing else. The product stood the test of time."
"We've opened the 44th studio worldwide, and no Barry's studio has ever closed in those 20 years," he added.
"At the end of the day it's Blake and Heston who are there -- just walk through the front doors, kick the tyres, come in and say g'day," he laughed.
For more info or to book a class, check out the Barry's Bootcamp website here.
ten daily travelled to L.A. as a guest of Barry's Bootcamp. Blake Bridges and Heston Russell are spearheading the local market launch (backed by Fitness & Lifestyle Group - FLG).
Featured image: Supplied.