Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie in… Los Angeles

Our covert reporter experiences a tough, mean LA workout

Spa Junkie in… Los Angeles

Image: Jay Yeo

August 30 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2 | 3

Spa Junkie is in Los Angeles, experiencing another of the city’s high-profile, high-intensity workouts.


“Excuse me! You may want to buy a towel and some water – it gets pretty hot in there,” the receptionist is yelling after me.

I’m at Barry’s Bootcamp in West Hollywood, a hardcore, no-nonsense training school that’s a favourite among reality-soap stars such as the Kardashians, and is said by many to be the best workout in LA. It more or less does what it says on the box: it was created by… Barry, and takes place in a dark military-style sweat box where an army of Barry’s followers see to some serious ass-kicking.

I hand over a few more bucks, and hang around for a bit as the machines are cleaned in between classes.

The room is dark, windless and camouflaged, with speakers so large they would not look out of place at Pacha in Ibiza.

Against the wall is a row of about a dozen running machines, and the same numbert of benches on the floor. Much more proficient on a treadmill than on a bench press, I rush to grab a running machine.

Katy Perry suddenly starts blaring out of the giant speakers; this is our cue that things are getting started. “Runners!” – that’s me – “Take your incline to 4.0 and your speed to 7.0.”

“Floor!” – that’s the poor suckers on the bench – “Pick up your dumbbells!” The trainer starts pacing the room. He is seriously chiselled and wears a hands-free microphone. A few minutes pass, and then: “Runners, take your speed up to 9.0; floor, keep pumping!” Wow; this is fast. My face is a blur as I look at my reflection in the mirror. So many legs pounding and thumping on the machines is adding an extra beat to the tempo; I feel like I’m in a nightclub.

Just as my heart feels as though it might stop, he instructs us to bring the speed down; it’s time for recovery. But the holiday lasts for only a minute before we are back to running so fast we could take off. After 15 minutes we switch places, and I’m on the floor desperately wiping down the sweat-ridden bench and reminding myself to wash my hands the minute I’m done.

“Get your freak on! Let’s go!” The instructor yells orders. I clumsily lift and release the 4kg dumbbells until my arms are searing with the effort.

“Don’t stop! You can do anything you want but you cannot stop. I want to see some more determination.”

As the music pumps and the new set of runners start whooping, the camaraderie is unique; we’re total strangers bound together by sweat and pain.

Another switch and my turn on the treadmill again; and then it’s all over. I am drenched.


This is not for the faint of heart. It’s loud, aggressive, difficult, and challenging, even for the very fit. The instructors are mean, and think nothing of singling out individuals who are not going as fast or as hard as instructed. But if you’re in good shape – and thick-skinned – this is a superfast-paced and fun workout. A bit like a night out, but without the hangover in the morning.

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.