The Best Trainer Tips for Tackling a 7-Day Fitness Challenge

 Samantha Sanchez. Photo:  Ryan Forbes Photography

Samantha Sanchez. Photo: Ryan Forbes Photography

The most common excuse I hear from folks who are skeptical about trying Barry’s Bootcamp is, “Uh, no. I would die.”

After the obligatory eye roll, I assure naysayers they will survive.

But that’s not the end of the self-doubt. When faced with a 10 mph sprint, an hour of nonstop strength work (known in Barry’s parlance as “double floor”), or a multi-class challenge, too many people still insist, “Uh, no. I would die.” In the spirit of proving that facing your weaknesses head-on is unlikely to kill you—at least, not at the gym—I decided to tackle Barry’s Pride Month challenge: a seven-classes-in-seven-days fitness bender called United We Sprint.

Contrary to what the name would suggest, sprinting is not actually required.

In the Bay Area, the United We Sprint package costs $175 for seven classes,* a discounted rate of $25 per class, instead of the standard $34 drop-in rate. (Ten percent of the proceeds go to Family Equality Council, which fights for legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families.) Participants have one week from the date of the first class to complete all seven sessions. That could mean two or three classes in a day—if you want—but I opted for the more reasonable one-a-day pace. Finishers are rewarded with a special Pride-themed Barry’s water bottle.

As a double floor regular at Barry’s, I know I can do seven days of strength training without blinking; but this is supposed to be a challenge, so I decided to push myself by running for all seven days. Running is my weakest fitness modality, and the one I most dread, so I turned to experts—in this case, four of the Barry's Bay Area trainers—for tips on conquering the challenge.

Tommy Stracke's first recommendation was that I add double floor days to my mix. When I insisted on daily running, he stressed that stretching should be a part of my prep and recovery for each class. Stracke suggested taking time to stretch the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and Achilles tendons before class to prep your legs.

But the challenge isn't limited to physical obstacles; there are mental hurdles, too. "Tackling a seven-day challenge is all about mindset," said Samantha Sanchez. "With that mindset comes the desire to prepare: eating right, sleeping enough, and making sure you commit to stretching and prehab/rehab. Those things will naturally be a priority once your mind is set on the challenge. You have to want it, and commit to it, despite how you feel in the moment." 

Vanessa Ouellette said a little planning up front can yield a big payoff. "Any time I am faced with a Barry’s challenge—or any challenge really—I like to look at my calendar, figure out when I can make it work, and schedule in times in advance. If I commit to something in writing, I’m more likely to complete it." Ouellette also suggested starting with your 'hardest' or 'least favorite' day of the week first to make the rest of the challenge feel easier. 

Another way to make United We Sprint more fun? Buddy up, even if it means enlisting friends to join you for just one class. "Some things can seem impossible if you try to take them head on by yourself, but when there's an army of support with you, anything is doable," Katie Wang explained. "I recommend reaching out to your best friend, your significant other, hell, maybe just the person you always see in class to try the challenge with you. Plus, at the end of it, you have someone to celebrate with."

Now that I've finished United We Sprint, I would say all four trainers offered sound advice. As part of a separate challenge this month, I've been following a Paleo diet, drinking 100 ounces of water daily, and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, (a vast improvement over my usual five). I feel more energetic overall, which means my body feels better for exercise.

I also planned my workouts a week in advance to work around my schedule. While I usually exercise daily, my M.O. is to wait until the last minute to book classes. If the class I want to attend fills up, I use it as excuse for an unplanned rest day. This time, I had no room for error, so I had to stick to my original plan each day.

Per Stracke's advice, I made time for extra stretching before class, including a lots of foam rolling to relieve muscle tension around my knees. I even had friendly faces in my last class of the challenge to cheer me on, which motivated me to push faster during my sprints.

I'll enthusiastically take a recovery day now, but the Barry's seven-day challenge was easier than I expected, and it's something that could be adapted to for novice and advanced gym-goers alike. If you have to modify a run or exercise, just talk to the instructor before class. I opted for a few days of steady running instead of interval sprinting in the middle of the challenge because I was developing knee pain; by the final two days, my body was back on track and I could sprint again. The key is to approach the week one day at a time. "Remember, it’s not about being the first or fastest one over the finish line," Ouellette added. "It’s about realizing you can get over the finish line and you are strong enough to do it."

*This is not a sponsored post, but Barry's offered me free entry into the seven-day challenge for this article.

Photos by Ryan Forbes Photography