by Emma Inkester
Think that you need a burly male trainer shouting at you to smash your workout? Think again bootcampers! There’s a reason why Anya Lahiri is known as “Queen of the Treads” across the Barry’s community in London. Let’s just say that if you’re brave enough to join one of her classes, look around at the end of any treadmill round and boys and girls alike are on their knees – totally destroyed but with PBs broken and smiles plastered across their faces. Don’t be fooled – this lady will damn well bring out the best in you and push you to places you never thought your body could go.
Born and bred in North West London along with her older sister, Anya (now the proud auntie to four beautiful nieces and nephews) is genetically blessed with a half Indian and half Finnish background. Scouted as a model at age 15, Anya is very aware to this day of the pressure that is put on young girls to conform to certain stereotypes. She explains, “It’s a tough industry, and it can be damaging for a teenager to be told that they need to “improve” their body or their looks in some way. My look was different to the conventional catwalk look, but I was lucky enough to have some very grounded friends and family who supported me.” In hindsight Anya believes her insight into this difficult environment gave her the impetus to aim for a healthier lifestyle, and to start to become interested in fitness.
Anya explains that she came from an academic un-sporty schooling background although she was always crazy about horses, and was very much a cardio bunny at the start of her health and fitness journey. She primarily enjoyed spinning and running on the treadmill or outside, although the latter put some serious pressure on her knees and has made her aware of the possible injuries and pitfalls her clients could experience and how to help prevent them.
Eight years ago, her modelling and acting career took Anya to LA, and that’s where fate stepped in. She moved in with a Barry’s desker in the city, who persuaded her (with much reluctance!) to try a bootcamp class. Anya admits: “I literally died. I couldn’t move for about two weeks, I couldn’t drive, and I was constantly in an Epsom salts bath. But I loved it, Joey was just the best, and as soon as I could move I did it again. And again. I would spend three months at a time in LA, absolutely loving my Barry’s workouts and watching my body completely change for the better, and then come back to London frustrated by the fact that there was absolutely nothing like it available. I was left trying to recreate it on my own in the gym.”
Anya introduced London partners James and Sandy to Barry’s, although beforehand they assumed that any exercise class would be just for girls. They immediately realized their mistake. Like Anya before them they loved it, and talked about how amazing it would be if there were a Barry’s in London. The seed was sown – and over time Anya, James and Sandy’s passion for the brand brought the London location into being.
It’s amazing to look at where Barry’s London is now, and to think about the blood, sweat and tears that went into putting it together. A whole lot of camo painting, wall scrubbing, late night tumble-drying and carloads of Ikea shops later, plus the happy appearance of Shane Collins, Olly Trulove and Faisal Abdalla as trainers, Barry’s London opened its doors. And the rest really is history.
There was an excitement about the place on that first day, a communal buzz, and Anya explains that it hasn’t gone away. “We’ve still got that buzz. Many of the people who started with us are still here, and everyone has such an important role. Everyone is equal, from the trainers to the cleaners to the deskers and everyone in between. It’s a global family, and it’s what makes Barry’s special.”
That, and the flipping crazy workout – “The beauty of the concept is fundamentally the classes. Everyone comes out saying that it is literally hell, but the most amazing hell! The classes take you past the places you thought you could go, and once you get there then there’s always another level to work towards. There’s nothing else I’ve experienced that gives you those kinds of results. For an hour, that’s your space and you don’t think of anything else- it puts you in the right state of mind for your day.”
Anya is also passionate about the community atmosphere that Barry’s has created – a like-minded group of people who encourage, support and push each other to their goals. And that goes for whether you’re a seasoned pro or a total beginner – Anya works with you where you’re at and pushes everyone in their own way. Her advice to those just starting out is that “This is your own journey – don’t compare yourself to others and just take baby steps. Work to your own max, and give yourself a break – don’t say you can’t do it because you already are doing it! Make sure you communicate with your trainer, telling them about any injuries or difficulties.” Oh, and give it three goes – the first time you will be shell-shocked, the second you’ll be buzzing and by the third you’ll be hooked. We’d say that’s a fair assessment!
Now on to the question no doubt on all your lips- how does Anya stay looking so brilliant?! Does she dine on one asparagus stem and two almonds a day? Good news girls, definitely not! In fact, she is quick to explain that’s the quickest way to failure: “The high intensity interval training at Barry’s turns your body into a furnace, and you have to feed that furnace to see results. I tend to crave what my body needs, and once your metabolism is functioning effectively this means that you’ll nourish your body in the best possible way with good clean protein-rich foods that give you the energy to kill it in those classes.”
Anya is also the first to advocate true balance – looking after your body but also enjoying life: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with a glass of wine, socializing with friends and a good pizza every once in a while! Be proud of your body, you’ve worked hard and you deserve to enjoy yourself too.”
From that first session in LA to the absolute institution that Barry’s is today in London, we couldn’t be happier that Anya decided to turn up that day with her flatmate and took the leap of faith along with James and Sandy to bring Barry’s to London. It’s an inspiring journey of a dream becoming the best version of its reality, and this perseverance and hardworking enthusiasm is a big part of what makes Anya so inspiring to friends and colleagues alike. So come on down and let the “Queen of the Treads” put you through your paces – if you think you’re hard enough!
Emma Inkester is a full-time lawyer, part-time fitness junkie and blogger. She is passionate about sharing the journey to a healthy and happy lifestyle with others, and would love to hear from you with comments, questions and article requests. She can also be found on Twitter: @emmaink and on Instagram: @emmainkester