EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, indoor fitness centers across Southern California have shut down entirely, while shopping centers have had to close multiple times.

In an effort to maintain business but keep their clients safe, some fitness studios — like the Los Angeles-based Barry's — entertained the idea of offering outdoor classes near their facilities. However, one particular necessity provided a hiccup during early planning: power.

What You Need To Know

  • Barry's, a boutique fitness brand founded by L.A.-based instructor Barry Jay in 1998, offers the original high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout

  • Beverly Center is a Southern California fashion and dining destination that has been part of the L.A. community for 34 years

  • Beginning this month, Barry's is offering its RIDE classes at the Beverly Center's parking garage space to ensure a safe workout amid COVID-19

  • Given Southern California's weather, outdoor classes are projected to become a fixture in cities like L.A. even after the pandemic

"We knew our clients, especially our L.A. clients, wanted access to a treadmill, so we started looking at spaces that were outdoors but that could have electricity," said Vicky Land, senior vice president of brand & communications at Barry's. "And the Beverly Center actually slid into the 'DMs' of Barry’s via Instagram, and it kind of started this conversation that they have this available space."

Launching in 1998 by L.A. instructor Barry Jay, the boutique brand's claim to fame is its original high-intensity interval training (HIIT) regiment, which has caught the attention of celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber.

Jay said he discovered early on that HIIT classes were the quickest way to get in shape and built out his own studio to cater to the routine — which hasn't changed since the company's inception.

Each of the 74 Red Rooms, or brick-and-mortar studios, around the world were shut down at some point in the last year as the coronavirus continued to spread, but Barry's worked to find ways for its members to stay active while locked down.

Meanwhile, the marketing team behind the landmark Beverly Center — L.A.'s fashion and dining destination that has had to close three separate times since COVID-19 hit — was creatively engineering ways to continue driving its customers back to the center. One successful idea became a partnership with Barry's.

"Beverly Center has been part of the L.A. community for 34 years, so it’s really important to us to figure out, 'Well, what can we do in these times that can make our customers feel good but also keep them safe?'" said Jackie Plaza, marketing & sponsorship director at the Beverly Center. "I said to my team, 'Let’s talk to fitness.' You know, these gyms are in the same — and studios — are in the same position as us. We have the space."

From there, Barry's and Beverly Center worked together to design and build out the open-air studio in the shopping mall's expansive parking garage, which includes electrical access for Barry's necessary cardio machines. Classes began last summer on the first floor, but once Beverly Center reopened in July, they had to relocate. Nonetheless, the partnership was such a success that the brand is back again this month, offering their new RIDE classes on the second story of the mall's garage.

"We’ve had a lot of Barry’s members or guests, especially when we first opened, say to us, like, 'You gave us back normalcy. We feel good again,'" said Plaza. "Losing your routine, and the one thing that keeps you sane, was really tough in the beginning. I mean, I’m sure you guys remember how hard that was in March. All the trails were closed. It was a wild time."

Barry's 50-minute RIDE class replaces the brand's signature Woodway treadmill with an exercise bike and consists of intensive cardio for the first half, followed swiftly by grueling work with floor equipment — heavy dumbbells, resistance band, bench — for the remaining time.

From the instructor's perspective at the head of this Barry's RIDE class setup, fresh air and sunlight can be seen spilling into the bike arrangement from the rear of the Beverly Center parking garage. (Photo by Benedicte Castillo)

And, of course, masks are required by all participants, who remain generously spaced between each other across the "studio" as one of the many COVID guidelines. Staff members are equipped with shields, masks, gloves, and sanitizer to spray everything down before and after. Back in their respective offices, both parties — Beverly Center and Barry's — are frequently communicating with the local health department, an experience which they report has been rewarding.

"We have an absolutely phenomenal operations team who just has their ears to the ground on everything, reviewing documentation every day and making sure that everything we’re doing is in line with local mandates to keep everyone as safe as possible," said Land. "The health and safety of everybody that comes into the space is our priority. So we just stay on top of and respect all those local mandates, knowing that they have everyone’s best interests at heart."

Fortunately, today's coronavirus numbers are trending downward, and Barry's hopes to reopen more brick-and-mortar gyms as the year progresses. They'll also be launching a digital At-Home program this year for its members to enjoy together virtually. In the meantime, however, one bright spot for Barry's out of all this is the exciting future for outdoor workouts across Southern California.

"Outdoors is going to become a fixture, especially in warm seasons and cities like L.A.," said Land. "People love the workout, and I think when you’ve given them the opportunity to take classes outdoors in the sun, it’s like, that’s why you live somewhere like L.A. So some of those spaces are extending through the end of this year into next year. Even when a Red Room reopens, like a brick-and-mortar studio reopens, there will still be an appetite for the outdoor workout."

Meanwhile, Beverly Center will continue activating each month despite the pandemic's setbacks, with openings including a Marilyn Monroe exhibit in June and the Boba concept OneZo. Through the shopping center's perseverance over the last year, one bright spot realized by the team is a true sense of community that came out of the highs and lows.

"On the local level, we actually got closer to our tenants," said Plaza. "People don’t realize this when you look at a shopping center, but it’s a town. It’s a little town, and it’s a little community, and people work together there every single day. And so I feel like we forged really, incredibly strong, sort of lifelong friendships, and lifelong relationships with them because we’re all just kind of out there trying to figure it out and do your best."

Barry's RIDE classes are currently available for sign-up here and plan to run until May.


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