My dream was to pay a lot of dollars to navigate a tiny plot of sweat-drenched real estate in the dark while a tiny man with a microphone shouted orders over soulless uptempo music. I lived it.
The dark room is permeated by a red glow – just like they have on submarines. This is to get you used to the idea of a confined space filled with too many people.
An instructor walks around with a small public address system strapped to his head. His job in the dark is to guide you though the exercises by shouting indecipherable words that compete with the eardrum-pounding music. Sometimes you might hear words like “right hand” or “press” and you can try putting something in your right hand or pressing something. If that doesn’t seem right, try to find your neighbor in the dark and copy whatever he or she is doing because they may have understood a few more words than you did. If your neighbor looks very attractive it’s because red lights are like truffle oil and make everything more palatable.
The workout is a mix of treadmill and floor. The treadmill is your standard cardio routine. The instructor cycles you through jogging and running in the dark to simulate being chased through Central Park at 2am by a pack of feral teens.
The floor exercises use dumbbells and resistance bands in the dark. Depending on the day of the week there will be emphasis on butt & legs, abs & chest or full body. There is never an emphasis on light or audible guidance.
The floor space was allocated to maximize the number of participants while at the same time accommodating people Hobbit-sized or smaller. At 6′ 3″ I found myself constantly reminded of my height privilege as I stepped on dumbbells, towels, other people and myself.
Some Yelpers complain that instructors never critique their form. My experience differed, and in one instance a short man with a public address system strapped to his head emerged from the darkness to correct my jogging posture before disappearing into the sweet embrace of the night.
On the sweat scale I’d give it an 8. I burned a lot of dollars and calories. I give Barry’s additional points for not being CrossFit, so I didn’t once have to hear the words “paleo” or “WOD.”
Addendum: I returned to Barry’s two more times because I wanted to be fair. The third visit was the final straw. My instructor – whose voice is best described as “grating” – jacked the music up to ungodly decibel levels and caterwauled us through the routine. In the dark, of course. After 50 minutes I had a pounding headache and fled, never to return.