Barry's Bootcamp with Melanie of Get Real With Mel


Ever since they opened a Barry's Bootcamp here in Chicago, the fitness community has been obsessed. It reminds me of when SoulCycle opened up in Old Town and people peered through the glass anxiously on a daily basis trying to figure out when it was going to open so they could be among the first to cash in on blood, sweat and tears. OK, so maybe I'm talking about me. Either way, Barry's has taken 99.5% Chicago by storm (they're even opening up a second location) but somehow I was part of the .5% that hadn't poured myself into a class right away. I absolutely loveeeeee (so much emphasis) trying out new fitness classes, but with Barry's I had a hard time justifying the $30. I'm always afraid I won't feel the workout is worth it. When I asked Mel to meet up with me, she suggested Barry's. I'd seen that she'd been a few times before so I poured $30 of my trust into her and signed up. Not really knowing what I was in for, except for what others call the greatest workout ever, I clearly was a hot mess the morning of which consisted of running late, wearing mesh leggings in a snow storm and forgetting my water bottle.  The class is usually split into two sections - tread and floor, but Mel does double floor, so I did too! This means we did all strength work and spent no time on the treadmill. And thus begins my actual review.

Barry's definitely sets a certain tone right from the start. You walk in and it's a long, slightly narrow room with dark red lights. You choose a station when you sign up, so there shouldn't be any question of where you start. They are all numbered so when you enter the room you can go right to it and get down to business. Even once I was in the room, I didn't have a better idea of what I was in for because the workout isn't posted anywhere... and I loved that. The trainer spends the class pacing back and forth between the treads and the floor stations to keep an eye on everything/one. The music they play throughout class is upbeat to keep you motivated, but not so loud that you couldn't hear the instructor, which is important because if you can't hear them, you have no idea what is going on! The trainer gives you verbal commands of what moves you should be doing when and that's when you learned what they would be. You didn't get to find out ahead of time. At other gyms, they post the workout or run through it ahead of time and I always cringe at certain moves. Then I spend the whole time with anxiety over an upcoming move that I might not be good at (like push ups.)  There also wasn't a timer going that I could see so I never knew when I was about to end a move and couldn't get antsy and drop my plank before I was supposed to. More evidence that Barry's Bootcamp is a well oiled machine? There's no running into other people or having to move over or needing to slightly adjust for another person. You each have a designated space to the left of your bench on the floor. It was really nice to be able to do all my strength moves in the same spot. 

I left the workout feeling good. They did a mix of body weight movements, dumbbell training and resistance band work. It was total body and I felt it the next day. I like that with certain moves, they had you burnout on it and then change it just slightly to burnout again. For instance, we did push ups and then the next move they challenged us to do push ups with a hand release/jump. It was nice to have a new element added to the movement.

What I loved:
- The following. It seemed to me that the people that go to Barry's are die hard fans. They all love the class, know the trainers and know each other. It's a cool community feel.
- It goes fast. Without having a timer or knowing how long you are going to be doing each move, the whole class seems to go by much quicker.
- Move variation. I really enjoyed doing a move and then kicking it up a notch for the next set, like push ups and then a hand release added. It made the workout seem more intense.

What missed the mark for me:
- Dehydration.  I didn't see a water fountain in the room so I was basically dying since I forgot my water bottle and didn't have any $ to buy one there.
- First time intro. It was my first time at Barry's and while other studios I have been to give me the rundown when I check in, introduce me to the instructor, tell me what to expect, etc. I didn't really get that here. I learned the location of the locker rooms and workout room and that's about it.
- Instruction. It may have just been my location, but I didn't feel it was a real inviting environment to get any type of instruction on movements or proper form. Fortunately, I was familiar with all the movements, but I don't think this would be a great place for someone just starting out on their fitness journey.

I feel like I got in a solid workout BUT since I did double floor, spending no time on the treadmill, I don't feel like I got the full Barry's effect. Off this experience alone, I prefer other workouts I've done at SWEAT and OrangeTheory, but that may be different once I experience the treadmill/floor combo (yes, I'm going to go try it!)  and likely blackout from the welcomed chaos. RIP to the next $30 I spend here!


I've been following Melanie for years on Instagram, so when I saw that she started her own blog, I knew I had to feature her. Get Real with Mel launched in September of 2016 as a creative outlet because Melanie totally and completely nerds out for fitness and nutrition. Don't believe me? Ask her about gut health or coconut oil and she can go on forever. It's amazing!

As the name states, her site is real and raw and so unbelievably relatable. For any inexperience or self doubt you ever had in who you are or what you are doing, she understands. She's been there and she isn't afraid to talk about it. One of the biggest motivators she has are her (uber cute) two little boys. After giving birth to her three real old, she struggled with postpartum stress and losing baby weight. She started researching holistic ways to deal with this and that's how she got drawn to this area. She focuses on real food, holistic nutrition and gut health and doesn't track anything anymore. Which really, is ideal for anyone! It's obvious through her blog posts, Instagram and having a conversation with her how passionate she is about the subject.

One of the things Melanie shared with me that really hit home is how people are content with feeling not good. They can be not sleeping, crash at 11AM, be bloated all time or experience bad skin and they are OK with it. She wants to get to the root of all of it and cure it nutritionally. She wants people to understand the importance of self-care and loving themselves.

In fact, she's so passionate about all of this that she went back to school for it and is currently studying to become a certified Nutritional Therapy consultant through the Nutritional Therapy Association. She's already set to graduate in June!  After Melanie graduates, she wants to work with women who have suffered eating disorders, body disorders, etc, particularly younger ones. Maybe even in schools where they need it most, in her opinion (which I agree with!) The big thing she wants them to understand? You shouldn't fear food and fat. 

Next year, Melanie and her family are making the move to Manhattan Beach, CA where she's going to tie her new certification into what she is doing now on Get Real with Mel. She's hoping to start sharing workout videos, cooking videos and some of her favorite workout fashion. Until then, there's still loads of good stuff on Get Real with Mel like recipes, fitness, health tips and her series Fan Girl Friday (where you meet some of her favorite powerful ladies!)

Just the blog not enough Mel? (Trust me, it's not.) Follow her on Instagram too!


Favorite blogs to follow? The Balanced Blonde, who she has interviewed for an upcoming blog post and Meg the RHN, who has a podcast she loves listening to! Also Balance with B, Be Well by Kelly, and Shut the Kale Up
What's your ultimate meal? Unlimited zucchini - roasted at 450 degrees until it's really crispy (almost burnt( and sweet potato fries with Tessamae's honey mustard sauce. Also, the chicken from Gilt Bar.
How do you take your coffee? Buzz free decaf coffee from Whole Foods. Grind and use a french press. Mix with 4th + Heart vanilla ghee, a coop of Vital Proteins collagen, cinnamon, 1 tsp maca powder & a splash of coconut cream.
Favorite workout? Weight lifting at Strive Village or working out with her husband (owner of Next Level Fitness!)


Whether you are at the start of your fitness and health journey, at an advanced stage or just visiting for a recipe, Get Real with Mel is a no judgment zone. 

Melanie is a 26 year old wife and mama of two boys living in Chicago (but soon to be a California girl next year!) She's a certified personal trainer, nutrition and wellness consultant, and soon-to-be Nutritional Therapy Consultant. Melanie's been into fitness her entire life but didn’t get into nutrition until high school- where she took it to the extremes and went through bulimia and a multitude of other body image and eating disorders. After she had her first baby, she looked more into nutrition than ever before to treat postpartum depression naturally and that’s when she found the paleo template. This way of eating changed her life and her relationship with food! Melanie upped her healthy fats and protein and was eating loads of vegetables- and felt better than ever. Her passion for fitness is always going to be there - she loves sweaty workouts and heavy weights - but her curiosity and passion for real food nutrition is on a whole different level. Melanie hopes to inspire people to take charge of their lives through nutrition! Besides healthy food she enjoys Netflix binges, the beach, baking, and spending loads of cuddle time with her boys!