Hero of the month – Anya Lahiri
Today I met: Anya Lahiri, Instructor & Innovator behind Barry’s Bootcamp London.
Sitting down in the trendy, tucked away café on Euston Road to grab a green tea (me) and skinny milk latte (Anya), we chatted about everything from Eurovision to Sumo Squats and Meryl Streep!
Me: Anya, you’re a tidal force when it comes to disrupting the fitness scene in the UK, how did it all begin?
Anya: I actually started off as a model then joined a band, we performed at the 1999 Eurovision song contest representing the UK! My route to becoming a fitness instructor had already started at that time as singing and modeling are probably the two industries that are most body conscious and focused on image. You’re expected to be in good shape, so regularly working out and looking after your diet was always a priority. I did a lot of spinning, running and lifting weights at the gym, I really enjoyed adrenalin-pumping workouts and pushing my body to new limits, this was the time where I properly ‘got into’ fitness.
My acting career then took me to LA, I started classes at Barry’s Bootcamp and quickly became a regular. I immediately fell in love with the idea of Barry’s as it’s very similar to personal training but designed for a small group environment. I felt it was something new and exciting. It had this special feeling of collegiality where everybody shared similar views and had a common goal to get or keep fit. It’s great because it not only motivates you to push beyond your limits, but also it’s more fun to work out.
After training at Barry’s I began to realise that my life is all about fitness! I decided to fully dedicate myself to what I love and became an instructor at Barry’s LA.
It was only after my boyfriend visited me and experienced the delights of Barry’s that I thought about taking the LA based concept home to Britain! I moved back to London just prior to the UK launch and the rest is history I suppose!
What’s your favourite exercise?
I love sumo squats! They’re horrible but hugely effective for the entire body with the emphasis on the legs. I also like plank mix-ups like going from plank into mountain climbers or side crunches – which are always fun to do!
What does your usual day look like?
I don’t really have a usual day! I normally get up quite early, have a quick breakfast then Crusoe (Anya’s canine companion) and I will jump on the overground and head to Barry’s. I always take Crusoe with me, he’s a celebrity here now, everybody knows him – the dog is the only one who gets recognized!
Once at Barry’s I’ll get ready for my first class at 8.20am. After the workout I’ll talk to clients, then take some time to catch up on my emails (usually to do with one of the events we’ll be organizing). I’ll then have another class followed by a long, brisk walk with Crusoe around Central London.
In the evening I have a few more classes and sometimes I’ll have a client, although I don’t do as much personal training anymore. By the time I reach home I’ll cook dinner then curl up on the sofa in front of a good TV series and relax. At the moment I’m watching ‘Entourage’, which is pretty easy watching and reminds me of LA.
How about your diet, what do you like to eat?
Porridge in the morning is the one thing I have to have! Usually I’ll eat that along with some blueberries and a small glass of juice. I also eat a lot of fish, which is a staple item in my diet at the moment. At Barry’s we have the Good Life Eatery, which do great, nutritious food and makes it easy for me to eat well all the time.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I have so many! I burn over a thousand calories every day so I am totally craving for sweet things, especially chocolate! I’ll also indulge in a glass of wine when I’m out with my friends.
What’s your favourite clothing?
So much lycra, it’s just unbelievable! I literally cannot even close the closet doors (she laughs). I am very particular about my trainers, which I have quite a few of since I run so much. I generally like to wear something comfortable that makes me feel good; I definitely appreciate nice gym kit.
Do you have a favourite book?
I studied English at the university so I read a lot, I’d probably say ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. The author wrote the book while he was in prison and he had to rewrite the entire thing because it got destroyed! There are so many different stories in there, I find it utterly captivating – no doubt it’s my desert island book!
What about your favourite movie?
This is very cheesy but I love Braveheart. I just love the costumes and the drama!
Where do you find your inspiration?
My clients. I’m fascinated by the transformation they’re able to achieve. I look at someone who couldn’t run over 5 mph and now is sprinting at 12.5 mph – it’s truly incredible. I’m hugely inspired by one of my regulars who has gone from lacking muscle strength, lacking running technique and especially lacking in confidence to literally becoming a terminator!
What would be your life motto?
Experience life as it comes along!
Could you give us any tips on staying fit and healthy?
Surround yourself with people who are into fitness and healthy lifestyle. As long as you are with them you will improve.
I guess this comes from my personal experience here at Barry’s because Barry’s is a community where you are encouraged to exercise by your gym pals. It’s so easy to find excuses not to exercise and my advice would be to get that friendly support!
Where is your favourite places in London?
I grew up here, so this is my home. Hampstead Heath – this is where I take Crusoe out!
What was the best advice ever given to you?
Not to worry about what everyone else is doing – it’s not hugely important. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t allow anyone else’s successes or failures to get in the way of your happiness.
Who is your Hero?
Meryl Streep, she’s an amazing actress. I have so much respect for what she does.
If you could, what special powers you would have? (Although you’re already a hero to us!)
The ability to fly – to get a bird’s eye view would be awesome!