Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gyms That Ruled

I have been training with weights since 1979.  Something fascinated me about getting bigger and stronger, and to this day, I have no idea what drew me to training with weights. My father didn't lift, my family had no background with it. 

 Before I even began training , I remember watching guys lift weights at the University of Maryland where my dad worked and I was just drawn to it. In fact, I used to watch the football players train there and there was also a weight room in the building where my dad taught classes that was down in a basement and I'd stand at the top of the steps and peer down there watching, too shy/scared to venture down the steps.  

The weight rooms were great back then. Training in them was amazing and intimidating and you never had a bad workout.

The weight rooms in those days were dungeon like facilities where massive monsters threw weights around and grunted and groaned. Chalk was in the air, chalk was everywhere and wrists were secured with white athletic tape.  Liniment was what you first smelled when you entered. And it came in a jar, and it was red and hot as hell. Guys wore cutoff sweatpants and baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts cutoff at the elbows.  Some guys came in after work and had their jeans on and construction boots, covered in paint or tar or whatever they had on them from a long day on the job. 

Lifter's would be encouraging each other and challenging each other and it just seemed like all of them were having a grand time. 

The gyms then had those dumbbells with circular ends and all the plates were always York Barbell plates. There was never "cardio" equipment in a weight room. No bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, TRX, Pilates, stretching, foam rollers, stair masters, personal trainers, televisions, climbing walls, or machines (plate loaded leg extension and a lat machine were the sometime exceptions). No juice bars and no day care area.  Jogging was just starting to take hold then, but from what I could recall, the weightlifting guys would lift, and shoot some hoops and they weren't too serious about it either, it was more of a cool down, fool around thing to do.  What was in those weight rooms? Weights and racks and more weights and benches and some more weights, too. I dare say that the gyms back then were the last shot out of a roman candle for real manliness, before the "6 pack abs" crowd took over. No there weren't any women in the gyms back then, that came later, but it wouldn't have been and never has been a problem as long as they busted their ass like everyone else.

Gyms were hidden away too, in industrial parks and sometimes in folk's garages and in YMCA's. Hell, you didn't need a "man cave" , the gym was a get away from your kids and jobs and all the crap you dealt with on a daily basis.

Now, its no big deal, but back then it was still seen as "weird"to be a weightlifter by society!  It was weird to have muscles. Alan Alda was seen as the ideal man for the times, a 137 pound pencil neck who wasn't afraid to show his true feelings. What he really need was to put a bar on his back. 135 pounds would have folded him like an accordion, oh man!

Randy White in the 70's at the University of Maryland

Nobody talked about what the window of opportunity was for post workout nutrition, they just drank a bunch of milk all day. And ate steaks. And when the bodybuilders got close to a contest, they switched to tuna and water. Simple.

Of course, I believe that those times were better back then and I am encouraged by the opening of some gyms that have zero "fluff" about them (Metroflex, Exile in Maryland ), but  the "lunk alarms" and no chalk rules and cardio cardio cardio machines in place of weights in most gyms still are the norm. I have plenty of guesses on why all this has happened (lawsuits, greed, social media, lack of a great war, video games, cheetos, CNN, Nike, the internet, bike helmets, travel baseball, men with hair buns, etc.), this lack of tough ass gyms where real men congregated, but it doesn't do any good to get pissed off about it. Best thing to do is train with your mind back in that era, when giants ruled the earth and chalk wasn't the devil and nobody lifted with a hood on their head and all was right with the world of training. 

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.