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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #232 Big-Iron History Lessons
August 01, 2018

August 1, 2018

In this newsletter . . .

Big Iron
History Lessons

I’ve worked out in a lot of different gyms. In my youth, there were big-iron sweat palaces, with lots of grunting, groaning, and strutting . . . and where weights were often ceremoniously dropped to the floor with a huge thud when a lift was completed.

Ed Yarick’s in Oakland and Walt Texiera’s in Hayward, California, were like that. They were great places, but waist-deep in machismo. Unless you had true muscle-head aspirations you didn’t stick around. I had true muscle-head aspirations.

In those days, the 1950s and early ‘60s, you’d never find women lifting at the same time as men, Alice Yarick and Abbye Stockton being two of the few exceptions that I knew about. There were always separate spaces or different women’s hours and men’s hours. If you’re under 60 you might think I’m making this up, but I’m not. Some people today still prefer separation of the sexes in health clubs. "Women only” gyms do exist but they aren’t the rule.

Was it better then or better now? You decide. I think having women in the gym at the same time as men tends to have a civilizing effect on gym behavior, usually. On the other hand, have today’s gyms lost some of their toughness? Maybe so. You can walk into most health clubs today and find some members halfheartedly pedaling recumbent bikes while reading magazines or playing with smartphones. Be careful, you think to yourself. You might actually break a sweat. In days gone by, he or she would have been shamed out the door. Get lost fella! If you’re not eking out that last tough rep, you’re just occupying valuable space.

My most recent gym had a mixture of training intensities. To be fair, most people moved rather efficiently through regular routines. And a few trained very hard, though there were no Olympic style lifters or hard-core muscle-heads. It was a clean, civilized place and the boisterous (but fun!) behavior in the gyms of my youth wouldn’t be tolerated. If you wanted to lift heavy, fine. If you chose to sleepwalk through a routine, that was fine too. Personally, I was there to workout, not stand around talking or reading magazines. Not everyone shared my attitude. But as a senior, I preferred this more democratic gym format.

Yet some old school habits were decidedly better. For example, I don’t see many training partnerships these days, people who regularly work out together. In the old days training partners were the rule not the exception. Once you got acclimated, you'd buddy-up with someone. You would count your partner’s reps and if he or she wasn’t giving a full effort, you’d nudge your buddy to get going. Three people training together were even better than two. The recovery time always seemed perfect with each of you doing a set in consecutive order. And when squatting or bench pressing, there was always a spotter at each end of the bar.

I’ve never worked out at a Cross Fit gym, but I’ve watched some of their videos and the atmosphere kind of reminds me of old school camaraderie. A few years ago, I went to one of Pavel Tsatsouline’s kettlebell workshops and got a similar feeling of people having fun but there was no slacking off.

On the negative side of old school, ripe, unwashed workout clothes worn while training or left in dressing room lockers to ferment was not uncommon in the “good old days.” In today’s well-run, health clubs that kind of thing isn’t tolerated. Women member presence, I think, tends to discourage poor housekeeping or reeking workout gear.

Of course we always have the option of creating our own home gym, if we tire of commercial gyms at any level. They can be as spartan or as elaborate as space and budgets dictate. But even in a home gym, training partners can boost your enthusiasm and hasten your progress. That's old school and highly recommended

To your lasting good health and fitness,


Senior Exercise Central

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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

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Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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