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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #346. Old School vs. Today
April 15, 2023

Old School vs. Today

I workout at home these days. But I’ve trained in a lot of different gyms, over the years. In my youth, they were “big-iron” sweat palaces. Where there was lots of grunting, groaning, strutting around . . . with weights often ceremoniously dropped to the floor with a huge thud when a lift was completed.

Ah, youth.

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.

In the 1950s and early ‘60s, you’d never find women lifting at the same time and place as men. There were always separate spaces or different women’s and men’s hours. If you are under 60 you might think I’m making this up, but I’m not. A few people today still prefer the 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? Personally, I think having women in the gym at the same time as men tends to have a civilizing effect on gym behavior, in most cases. On the other hand, have today’s gyms lost some of their ruggedness? 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. You might actually break a sweat. Whereas, in days gone by, he or she would have been shamed out the door. Get lost buddy! If you’re not eking out that last tough rep, you’re merely occupying valuable space.

My most recent gym, several years back, 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 truly hard-core muscle-heads. But 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. Being a senior, I preferred this more democratic format.

Still, some old-school habits were decidedly better. For example, I didn’t see many training partnerships or 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 making a full effort, you’d nudge your buddy to get serious. 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 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 also got a similar feeling of people having lots of fun but with 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’s presence, I think, tends to discourage poor housekeeping or reeking workout gear.

Of course we always have the option of creating a 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, old-school training partners can boost one’s enthusiasm and hasten progress.

It’s highly recommended.

Stay healthy. Stay Fit.


Senior Exercise Central

Photographs: Subscribers have asked when the newsletter photo at the top of the page and my website pictures were taken. The photos were taken when I was a mere 70. I’m 86 years old now. Though I remain active, I am no longer nearly as muscular as I was 16 years ago. —LF

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Newsletter Policy

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.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

Like newspapers, magazines, and television, this newsletter and my website contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and website provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

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Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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