May 1, 2021
In this newsletter . . .
Old School vs.
In my youth I belonged to a few “Big Iron” sweat palaces, where there was lots of grunting and groaning and weights were often ceremoniously dropped to the floor after a set or lift was completed. Such actions were the code of Big Iron machismo.
Ed Yarick’s in Oakland and Walt Texiera’s in Hayward, California, were like that. Don’t get me wrong. They were great places if you had muscle-head aspirations. And in those days I had muscle-head aspirations.
It was the 1950s and early ‘60s and you’d never find women, for example, lifting on men’s days. It just wasn’t done. Women who pumped iron did it either in separate spaces or at different hours.
They were never to invade the inner sanctum.
If you’re under 60 you might think I’m making this up, but I’m not. And there are some people today who still prefer the separation of the
sexes in health clubs. However, today they are the exceptions, not the rule.
Was it better in the past, or is it better now?
Personally, I think having women in the gym at the same time as men has a civilizing effect on gym behavior — in most instances. Still, there is an argument to be made that today’s gyms may have lost some of their grit. Walk into a health club nowadays and you may find some members halfheartedly pedaling recumbent bikes while reading People or playing with a smartphone.
In days gone by, such languor would have been ridiculed out the door. Get lost fella! Or lady! If you’re not sweating like a workhorse or eking out that last do-or-die rep, well, you’re just taking up valuable space.
As an ancient, I now exercise at home. In my last health club membership, there was a mixture of training intensities. A few trained very hard, though there were no Olympic-
style lifters or Big Iron bodybuilders. It was a clean, civilized place and boisterous behavior (admittedly fun, in my youth) wouldn’t have been tolerated. If someone wanted to lift heavy, well, okay. Fine. If someone else sleepwalked through a routine, no one would care about that, either. It was a live-and-let-live acceptance.
Still, some old school habits really were decidedly better than today. For example, I didn’t see many training partnerships, people who regularly work out together. In the old days, training partners were the rule, not the exception. Your training partner would count your reps, and if you weren’t making a serious effort, you’d be chided for taking it easy.
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 recalled old-school camaraderie. Then, several years ago, I went to one of Pavel Tsatsouline’s kettlebell workshops and got a similar feeling of people urging one another to excel. I can’t imagine anyone being listless in those places.
So there are pros and cons to old school. But even in home gyms, old school type training partners can boost enthusiasm. It’s something to think about.
Stay healthy. Stay fit.
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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