I confess that I am a regular at the neighborhood fitness center. Of course, given that I am approaching decrepitude, it’s not like I go to “pump myself up”, as Arnold used to say. I go to try and stave off the “rate of deflate”.
Upon arrival, a staff member tells me to have a good workout. At my age I just hope things work out so that I don’t hurt myself or someone else. People sometimes bump into each other while exercising, and it can be dangerous if they are carrying heavy objects made of iron.
The young people I share the fitness center with have no idea of how things were in times past. They assume that ever since the beginning of the Olympics people have had big rooms full of machines that people sit on to engage in pushing or pulling, using this set of muscles or that. Interestingly, most of them sit there on an exercise machine staring at their phones more so than they exercise. I get irritated waiting for them to move on. I wouldn’t mind seeing some guy drop a barbell on a phone every now and then.
Young people today don’t know that Charles Atlas discovered muscles after a lifeguard kicked sand in his face at Coney Island. Not only did he discover muscles, but he developed them with a system called Dynamic Tension, which he advertised on the back covers of comic books wearing leopardskin briefs. (Charles Atlas, not the comic book covers.) My muscles would be tense, too, if I had to appear in public wearing leopardskin briefs.
Soon after muscles were discovered, dumbbells and barbells were invented. (Actually, dumbbells had walked the face of the earth for eons, but not this kind.) Nowadays youngsters call dumbbells and barbells free weights, but they weren’t free back then. You could buy dumbbells and barbells from York or Weider or Healthways, who sold the plates by the pound, just like department stores sell socks by the bale today. They weren’t cheap. I never purchased the Charles Atlas Course, but I saved my money and bought a junior set of barbells from Body Salvage. Body Salvage could sell at a discount because they made their barbells out of old melted-down muscle cars.
There are several differences between modern fitness centers and old timey gyms. One is that nowadays the air conditioner is constantly on. It’s downright cold in a fitness center if you don’t keep moving. Old-timey gyms or weight rooms were rarely anything but warm, oftentimes very warm.
A second difference, then, is that modern facilities don’t smell like sweat nearly as much, although some of the guys at my fitness center could work up a sweat at the North Pole.
A third difference is that as many women exercise as men. Obviously, they tend to concentrate on their gluteus maximus more so than the men. And whereas men should concentrate on their abominable abdominals, we don’t. For some reason a man feels compelled to spend most of his time exercising his chest and upper arms.
A fourth difference is tattooed body parts.Obviously, you can see tattoos everywhere you go nowadays, but perhaps not as clearly as you can at fitness centers. Tattoo artists do stay busy, but tattoos can be harmful to one’s chances if he/she is competing in body building contests. The tattoos might blur the delineation of the muscle, or a judge might prefer one contestant’s tattoos to those of another. I, for one, would declare the guy with the Popeye tattoo on his forearm the winner rather than the guy with the words “I’m on the Hannibal Lector Training Diet!” written across his chest.
Some contestants cover their tattoos with a mixture of oil and makeup to be safe. But there is this one fellow at the fitness center who has had an idea. He’s working with a tattoo artist who is trying to figure out a way to draw a tattoo on various muscles so that it will make the muscle look larger and/or more cut. That way the judges will say, “Wow! I’ve never seen anyone so muscular!” but what the judge will be seeing is just a tattoo of a muscle on a muscle.
Today’s fitness centers also have mile-long rows of stationary bicycles and treadmills and stair climbers and elliptical machines. I’ve never been much interested. The walk from the parking lot is about all the cardio I need. Evidently, some people would never jog or walk outside. They restrict such activities to the fitness center.
And fitness centers sell stuff. Mine isn’t as fancy as those with juice bars that serve tofu and seaweed salad. Mine is big into protein cookies. You can get one that not only has 2500 grams of protein but chocolate chips! Also cans of super-energizer drink and muscle-milk.
Perhaps the biggest seller at my fitness center is Perma-Flex. This comes in a spray can and costs big bucks. You aren’t supposed to use it until after your workout. By then, you’ve “pumped yourself up”. You can have your workout partner spray it all over your body in the dressing room. It helps you keep that pumped-up look until your next workout.