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Benefits of joining a gym

Posted by: Howard

Gyms: a very long post

Because of my wife's health, we had to downsize our home and now live in a smaller house that is part of a condo community. Therefore, even if I wanted to, I could not develop a workout room. There is just not enough space. But even if I had enough room, I am pretty sure that I would not want to work out alone at home. I'd like to share my thoughts on this topic.

There are a number of gyms in Virginia Beach from the spandex and glitter of a Bally's to more hard core gyms. Flex gym probably is more (maybe the most) hard core gym in the area. It is about 10,000 square feet of free weights, Hammer Strength equipment, two power racks, two powerlifting platforms/stations with hydraulic lifts, two reverse hyperextension stations, etc etc. There are no bands or chains for Westside type training, however. There are 10 aerobics machines but no special room for aerobics classes.

I think there are some significant advantages that I get from going to a gym, and especially Flex. Technically, there is far more equipment for specialized training than I could ever afford or make room for at home. I know many of you are now thinking that one needs no more than a power rack and some free weights to achieve what you need. That may be the case, but I appreciate the variety of equipment so that I don't get bored and so that I can vary my workouts.

Working out with and being motivated by other people has real value to me. I am able to learn from those who are better than me as well as learn from the mistakes of others. Maybe more important is the coaching that I receive for just the price of membership. One of the owners of the gym, Al Walke, is a bottomless pit of knowledge. He has been in the "fitness" business for most of his life and at one time was both a professional football and baseball player. I have seen him train overweight beginner housewives, experienced PL'ers, and wannabee professional bodybuilders with equal effectiveness. He simply knows this stuff, from lifting mechanics to nutrition to supplements to lifting routines.

A few weeks ago, I was in my squat suit and was preparing for a meet with a few other PL'ers. We were getting ready for some max squats on a Thursday night. A back spotter, two side spotters, and someone to judge depth were necessary. They were immediately available. Guys to help me get into my squat suit were necessary. They were there. This isn't easy for the person who helps. Essentially, he has to hold on to the material while a 180+ guy (me) literally drops his weight into the suit. This is hell on the fingers and knuckles. I don't know how you would be able to prepare for a PL competition in a home gym without help. I can get help just by asking. And of course I'll help when asked.

Back to this Thursday night I mentioned. I wrapped my knees, someone helped me stand up, someone pulled the shoulder straps up on my suit, someone helped me put on my lifting belt, and I chalked my hands. As I approached the bar, my lifting partners and others were trying to motivate me with "it's light, go deep, you can do it". The activity in the rest of the gym literally paused and everyone looked over to the squat platform as I squatted. This often happens when someone is pushing their envelope on squats. I must admit that it is ego gratifying to be the center of attention. It also helps you get used to what happens at a PL competition. I got the lift, a gym PR for me.

A gym is more than a place to use exercise equipment for a few hours a week. A good gym has a positive (this isn't the best word as it doesn't convey the full wealth of meaning that I want to suggest) social atmosphere. The racial mix of Flex is probably close to 50/50 white to black and probably 70/30 men to women. This gym is a microcosm of what I think we all would like our world to be (not the men to women part). People are judged on what they do, not on who they are. There is healthy competition but mutual support. I have yet to see any racial "business" take place. This past Saturday, I asked a black guy I had never met to spot me while I squatted. He did it without hesitation. There is a wide variety of workout partner mixtures. For example, two Greek white guys workout with a black cop. A 50+ white woman body builder who wins regional contests has a 27 yo black guy as a workout partner who is interested in Jewish Kaballah (mysticism). The owner, Al Walke is black. His co-owners are a 50 year old white woman and a 30 something white guy. When I converse with Al, I see Al. I don't see a black guy. A few weeks ago I kidded a black guy because he had grown an afro. I have asked both white guys and black guys to help me get into my lifting gear, I have spotted both black guys and white women, and I have had interesting conversations with blue collar fed ex delivery men and professionals. There are some people I don't particularly like and others to whom I am indifferent. But like Cheers, a gym is a place where someone knows your name.

So, to close. I know many of you have exercise equipment at your homes and are very satisfied with your situation, which is fine. I certainly do not mean to demean your choice. I have realized, however, that my gym is not just a place I go to stay fit, build muscle, and get stronger. There are other gyms closer to my home (two within walking distance) and so far more convenient. But a gym should be much more. I have been lucky to have found a good one. If you haven't, keep on looking. They are out there.

Working out has always been very important to me. It was a way to relieve stress and to feel better about myself. I always worked out religiously, but was much more into aerobics and machine work.

When I first moved to SC 6 years ago, one of the first things I did was find a gym. The one I found was a true hole in the wall. It was a big change for me since I was used to work out in a World's Gym which catered to the weekend warrior type. I picked this gym because it was close to my house and very convenient to get to.

At this point, I had no clue what a powerlifting was. A few times when I was working out I noticed some rather strange individuals putting on even stranger clothing such as shirts that took at least 2 large men to help put them on the wretched person. Being the nosy person that I am, I just stood there staring and staring.

Several weeks laterI was working out and one of those men came up to me and asked me if I had ever powerlifted before. I said no, but I would be willing to try. That was six years ago. I have made many friends in that gym and they all know my name. I became part of a team. I also finally began to feel like I belonged.

I still lift in that small, dark, hole in the wall sometimes. Many people have come and gone since then, but one thing stays the same. The bench where it all started. I remember looking at that bench and thinking "Damn, if I could only bench 135, I would be sooo happy". I did. I was. But now I think, "If I could only bench 200, I would be sooo happy".

When I am feeling frustrated, I go back to that bench in the gym where it all started. I know that bench will always be a constant in my life. It may not always be first and foremost in my head, but it is always lurking in the background, waiting for me to conquer yet another weight.

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