One of the greatest joys in the world is the iron gym.
What's an iron gym? It's hard to describe. It's easier to say what it's not.
An iron gym isn't a fancy fitness club.
An iron gym doesn't offer jazzercise.
An iron gym doesn't have wooden panelling and beautiful adornment.
An iron gym doesn't have awesome, clean bathrooms.
An iron gym's locker room is spartan, at best.
An iron gym has mostly free weights, with very few machines.
An iron gym isn't a place to mingle with the opposite sex.
An iron gym doesn't offer yoga or other classes.
An iron gym has no amenities, niceties, or anything like.
An iron gym is usually obscure, with nothing special in real estate. It's often in a basement.
An iron gym doesn't have a salesman to give you a tour of the place and show you around, doesn't ask for a one year commitment to join, or anything like that.
An iron gym doesn't have fancy membership cards, swipe-in/swipe-out, or anything like that. You just show up and nobody hassles you.
So what's an iron gym? It's a spartan, bare bones place with free weights and a few very basic machines. It's often dirty and disorganized. There's no classes offered there. There's almost never women in an iron gym, if you go every day for an hour you'll maybe see a woman once a week. Maybe.
And I fucking love it. I love being at an iron gym. It's just a place to push iron. There's no posturing, no showing off, nothing like that. If you need a spot, someone will give you a spot. Everybody's cool. People don't talk too much, don't socialize too much. Nobody's doing business or trying to get a date or trying to move up the social hierarchy. There's just one thing there. Iron. And you lift and it's good.
It's hard to find a good iron gym. They don't have nice real estate and don't advertise and aren't usually part of a chain.
I found one here in Mongolia. $15 a month, unlimited access. Some personal training included if a trainer is around. The trainer is really just a Mongolian guy who hangs out and lifts weights all day, and answers questions if you've got them, but sometimes he isn't there. He's cool though. He helped me with my form on a couple lifts, since I haven't lifted for a while.
I've been a member or visited gyms at all ends of the spectrum. From the barest bones iron gym to a middle of the line health club to super high end luxurious places. The last one can be good, I've been as a guest to a couple super high end gyms. Maybe a good place to do business.
I like some nicer gyms. I like swimming. Richard Branson's Virgin Active clubs in England are nice to get some swimming, some sauna, and there's a good cheap cafe in them to do some work right after your workout.
Middle of the road gyms can be good value. Yoga's okay. Kickboxing can be good.
But for me, nothing is as good as a pure iron gym. A dirty, disorganized room with no conveniences, no frills, nothing fancy. It's not a social club, a dating club, a meeting space. You really don't want to "hang out" there for very long. You get in, you put the weight up, you get out.
I love the place. Long live the iron gym.
I'll be going to Mongolia to work for a company that's teaching English to the Mongolians. I'm a pretty big fitness guru--especially weights. I'm glad to know that I won't have to completely abandon one of my passions.
Out of curiosity though--do you happen to know if you can purchase fitness equipment there? Dumbbells and whatnot? That'd be great if you could let me know.
If you could also give me the address of this iron gym's location, I'd be very grateful! Thanks in advance!
No machines with cables, either. The best iron gym doesn't even use real weights, it uses spare parts from some kind of machinery with the weight amount painted or scratched on the side (if at all).
My first 'gym' was my next door neighbor's garage, when I was in high school. He worked for the streetcar company and his lifting equipment was hand made and welded together from spare, rusty streetcar parts. It was awesome and I've been searching for a gym like it ever since, without much luck.
Henry Rollins wrote a great piece about the pure honesty of lifting iron. There's probably even a link to it on this site somewhere, but if not here's another:
Squat rack, platform for deadlifts and quick lifts, power rack for heavy benches. Bonus points for 100# plates, heavy dumbbells, heavy kettlebells, heavy sandbags... practicing slams and suplexes and Karelin's reverse body lift with a 100 kg sandbag is a hell of a finisher. Prowlers and heavy tires too; nothing like really heavy Prowler work - double or triple bodyweight, maybe quadruple for the lighter guys - to turn you into a takedown machine.
I guess it was a little impulsive, but I got an apartment in Mongolia yesterday.
I've only been here eight days, but I like it enough. And I felt like I needed some grounding to get all my work done. Worst case scenario, I just eat the security deposit if I move on early.
500,000 tugruk a month. $400. It's a nice place. Furnished. Near Sukhbaatar Square.
Then a funny thing happens - my inclination after moving in is to think about all stuff I could buy to fill the place up. I think, ah, I could get some really nice soaps. And some of this, and some of that.
And it strikes me - that's kind of absurd. Don't mistake me for anti-consumerist, because I'm not. I think mass production has done so much for the world in terms of getting a reasonably high quality of goods to people at a good price.
Indians value "paisa vasool" (value for money) more than any other factor while making a purchase.
So I'll tackle that at the end, if at all I do. This one is about the gym. What you feel when you workout, the kind of people around you and the kind of free advice trainers dish out (this is all part of paisa vasool).
First things first, this is one of the few gyms I have worked out in, which has an entire floor for free wights. The only corruption is a Smith machine, but it at least gets people to squat and bench, so I don't begrudge it. This floor is a terrace converted into a floor with a false ceiling and sliding windows, which lends it a raw edge. No air conditioning, speakers which seldom work and hence free of (another corruption) music. Enough benches and enough space. One of the few gyms in Bangalore with a proper squat rack. So your squat isn't the least common denominator of your overhead press or your partner's snatch!
The free weights section also has a LOT of 45lbs discs. So the strongmen can really get going without having to cobble together 45lbs with 5/10lbs discs. This also helps your DL form, but not making you bend lower than you need to. Dumbbells aren't in short supply either. Almost every weight till 60lbs has two pairs available. The one major drawback though is the lack of kettlebells. Replaceable with dumbbells, but not without a loss in training efficiency. For gymmers looking to do box jumps - disappointment again. Because of the windows around this free weight section there is almost nothing you can use as a box of challenging enough height.
A stretching section as long and as wide as the free weights section that it runs parallel to, also where you can skip and try doing box jumps on the perimeter wall (this one is a bit too high to do on a regular basis, maybe for your "really explosive" days!).