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.
The body is called a temple? It's said sometimes, but it's not correct for everyone.
For whatever reason, children with highly developed analytical and intellectual skills in the West usually don't gravitate towards more physical, strenuous, and intense activities. There's exceptions -- plenty -- but generally speaking, people who have extreme analytical mental ability tend to neglect their physical ability.
But then the body, a supposed temple, becomes a prison for the mind, dragging its possessor down into low energy, poor moods, and various aches and ailments and pains.
No, the body isn't a temple. The real temple is a place you like to engage in activities to be active and move and have your blood move and activate your muscles and get into motion.
And to succeed at that, especially if you're very analytical, you need to get your mind involved. Whether that be a competitive sport, or a set of exercises that you work towards constant form, or whether it's a game of increasing strength of flexibility or performance... regardless of the particular details, engaging the mind and body together becomes crucial for keeping your mind free and alive.
A single floor gym, but with clearly spelled out weights and cardio sections. You walk into the reception area and to your left is the weights room and to your left is the cardio room and the lockers. The Gym Scout doesn't go about looking for separate sections. Some of the best training would involve some cardio work and farmer carry or military presses during the "rest period". But this is important in India, if you want at least a few like minded people around you. You wouldn't want to be around the cardio section for too long for fear of getting advice like "20-20-20 on treadmill, bike and EFX". The Gym Scout absolutely hates that.
The cardio section has nice sturdy treadmills and this is important in Chennai because you have only a 15 minute window each day to run outdoors before the weather pulls you in! Rowing machine -check. And not too claustrophobic. We like this space. Fellow gym dwellers, even in this cardio section, are inspiring. So no put offs for the scout here.
The weights section has many contraptions and not enough bars. Don't get us wrong, there is space enough to do your own lifts, but not too many bars. Having said that if you can replace your barbell lifts with a pair of dumbbells, then there is not too much wrong with this place. The biggest let down is the lack of a squat rack. And kettlebells. There go a few of the most important lifts you can do!
This place has a lot going for it, decent trainers, a lot of weights, a lot of machines and would genuinely appeal to someone who doesn't do too many free weights. But for someone who does, it's a trade off between having enough space but having to make do with dumbbells instead of bars and waiting for your turn on a bench.
This place is a nice short term solution or a place you can start out at - no doubt, but lacks the basics for the serious lifter or an elite amateur athlete. Although be on the lookout for the 3 months plus 1 offer. That's what got The Gym Scout through the Maverick doors.