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.
There is a particular kind of gym going around Bangalore - air conditioned, glass walled, space restricted and eventually sissy. Before we give this one a name, let's see what it holds beyond the glass walls (through which anyone can peer and make a decision!).
This gym is lined out in an straight line "C" shape. Treadmills, EFX and a couple of cycling things are line up along one edge. They are on the glass wall side, so the world can see you sweating it out on a treadmill at 8kmph. Through the neck of the gym are a random collection of contraptions. Too random to be named here. The neck also has a squat rack, and wonder of wonders doesn't even have a mirror in sight, so you can focus purely on the lift, but not nearly enough space to step out of the rack and squat or overhead press! (Wonder whether it's the lack of space or the lack of a mirror which sends people away from this area! Looking at the people around me in the gym I wouldn't bet on the first).
The other edge of the gym covers the basics, free weights, pull up bars, two benches. And that's it - the gym has ended! It ends without having nearly enough space for compound movement of any kind. You can't even do military presses without hitting a wall or another person. Beyond space, the gym also lacks a few basics - not enough barbells and weight discs are no where to be seen. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't find space in this gym to do a deadlift - although I did try - at 3 in the afternoon. Even then, it lacks the large 45lbs discs which help you deadlift with proper form. You end up going too far down to bring up the bar. Also, the Habanero downstairs would be more crowded than the gym at that time. So I wouldn't count on finding space during "peak hours".
No rowing machine kettlebells, not enough space to do lifts of any kind, too few benches, and fellow gymmers or lifters who don't really inspire.
I would have difficulty convincing you to join this gym for a tenth the price.