I use to think my training program wasn’t getting me the results I was after, only to realise that it was where I was training, not WHAT I was training, that was broken.
I use to train in your regular commercial 24hr gym. I would turn up at stupid o’clock in the morning to guarantee the one and only squat rack would be free, plug my headphones in and get stuck in to my program – cleaning up other people’s weights that were thrown on the ground as I went. I would rush through each exercise to ensure that I was able to use the next piece of equipment I needed to complete my program before peak morning hour struck. No one in there talked, everyone just went about their training avoiding awkward eye contact in the myriad of mirrors spread about the place.
I repeated this process 5 mornings a week until I finally moved to where I am based now – Functional Fitness Australia.
It wasn’t until yesterday when I ventured back in to a ‘commercial gym’ that I realised just how poisonous this environment was for me.
I went to train at a 24hr Fitness (franchise) and was greeted by someone who looked like they got payed below minimum wage and loved every minute of their job. I bee-lined it straight to the cardio equipment to warm up on a rower that hadn’t seen a slick of oil or had the seat adjusted since they got it close to 1000 years ago (cavemen had rowers too you know). I then went down to the basement to the free weight area and found the only single bar that could be used for deadlifting and started to warm up. The plates were all ‘hexagonal’ – like the shape of that thing you had no idea what it was is geometry? With all of the flat sides – ie. Not round. I could deal with the odd shaped plates, that was fine. I could even deal with seeing my deadlift face in the mirror as I struggled through my sets – well it was either that, or facing my bum towards the mirror and giving everyone a right old view of that instead!
It was what I saw in my rest periods between sets that I couldn’t handle. On one side of the gym was a guy who must’ve been doing a muscular endurance program – how do I know? Because he was screaming out loud every f@cking rep he did. On the other was a guy using weightlifting straps to hold himself on to the chip up bar while he did chin ups with his nose reaching for the bar with a belt and weight on. Next to me in the squat rack was a girl who couldn’t reach the bar so instead of lowering the bar – she piled up a couple of plates and squatted on them instead (her husband was there helping her) and then sure enough there was the guy doing bicep curls in the mirror. That was in the first 30min I was there.
Seeing all this unfold literally started giving me anxiety. No one was putting himself or herself in immediate danger doing what they were doing however I felt a duty of care for everyone in that gym. But who was I to offer them that there was a better way to do what they were doing? Who’s responsibility was it? Mine because I am a coach? Did they even give a shit?
What I feel dictated me being able to make that decision was that no one in there talked to each other. In that environment, you didn’t exist (unless of course you were using a piece of equipment someone wanted) and that goes against everything that human beings crave – the longing to feel like they are cared for and are valued. It’s like by making yourself known, you were disrupting the natural order in that space.
Now I know there are a number of reasons people choose to train in these environments – I have PT friends who prefer to train in commercial gyms or gyms other than the ones they work in so they can train without interruption from clients. If you have a particular performance goal you’re training for, it doesn’t particularly matter where you train as long as you’re getting the desired results and I even use to find enjoyment training in this type of environment – but for the majority of us, environment is everything and this is not the environment for most.
Whoever walks in to our gym is greeted by a ‘hello’ and a bunch of smiling faces. Our classes are run in small groups so you are guaranteed a particular level of attention and aren’t left feeling lost in the crowd. You book in for sessions in advance and we have a small client base so we notice when you’re not around. In our gym, like most other community gyms, you matter.
And I’m not just speaking on behalf of FUNC. – I know a number of community gyms who operate the same way (hey guys!). Community gyms are run for the members – not for the lucrative profits, and this can make all the difference.
I understand that there are ‘communities’ inside your typical commercial gym, I have a number of friends who train where they do because they enjoy doing their own training program with friends when they life, however if you’re walking in to your gym feeling like another number, like your more of an inconvenience than a priority or if you feel like you’re not valued – then you’re in the wrong fucking gym.
Training is so much more than just getting physical results. It has the ability to impact your mental health positively, or negatively. If you feel like your training is not getting you the results you’re after or if you leave the gym feeling worse than you did when you walked in – have a look around you and ask yourself is this really the right environment for you.