….my trip to a commercial gym while I was stuck in London for a few extra days.
I have not been to a commercial gym in a long time. In fact I can not even tell you when it was or what the name of the last gym was. I’m pretty spoiled having my own facility to work out in on a daily basis. The studio is less than ten minutes from my apartment, has all the equipment I need to train with and I can play what ever music I like. Some days it’s some old school Backstreet…I mean Beastie Boys. Other days it’s some new school hip hop. And when I am away from home it’s usually not too far since I do not a whole of traveling. I’ll usually just throw a kettlebell, a TRX, a pair of Val Slides and a jump rope into the back of my truck. That usually does the trick So for me to step into a commercial gym, especially a commercial gym in another country, made me feel a bit out of place. Making it a bit more uncomfortable I must have stood out immediately as “the American” since I was the only one with a hat on. I picked up on the stares in a matter of 15 seconds.
So I walk into this gym that looks great from the outside. I go past the front desk, walk down one hallway, walk down another hallway and then find myself looking over the training floor. After taking a quick glance from what I can see I’m thinking this place is pretty legit. It has about 4-5 TRX’s set up, some battling ropes laid out, a nice collection of kettlebells aligned nice in a few racks and some decent music going. I walk down a flight of stairs to the training floor and after taking more of it in my idea of legitness had quickly changed.
I like to start each of my training sessions with some foam rolling, but I can not do any foam rolling if there is no foam roller around. My bad. There was one foam roller, but it was softer than a down pillow making it pretty much useless. So I move on to my dynamic warm up.
As I’m doing a quick five exercise dynamic warm up I take an inventory of the cardio section: 30 treadmills, 25 elliptical and about 12 bikes. That’s 67 pieces of cardio equipment that I’m guessing costs anywhere from $2,000-$6,000 each. You know how many pieces of those 67 were being used at one time? Five. Besides taking up the majority of the training floor that doesn’t seem too cost effective from a gym owners standpoint does it?
After my quick warm up I weave through all the cardio equipment and find my way to the free weight area which is about 1/8 of the size of cardio area. Three adjustable benches. No squat rack. A pre-historic Smith machine. And dumbells everywhere. And I do not mean they had a great assortment of dumbbells. I mean they were scattered everywhere. It’s hard enough converting kilograms to pounds to get an idea of what weight I want to be using. It’s even harder when the dumbbells of the same size are no where near each other. And it gets worse when the dumbbells are literally placed on top of one another so that I had to lift up the 20kg dumbbell to get to the 40kg dumbbell….and then go down to the other end of the rack to search for the other 40 kg dumbbell.
Besides taking inventory of the gym, I’m taking a look around to see what others are doing for training. Did not see one person doing a chin up or pull up. Did not see one person doing a squat. I will give credit where credit is due. I did see one guy doing some barbell split squats. But I am only going to give credit to that one guy. And I’ll cut these people some slack because I know it happens at gyms everywhere. When most people are left to their own devices in the gym who knows what the hell is happening. But when these people are working under the supervision of a trainer I start to get a bit edgy which leads to to my next point.
I’ll be the first to say that I still have a lot to to learn as a trainer and that’s after training for 12 years. So when I’m observing another trainer working with a client I have to be careful. But it’s not too hard to spot something that is blatantly, potentially disastrous. For instance, I watched this one trainer trying to teach deadlifts to his 20 something year old female client. Awesome. He’s trying to get her to deadlift. But there were two major problems. The gym had no bumper number plates so he’s trying to teach her to deadlift with standard 25lb plates on each end. What’s the problem with that? The bar is lower to the floor which means this girl needed more mobility that she didn’t have to get set up in a proper position. The second problem? This girl is absolutely gassed….because the trainer has her doing squat jumps between each set of deadlifts!! Trying to teach someone to deadlift while having them do jump squats between each set is what I would call is just irresponsible….and apprehensible!!
My last observation has to do with with everyone’s training. I saw too much training to fatigue or training just to get tired whether it was the gym members working with the trainers or those who were not. Flying from one exercise to the next. Taking each set to fatigue. No recovery between sets. High rep sets. Anyone can train to be tired but training to be tired is not going to guarantee you that your strength numbers go up or your body fat goes down. It just means that you got tired. Fatigue will mask results. It’s not that hard to train to be tired. But not everyone can train to get stronger, get leaner, and address dysfunctions. That’s where the science and knowledge of training comes in.
So that’s my latest hot take on the commercial gym scene. I’ll be back with another hot take on commercial gyms after my next trip….which will probably be about ten years from now.