A Gym on Every Corner a Robust Society Does Not Make

If you'd like to download the full Draper here newsletter in printable, live-link, pdf format, click here.

Lately I’ve been doing my midsection at the end of my workout, conserving energy now that I’m over 98. I finished my last set of leg raises, gathered my gear, bid farewell to my fellow conspirators and staggered to my buggy. I had one mission to accomplish before I made my way home: pick up meat at the Corralitos Market located amid apple orchards in a farming community 10 miles south. About 30 pounds of skirt steak should keep me and my Foreman grill sizzling for a month or so. Their beef is the best. Feeding muscle is not cheap. Neither are gambling, drugs, gun running and tummy tucks.

While traversing the coastal countryside I passed several exercise emporiums and personal training facilities, which prompted my drifting mind to number the gyms I knew along the way. I’m a deep thinker and had quickly grown tired of counting cars the drivers of which were using cell phones. Let’s see, there are the two Golds, the three Fitness Spas, the two Toadals, the six Curves, the two Worlds, Monterey Bay Fitness, the multimillion-dollar UCSC gym, Cabrillo College has theirs, the dozen or so police and fire department facilities, the 13 personal training gyms listed in the yellow pages; there’s the climbing gym in Seaside...

I stopped at an intersection as neighborhood kids disembarked from the pair of school buses ahead of me. Heck, I’ve got all day. Parents were gathered in a parking lot to pick up the rascals and I was treated to the chaotic occasion. What I saw was a slice of society candidly going about its busyness. Plump teens plopped from the doors of the yellow crafts and plodded across the gravel to their designated vehicles driven by bulging adults, mostly moms. A crossing guard, in the shape of an exercise ball, held up a stop sign as she accompanied a small roly-poly mob across the street. An added precaution, she was panting by time she reached the other side. The kids jostled as they dragged their books and knapsacks toward their next destination, not an athlete in sight.

Safe in my years, I ached in my heart and burned in my mind. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Deja vu all over again... Your Body Revival. The two subjects cruising my mind that afternoon -- the abundance of gyms and the abandonment of fitness -- collided like atoms. I viewed once again young kids and small catastrophes in the making: shortened, unhealthy and less capable lives; depressed spirits and broken hearts; bitterness, sluggishness and apathy.

I’m not ranting, I’m not judging; I’m commenting passionately about a large problem exposed long ago that’s under our control, yet remains unfixed. Worse than that, the problem has become critical.

What’s wrong? Provisions have been made. The word is out. We’re fat. The facilities are there. I counted 15 public gyms, a dozen personal training locations, not to mention another dozen school, PD and FD gyms in a few miles of rural and coastal communities. Are they empty, closed, broken, invisible or condemned? Reserved for the elite, too expensive?

In 1950 a gym was a bare, functional place for expressing strength and developing athletic ability. The YMCA installed a room near the boiler containing iron and benches, clubbells, jump ropes and mats. Tough men gravitated.

Out of nowhere a chain of health studios popped up across the land with jazzy chrome weights and snazzy red rugs and dazzling fluorescent lights. They had machines that jiggled the fat and rolled the pounds away. Ladies were lured to their doors. Leotards were invented. They struggled: the gyms, the ladies and the leotards. They flickered and almost died away.

In 1960 a gym was a bold and daring adventure reaching new frontiers. The weights were real, the pursuits of power and muscle mass were undeniable and the mighty men were authentic, original and growing in size and number. Girls were on the outside looking in. The gym was a tough place, out of the boiler room, but no red rug.

1980 rolled around, tires screeching. The boldness and daring of a true adventurer -- an original, a forerunner -- was being replaced by bravado -- the bluster and audacity -- of an imitator of things once good. Humility and championship was not absent, but it was threatened. Gyms reflected the behavior and the mood. They were less venturesome and more plentiful, denser, noisier, hipper and showy. Where once a lifting platform fit nicely and functioned well, an assortment of novel machines were clustered -- a different machine for a every bodypart, mood or notion. Girls were on the inside looking out... and, also, looking good.

Here we are in 2006. The world is fat, getting fatter. Neighborhood gyms, the last holdouts, are giving way to the mean and ugly monster chain-gyms with their bright lights and strings of aerobic equipment, matching TVs and complimentary personal trainers. Ever-so-important, grandiose, atmospheric, attitudish and artificial. Did I say trendy and social? The real musclebuilder is struggling in the corner of a 25,000 to 50,000 square-foot gym in search of an actual barbell and a real pump. He might as well look in the lost-and-found department.

One can make it in a colossal new gym with all its amenities, garishness and insincerity, if one knows the basics, has the courage of a gladiator and the spirit of an eagle. Wear a hood, ear plugs and shades, and sort through the junk till you find the familiar scraps of iron that work. Lift hard.

True musclebuilders have courage and heart and invention. They’ll make it; it’s the rest of the world I’m worried about. Be bold and daring. Spend the extra few dollars and support your neighborhood gym.

Got 20 minutes? A new crop of training facilities, like corn in Kansas, are stalking the fertile malls and shopping centers around town. They are small, quick and almost instant. You enter as you are when you can without a fuss, do what you want and leave as you please, refreshed and stimulated. Men’s or women’s, take your choice. Socializing is not an encumbrance and trends are left at home in the closet. We might have something here, people.

Of course, there are the personal training gyms, where one, several or a band of PTs greet you with a smile and put you through the paces according to your needs. Not everyone cares to blaze their own trail to health and shape, and are eager to have an instructor and companion along the way. Who cares what, how or why? Just point, count and approve and I’ll push, pull and progress. Let’s talk -- why not? -- "Still raining, Giants look good this year, gas prices suck, one more rep. See ya later."

Hard bodies, longevity and health restoration have become big business. And it is quite cool to have one’s own personal trainer. Anyone who’s anyone has one for his or her body -- their very own taskmaster, a thick gold chain around the neck that gleams when cleavage is revealed, a bridge from the isle of celebrity to the mainland of mundane. My personal trainer tells me I work very hard. My personal trainer says I’m improving every day. My personal trainer thinks I’m ready for Plan B. My personal trainer has me on oats...

So, back to the beginning, what have these equipment-packed gyms done for you and me? Where have the billions of dollars of research and development, manufacture and construction, sales and marketing, going public and going bankrupt, the promises and deceptions taken us? The world is fatter than ever, with more of the associated diseases. Kids are still rocking, but obviously do more rolling: over 75% are round or undermuscled. This is dangerous, Mom and Dad... and oh, yes, educators and authorities. I dare you to look down in search of your own feet.

"The world’s becoming a strange place," said the pre-schooler to the phys-ed instructor who’s recently turned child psychologist by popular demand.

Once football season is over and they receive their high school diplomas, most kids-about-to-become-adults abandon their physical activities and pursue their version of life. Nobody told them in definite, irrefutable and indelible terms that health and fitness and their maintenance are absolutely necessary. You die a slow death if you neglect them. You diminish your contribution to family and country when you allow them to fail. As part of the whole, you weaken its constitution.

What a trip! I grab a basket at the market’s entrance, squeeze my way down narrow aisles to the meat department and fill my greedy hands with the butcher’s pre-packaged steaks. I ignore looks from passing customers amused by my chattering noises and animated reactions to the heaps of meat within my reach.

Yes, I eat fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains.

My wings, my wings: Has anyone seen my wings? Time to catch some air.

The Bomber


Last July we held a seminar at the Santa Cruz Bomber Bash with Bill Pearl as our guest and Eddie Corney making a surprise visit. We recorded the 2-hour QnA talk with three cameras from different angles and points of view... 6-to-8 hours of recorded material. Swell. The following month Laree and I visited Bill and Judy at their home in Oregon and recorded Bill and me in another two hours of compelling (cool word, compelling) conversation.

This stuff is priceless, we're thinking: Now to throw it all together and offer it to our internet participants, a small army of authentic musclebuilders, and fans of the golden era. They’ll be jazzed.

No problemo; a dozen editing-specific computer programs later and a hundred hours on the how-to-edit help line and Laree is ready for action. The roar of trucks driving by, hums of overhead fans, the clattering of ladders to turn off overhead fans, periodic jingles of incoming phone calls and my persistent coughing and sniveling had to be removed from the soundtrack to make it comprehensible. The junk, redundancy, lengthy questions and extensive answers, and embarrassing moments had to be cut. Order to the disorder that comes from random conversations among 225 enthusiastic and hungry bodybuilders had to be explored and sensibly arranged. Entertainment and substance and professional presentation were the elements pursued. Good luck. Add music where it works, add stills where they work and throw in a couple of slide shows for the fun of it. Presto!

One day a month ago Laree emerged from her hellish computer station in the lonely loft for food, water and human contact. The production was complete. I tried to be sensitive as she was given to outbursts of tears and incoherent babbling. Still cute, I pat her on the head, assured her a shower would help, some Bomber Blend... she nodded helplessly.

The finished product was sent off to the pros to be duplicated -- stamped, printed and encased... whatever -- and is now in stock for immediate shipment.

The  Package includes a one-hour-and-fifteen-minute tape of the July seminar, two muscular slide shows, plus a 32-page booklet outlining the subsequent interview between the mighty one, Bill Pearl, and me in which we discuss some favorite subjects untouched by the seminar.

Be the first one on the block to own this indescribable entertainment and informational extravaganza starring Oscar-winning performers from around the world

Click here to order your copy of the Bash 05 Seminar dvd with Dave and Bill Pearl

Grab your copy Brother Iron Sister Steel here

Click here to order Iron On My Mind

IronOnline store

Other new pages of the website to inspire your training

Did you sign up for Dave's expanded email yet?
It's free, motivating and priceless!
We'll also send you a link to Dave's free Body Revival Tips and Hints booklet with your confirmation notice.

Enter your email address here:

Our IronOnline Forum will answer your training and nutriton questions right now

Golden Era fans will rejoice in this excerpt from West Coast Bodybuilding Scene

It's practically a miracle! Dave's Top Squat assists sqatters with shoulder problems

Click here to see the previous week's column