Fitness Industry · 12 July 2022

Gyms Have Changed

‘The Times They Are A-Changin’, so sang Bob Dylan. Change comes to us all and affects all aspects of life. The gym culture has changed massively, those of an older persuasion will know exactly what I’m talking about.

From often dark and dingy establishments that smelled funny, we now have huge multinational corporate-style gymnasiums. Exercise, fitness and weight training are big business and there is now the ’stack em high sell em cheap’ approach being undertaken by the chain gym owners. Attempting to cash in on people’s desire to look good and become healthy.

These new style gyms are flashy, full of cardio machines and dare I say faceless. There is no ‘atmosphere’ and generally, they are full of individuals mostly in their own bubble. You’ll never see or speak to the gym owner, there will be staff on hand or a manager who in some cases doesn’t even look like he’s ever lifted weights.

All this is a far cry from what I recall when I first went into a gym. It was a thrilling experience, the guy behind the front desk was huge but he greeted you with a smile. The gym was full of big, muscular individuals, guys you knew had been training for a long time and knew what they were doing.

Old School Gym

There were plenty of weights, some machines and a token gesture to cardio in the form of a couple of exercise bikes in a small room adjoining the gym. Every one of the members seemed to know each other and they’d be laughing and cracking jokes. There wasn’t a headphone or a water bottle in sight.

It also had the vital ingredient of ‘atmosphere’. It felt good to be in there not only to train but watch others train too. Nobody minded you staring at them while they performed their exercises. Some would be preparing for a show and practising posing in the corner, being advised and encouraged by friends and members.

There was no music, just the clanging of weights and shouts of encouragement and grunts as exercises were being performed. As long as you showed respect and followed the gym etiquette you were quickly accepted as part of the ‘team’. There was a personal touch in gyms of yore, they were like family units. Sadly this has all but gone with the new chain gyms.

For me the gym culture is now diluted, we’ve lost the personal touch provided by those who owned the old gyms. Those guys were often competitive bodybuilders and you could learn so much from them. They were willing to teach you and had time and made an effort. Sadly this has all gone too.

Whilst we have to accept change, it has to be said some change is not for the better. Times are a-changing but for me, there will always be a fondness and longing for what went before.

I’m sure many of you will agree and it would be great to hear from members who are gym owners and have seen the change first-hand.