Before I went live on Facebook yesterday, I did some digging into the history of the modern gym in an attempt to understand where movement and fitness went wrong for us humans – a species that has been in existence since the Middle Paleolithic (about 200,000 years ago) and has risen to be earth’s apex predator – even before modern tools, housing and weapons.
History of the Gym
It was only in 1939 (the year my father was born) that Jack LaLanne (the olde timey fitness legend ) opened what is heralded as the first Health Club in Oakland, California. At the time, these clubs were mostly dingy, dusty, cellar-like places with a boxing ring, a heavy bag, and a few rusty iron weights strewn around the area. This is where (predominantly) men lifted weights or trained for particular sports (not just in pursuit of picturesque abs and pecs).
The actual birth of what we now call Gyms didn’t happen until in the 1960s and 1970s.
In fact, it was Gold’s Gym in 1965 that likely signalled the beginning of this whacky modern idea that general health and fitness could be recreated in an artificial setting, rather than just by performing manual labour (as previous generations did). Then eventually, Joe Gold founded the World’s Gym chain in 1977 and this idea really began to pick up speed.
The Modern Idea of a Gym
So, 1977 is when the majority of the population slowly started to be introduced to the idea that gyms were a place that you could go to “get fit” but it didn’t really catch on until the 1980s. I was 6-years-old in 1977 (and didn’t step foot in a gym until the 1990s) and yet, many of my peers still hold the idea that they can’t get fit if they can’t get to, don’t like, or can’t afford the gym.
Huh… that didn’t take long, did it?
The same can be said for the gear we associate with getting fit. And I am not even talking about things like Peleton (which really only became popular in the last two years). Fancy running shoes, with arch support and built-up heals, came into existence after gyms did (in the mid-1980s).
Here is a thought experiment: when I imagine what would have happened if I had shown my grandmother (who lived to be 101, incidentally) a stationary bike and some compression shorts and told her to go “pedal this bike in her living room so she could get fit,” she likely would have whacked me with a carrot (fresh from her garden) and told me to go sweep the driveway.
The Real Issue
In the last week or so, most of us have suddenly been asked by our Medical and Health Providers to engage in Social Distancing and encouraged to stay home or, at least, meet up outdoors. And this has thrown us for a fitness loop!
Why are we all so lost and convinced that we will lose all of our fitness and turn into couch potatoes?
How did we become so brainwashed, so quickly, that we seem to believe that we can’t move our bodies, in interesting ways, on our own, when the local Rec Centre needs to close its doors for a couple of weeks?
Now don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to see people on social media get excited about my recent Get-Fit Guy blog post that contains 22 videos of exercises you can do at home but I was also saddened that people felt so lost and desperate before I posted it. I guess I feel this way because I don’t want to believe that in ~40 short years, our species has become so detached from full-body movement that we fall to pieces if we can’t attend our weekly yoga class.
My Challenge to You!
So, I challenge all of you who made it this far into this article (or rant) to dig deep into your creative minds, your memories of grade-school gym class, or just your basic understanding of how your body feels when you perform certain actions to see if you can come up with a way to do three simple things:
- Raise your heart rate,
- Challenge your muscles,
- Tease your balance and mobility.
Because that truly is all exercise is.
You can dress it up in Lululemon and give it a fancy name like Foxycise, but in the end, to get a workout, that will bestow on you the health and wellness that you seek, that is all you really need to do.