The long shadow of the new year has come and gone and while some who began the year with best intentions have fallen to the wayside there is a very visible majority in the trenches hitting their stride. But there is something quite peculiar happening in fitness facilities all around the country – People now know what they want and are increasingly inclined to ask for it. How very un-Irish!
What do we want? Barbells. When do we want them? Now.
This refreshing paradigm shift in full effect is evident not only in the volume of people actually lifting in gyms, but in the growing number of fitness facilities of every description available to us seemingly everywhere. There are now more commercial, semi-private and private training facilities as well as niche market offerings such as barbell clubs and sport specific facilities than ever before on this little island of ours and I for one am delighted, but wow things are busy in the free weights area!
So what the heck is going on?
Well, that depends on whether or not you are a glass is half full or glass is half empty kind of person. The half empty crew will look at the growing number of fitness facilities and the increasing traffic in them and think ‘there are too many gyms and the gyms are too busy, this is a problem’. The glass is half full crew will look to this upwards trend in strength related fitness and think ‘hurray, there are more people lifting than ever, this is great’.
I admit to drinking out of both glasses at times – training at peak times can be problematic if you have a set plan and arrive to find that all the power racks are taken and that there is little if any floor space to warm up. Gyms are like roads in this regard, the more roads you create the more traffic that fills them. But while the emissions from cars and gym goers alike can be hard to stomach one thing is certain: More fitness is better. Period. Just have a little patience.
Let’s rewind and look at the same landscape 5-10 years ago. There were fewer gyms, little if any mainstream strength and conditioning orientated facilities and in the gyms that did exist there was for the most part an established hierarchy on show: Men lift weights. Women do not. It was toxic! Now as a lifter I remember walking in at 6pm, peak time, and all the power racks were free. From a personal perspective it was heaven, if I needed space or equipment for weightlifting or powerlifting there was always lots of both to choose from. My major complaint back then as I looked around was that all these people should be lifting weights! Not doing sit ups in the corner or reading magazines on the treadmill! Why aren’t they using these beautiful squat racks and why are so many people afraid to embrace the simplicity of compound exercises? How times have changed.
The pendulum has swung and as a casual observer in gym-land I have everything I could have ever asked for five years ago. I am surrounded by men and women kicking ass pressing and squatting in the power racks, doing deadlifts and power cleans in the open area and I can see an increasing percentage of fitness enthusiasts in general shunning machines and instead holding themselves accountable to the iron game. What a wonderful world this is and I would not trade it for ‘the good old days’ despite the increased traffic.
As an aside I believe that this is in no small part due to the success of crossfit. The brand that everyone outside of it loves to hate! But in a commercial environment the established trends are slowly dying out thanks to it. It used to be very difficult as a coach to sell barbells to women. Nine times out of ten they assumed that as opposed to helping develop a healthy athletic physique it would leave them bulky and cumbersome. Now the most frequent request from new female clients is ‘I want to learn how to do all that cool stuff with free weights’.
So take solace in the fact that if you are a fellow disciple of the barbell you are now more than likely surrounded by like minded individuals, potential friends, and an understanding support structure forged in iron. You are involved in something much bigger than you – It’s a revolution of sorts. Yeah you might have a little longer to wait for equipment but that busy gym is not an indication of some great systemic problem, it is instead a representation of the solution. You are no longer a member of a small neglected minority lifting alone in the corner and now while you might think ‘mo lifters, mo problems’ instead rejoice that you might have ninety-nine problems there is a good chance that a barbell isn’t one.
Viva la Revolución!