My Return To The Corporate Gym: The Good, The Bad, And The...

My Return To The Corporate Gym: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

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Corporate Gym, Good, Bad, Ugly

With its ocean of machines that scream false promises of cover-model bodies while banking on the fact that over half of its members will not use the place and neglect to cancel their recurring billing.  I’ve often slammed the corporate gym with creative prose, while taking great pride in my windowless facility’s cinder block walls and concrete floors that was once described by a local newspaper reporter as looking like a hidden CIA interrogation room.

But like so many small business pipe dreams, my gym workouts are gone.  And so are the 14-hour work-days I spent trying to keep the doors open.  With too much free time on my hands I needed a reason to get out of the house – so I signed on the recurring billing dotted line for a corporate gym membership.  And the truth is, I’m enjoying my new escape haven.

Sure, it’s not without its flaws.  But overall, I’m finding the good outweighs the bad – and the ugly.

The Corporate Gym…

The Good

Barbells:  I’m happy to say I have returned to squatting and deadlifting.  Yes, I have a pretty sweet equipment set up at home but I do not have barbells and plates.  The corporate gym I train at has plenty of barbells, four power racks, and all of the plates I could ever desire in my wildest heavy squat dreams.

Swimming Pool:  I am a terrible swimmer.  I’m not going to drown in the pool or anything, but I usually have to rest after just one 25 meter lap.  I figure my poor technique means I’m expending lots of energy and making for a good workout. 🙂  Technique be damned, I’m enjoying my time in the pool and the challenges that come with developing a new skill.

iPod:  I always train alone.  And when my gym was open, I mean ALONE – usually no one else was even in the building.  But even at the huge corporate gym with lots of people milling around, I’m having no problem enjoying some alone time.  I’m wearing an iPod.  The cute girl I’d normally be tempted to strike up a conversation with is wearing an iPod.  Damn near everyone is wearing an iPod.  Modern technology may be ruining communication between people, but I appreciate the iPod-assisted “silence” while I’m training.

24 Hour Access:  If I’m having a sleepless night, I like having a place to go that gives me a healthy option instead of watching some crappy movie or eating some junk food out of boredom.  Sure I could just do some push-ups in my living room or read a book.  But leaving the house, having a light workout, and then returning home seems to set me up better for sleep.

The Bad

The Locker Room:  I’m more than pleased with the cleanliness of the locker room where I train – that’s not the problem.  What I’m not pleased with are the yelling matches over where Lebron James will end up and the guy who has to spread his entire wardrobe across the bench.  A little common courtesy goes a long way when you have to share space with people you don’t know.  Unfortunately, some people lack common courtesy.

No Circuit Training:  I’m a fan of setting up circuits of multiple exercises for metabolic conditioning.  But stringing together a workout of box jumps, power cleans, pull ups, and push presses will not only be a potential safety hazard in the sea of people aimlessly wandering from machine to machine, it will also make you look like an equipment hog.  I keep my training at the corporate gym focused on strength and muscle building, and save my heart cranking circuit work for my back yard sessions.

Curls In The Rack:  I know it’s cliche, but I’ve seen it more than once already – guys doing barbell curls in the power rack.  That being said, because squats and standing presses aren’t exactly the most popular exercises at this gym, one of the four power racks is always available.  It’s that availability that is keeping the rack-curls in “the bad” and not in “the ugly”.

The Ugly

Personal Trainers:  Even with my iPod blasting and my training face on, I can’t avoid seeing the personal trainer taking what is obviously a weight loss client through a set of lateral raises.  I grit my teeth, avert my gaze, and move to another part of the gym.  But I know several times each week I will see such transgressions and it is an exercise of restraint to keep my mouth shut.

No Training Journals:  I’ve been training at this gym for three weeks now.  I am the ONLY person I’ve seen writing down what they are doing in their training sessions.  Don’t get me wrong, someone who has been training for years and is in maintenance mode can get away with this.  But people who are on a serious fat loss or learning how to build muscle, especially those who are relatively new to training, are on a path to no-results if they aren’t tracking their training.

Texting:  It’s just a pet peeve of mine and I suppose I should get over it… but why the hell can’t you leave your cell phone in your locker while you’re training?  Oh, you’re a heart surgeon on call that day – my mistake and my apologies.  Oh, you’re an average guy trying to set up a hot date for later that night – put the phone away, make her wait 30 minutes, get some damned focus, and maybe you can put some more weight on that bench press you naturally gravitate towards.

To my surprise, I am enjoying my time in the behemoth corporate gym.  Sure, there are some things that I don’t like – but few things are perfect.

What is your experience in the big corporate facilities?  Do you enjoy training there?  Or are the “bad” and the “ugly” not worth the hassle.  Let me know in the comments below.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Great post Vic, I mean, I never see anyone keeping a journal of what they are doing either.

    They come in, hop on their treadmill and plod away for 45 minutes or longer while I am in and out in 20 minutes (doing your 31 Day Manual).

    I am not an expert by any means, but feel that after following your plans I have a pretty good idea of what is going to make you lose fat. I cringe when I see people come in also and do bicep curls for fat loss.

    The gym I go to is “not a freeweight gym” according to the owner which is good for me. Normally I am by myself in that area or at most maybe 1 or 2 others are around.

    Let most people stick to their $5,000 piece of junk treadmill/elliptical and I will take the power rack and barbells any day of the week.

  2. hi,

    If you’ve see me at the gym, you’d probably think I’m training aimlessly too.

    However, I remember what I do and track EVERYTHING I do. I come home for my post-workout meal and then log my workout then…it gives me time to think about what I can be doing better (form, what I did right, was I explosive enough, did I use chalk here, etc).

    Ren

  3. Exactly-no waiting to get at the power rack. At the YMCA I go to I usally get the entire free weight area to myself.

  4. Some of us use our phones to enter our training logs, which eliminates two of your Uglies. Not everyone does that, of course, but I doubt it’s only me.

  5. Nice piece Vic,

    I, myself, am opposed to the big gym scene. Haven’t been to one (for a workout) in well over 5 years, and have an awesome set up of homemade stuff.

    However, all is not lost with the big gyms. I know for some, they must have that atmosphere, or someplace to go where they know there is some form of accountability. My wife is one of those. She happens to be a yoga instructor and as such, has a free family membership to the gym. I’ve gone on occasion to swim and take her class (yes, I take yoga). She has difficulty being disciplined enough to workout at home.

    I’m still no fan of these places. I hate the cell phone thing with a passion! They’re my biggest pet peeve (among many). I mean come on, you seriously can’t go 1 hr. (max) without that damn thing. Like you said – leave it in the locker room and get some damn focus. But then again, tose would be the folks that have been charter members and still have nothing to show for it 😉

  6. Personally the gym isn’t my favorite place to work out. I’m an outdoors kind of guy and I would much rather go for a run down to the park, find some stuff to do some pull-ups and push-ups on, and run back, then spend my day in a room full of a bunch of elliptical machines.

    I don’t know what it is, but the amount of those machines and the amount of people that use them is annoying. Anyway just my opinion and preference, the gym isn’t for me.

    Ken Rogers
    Real. Effective. Fitness.

  7. Vic,
    You and I seem to share a lot of the same gym experiences.I haven’t been to the gym since I started working out with kettlebells, almost a year ago.
    I used to be the only person who carried around a journal and seemed to actually have a plan. I was the only woman in the free weight area. Occasionally, one would wander over and do tricep kickbacks with a 10lb DB. Most women would come in and spend the whole time on the treadmill. I once saw a really overweight woman reading a novel while walking. Not a 2 month old issue of People Magazine, but a NOVEL for pete’s sake!

    Glad you’re enjoying your time back in the gym!

  8. It’s probably been 4-5 years since I have been to a “big box”. I can only imagine that I would feel the same as you.

    At this point it would be difficult for me to return to that type of training…I’m sure I could adapt (I competed in bodybuilding contest for years) but I just don’t train that way any longer. I really go for the complexes and mixing things up.

    Great post and insight!

  9. Some of my best muscle building training results have been at a commercial gym (Gold’s).
    Now that I don’t have the goal of building bigger muscle, there isn’t much that the commercial gym offers. Doesn’t make it bad place to train, just unnecessary.

  10. I’ve been away from the gym for a while. I find that I can get a quick effective workout at home without driving to and from the gym. Plus, no distractions. I actual focus better exercising on my own as well. My equipment is limited, but my weights provide a good enough workout when combined with some high intensity bodyweight circuits.

  11. My gym has a small basketball gymnasium and a small workout room with a rack, dumbbells, balls, and a few different types of benches. I love it because 9 out of 10 times I’m the only one in there which helps me focus. There is plenty space for me to do a bodyweight warm-up before I start lifting weights too. In the main part of the gym there isn’t much space to do circuits on the floor (burpees, mountain climbers, push-ups, etc.) I will say I haven’t seen any gyms set up this way or close to it.

  12. Great Post Vic…

    Unfortunately, my only local gym is a Golds. I share many of the same good, bad and ugly experiences. I got a kick out of your “curls in the rack” post but I got one better…just last evening, I saw a guy doing wrist curls with a barbell in the power rack. I was waiting to squat and my eyeballs were starting to bleed as I watched this guy do wrist curls with the barbell and 10 lbs on the each side.

    I agree that metabolic conditioning workouts can be tough but if I have one of those workouts scheduled I’ll try and go at an off time like Sunday afternoon or a Friday evenings when the place is significantly roomier.

    I think the IPod is a mixed blessing, on one hand it helps people avoid getting stuck in a conversation and keeps them focused but on the other hand I have see guys so engrossed in their workout, completely zoned out of their surrounding that they become unaware of dangers and people around them. A few weeks ago I was doing deadlifts and a guy walk right over the end of my barbell a split second before I was going to pull. If he was a second later I would have been half way up the pull and who knows how that would have turned out for him and me. He was wearing an Ipod and oblivious to everyone around him.

  13. I’m having way too much fun in my own garage to go back to the local gym I worked out at before I woke up.

    That being said, I miss doing martial arts at the same club.

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