If I Knew Then What I Know Now: The Physical Culture

TAGS: Physical Culture, Nautilus, harry selkow, elitefts.com, dave tate, Elitefts Info Pages

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

The Physical Culture

It has come full circle.

I can remember when the Weight Lifting World was known as the Physical Culture. It was some time around the 1950s or 1960s. Venice Beach was known as the Mecca of the “Physical Culture,” and its name was “Muscle Beach”.

It was the time that I was wishing I could bench press 100 pounds with my spindly arms that measured a solid nine inches around, and I enrolled in the local Y.M.C.A.’s program to lift weights in its asbestos ceiling clad basement. You needed to be 15 years of age to sign up; I was 11 and looked nine. So I did what any morally correct boy would do: I lied, backed by my equally ethical father who “co-signed” the waiver that stated I was of age and that the “Y” would not be held liable if, in fact, I broke my spine or died.

During my first days in that “dungeon,” I learned of “Mecca” and wanted to soon leave the confines of that gym for the West Coast and its fresh air... and bikini clad babes and its surfing lifestyle. But I had to grow, not only chronologically and physically, but MENTALLY as well.

I started training with “The Morning Crew” which consisted of TWO “almost pro” body builders and one (yes, older than me) OLD guy from the “Gymnasium” era who would perform “circus type” exercises that we now call “old school.” Two college football linemen and one grade school principal rounded out the group.

The seven of us would get our workouts from the OLD guy, who basically threw out orders like a Drill Instructor, and we would scatter for the benches or racks that were needed. The “Pecking” order was also established by who trained with whom and on what rack or bench. I was always over in the corner on the crappiest of stuff, but since I didn’t know it sucked, I just went about my business without complaint. The education I earned while listening to the “older” guys was priceless, and the camaraderie was inseparable. Even for me, the “kid” of the group— I always was included in the “Reindeer Games” (except when the guys would go out in the evenings together to “throw back” a few…um, errr… Milk and Cookies).

When the Old guy passed away, we all attended his wake and funeral as if he was our Head Coach and we were his team. We continued to talk about him for a couple more years, that is until our “Morning Crew” band began to turn the pages in our own Books of Life. I’ve since lost touch with those guys, but I remember them fondly and will tell the stories of the “Morning Crew” to anyone that will listen. These stories have grown, like we all do, into larger than life escapades. Entertaining, yes! Heart felt, yes! Educational, absolutely!!

About the time of the mid-70s, small machine circuits started to become popular. The dawn of the “Nautilus” center became the verb of its time. “Hey, you gonna go do Nautilus tonight?” a person would ask. It was the same, yet different. We no longer considered our workout “Lifting” as much as we DID Nautilus. Instead of Monday’s being “Chest/Back,” it became “my 4:15 circuit.” Nine machines and a puddle of sweat on the Bicep/Tricep machine, and after a few “negatives,” we would sit and throw insults to the guys that followed close behind. We would talk about the old days at the Y. We would reminisce about the characters and the episodes of the day-to-day dramas and comedies. We would then build new stories by hanging around the Nautilus Center for hours “helping” the new guys coming into the circuit program. I was lucky enough to be asked if I wanted to become a “Trainer.” However, I will save THAT story for another article.

But we had our characters in the Nautilus Center. The salesman that would NEVER leave, even when he had appointments, was a huge part of our new crowd. Three bar owners and countless bouncers that needed to PUMP up before allowing patrons into their establishments also became part of our landscape. They all become part of our Society of Pump Monkeys, the newer generation of storytellers and educators of the Strong.

The evolution of our small Society into a community continued through the end of the 1970s and well into the 1980s with the emergence of the “Club.”  Mega club, Racquetball Club, Sporting Club... all were now growing, and the Community did as well. We were now catering to the housewife, the daughters, the sons, and the Non-“Hardcore” athlete. We started dealing in Health and Wellness. We considered all things physical as borderline “medical.” We changed our verbiage from a sharp edge, as well as tough tongue, to a more toned-down and professional sounding dialog. We no longer “lifted” as much as “worked out” or even “trained.” We would now train “Cardio” instead of hitting the ground for some “Road Work.”

Although, things did seem to become more mainstream. The stories and the influences of our facilities became a much larger part of everyday lives. Conversations around the table were now about work, relationships, what new piece of equipment we were going to get at the end of the year, and who ranks behind whom in the racquetball standings.

Fast forward to today. We still have a few of those “Clubs” around. Although the orange carpet has been replaced with Horse Stall Mats or Granite, we now NAME or “work out of the day” by some girl’s name. We have gyms again. We have fitness centers in corporations AND warehouses. We have gyms on every street corner as if it were part of Dunkin' Donuts' franchise. We have Powerlifting gyms in storefronts, and we have PRIVATE personal training salons. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the influence of Physical Fitness on our Society. We still have our stories, with larger than life characters playing the same old roles. We have our legends and our up-and-coming stars. We have them on the World Wide Web, as well as our backyards and garages.

I sat with Dave Tate on a Saturday night, and we briefly discussed how it has all come full circle, and how HIS efforts alone have created something larger than a “Community.” By the creation of elitefts™, he has largely contributed to the re-creation of what I like to call… a “Culture.”

We have come full circle, to the time when we are now called the “Physical Culture” once again.

We look for our relationships to grow by engaging in a program. We look to improve our health and well-being by interacting with others inside a “like” community. We become sharper and more interesting by who we BECOME on our WAY to the goals and objectives we have set for ourselves. It’s not about the Squat PR or the 10 pounds of body weight we lose. It’s not about the “making the team” as much as it is…making THE team. Our TEAM. The relationships of the Sponsored athletes, the coaches, the staff, and the OWNER of elitefts™ are all fostering THE TEAM— the Elite team.

Call it lifting or strength/resistance training. Call it road work or cardio or MetCon. Call it Whirlpool’n and getting some limbering exercises in for restoration and stretching. Call it a rub down, or call it a massage or body work. The name doesn’t matter as much as the STORIES and the EDUCATION you get by going to, and participating IN, a Physical Fitness Program.

Look around today’s gyms and the influence elitefts™ has.

Wear a shirt or sweatshirt with anything elitefts™ on it. See the conversations that will arise with at first a stranger, then a brother or sister.

EliteFTS.com’s motto is “Educating and Outfitting The Strongest Athletes Around the World.” I think it has MORE impact than that. I liken it to be more like “Educating and embracing the DEDICATED Athletes around the World.

I, for one, am humbled to be a part of the “Brotherhood/Sisterhood” that is elitefts™.  It’s not a culture of elitists as much as it is for those that are becoming ELITE people with a commonality for excellence, yet different enough to keep things interesting and exciting.

Creating a Physical Culture, once more and for always.

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