the joy of strength training


May 18th, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Open source or shaolin temple?

Gate of shaolin temple
Photo: Cory M Grenier

There are different philosophies of what a training community looks like these days (perhaps there always have been). Aside from the commercial chain gym model, with which most of us are familiar, a few others emerge.

Shaolin Temple
There are gyms who proclaim the fact that they are private by design, that you can only train there if you can prove yourself in some way. What goes on inside is not to be revealed or only to be revealed in limited ways. A well known example is Gym Jones:

“Our culture, dedicated to The Art of Suffering, is both safety net and inspiration. Individuals push hard and risk more alongside trustworthy peers. To maintain this spirit we choose clients who resonate with it. Gym Jones is private, but not closed.”
– Mark Twight, Gym Jones

Locals only
There are other clubs or gyms which are private simply by dint of not publicising themselves and not being particularly interested in attracting new audiences. The logic goes that if people are interested enough, they’ll find them.

These tend to be gyms who are not on the information superhighway and prefer to foster their community locally, in person. Expertise is handed down from lifter to lifter, rather than being read in books or on the internet.

Then there is the model of putting it all out there, like the Crossfit affiliates who post pictures of every workout and the results of every training session. This may also encompass creating videos, articles, podcasts and other media detailing training methods, rules, advice and examples.

CrossFit is noteworthy for its use of a virtual community Internet model. The company says this de-centralized approach shares some common features with open source software projects and allows best practices to emerge from a variety of approaches
– CrossFit’s Wikipedia entry

And there are a whole load of organisations occupying places along the spectrum, or combining elements of each.

What kind of model do you prefer and why? What do you make of accusations of ‘elitism’ or ‘cult-ishness’? Does every training community have a duty to be inclusive? Should anyone even care what ethos a particular gym adopts?

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  • 1

    Good evening, G!

    Since I almost never train in gyms, if I were to get some roots in a gym, I’d opt for the Shaolin approach. I would much prefer to train with guys who think like me and put out like me. Bad attitudes and negativity are like the flu: if one has it, pretty soon, everyone has it.

    Far too many people don’t take their gym time seriously and that’s what I like to avoid.

    Justin_P on May 24th, 2010
  • 2

    Justin, yes I find the general atmosphere in a gym has an effect on the way I train. I find it hard to shut out general chatter (I like to join in!) and lack of intensity.

    gubernatrix on May 29th, 2010
  • 3

    Like the previous commentor, I rarely train in gyms, but I prefer the hyper-connected. The whole group gains when we share best practices. The open sharing helps move the cream to the top. Maybe I am an optimist, but I want us all to improve our lives… so I share, share, share.

    Thanks for the post!


    Richard on June 1st, 2010
  • 4

    Hello Gubs!
    I train mostly at home but my philosophy is all thanks thanks to cult Gyms like Bodytribe.
    I don’t think that mainstream gyms can ever give uptheir obsession with commerce and pleasing people by running cardio and pilates classes.Heavy lifters especially if they are women always feel out-of-place there.
    I don’t know abt Crossfit-they often seem suicidal to me.

    varsha on June 3rd, 2010
  • 5

    Varsha: What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger 🙂

    lelak on June 4th, 2010
  • 6

    Isn’t the experience simply what you make of it?

    I’ve belonged to both types, and I have to say as a female lifter, I much prefer the anonymity of a “McGym”. I really do not like it when the local trainer or guy-who-thinks-he-knows-a-lot start to give the little lady some friendly help.

    Mikey on June 16th, 2010


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