I just finished reading a book called The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. In it, he writes about why some athletes or groups of athletes, some musicians, and why some artists in other fields seem to develop exceptional talent, while others with seemingly many greater advantages, seem to miss out.
Coyle writes about “hot beds” of talent and includes a “penniless” tennis school in Russia with only one indoor court, a little league baseball team from the Caribbean, women’s golf in Korea, a music school in Upstate New York and other places that seem to outproduce the rest of the world’s talent in those highly competitive fields.
One of the things that all these places seem to have in common is that they are all “run down”, old and minimalist facilities. It made me think about the difference in exercise facilities between someplace like the gym I go to, which has all the space and equipment anyone at any fitness level needs, and the super luxury fitness facility around the corner where everything is spa-like and leisurely. I go to the gym to work out. The luxury gym promotes leisure, and people go there to socialize and meet and greet. The gym I use has a wide, across the board membership, that includes a lot of older adults. The luxury gym is for people with a different agenda. The luxury clubs really promote the luxury of their locker rooms, as if you spend most of your time there.
Then, there are the “boxes” at Crossfit gyms. There is no luxury there. They are about as spartan as it is possible to get. You go to Crossfit to do some heavy duty workouts. Any socializing is about how to make the exercise routines more difficult. And, in general, the results show it. If you want to be a hard core fitness athlete, then Crossfit can be an option. They don’t mess around. Older adults participate in Crossfit, but not many.
Here’s another example of how minimal facilities can promote the best in basic fitness. Imagine a group of middle aged or older men and women doing tough, agonizing workouts, calisthenics and dumbells, all on asphalt shopping center parking lots, and using regular bath towels instead of exercise mats to cushion them when on their backs or stomachs. That’s the way The Sergeant’s Program, the original “boot camp” program operates, as do many of its imitators. It’s not the 20 somethings that make up the client base. It’s middle aged business owners and executives, professionals and Government project managers who fill the ranks, and it’s pretty evenly populated between men and women. There is a waiting list to get in because most stick with the program and don’t give up their slots. Oh, and classes start at 6:00 AM. The only concession to seniors? They don’t have to participate in the running part.
It’s also interesting to note that the gyms that produce the best boxers are reminiscent of the old “cigar smoke filled”, second floor, sweatboxes that you see in the movies (Rocky), rather than luxury facilities. That brings back memories of the spartan rowing facilities at the old Potomac Boat Club which was, and remains, a ramshackle building at the base of Key Bridge in Washington, DC. It hasn’t changed a bit in well over 100 years. There’s no luxury there and the rowers don’t want it. A lot of great crews (rowing teams) and a few Olympians came out of that dilapidated old building.
The author of The Talent Code suggests that spartan facilities work because they simply don’t distract from the purpose of being there, as opposed to the message that luxury facilities give off. People, and teams, who go spartan are there for the coaching and the practice, not for anything else.
So what’s the takeaway from this article? You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gym membership. There are plenty of good facilities, including chains, that are there for the exercise and not the socializing. You don’t have to go to a smoke filled, second floor walk up “Rocky” style gym to exercise, but if you’re there for the esercise, you are probably better off getting it in a plain basic health club or gym. The best gyms are the ones where you go in, exercise, and then be on your way. Oh, and mine has a modern, spacious and clean locker room, and even has a modern sauna to luxuriate in.
By the way, the book, The Talent Code, is a good read. I highly recommend it.
Thanks for reading.