I was tempted to start this article with a sentence along the lines of ‘In a land far, far away at the beginning of time’ but I resisted.

So instead I will just cut to the chase and inform you that it’s not just in the storybooks that prehistoric humans were running to get their food, or striving to be fit enough not to be the food.

It was this harsh, merciless environment and lifestyle that forced individuals to get in shape and stay in shape for survival. Over time and as society improves this survival instinct has stayed with us. Many use this as the catalyst to become fitter, bigger and stronger than others.

In modern society, people began looking for ways to develop their physical prowess and overall physique. Not just for means of survival but for performance, achievements, and rewards.

But of course, these athletes need somewhere to dedicate themselves to their goals and targets. Somewhere they can focus purely on the art of bodybuilding, health, well-being, and success.

Ancient Gyms

The ancient Greeks were renowned for the first gymnasiums and record keeping of physical prowess. The word ‘gymnasium’ originated from another word “gymnos” which basically mean “naked”.

And that is what the early physical environment was like. Naked individuals exposing their impressive bodies and developing their performances for combat, competition, and recognition.

As with many other areas of society the ancient Greeks were leaders in what we now call health clubs and gymnasiums. They had dedicated places for young men to educate themselves on all things health and fitness. To develop their minds and bodies and focus on being the best people they could be.

These places saw the birth of public spaces for athletes to exercise and compete. Leading the way to competitive games such as the Olympics. This philosophy was instilled in the Greeks; a home for health education was a key part towards developing a fit and successful race.

Following the demise of the Greek and Roman Empires the traditional gymnasiums, the creative arts and music all became abolished.

The subdued and almost bootleg pursuit of all things health and fitness lasted until the 1800s. It was Germany who resurrected the gymnasium environment on a small scale, which in turn got the ball rolling for other societies to follow.

By the 19th Century, community groups and schools started to build gyms, arrange meeting points and hold opportunities for athletic endeavors.

These opportunities and programmes for success provided a platform for popularity to grow once more and for the individuals to gain recognition for aesthetically looking physiques.

Early Gyms

One of the first commercial gyms is credited to Hippolyte Triat, a French strongman, and gymnast. His gymnasium in Brussels was a booming success. This led the opening of a second gym in Paris throughout the 1840s.

Towards the end of the 19th century Eugen Sandow, another gym owner, held the world’s first physique only competition. Following this successful feat came wider marketing of the business, advertisements, promotions, up to date equipment and advice on exercise and diet.

The business grew with other centers opening across Britain so much so that these opportunities of health and fitness became part of local people’s lifestyle. At the well renowned Mr. Olympia competition there is an award presented in his name to recognize his huge influence on the industry.

A mention must also be given to another pioneer in the industry called Jack LaLanne. Throughout California, in the 1940s he founded ground-breaking gym equipment such as cable resistant equipment and leg extension machines.

You can still see this staple equipment at modern day gyms established on the same principles of gaining strength and fitness.

This momentum gathered great speed into the 1960s where the Mecca for pro bodybuilders was born. (Joe) Gold’s Gym in Venice, California was the start and rise of the bodybuilding and fitness center designed to be accessible to the general public.

Today’s Gym

Where Gold’s Gym took off, mega gyms and chains continued to provide areas and opportunities for the demanding public to engage in their own personal health and fitness ventures.

Today’s gym-goes expect a more personal and formal approach to their gym experience where there is a plinth of information available from one to one personal training, diet advice as well as something for the whole family.

Both the mind and body are catered for with opportunities ranging from strongman facilities, cross-fit to crèches, yoga, and mindfulness.

With this in mind, today’s gym expects more from its consumers as these finely tuned facilities require a certain etiquette from its users.

With millions attending the modern day gym each week, health and fitness clubs call for consideration to be taken for other users.

Gym Etiquette

Some do’s in a modern day gym include:

  • do wipe up your sweat
  • keep a towel with you at all times
  • rotate your sets
  • reset or re-rack your weights
  • limit your time on the cardio machines

Theses etiquette rulings show just how expansive the modern day gym is. How accessible it is to the masses and how frequently used these establishments are.

Some don’ts in the industry include not spending excessive amounts of time on the weight machines. Don’t stare at others working out as most people want to work out unnoticed. Do not use your mobile phone throughout your session. This is very much frowned upon and again a sign of the modern day times of mass produced gymnasium accessibility.

The perception of a modern-day gym user is to exercise to look fit, rather than be fit. And yes there is a difference. We have lost the primal instinct of needing to be fit or be food. Instead, we exercise in abundance to appear that we are fit rather than prepare for practical life.

A sense of naturalness has been lost due to the evolution of mega gym chains. Where there is not a clear and simple choice of how and when to exercise, even though there is a where, in the form of a public gym, on every street corner.