Here’s the deal—I’ve been in gyms in every part of this country, and some internationally, in my 16 years of training for bodybuilding. I’ve been in the cushy commercial gyms where they give you a towel at the front desk and I’ve been in dirt floor dungeons with metal music and syringes left on the floor. The real question is: can you get the job done in either one or will the gym atmosphere affect your mentality and intensity?
You will get varying answers depending who you ask. The realistic athletes who tend to use logic—I say this with a negative connotation—will say it doesn’t matter and that the vibe is all in your head. On the other hand, maniacs like me that connect with the gym environment on a spiritual level rise up when they are planted in a gym that leave you no other choice but to either destroy your session or to walk out in fear. To me, environment matters and that’s why I put myself in situations and arenas where I have the best possible chance to progress at an optimal pace.
I want to be around like-minded athletes—hardcore individuals that are also getting on stage. They don’t want to talk. They aren’t there to waste their or my time. They don’t give a damn about social media and they know what they’re doing. If I need help, they know what to do. Being around advanced folks pushes you to level up. It’s like wearing a tight t-shirt compared to an extremely baggy one. If you wear an extra small t-shirt, you might feel big in it. If you wear a huge t-shirt, you’ll feel small at first. But as you grow and start to fill it out, suddenly, you’re at huge status. Literally. I want to grow into my gym. I don’t want to be a big fish in a pond full of little fish.
It's not the equipment because I’ve trained at gyms that were awesomely equipped but the majority of clientele was geriatric. The music they played was on par with elevator music. After a while, the lack of aggression in the air can get to you and you can have trouble lighting the fire despite what’s going on in your head. On the other hand, if no one is training hard because they’re too busy operating their social media cameras, you can eventually fall into the trend. Monkey see, monkey do. You don’t want this. You’re nowhere at this point, just like this entire gym.
At the end of the day, you need to want to go to the gym…specifically YOUR gym. I always want to train, but there were times when I was training at a gym that did not line up with my values, intensity, and mindset and I found myself dreading going. I found myself pissed off driving there, praying that no one would be there when I arrived. I was angry at the gym owner for allowing his business to operate in this manner. This is no way to handle a hobby (or job).
You should always be eager and positive to show up. That building should be your sanctuary, not your stress. It’s a place you connect with yourself and people like you. If you settle for anything less, you will have suboptimal progression with a lot of groaning and animosity. Don’t just join a gym just to join. Become part of a living and breathing entity that you call your second home.