Other than offering the obvious potential benefit of making huge gains, the gym can act as a complete sanctuary for men everywhere. But one Facebook post reveals the myriad reasons Australian men, in particular, choose to go to the Iron Palace.
The original post, shared in the popular Facebook group Blokes Advice, asks men why they go to the gym. The poster explains that he doesn’t understand why guys would go, since he doesn’t and yet he’s still able to “pull 10s in the Philippines when I go twice a year.” (Not sure if that’s in jest or not.) So for him, he doesn’t believe that bicep curls get the girls. But hundreds of comments have been made on the post, essentially telling him he’s wrong.
The top-rated comment on the post comes from Thomas Webb who lists four clear reasons: “Mental health, physical health, functional strength (being able to lift things, help others, protect yourself etc), improve quality of life and longevity.”
“I think a better question is ‘why wouldn’t you?'”
In fact, a number of other blokes have been quick to highlight the mental health benefits of going to the gym. One comment says, “I go not only for the physical health side of it, but also the mental health side. It’s my time to get away from work and family stressors and focus on me.”
Other comments backing up this thought process include, “It isn’t just about girls. Training is the best therapist I could have ever had. It tests me, pushes me forward and constantly challenges my limitations of myself.”
“Most of my problems I solved by lifting weights and being around other like-minded people. I train for myself, It’s an added bonus you look good while doing it.”
Indeed, the global pandemic saw a huge shift in Australians’ attitudes towards fitness. The most recent statistics on obesity in Australia were recorded in 2017-18, when it was found that 36% of Australians aged 18 and over were overweight and 31% were obese. It could be fair to assume those figures have changed in the four years since but it’s likely that, as a nation, the majority of Australians could still stand to lose a few kilos.
When the pandemic hit, one of the only things Australians could do with their time was either get outside for a brief bit of exercise or engage in 1-on-1 personal training sessions. DMARGE has previously spoken with John Field, founder of Agoga Gym in Bondi, Sydney, who says that not only has the number of personal training sessions held at his gym increased, but he said a major component of those sessions for his customers was for “the mental engagement.”
“You’ve got somewhere to go that’s not your backyard or balcony or loungeroom. You actually get the opportunity to walk to a destination to speak to someone else. So it’s as important for their mental resilience as it is their physical outcome and I really feel like that’s become a main part to this.”
“It’s a chance to talk, chat about how they are feeling, mental space, that sort of stuff in a way that I don’t necessarily get to do maybe otherwise.”John Field
And, as for how Australians view fitness and the gym in a post-COVID world, well, Justin Ashley, co-founder of Fitness Playground is championing gyms as being just as useful for mental health as they are for physical.
As he’s previously told DMARGE, “Exercise is the best cure or enhancement for any mental health issues outside of pharmaceuticals. We’ve got major issues in that area and exercise is a solution to most of these things.”
He added that he’s noticed the reasons for people joining a gym have changed dramatically too, and they fall in line with the comments provided on the Facebook post used as the source for this article.
Justin admitted that 20 or so years ago, most people would join a gym to either lose weight or build muscle, but today, “for the first time ever, more members said they wanted to feel better than look better in my time in the industry.”
This idea about not going to the gym to build muscle, but to improve your overall wellbeing is highlighted in another comment on the Blokes Advice Facebook post, from Harrison McClure. He said, “Honestly, if you’re going to the gym to try and pull birds, you’re going for all the wrong reasons.”
If we didn’t already have Justin’s comments providing an insight into the changing landscape of Australian gyms, we would have, perhaps naively, felt that most guys would go to make themselves more physically attractive, despite damning evidence from Jo Lindner that girls don’t give a damn about six-packs.
Dean Jamieson, founder of Lean Performance, a class-based, community-minded gym in Taren Point, Sydney, echoed these comments. I’ve personally previously been a member of Lean Performance and found it to be the perfect place to not only kickstart a proper fitness journey but a place where you can feel safe whilst doing so. No ‘gym bros’, no egos, just people wanting to better themselves.
We asked Dean not only how he approaches running a community-minded gym like Lean Performance, but how he approaches the gym and fitness himself.
“The gym is a place where I continually strive for physical improvement,” he tells us about his personal training.
“When we grow physically [and] when we improve strength and conditioning, I believe that makes other areas of our lives easier, it helps builds resilience and many life lessons have been learned through improving physical fitness.”Dean Jamieson
As for how he sees Lean Performance as offering a valuable service to Australians wanting to get in shape, Dean says, “The goal at Lean Performance Gym is to train for life… The approach is to train in a way that you’re ready for anything that life throws at you.”
“If you need to be strong – you’re ready. If you need to be fit – you’re ready. If you need to be lean – you’re ready. Physically ready to go anywhere you want!”
On top of this, from my experience attending, I noticed the same people turning up to the same class times on a regular basis. Some of them would be friends that either already knew each other, or met each other at the gym. They’d often turn up together, or leave together to go and grab a coffee or breakfast.
It was this environment that made me realise just how valuable a gym can be, not just for getting fitter and stronger, of course, but how it can be a place you genuinely look forward to going to…despite the 5 am wake-up time!
It’s becoming clearer than Australian men are going for more holistic reasons. All we need to encourage them to do now is speak more openly with their friends.