“Physical fitness can’t be faked. You are fit, or you aren’t. Strength, stamina, coordination, and stability do not come in bottles, pills, nor powder, nor in foundation garments, nor in diets.”
–W.A.C Physical Training Manual & Mabel Lee (1943)
What does today’s gym represent? Fitness, sweat, group classes, marketing of products, finding a date, or maybe a nice place to get your hair cut and grab an organic smoothie. There are many large corporate gyms out there today–not many small ones left or ones that feel different; however, at one time in American history, a gym was not just a gym, but a GYMNASIUM!
Look closely at these structures. Do they represent something of insignificance to these former generations? Do you think these huge monolith structures were valued in these cultures? Like churches and city halls, gymnasiums used to be literal pillars of communities. Interestingly, these two examples were also associated with “armories.” Military and gymnasium in same building? Was this a mistake? No. If you dig into the physical culture of America deep enough, it will come down to preservation of country. It was Survival of the Fittest. These generations made sure of it. Military strength and fitness were directly related.
Interestingly, many of our historic gymnasium photos show the American flag prominently displayed on the wall. Was the USA flag just decoration? No. People from these generations clearly understood the connection between fitness and preservation of country. If you feel weak, reach back, go old school–mount an American flag in your own gym or home exercise area…then you will realize strength beyond just yourself.
Next time you hit the gym, think about the real purpose of your sweat and work effort. Is it personal vanity? Personal health? Or something beyond your own self? Need motivation to reach for something higher? Look at the photos longer…think about what they really mean…then thank these generations for building and using them to keep us free.