by James Bloodworth
Monday, 27
July 2020
Reaction
11:53

Gyms are re-opening and the snobs can shove off

The media classes may turn their noses up, but weight training can improve your physical and mental health
by James Bloodworth
England’s gyms, leisure centres and indoor swimming pools were allowed to open their doors on 25th July for the first time since March Credit: Justin Tallis / Getty Images

When lockdown started back in March, I came the closest I’ve probably ever come to a ‘dark night of the soul’. Everything seemed pointless. I felt disorientated and adrift; the subsequent three weeks were spent in what can only be described as a dazed stupor — absurdly late nights, copious alcohol and cigarettes along with the consumption of large quantities of junk food.

The situation was, perversely, made easier by the fact that everybody was in the same boat. There was very little FOMO (fear of missing out) which was oddly reassuring. But it was all rendered far more intolerable — for me at any rate — by the closure of gyms.

It was obvious when the pandemic broke out that gyms would be among the first places to close – they were branded ‘vectors’ of disease by the government. But I hadn’t realised quite how much I relied upon the dumbbells and resistance cables for my wellbeing.

I first started going to the gym around 13 years ago. I was skinny as a child and teenager to the point of looking emaciated; and so one of the best things about weight training was that, after a few months, I started to fill out the clothes I wore.

Weight training can improve a person’s mental wellbeing too. Not that you’d guess from the media. The progressive press does love its scare stories and victimhood narratives. Hence the sinister tales of gym obsession, steroid abuse and body dysmorphia. ‘Toxic masculinity’ is brought into it too – despite the fact that lots of women also lift weights.

For most of us, though, lifting weights is a hobby — and one that provides stimulating distraction from the increasingly sedentary world of work. It’s a way to challenge yourself that brings overwhelmingly positive results: there are personal goals to work towards, a previous ‘one rep max’ to beat. And, yes, a taut, muscular physique does looks objectively better than a doughy one, whatever the therapeutic platitudes of ‘self-care’ culture may say.

Sometimes, when I read snarky comments about gym-goers, I can detect an element of class hatred lurking behind the words. The people I know who lift weights are mostly working class — in contrast to the effete intellectuals who sit at their keyboards expressing either scorn (the physical realm being inferior to the life of the mind and all that) or faux-concern that men who workout are ‘buying into stereotypes about masculinity’ etc, etc.

These are the theories of those who “live in the midst of ideas about people, rather than among people themselves”, as Czeslaw Milosz once put it.

Now that gyms have reopened, I feel as if I have got another piece of my life back — we are inching a little closer to the prelapsarian, pre-Covid world that at one point I felt was lost forever.

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benbow01
benbow01
2 years ago

Why Boris Johnson keeps on winning.

It’s a one horse race?

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago

In other words, the declinists have no vision of the future that could inspire a general following; and Johnson has no viable competitors in this regard outside his own party.

There has been a serious decline in the the quality of our important institutions (from education, to the courts, to “the press”). A decline which appears to be accelerating because of the declinist agenda and personnel who now dominate them. Arresting the decline will not be easy, because it means changing the current culture of these institutions. Expect the incumbents and their proteges and accolytes to fight hard and dirty to retain their fiefdoms.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

I’ll start going to the gym again when they turn down the bloody music.

georgeguyfolger
georgeguyfolger
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Good point, my £20 a month one, ‘the gym’ I think, blares out this terrible pop music 24/7. Unless you have noise cancelling headphones you can barely hear your own music, which is pretty moronic given most people do indeed wear headphones.

David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago

Couldn’t agree more! Going to the gym is one of the few things we can all do for our own physical and mental health. Good luck beating your one rep max – it’ll take you a while to work back up to it after lock down I should think.

Peter Tulloch
Peter Tulloch
2 years ago
Reply to  David Slade

I am

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
2 years ago

Bang on the mark about there being some sneering classism in how some middle class types look down on gym going, James. There are definitely conversations to be about unhealthy and healthy masculinity and ways of expressing it, but a lot of the faux concern around gym going and lifting especially is part of a kind of demonisation of working class masculinity especially and the idea that wanting to be stronger and fitter is somehow “rough” or “vulgar” compared to gentler, intellectual pursuits. Like a lot of working class guys who ended up in that weird space of having a middle class kind of job but never fitting in with middle class life and norms, there’s something about the physicality and associated masculinity (which isn’t to say only men can or should lift obviously) that scratches an itch for me and makes me feel at home on some level. One of the best things I ever did was invest in a pair of adjustable heavy duty dumbbells and a pull up bar for home – kept me sane through lockdown.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
2 years ago

Well said, James. Everyone can benefit from weight training. I never enjoyed it so much as you do, but I ran my best times as a competitive distance runner when I belonged to a gym and weight trained. When I got away from weight training, I injured myself, and though I eventually recovered from the injury I never ran so well again. I don’t belong to a gym now for financial reasons but would love to start up again. My 17-year-old son belongs to a gym and lifts weights. The difference it has made both to his appearance and fitness level is truly remarkable. The gyms are great places and I hope that most of them manage to survive COVID.

mackstephen01
mackstephen01
2 years ago

I totally agree.. with all that has changed in every one’s life.. gyms and keeping healthy is now the most important thing..

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Positive Mental Attitude

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
2 years ago

There’s always been a class snobbery about weight training from folks on the Liberal/Left areas of public life.

Many progressive men are deeply uncomfortable with their bodies and masculinity in general.

Overcompensation by being ‘witty’ is most often a passive-aggressive response from such guys to mask their own issues with masculinity.

Weight training with its focus on strength conditioning, sweat and power is deeply unnerving to many inhibited men who identify as progressive.

This is a shame, as the ability to life heavy objects, run for a bus, swim for a prolonged length of time and to generally feel vital and physically strong are all positive and life affirming traits.

Most working class guys understand this. Increasingly women are enjoying the positive benefits of resistance training too, which is great.

The criticisms and half-baked intellectual theorising around weight training as described by the article’s author are really just snobbery and inhibition projected on to others who have a desire to improve themselves.

Many men in particular suffer with low self esteem and poor mental health. Weight training has been a healthy mainstay of my own tool box for maintaining my mental health more than anything as the hormonal relief felt at the end of a session makes a bad day bearable and a good day brilliant!

Tales of ‘body dysmorphia’ and ‘toxic masculinity’ are just hokum as our American cousins would say. Most gym going men and women are average sized folks, not bodybuilders.

The majority of guys in the gym don’t go near steroids or other such drugs.

To extrapolate that guys who love lifting weights are all steroid munching creatures belies the underlying snobbery and misandry of the liberal/progressive media.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
2 years ago

US criminal processing is 95% a plea bargaining system. There is precious little justice even attempted. So the data is all spurious, and the participants, cynical. Sentences are virtually never based on the actual crime. Thence discussion on prison reform, recidivism, rehabilitation,& co., is not even academic, but the essence of futility. The sole consideration of any weight is cost.

Neil Colledge
Neil Colledge
2 years ago

Jeremy Corbyn was criticised for an interview he granted to Press TV (Iranian News Channel). He was also criticised for giving support to Palestinian activitists who (he believed) had been wrongly accused of terrorist crimes. This does not make him anti-Semitic. His closest friend and mentor was an American Jew called Micheal Marquisee. Corbyn has become known as an anti-Semite, because The Murdoch Press labelled and continued to label him thus – until most people believed it. His career is over. He will certainly never be a British Prime Minister. Check Mate Comrade!
Boris Johnson has been lucky. He turned out to the right man, in the right place, at the right time. Abraham Lincoln advised the people against “swapping horses when crossing a river”, it would be foolish to replace a Prime Minister in the midst of such challenging times (Brexit not completed – Coronavirus raging) it would be folly to contemplate unseating the leader, creating an even bigger mess. The position demands our support.
It is difficult not to think of The Dear Leader as an intellectual lightweight, however he most certainly has some crafty moves!! He has an animal instinct, unashamed populist instinct (quoting popular TV shows ….. etc) & portrays himself (quite effectively) as a patriot. Many people love this.
Boris is obviously from the right sort of family, the right sort of education, demonstrating the right sort of upper-class philosophy, that will ensure establishment support. He will have lots of help and advice from clever people, to ensure he doesn’t make a total ass of himself ……. He is proving entertaining for now, but as soon as he is no longer useful, those intellectual crutches will be removed & he will fall flat on his face, foot firmly in his mouth, with pundits (sensing the winds of change) declaring, they never liked him anyway!
Boris will not mind. He will simply walk into another marvellous job, whilst the charming, well spoken, seriously loaded, highly-intelligent Mr. Sunas walks into his.
The game of power continues and changes very little.

Bill Jones bill.jones@sky.com
Bill Jones [email protected]
2 years ago

I think Mathew’s article is very interesting and should be read by all who want to get rid of this Tory government. I suppose I’m part of what might be called the ‘declinist’ tendency but far from being anti-British, I’m warmly for our country doing well and, indeed, far better than at present. I’m not a ‘declinist’ at all- I want to STOP our country declining as I believe Brexit will inevotably cause. As for joining that ‘Global Britian’ fantasy, I cannot see anything ever coming from it.
I do agree the Tories and BJ in particular have tried to define my lot in this false ‘Trumpian’ way, but it’s a con, like so much of what he says. And Politico poll of polls says the Tory lead is 6% not 7.5% and as for personal ratings Johnson has a 50% disapproval rating and badly trails Starmer on qualities like ‘competence’, something he palpably demonstates every Wednesday at PMQs.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
2 years ago

I’m certainly becoming aware of a growing disenchantment with this Tory administration. Not only within the more libertarian columns of the Telegraph but working class folk as well who are increasingly seeing BJ at al as Bolsheviks and Communists no better than the magic money tree columnists of Corbynism.

Of course, Covid-19 has required unprecedented State interventions but these are being increasingly rejected via the covid myth, survival of the fittest narratives, state intrusions into civil liberties and individual choice and the increasing debt burden.

I personally have no idea how I would manage these expectations and these disappointments if I were the PM. So if you can offer some insights I would be very grateful.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
2 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for that. Recently I’ve been framing the politics of repudiation in particular and the politics of decline more generally as the politics of intransigence, but I feel your descriptors are more accurate.

I certainly see both as being fuelled by grief which is then transmuted into different forms of sophistry. However, what I’ve been becoming aware of is what are Progressives seeking to defend. So far it seems to be cultural relativism and positive discrimination for cultural minorities. In other words, they seem to be seeking to entrench a type of multiculturalism that protects cultural relativism and in so doing hoping an aggregate of cultural minorities (however they might be constructed) will surpass and defeat the cultural majority.

This tactic is astute since cultural relativism not only contests the idea of a totalising traditional British culture but knowingly antagonises historical notions of British ethnicity.

This is succinctly highlighted by an European Progressive, in her identification of pressure points. She says, ‘is there a point when one person’s freedom struggle turns into another’s loss? The answer, in a way, is yes. Social status is not just about money but also about hierarchy. When women move up, men do not have to suffer in absolute terms”but relationships change. In this place of friction, conflict and a feeling of loss can emerge. It is this pressure-point populists exploit and try to amplify’.
https://www.socialeurope.eu

In this respect, cultural relativists can push for extended minority rights, antagonise British ethnic sentiments and then claim legitimacy for cultural racism. In other words, by actively creating pressure points, they can then exploit these pressure points with their politics of decline and repudiation.

Clearly what is at stake here, in cultural realist terms, is the protection of a British national culture and identity that is based on traditional values such as manners, the Cardinal Virtues, British history and most contentiously British ethnicity. All of which aggregates into a historical construct of British national identity.

What Progressives seem to be resisting is a type of historical British culture that newcomers must adapt to in order to be progressively accepted into the wider society. Instead, they seek to sustain cultural relativism and in the process distinct foreign national identities that are enclaved outside of British cultural expectations and then from the outside demand that the wider British society adapts to them.

This is of course ironic because whilst on the one hand Progressives seek openness regarding national borders, they simultaneously seek closedness within national borders with distinctly closed cultural boundaries circumscribing foreign national enclaves.

This of course has the long term consequence of decreasing societal trust, decreasing societal cohesion and increasing societal conflict which are then exaggerated and repackaged as the politics of decline and repudiation.

As such, the greatest fear for Progressives is a holistic British culture that awards rights and entitlements on the basis of demonstrating integration, as would be expected in most countries of the world. In effect, Progressives want a country that has no culture which might be described as cultural anarchism in which culturally distinct foreign enclaves have their own set of cultural traditions whilst at the same time, the traditional British culture is systemically cancelled.

However, in their endeavour to create a culturally relativist British State, then British ethnicity surfaces as a form of cultural relativism and deservedly so, since if Pakistani, or Kurdish, Indian or any other national enclaves are entitled to special treatment and privilages that protects their cultural relativism, then why can’t any culturally distinct group do the same, including English ethnicity, Celtic ethnicity or Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. The fact that Progressives resist the cultural relativism of any more indigenous types of ethnicity actively demonstrates unequal treatment and positive discrimination which are then seen as cultural norms of inequality.

In this respect, Progressives cannot really win. Either they accept an integrated version of British culture that expects culturally distinct foreign nationals to integrate in order to be considered equal citizens or they accept cultural relativism and the requirement to demonstrate equal treatment towards all culturally distinct groups. Of course in reality they reject both with the belief that Britain should turn into a cultural sanctuary in which self identifying foreign nationals, self identifying Black identities or hypothetically any self identifying cultural group can extend their cultural diaspora territory and transnational rights.

Therefore, in conclusion, I think it is because of the incoherency of their culturally relativist strategies, whether it is the rejection of national cultural universalism in favour of a transnational cultural relativism or their rejection of cultural relativism for self identifying British/English ethnic groups that leads to their despairing politics of decline and repudiation.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
2 years ago

Interesting. I had to look through some old notes on a workshop about social change and the obstacles were social inertia, diminutive mindset, risk aversion and fragmentation.

Your theory of social change as mediated by interruption or disruption seems to offer a much better explanation of the relationship between continuity and change, especially when the old order is defined in terms of established hierarchies. In this respect, forced interruption can bring a multiplier of unintended consequences which might cause collapse rather than a simple regime change.

Michael Hanegan·TEDxColumbiaUniversity speaks of interruption as social change and then we also have disruptive technologies which may or may not leave established hierarchies in place.

Hierarchies are often a forgotten aspect of modernism, liberalism and the enlightenment in general but as Mary has previously pointed out, they are always there even in the most egalitarian intensive communities.

So I guess the question to always consider is whether the new hierarchy will be better or worse than the old hierarchy despite any irrational traditions that have built up in the shadow of that hierarchy.

This certainly explains my resistance towards Progressivism and the possibility of a Progressive hierarchy.

Jonathan Newham
Jonathan Newham
2 years ago

Couldn’t agree more with this article. I’m not a gym-goer but I do a work out routine at home each day and agree that it helps my mental as well as my physical well-being, so I guess gym weight-training must have an even bigger impact.

juanplewis
juanplewis
2 years ago

I’m middle class as self hatred, but I’m not sure I agree with you on class snobbery about the gym. Maybe because I played rugby as a kid and still have friends who stayed in the game and went to the gym since their teens and they were certainly not working class (I only joined a gym in my forties, before I only did swimming and cycling and some TKD in my teens and early 20s). The anti-gym snobbery I’ve seen was also directed to middle-class gym goers. Not all middle-class guys are chain-smoking intellectuals who spend their nights arguing about Thelonious Monk and Miles Davies.

iain.swan
iain.swan
2 years ago

You’re lucky James, we in Scotland are still waiting for that part of the prelapsarian, pre-Covid world to return , our gyms remain closed tot he great detriment to our or at least my physical and mental well being.

hisenormity
hisenormity
2 years ago

Well, 67% of the electorate voted, 33% did not. We do not know if this group “believe in their country. They are proud of it. And they are proud of their fellow citizens.” We do not know if they are declinist or fierce nationalists or ‘couldn’t give a shit-ists’ . Johnson got support from 43.6% of the 67%, that is about 30% of the total electorate who are “proud of their country” enough to vote. Johnson won in part due to the 33% who can’t be arsed, who are disillusioned, disengaged, distracted. Another 36% voted for somebody else. So, it’s not that BoJo is supported by the majority of the population who are little England flag wavers…the FPTP system and disengagement helped. A lot. For every person who is proud, there is another who wants change and another who probably so pissed off with the whole system.

willstac57
willstac57
2 years ago

“Weight training can improve a person’s mental wellbeing too” but seemingly not yours if, deprived of the opportunity to pick up bits of metal (surely one of the most inane pastimes known to humankind), you rapidly descended into an abyss of alcohol, nicotine and fast food.

“I hadn’t realised quite how much I relied upon the dumbbells and resistance cables for my wellbeing” – Jesus wept, give me a break.

Some people like gyms and some don’t – it’s nothing to do with class, low self-esteem, snobbery or anything else.

georgeguyfolger
georgeguyfolger
2 years ago

“Sometimes, when I read snarky comments about gym-goers, I can detect an element of class hatred lurking behind the words.” Jesus wept. What a leap of logic to suddenly turn this into some kind of Marxist diatribe.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

It struck me as anti-Marxist, seeing as anti-working-class snobbery is a left wing phenomenon these days.

Ray Hall
Ray Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Agreed .

Sean L
Sean L
2 years ago

Johnson cabal are complicit in ‘culture of repudiation’ – Roger Scruton’s term for predicament of West. Last year saw highest annual non-European influx ever. According to Oxford demographer David Coleman indigenous are destined to be a minority by 2066 if not before. Johnson even proposed amnesty for illegals as Mayor. Now he’s inviting 3m Chinese. His opting for Leave was opportunistic. I won’t even mention police state over a ‘cold’ virus presaging something like CCP ‘social credit’ system. Johnson is full-on globalist.