The Fitness Revolution And America’s Class Struggle

Mickey Z

Mickey Z

Some 35 years ago—during the pre-Stairmaster days of yore when your standard gym looked more like a cave than Studio 54—Arnold may have already been Mr. Olympia several times over but there probably weren’t more than a couple of dozen people who could pronounce “Schwarzenegger” on the first try.

Let’s face it, when Bobby Fischer was the nation’s athletic ideal, it was clearly time for a fitness revolution.

Fast-forward to the twenty-first century and a health club on every corner. This time around the revolution was televised and joining a gym has become a post-modern rite of passage. You plunk down the plastic and get introduced to a “personal trainer.”

Welcome to my world…

An upscale health club is one place where the different classes meet and mingle. Any personal trainer worth his or her supplements craves an elite clientele. Conversely, their well-heeled customers dream of wielding their buff buns and ripped deltoids like post-modern status symbols.

Trainers and clients are often from different worlds … sometimes at odds but frequently in synch. Their relationships are a complex and unique offshoot of a society in which an elite percentile of Americans own wealth equal to, say, the bottom 95 percent.

But in the gym, you can’t use your stock portfolio to get through a tough set of lunges…that’s what us trainers are for.

An excellent example of the gap between this particular trainer and some of my clients occurred during the early days of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath:

I’ve got a female client on the elliptical machine, the TV is blaring, and all eyes are transfixed on the horrendous but predictable images of official indifference.

Staring at a poor black family as they wade through chest-deep water, my client blurts out: “I don’t understand. Why didn’t they just leave?”

There was just enough smugness in her voice to irritate me but I stayed calm, replying: “Most of them couldn’t leave.”

Unconvinced, she declared: “I would’ve gotten in my car and gone to stay in a hotel or something.”

I swallowed deeply. “These people are very poor.”

“I know, but why would you stay there if you know a hurricane is coming?”

Before I could respond, someone walked into the gym and broke the tension.

We went on with our workout while the people in New Orleans went on wading.

Adapted from Personal Trainer Diaries: Making the Affluent Sweat Since the 1980s by Mickey Z, available now as an ebook for only $4.99. From hanging with Arnold, Sly, Fabio, Tyson, and Bianca Jagger in the go-go ’80s right up to training today’s ever-growing training market, Mickey Z. has witnessed firsthand the evolution of a fitness revolution. He’s also the author of the disinformation book 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed To Know.

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  • Clowns are nice… Really.

    Where’s the punch line… I waiting for it.

  • Clowns are nice… Really.

    Where’s the punch line… I waiting for it.

  • Deeeeeeez

    This was a dumb ass post

  • Deeeeeeez

    This was a dumb ass post

  • Anonymous

    What was this? Did the site get hacked?

  • Investinourftre

    What was this? Did the site get hacked?

  • Rex Vestri

    Not.worth.reading.

  • Rex Vestri

    Not.worth.reading.

  • Anonymous

    All that flexing about being a personal trainer just to say “some people are insensitive and selfish”.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    All that flexing about being a personal trainer just to say “some people are insensitive and selfish”.

  • grooveboss

    yeah this was lame

  • grooveboss

    yeah this was lame

  • Oneiric Imperium

    You know whats funny is that I’m at work right now on a head set selling gym memberships. I have never set foot in a gym and if people tell me they go to a gym I immediately take whatever they say less seriously.Unless they’re super into martial arts.

  • Oneiric Imperium

    You know whats funny is that I’m at work right now on a head set selling gym memberships. I have never set foot in a gym and if people tell me they go to a gym I immediately take whatever they say less seriously.Unless they’re super into martial arts.

  • L F Hale

    I’m astounded at the uniform negativity of the comments
    here.  Are you folks the enforcement
    officers for some obscure law somewhere dictating that fitness professionals
    are not allowed to have a sense of social responsibility?  Mickey Z should be applauded for holding up
    the female client’s callousness, her ignorance of what the poor have to deal
    with, and her inability to empathize as symptoms of the emotional poverty which
    is epidemic in our society and which results in the seemingly “dumb
    ass,” compassionless response by too many of blaming those who suffer—as a
    result of their defenselessness—for their victimization.  Such a response isn’t evidence of
    “toughness” but of weakness and cowardice.

    You kids have a lot to learn.  Go do your homework!

    http://www.disinfo.com/2011/01/study-finds-fast-increasing-empathy-deficit-among-young-adults/

    You kids have a lot to learn.  Go do your homework!

    http://www.disinfo.com/2011/01/study-finds-fast-increasing-empathy-deficit-among-young-adults/

  • L F Hale

    I’m astounded at the uniform negativity of the comments
    here.  Are you folks the enforcement
    officers for some obscure law somewhere dictating that fitness professionals
    are not allowed to have a sense of social responsibility?  Mickey Z should be applauded for holding up
    the female client’s callousness, her ignorance of what the poor have to deal
    with, and her inability to empathize as symptoms of the emotional poverty which
    is epidemic in our society and which results in the seemingly “dumb
    ass,” compassionless response by too many of blaming those who suffer—as a
    result of their defenselessness—for their victimization.  Such a response isn’t evidence of
    “toughness” but of weakness and cowardice.

    You kids have a lot to learn.  Go do your homework!

    http://disinfo.com/2011/01/study-finds-fast-increasing-empathy-deficit-among-young-adults/

    You kids have a lot to learn.  Go do your homework!

    http://disinfo.com/2011/01/study-finds-fast-increasing-empathy-deficit-among-young-adults/