A Happy Return To A Healthy Culture
by Mark Cammack June 22, 2019
A Moment In Time - The Trap
Above is a scene from the 1946 movie The Trap. Sidney Toler does a fine job of playing detective Charlie Chan. One man is introduced as a physiotherapist in charge of diet and general physical culture. This was common for the time period. Notice that they are tidy in appearance and courteous as part of a positive lifestyle.
Three Young Ladies With Weights, a photo from the Cammack Family archives. These were my father's friends who came by to try out the exercise equipment at his home gym. Circa 1940's.
The golden days of mind, body, and health development were heavenly according to some. Imagine what it would be like to be there. Principles of both exercise and ethics exist. It is fun to meet good people and improve well-being, strength, and enjoyment of life. The overriding goal is to not to compete against each other, but rather to help each other. This sharing of skills and positivity makes for a unique happy experience. Let's do a bit of time travel.
Common terms from early on included physical culture or health culture and can be seen in literature beginning in the 1800's. The philosophy is not limited to just physical exercise, but rather considered a healthy way of life. Many of the concepts, styles of movement, and unique gymnastics originated in Germany and then came to the United States. To do these properly requires awareness of body, mind, and environment. The ideal is to be a completely developed person. An emphasis is on having a good mind, heart, and manners rather than just muscle. In short, those held in highest esteem were and are fine human beings.
The foundation stone says MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO, NEW YORK TURN-VEREIN, MAY 1898. The Latin translates to A healthy mind in a healthy body. Development of both the mind and body is important. Turn-Verein or Turnverein is German for gymnastics club.
Turn Halle, a physical culture gym on Lexington Avenue and 85th Street, New York City, New York. The photo is from approximately the year 1900.
The general Turn Halle or gymnastics and training hall consisted of functional, strong, and effective exercise devices that agreed with nature. Initially gyms had equipment such as parallel dipping bars, early barbells, dumbbells, blocks for balancing or one-legged deep knee bends, gymnastic hanging rings, etc.
Man performing one leg block exercises. The movement is similar to a one leg squat yet requires greater balance. Notice that the right foot is not flat which also works the calf muscles. Photo is from about 1920.
A few indoor and outdoor gyms with weights could be noticed in the 1930's and 1940's. Many originated in California. Jack LaLanne's health club opened in 1936 in Oakland. He helped humanity with his expertise and enthusiasm. Some fine fitness clubs and health spas began emerging to a greater degree in the latter 1940's through 1960's. Vic Tanny's was in Santa Monica. Talented Joe Gold welded his own bodybuilding equipment in 1965. He masterfully created the original Gold's Gym at Venice Beach.
"You can't separate the mind and body" - Jack LaLanne
Jack LaLanne is regarded as opening the first health club in Oakland, California in 1936. He understood what it means to be a complete person and how to have a good life by assisting others. Photo is from 1961.
Enthusiasts also trained with exercise equipment in their home gyms. It was a joy to have true U.S.A. made York barbell and dumbbell sets. My father and I liked using that equipment until 1985 (through owner Bob Hoffman's lifetime). This was before the business changed hands and items were made in other countries. Remember old is gold. The original top grade pieces, especially from the 1940's to 1970's, are wonderful. The high quality cast iron barbell plates from those eras can ring like a bell when tapped.
Eleiko Barbell from Sweden was and is one of the finest manufacturers of all time. It was the dream of many-a-youth to be able to save up enough money to purchase an Eleiko set. People doing basic fitness or bodybuilding movements could do quite well with a quality exercise set from different companies (with a one inch thick and five to six foot long solid steel bar). The Olympic style weightlifters enjoyed the Olympic sets with the seven foot long bar and rotating sleeves. This brand became popular with powerlifters also. The exquisite Swedish Eleiko is still at the top of the game. The company has continued to maintain high standards, precision engineering, and quality metallurgy.
Man preparing to lift with an outstanding Eleiko Barbell.
Some people I met also came from California. I will always remember weightlifter Dr. Carlin Venus of Thousand Oaks. Although I was just a young person with questions at the time, he freely talked with me like I was a friend. He spoke wisely about exercise, health, nutrition, and using the brain properly. Statements such as The mind is your greatest asset and The mind is the most powerful thing you have! were common. He meant that for any of us, when properly utilized, how and what we think can bring positive and sometimes incredible results.
When Vince Gironda of Vince's Gym of North Hollywood was out of a nutritional supplement, he was thoughtful. He told me who to call to get high quality lysine and said,"Tell them I sent you!" Vince cared more about what I needed rather than waiting to get the item so that he could make a profit. I received a box of bottles of the amino acid at near wholesale. Both Carlin Venus and Vince Gironda were altruistic, helpful, and sincere.
Those who wanted to improve their minds and bodies learned from knowledgeable others, books, and their own experience. They congregated at places like the original Muscle Beach in California which began in 1934 and lasted until 1959. Participants increasingly performed adagio exercise (two or more person acrobatics), and had dumbbells and barbells on the sand. Adagio was not just for improving strength, balance, and health. People doing this learned to work well as a group as timing and safety required it. The entire experience of being with like-minded others with positive ideas and goals provided an excellent social outlet.
A small number deviated from the ideal. News reports usually focus on the negative. This led to misconceptions generalizing to all physical culturists as well as weightlifters and bodybuilders. Other false beliefs that still persist are that persons who exercise with weights are less than intelligent or will get musclebound. In general, the opposite is true. A knowledge of anatomy, physiology, nutrition, psychology, basic physics, and more is required to perform well or assist others successfully. Flexibility requires training just like anything else. Being smart means taking care of your mind and body.
A professional person in the role of a Physical Culturist worked with the public, health spas, and even movie studios (this is similar to what the late Vince Gironda did). An air of camaraderie existed and experimenting with various techniques and programs was ongoing. Everything was a test and a quest. This included how each person reacted to specific exercises, nutrition, their unique biochemistry and psychology, and positive lifestyle changes. The philosophy of existing to help each other and make the world a better place led to positive outcomes.
"The more you know about working out, the less equipment you need" - Vince Gironda
Bodybuilding and sports training with weights kept increasing in popularity in the 1950's and 1960's. We saw greater numbers of incline and decline benches, pulleys, and simple machines such as the leg press and calf raise devices. While there was some increase in variety, training was still relatively simple. The basics worked and worked well. Then some companies and marketers saw profit potential in selling attention-grabbing equipment. The new highly touted machines were often shiny, at least in part, and usually enormous. They were nicknamed chrome and foam due to being dazzling works of art that looked great but did not always feel right. By marketing a huge glitzy device, more profit was made than with the smaller yet effective gym equipment. This is not physical culture, it is corporate culture.
In the past and even today, some exercise machines sold to health clubs based on looks and not bioindividual motion have the potential to lead to unwanted outcomes. A person's arms or legs may be locked into an unhealthy position or range of motion. Exercising against nature may feel unnatural and can result in injury. In many ways this is the opposite of exercising with dumbbells, which moves with each persons natural paths of motion. Experienced equipment builders with a background in exercise can make devices that are useful and reasonably adjust to the individual. Certain machines may be helpful if someone is training around an injury or is in physical therapy. This is not the same as using dumbbells, but is far better than an exerciser being forced to conform to a device. It is not only about what looks good but also what is engineered properly and works well.
Those who run the genuine health clubs put their hearts into a healthy lifestyle. These individuals often have decades of experience and knowledge. They understand training, nutrition, the mind, and truly care about people. They know the difference between a splashy sales environment and one of sound exercise, health, community, and results. There is no fast talk or pressure, only a warm welcome. Any gym fees will be openly posted for everyone to see. Good values and standards are maintained.
As our journey continues, the marketers then saw profit potential in selling fitness certifications, often to eager young folks. They sometimes promoted the gaining of a position of expertise without experience. It is not possible to do this. Even some of the more respectable organizations tended not to teach or match the experience and evidence regarding result producing nutrition.
Certificates have perceived value. They do not always accurately represent the ability to obtain quality results. You cannot buy experience.
The appeal and outcome can work like this for some of these outfits:
We will use the invented names Phony Fitness Institute for the company and John Trustful as the respondent. The business advertises to reach those interested in exercise. The CEO Sammy Scammer asks,”Would you like to make more money?” The hook is often an appeal to greed or need in the form of income or status. When John responds for information he may receive more advertising and be placed on mailing lists. He can be encouraged to contact a representative to help him. In reality, John is going to be sold as much as possible. His helper is really a salesperson referred to as Ricky Ripoff. He may praise John and compare John's knowledge to professionals such as physical therapists or doctors. Poor John may have never heard such 'encouragement' before. The company is paid, some studies are done, and a questionable certificate issued.
When I encountered Ricky, he stated,”I know a trainer who is making half a million dollars a year.” I challenged him with,”Where is the evidence for that?” He responded,”I can send you a copy of the check.” The proof never arrived even after I contacted him again for it.
We may refer to one of the frustrated Super Fitness Trainers as Misled Mandy. She said she could not lose body fat. Mandy claimed to have followed the course manual. She asked Ricky what would work. He did not provide a solution. He dodged the question with,“If you are too perfect you might intimidate some of the clients.” He then told others,”You had better be in top shape to get any clients.”
Ricky Ripoff next proclaimed that anyone who obtained a certificate could work with chiropractors under their professional license. He told students to buy an additional course for the secrets to this. I asked an established chiropractor about it. He replied that someone with only a certificate would not work under his license. He said it would be questionable to do so. Ricky was full of more than hot air.
Regarding the health and sports food industry, read the current product labels. See how much sugar is added. Refined white sugar is not part of health culture. One well-known fitness person has cookies named after them. They lowered the food fat content and claimed lower calories. The cookies are high sugar. They know better than that.
The original health culture is an entire philosophy and lifestyle for development as a human being. It is not extremist in any regard. It works with nature. A few began taking limited parts of the whole. They promoted these parts as being complete. Some built only muscle, others focused on physical strength, and many followed either nutrition or fads. There were those who believed in character development but did not specifically exercise their minds or bodies. Then programs began so that individuals could feel better about themselves without actually improving. Underachieving students were passed in schools. Health clubs surfaced that encouraged mediocrity and did away with the dedicated. All of this is an illusion. Just like the movie we started with, it is The Trap some never get out of. To reach any worthwhile goal in life requires persistence, a good environment, and preferably supportive community or culture. To be a complete human being requires a complete life. This is what the original health culture advocated.
Fortunately, there are still persons and places that endorse values. A focus on health, happiness, exercise, and a family-like community can still exist. A healthy culture cares about people. It is honest and pursues the common good. It strives to bring wellness and healing to those that need it, and strength to those that choose to develop it. That is person building.
Today, what we have is what we create. We started our journey with quality people, insightful books, and testing what works. We gained experience. We lived it. Any knowledge or skill that we have is only good if we do good with it. Let's make the world a better place.
Physical Culture Theater image is a derived work created by author. It is based on art from the public domain book Encyklopädisches Handbuch des gesamten Turnwesens und der verwandten Gebiete. Dr. Karl Euler. Wien und Leipzig, 1895. Verlag von Bischler Bitwe & Sohn. Encyklopädisches Handbuch des gesamten Turnwesens at archive.org
The 1946 movie The Trap film clip is from public domain. The Trap at wikipedia.org
Three Young Ladies With Weights is a photo © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. From the Cammack Family archives.
The derived works New York Turn-Verein foundation stone and Turn Halle photos are based on ones from the public domain book: 1859. 1900. Zur feier des funfzigjährigen jubilaums des New York turn vereins in der New York turn-halle, 3. bis 6. juni 1900. New York Turn Verein at archive.org
Derived work with photo of man performing one leg block exercise is based on original from the public domain book: Block Work For Leg Development in Physical Training, Muller, Anton H. Director of Physical Activities for the Allen-Stevenson School. Published by the Senior Club of the Allen-Stevenson School, New York City, 1920. Block Work For Leg Development in Physical Training at archive.org
Jack LaLanne color photo is a derived work © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. The original work is from this public domain source:
Jack LaLanne at wikimedia.org
Photo of man preparing to lift Eleiko barbell is a derived work © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. It is from public domain courtesy of: The United States Air Force and Airman 1st Class Alyssa Van Hook.
Phony Fitness Institute certificate image is a work created by author © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. A provided base image was used from the public domain from Debi Brady: deMysticWay at pixabay.com
Edited for enhanced user experience August 3 and 9, 2019.
© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.