I make no secret my admiration for Jack Lalanne. Before any guru or world title holder, there was Jack. Crowned the “Godfather of Fitness,” Mr. Lalanne first began training at the YMCA in Berekely, California. He opened one of the nation’s first gyms in Oakland, CA in 1936. Initially perceived as not only a fanatic, but a charlatan. Health professionals of the day warned to stay out of his facility. He lived to be 96.

Before there was Jack

Throughout the ancient greek society the gymnasium was one of the most important structures within a city, and over time became institutions of higher learning and social interaction.

In fact, a great deal went on at the gym.

Derived from the word gymnos, or greek for naked, the bluprint of the gymnasium seems to have taken shape somewhere within the 6th century BCE. All follow the same basic floor plan of a large center courtyard surrounded by colonnades and lower lying buildings. As the preeminent sport was wrestling, attached was a Palaestra, or wrestling school.

The ancient greeks learned the connection between mind and body early on and so, a young  boys education would start with attention to health and physical strength. The gym was his school. The gymnastai were his teachers. These ancient personal trainers oversaw every aspect of a students formation.

Below is a pair of ancient dumbbells, called Halteres. They sit in the National Archeological Museum of Athens.


Carved from stone with handles at the top, they were used for helping an athletes long jump. This method is clearly seen depicted on terra cotta pots dating back to the 5th century BCE.

A fascinating culture, the ancient greeks were downright obsessed with the human form. They made it their lifes work, quite literally, to understand tbe body and it’s function.

I have as well.

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