MORE GYM HISTORY

ORIGINS


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The ancient Greeks were a fascinating society. Among numerous reasons, their appreciation of the human form was, and to some, (myself included) still unparrelled.

Part I of my eBook series Inventing Fitness,  Amazon.com begins with the origins of physical fitness universally credited with the ancient Greeks.

“Within the ancient Greek society a fit body represented a fit mind. Exercise was no fad, but Civic duty and gymnasiums institutions of higher learning”


Gym life

No need to get your wallets out, these public buildings were funded by the state, and overseen by Gymnasiarchs. Today we call them General Managers, however, in antiquity they were much more and served in these positions with great honor. As a young boy progressed in age so did his level of training and education. Discipline was essential in the formauon of a future citizen, a soldier, a future leader.

Gym talk

In our 21st century clubs we tend to follow an unwritten rule of avoiding certain topics and conversations, and go about our routines keeping to ourselves. 2500 years ago after generations of legends, young men began to focus on logic, morals, and ethics. They came to discuss important matters and what was on their minds.

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Around the world

  • Basque – Gymnasion
  • Danish – Gym
  • Dutch – Sportschool
  • French – Gym
  • German – Fitnessstudio
  • Italian – Palestra
  • Lithuanian – Sports sale
  • Portugese – Academia
  • Turkish – Jimnastik
  • Swahili – Mazoezi

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ONLY IN SPARTA

HISTORY


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SPARTA

From the eBook series INVENTING FITNESS PART I available on Amazon.com

Spartan

adjective

  •  Marked by strict self discipline or self denial
  • Simplicity, frugality

Boot camp

Today, a new recruit arrives to basic training pretty much having no idea what is in store. A Spartan boy however, would have had a few years preparation and by age 7, sent to the agoge.

Unlike the upscale gyms of Athens, the agoge was the original bootcamp. And still it got worse. Overseen by paidonomous, or “boy hearders,” a basic education was taught. No reciting of Homer. No poetry. Young men were not taught to challenge their minds like Athenians. Here, barefoot and with one set of clothes a young boy was introduced to life.

Today there are many races and workouts all themed with Sparta; however nothing compares to them or their techniques of strength building.


 

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EAT LIKE AN ANCIENT GREEK?

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“Now if you want an onion, just consider what great expense it takes to make it good; You must have cheese and honey, and sesame…to dress it up with; for by itself the onion is bitter and unpleasant to taste.” – 

Much can be told by the type of food one eats. Interestingly enough, onions were fed to Olympian athletes in large quantities. Believing they helped to cleanse their bodies, the ancient greeks in the gymnasiums treated them a sort of detox. Previously worshipped by the Egyptians as a symbol of eternity, the greeks also took to them for strength and soldiers rubbed them on their skin.

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MODERATION

The ancient Greeks had a saying that summed up their overall atittudes.

Meden Agan

“Nothing too much”.  It was inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Delphi, a sacred site a little over a hundered miles northwest of the Capital Athens, was considered the center of the world. If anyone practiced what they preached, surely it was here.

2500 years ago before supersize, this society ate straight from the land and sea. With fish, fruit, and copious amounts of olive oil, evidence shows they ate smaller meals throughout the day. Dinner being the most important. If you were of means, animal proteins were typically saved for special occasions. Although diluted wine was served at breakfast, wine was not meant for excess consumption.

“Though in reality old wine is not only more pleasant, but also better for health;…and being thinner it itself  more digestable;” – 3rd Century BCE poet Alexis

Studies are still out as to the true benefits of red wine, specifically for the heart, but dare we say it surely better than soft drinks? And in moderation, isn’t a fine, aged Cabernet oh so delicious?

Onions, now widely thought of to be an incredibly healthy food are high in antioxidents, or powerful free radical fighting agents.

More on onions

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More and more we try and “clean up” our diets. Rightfully so, too many foods today contain additives, preservatives, and large amounts of ingredients we cannot pronounce. While it can be very confusing keeping up with the newest “discoveries,” two principles remain clear and easy to understand;

  • Moderation
  • Fresh

The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Revised & Updated 3rd Edition, states “Cutting back on fat or switching to healthier fats doesn’t need to be a huge change. Even small changes add up.”  Suggesting more seafood consumption, fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains as well, one can imagine perhaps a late Athenian afternoon, warm breezes off the Agean Sea blowing over a table of terra cotta pots full of freshly picked olives and hardboiled eggs. With honey to dip your cheese in, and lemon to squeeze over lightly seasoned fish. Finishing with a dessert of perfectly ripened and juicy figs, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to think twice about the content of our meals.

And just enjoy.

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For a free copy of my upcoming ebook on ancient greek fitness and diet subscribe by email!

 

 

 

THE GYMNASIUM

History

Nicknamed the “Godfather of Fitness,” Jack 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.

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.

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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.

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For a free copy of my upcoming e-book on ancient gymlife and fitness, subscribe by email!