Millennials Have Killed the Glitter Gym

About twenty years ago, I coined the term “Glitter Gym” as a broad term to describe the growing big-box bright-light corporate gyms you see everywhere.

In my 2006 post Glitter and Rust, I said this:

A majority of men and almost all women are only familiar with Glitter gyms. Glitter gyms are workout facilities with bright lights, mirrors, treadmills, and TVs (Ballys, 24 Hour, etc).

At that time I didn’t consider myself a fan of Glitter Gyms, but after I learned how to use machines correctly from the High Intensity Training (HIT) people, I became a fan. Note that most people use the machines incorrectly. The movement is too fast (using momentum) and they pause at the endpoints. If you think machines suck, try slowing down the reps and not pausing at all at the top and bottom of the rep.

Today I belong to two Glitter Gyms. Fitness 19 and LA Fitness. (I quit LA recently, so that will end on May 11th). In the last year, the use of smartphones in the gym has skyrocketed. Not just the cardio area, but everywhere.

People are staring at their phones between exercises. Between sets. Sometimes during the set itself. They are looking at their screens as they walk through the gym. They are taking their $800 smartphones into the saunas. And at LA Fitness, they are engaging with the phone as they walk up and down the stairs.

I once saw a guy in the stretching area with an iPad propped up on some gym equipment so he could watch a program while he stretched. I peeked at the screen to confirm it wasn’t someone demonstrating how to exercise. Unbelievable.

In the title, I blamed Millenials not smartphones. That is because the vast majority of offenders are of that generation. I’m sure all of us Gen X and Baby Boomers have smartphones, but we aren’t glued to them during our workouts. Although I do have a concern that this new behavior will continue to spread and become the new norm for all patrons.

For the record, I only play a podcast when I’m on the elliptical. Once I step off, my phone and headphones return to my pocket for the remainder of the workout. I don’t check anything during my workout. The world can wait.

The downside to all these patrons staring at their screen is nobody is paying attention to their surroundings. Our shared environment becomes less shared and less safe. People take longer and at times when the gym is most crowded, workouts can grind to a halt.

It’s been 9 years since I retired Tales From the Glitter Gym. Maybe it is time to bring it back?

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12 Comments

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  1. Would love to hear more tales from the millennial-glitter-gym! 🙂

    This phone-obsession phenomenon is definitely not exclusive to millennials–they are just more obvious. I’ve seen 60 year olds terrified to set their phone down for 10 minutes for fear of missing ‘something’. I’ve seen oldsters texting at traffic lights as well.

  2. Would love to see more “Tales from the Glitter Gym”. You brought an insight, humor, and eye for detail that “fitness fail” videos can’t match.

    With the rise of video enabled cardio machines I wonder how long it will be until even weight machines have built in video entertainment. I imagine a pull down machine with a video featuring a hot fitness model “coaching” you through the set. If counting reps and cadence is too boring then flip to the “virtual hay bales” you can “lift” into the barn for your effort.

  3. Maybe the future is AR (augmented reality) goggles in the gym? I wonder how that will play out?

  4. Hi,
    John Little has a new book:
    https://www.amazon.com/Time-Savers-Workout-Debunking-Revolutionary-Exercise/dp/1510733302
    https://www.hituni.com/reviews/book-review-time-savers-workout-john-little/
    I have it, I disagree with some of it, NONE of the 3 training routines is classic HIT, but I thought you might be in need of some mental stimulation as books from the HIT crowd are quite rare, and possibly even review it:-)

  5. Ondřej Tureček

    Apr 29, 2019 — 2:29 pm

    And if gym instabimbos bother you, there is always Project Kratos. Most thought out HIT book. Drew Baye is king.

  6. Ondrej,
    What bits of the book do you disagree with? Just asking out of curiosity.

  7. Ondřej Tureček

    Apr 30, 2019 — 1:02 pm

    Stuart Gilbert: Have you read it? I like the first 60% where he lays down the foundations for newbies. (Why not Yoga, running, bodbuilding myths etc.)
    The three workout methods presented probably lead to less wear and tear and achieve the goal, but none of them is simple HIT – controlled set taken to failure. It’s three sets of ten, max pyramid and “one and done” – one looooong rep per set:-) All workouts are essentially big 3 variants which is fine. I would like to see classic HIT protocol present – big 3 or big 5, along with truly no-equipment workout options, although “bodyweight” is there assuming you have a bar and two chairs.
    Sleep strategies should have been discussed shortly and diet chapter is fine, but doesn’t reflect on recent research breakthroughs on satiety regarding unprocessed diets. It’s basically calorie restriction on a balanced diet. Fair enough, but some might opt for whole foods diet without close monitoring of intake. That said, Little mentions Constrained Energy Expenditure model by Pontzer from 2017 – big plus points.
    Overall it was a pleasure to read though. I love this kind of books where author lays down a minimalist resistance training approach based on his own experiments and experience.
    To me the best books are probably Drew Baye’s in terms of how smart are the routines, this Little’s book is more like Body by Science, but written in friendlier language to non-experts, also richer on info on various fitness blind alleys. If someone wanted a “HIT book”, it is between Baye, BBS, Jurgen Giessing’s HIT (pretty cool actually) and this one.
    My negatives are more “Oh, this could have been legendary book I immediately recommend to anyone.” Still anyone in this sphere will enjoy it a lot.

  8. Ondrej,
    It’s on order. I’m waiting for it to arrive. I’ve heard good things about it, but I also heard that the exercise demonstrations and the descriptions are pretty poor. Which h is probably a big negative for a book about exercise.
    I’m also puzzled as to why an anti cardio book would have the picture of what appears to be a runner gracing the front cover.

  9. I was dumbstruck when I returned to 24 hour fitness, it is like a zombie apocalypse. The dry sauna is full of people with headphones and smartphones, all oblivious to other people around them.

  10. @Mitch – “Zombie apocalypse” is the perfect phrase. Instead of brains, they must face their digital screen. And like a zombie movie, it started slow and the infection rate is accelerating.

  11. Ondřej Tureček

    May 1, 2019 — 10:23 am

    Stuart,
    yeah, someone like Drew Baye is more meticulous in explaining individual exercise and the workout as a whole, progressions etc. You sometimes have to read between the lines in this one, but overall you can understand what to do. It lacks the detailed framework of Baye, BBS. That’s why I was puzzled as well, because book mentions single set to failure as evidence based and suddenly first protocol is 3×10, because it’s “traditional”, it “works” etc. The reasoning is to get people used to hard training.
    I can’t help but see “3×10” and “Max Pyramid” as extremely impractical unless you have a Nautilus studio, and the “One and done” seems a bit gimmicky. I get it, wear and tear, low volume bla bla…but three long reps once a week? Should I stop moving as well to “protect my joints”?:-)
    The runner on the cover probably checks his watch (time saver).

  12. Ondřej Tureček

    May 1, 2019 — 10:34 am

    I’m not sure what’s John Little’s formal education in exercise, I believe he was a fitness author and then he opened studio where he conducted very intereting experiments with some advanced equipment for accurate muscle mass gain measurements.
    So in a sense, his conclusions are probably based on solid dataset of clients.
    But I feel like Little falls in love with idea – like joint friendly, infrequent training – and then takes it to extreme that someone like McGuff wouldn’t, because he would be aware of other research as well that sometimes shows moderate activity helps the joints etc. Basically McGuff can look into his library of knowledge and put things in proper context, find a middle ground for the minimal effective dose.
    It’s like Taubes and sugar. For him it’s number one culprit, yet in reality it might be number five and there are other considerations. But…science-journalist. “It’s sugar/insulin…calories don’t matter…”

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