Updated: Feb 21, 2019
As I outline here on my site, I am passionate about all aspect of fitness.
As well as continually learning on a daily basis from my clients and from the execution of my work, I am also an avid reader of any material related to integrated fitness training and always look forward learning more from those experts who also have this passion for fitness training, some of whom have undertaken their own investigations and research into new approaches to fitness training.
One such study, The Temple of Perfection, by Eric Chaline (below), will be published in March 2015, follows the development of the gymnasium, from 2,800 years ago to the modern era, and outlines how the fitness industry attempts to redefine itself today.
It is a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in fitness training and how to benefit from the modern gymnasium environment.
The Temple of Perfection: A History of the Gym (Eric Chaline):
In the UK, one in ten go to a gym on a regular basis, and many more promise themselves that they will soon join them.
The gym is the Western world’s fastest growing ‘cult’, with new ‘converts’ working out with the regularity and zeal that our forebears once reserved for religious observance.
Though the gym is now seen as an emblem of modernity, its origins date back 2,800 years to the beginnings of Western civilisation. In charting the gym’s long history, Eric Chaline explores its enduring appeal and growing popularity.
Despite its significance, the gym’s complex, layered history and its influence on the development of Western individualism, society, education and politics has not been properly considered. In The Temple of Perfection, Chaline examines how the care of the body has been based on a complex mix of spiritual beliefs, moral discipline and aesthetic ideals, which have served to expose the fault lines of political, social and sexual power.
Today, training in a gym is seen primarily as part of the pursuit of individual fulfilment, but the gym has always had a secondary role in creating men and women who are ‘fit for purpose’ – but exactly for what and whose purpose? During its several incarnations, the gym has been the stage where the interests of the individual, the nation-state, the media, and the corporate world intersect, sometimes with unintended consequences.
Although at first glance the gym may look like a place where the self-obsessed pursue the superficial ideal of physical perfection, Chaline argues that it has always been one of the principal battlefields of humanity’s social, sexual and cultural wars.
Chaline concludes with a discussion of the future of the gym industry as it struggles to redefine itself in an increasingly obese, inactive world enthralled by the promise of plastic surgery quick fixes and pharmaceutical magic bullets to attain physical fitness and beauty.
Ultimately he reveals how the history of the gym is also a history of the human body: its real and idealized forms, artistic representation, and public and private presentation. Even though the book might not make us join a gym, it will change the way we think about the gym, our bodies and our attitudes to fitness.