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by Vinny Galanti
I have met many people over the years through bodybuilding, and the one thing that a majority of us have in common—especially if you are over the age of 30—is the fact that we all started training with weights in the garage. To me, this was an era that has been lost along with “old school” talks. The garage is where my friends and I got together at about 4:00 pm every day after school. We didn’t have any routines. We didn’t follow a set schedule. What we all shared in common was to get big. Really big. But we didn’t have any real idea of what to do (unless you had an older brother or uncle who used to “lift” weights back in the day).
My dad was real cool. He started me off with a 115 lb weight set that we bought from a local sporting goods store up on West Side Avenue. I clearly remember how he would take me there on Saturdays to buy me various weightlifting related accessories. You know, stuff like the Arm Blaster and that attachment that helped you build a big thick neck. I can’t remember what that was called. He even bought me the latest protein powder that was sold in the local health food store. After my friends and I got done lifting, my dad would be just getting home from work. So he’d blend up some of the protein powder with bananas and strawberries for us. It was great.
Recently, I was watching some kids working out in the gym. Their form was bad and their gym etiquette was even worse. Maybe I’m old, but I never remember acting like a jackass while others trained around me. But then again, these kids never had the benefit of training in a garage. We learned to respect the iron. We built a real sense of camaraderie in that old garage. We learned to respect each other even when we were kidding around. We were there for each other. I know you older guys out there know what I’m talking about. In the old days, the second you stepped in a real gym with the big guys, you understood your place. You were there to learn so you were respectful and paid attention. I don’t know, something about training in a garage (or basement) when you first start out somehow instills a seriousness in you. Maybe you don’t even realize it at the time. You don’t realize how you’ve changed until you walk out of the garage and into that real gym for the first time. It’s like, wow
Now back in the day, I’m not saying no one talked about what they did Saturday night. But we kept it short and before training even started. Today though, it’s a whole different story. Today, I’ll be in the middle of a set and two guys will start talking to each other or on their cell phones. And if you look up at them, you are the one who has the problem. Go figure. Yeah, the garage and all that it represents has been lost over the years. Still, there are a lot of younger guys out there who respect the sport and the iron. They understand etiquette and the unwritten rules of the gym. Most of those guys flock right here to Universal USA.
Old school for me started with my time in the garage. I remember the smell of oil from my dad’s taxicab. I remember the loud music that my dad let us play while we lifted. The garage is where it all started for me. It shaped who I was and who I’d become. These days, when I’m having a hard time focusing in the gym, I sometimes let my mind wander back to the days of the garage long before I ever stepped foot inside Billy’s Gym. I’ll never forget my friends horsing around, the smell of the weights, and the feel of the bar. All these years later, my garage is where I got hooked in the first place, where I fell in love.