Take one rather shy young man – 15yo, 16? – in need of a bit more muscle. ‘Slimmer’ boy pix to open with. There’s quite a few of them here at the centre despite European schools all being back in session – I guess not every country has the same rigorous rules about term-time vacations as our UK does! He ventures into the ‘family-side’ gym in loose-fitting trackies – the temperature here already 25C, but he is obviously conscious of being a bit skinny. He nervously toys inexpertly with some dumbbells, which attracts my attention through the office window. At this point, no-one else is in the gym, so he fingers several pieces of apparatus thoughtfully. This is a boy who desperately wants to get into weights and training, but doesn’t know where to begin. And I don’t want to scare him off.
I’m wondering whether he will understand English – you never know, here. Still mainly a Russian, eastern European and Scandie clientele. At that point two rather brash guys enter, talking loudly in – I think – Polish. I’ve seen them earlier with two very tanned girls, so they are probably soaking up the sun. These guys are already shirtless: I sense that the first boy is intimidated and he makes for the exit. Time to make my move.
‘Can I help you with some easy exercises?’ He looks alarmed, but doesn’t say ‘Nyet’. I point to the pull-down machine and set him up with a very light weight, which he pulls down with no effort at all. I tell him he’s stronger than I expected, and increase the weight. I do a few reps and make it look a bit harder than it actually is. He relaxes, so I ask if he’s new to weights. ‘Da‘. He warms to his task – literally – so I suggest he takes his sweat top off. Underneath – a tee-shirt and a vest. No wonder he’s hot. He looks across at the other two guys, sweating in just their briefs. I, inevitably since I am in the gym, am just wearing my ‘staff’ shorts. He removes the tee as well, and I can see that he is not so spindly as he seems to think he is.
Several more people arrive, including a couple of girls in bikini-style workout gear. That seems to bother him, but I keep him occupied. The two sweaty guys leave. I tell him he’s doing really well – how about trying some dumbbell exercises now? Shoulder press with me supporting behind him – that’s my job here, after all. I suggest he gets rid of the vest so he can watch his muscles working and his ‘form’ in the mirrors. Reluctantly, he does.
Another slim young man arrives. He’s been a couple of times before but is also new to weights I think. He walks over and asks in awkward English if he can join in to get the benefit of the (alleged) professional advice I’m giving the first guy. The first guy is now confident enough not to object – in fact, they shake hands and exchange a few words in whatever language it is – I later discover that it is actually Bulgarian. Second guy’s shirt comes off straight away, maybe inspired by the first. Or by me, even.
Fast-forward four days. The two are inseparable. In the gym they arrive shirtless and in just briefs. They go from gym to sauna, sauna to pool, pool to restaurant. They go together on the bus shuttle to the beach. Sun tans developing nicely.
I hear that they live just 30km apart and have vowed to join the same gym for regular sessions together. They’re not school students, as it turns out: one is about to begin work as a motor mechanic, the other is looking for work. They’re happy, I’m happy. Job done. More happy lifters in the world! And maybe the motor garage has room for another employee.
As I often say, ‘lifting’ is so much more fun with a friend, or two…
Once you’ve developed that little bit of extra strength, then you and your new-found friend(s) can try things together (pity we can’t see more of the handstand here):
…and hopefully you won’t need to read a book of instructions while doing ‘tricks’ together…
…but, if you do want to read between ‘sets’ or tricks, here are some suggestions:
The first three cover gay love, a love of acrobatics, circus adventures and other misadventures: the final one is a new story and coming soon: – cast out from his community, a gay native American boy and his spirit guide embark on a life-changing journey. Pre-order from your bookseller by quoting ISBN 978-1-784653-23-1 [Vanguard Press]).
Now back to the ‘lifters’ pictures! And the results of just lifting your own bodyweight can be pretty dramatic – and draw in the crowds, too:
Even those who for some reason train in a shirt are still happy to lift it for a good picture:
As for this final guy for today – c’mon – a bit higher, please…
…nice smooth bicep, though!