Dear Virgle Kent,
Since I brought some extra medium t-shirts with me to Colombia one of the first things I did when I arrived in Medellín was ask around for a gym. Sure I want to stay in shape but my goal is part vanity: I remember all the times that girls came up to you and started touching your body like it was a piece of meat and I wouldn’t mind that happening to me. Plus your recent post on gym game got me motivated.
Medellín has a chain of excellent gyms called Body Tech but the membership price is outrageous, something like $120 a month. My meathead dreams dashed, I decided to stick to my normal routine of pushups, pullups, and then a brisk run. (There is a childrens playground two blocks from my place where I can do pullups.)
I went to the stadium for my first run. Each lap around it is 0.44 miles (I measured it using Google Maps), so 7 laps got me to about 3 miles. Afterwards I started walking to the subway station when a shirtless man inside a park off the sidewalk caught my eye. He was doing bench presses. Curious, I walked closer and there it was—a free outdoor gym.
There were two jungle gym apparatuses in the middle for doing pull ups and four concrete benches for chest, two flat and two incline. There were parallel bars for dips and other bars for doing abs. The weights were not weights that you are used to but concrete blocks permanently attached to the bars. Plastic buckets were used as molding and in most cases they’re still attached to the concrete. There are no numbers on them so I have no idea how much they weigh (it’s a matter of feeling them out to see if it’s the proper weight). Most of the bars are long but a couple are shorter for doing bicep curls or chest flys.
I started working out immediately. Alongside me were five other guys who I wouldn’t want to be caught with in a dark alley at night. They had menacing looks and wouldn’t stop staring at my obvious gringo appearance, and I’m sure they wondered why I didn’t go to a real gym since I’m probably rich. Little do they know I’m in the same boat as them.
I’m so used to proper machines that besides the most basic exercises I didn’t know what to do. So I watched the guys, who were very creative with how to use the equipment. I didn’t know there were so many different ways of doing pull ups. You would probably laugh at their technique though—actually they had no technique because they’d do one set of something, then they do something completely different, and then something different. They were mixing chest and back exercises. But they were cut as fuck. Not really huge like you but extremely ripped. I copied them.
This past Sunday was my fourth visit.
The ground is dirt and since May is the rainiest month in Medellín there is mud in certain spots. There is no water fountain obviously but an old guy comes every half-hour to sell small bags of water for a quarter. During sporting events at the stadium a third of the gym doubles as a parking lot. One time I worked on the incline about four feet from a Peugot while this guy’s dog was rubbing up against my leg. Some of the lifting bars are bent and without soft padding I can see callouses develop in real time. It feels like working out in a prison gym. I’m out in the yard keeping my eye out for the the guy who wants shank me in the ribs. I haven’t been shanked but I have had my water bottle stolen twice.
When I do chest flys I have to breathe through my nose because when I tap the bars at the top dirt falls right down on my mouth. Have you done bench presses on a concrete bench before? It fucks up your clavicles. I have two red spots on my back that don’t seem to be going away. Nonetheless I feel like a man. I wish you were with me in this gym so you could feel more manlier than normal as well.
When I come back I’m going to be so strong that I will want to start fights in the bars with the nerds who accidentally bump into me. I’ll only do it when you’re right there though so you can get my back. Thanks bro.
If you liked this post then I think you will like my travel memoir A Dead Bat In Paraguay, about when I quit my job and sold my stuff to try and bang my way across South America. It contains my experiences with South American women and the struggles that crushed me both mentally and physically. Called "refreshing." "honest," and "inspiring," A Dead Bat In Paraguay is available in both eBook and paperback. Check out the homepage to watch the introductory video, read exerpts, or learn more about what's inside.