weight lifting in mammoth lakes

This article is written with a bit of sarcasm, and may offend some readers.
The author, in his super-bro sunglasses, doing too-high kettlebell swings in Two Harbors, Catalina, a few years back.

Like any minority community, weight lifters live persecuted and scared lives. We are referred to as meatheads, invited over only to help move couches, and in some “fitness facilities” we are actively discriminated against. But hey, that’s cool bro. If I was some puny little dweeb that couldn’t deadlift 400+, I’d probably want to persecute me too. To quote Mark Rippetoe:

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.

So when we moved up here to Mammoth I realized that there were two choices: The Body Shop and Snowcreek Athletic Club. There’s usually a fairly big cut line between “gyms” and “athletic clubs”; let me break it down for you. There are other types of fitness facilities, but these two classes are common:

A gym:

  • Usually cheap. You’ll hear people bragging about how it’s only $20/month or whatever.
  • Generally full of clowns bicep curling in front of the mirrors.
  • Conspicuously lacking anyone who’s really strong.   Let’s say that “strong” means you can overhead press your own bodyweight.
  • Lots of “lifting gloves”.
  • Packed, crowded, dirty, and usually not with any other real amenities.

An athletic club:

  • Generally more expensive. $100/month is pretty normal.
  • Still full of clowns bicep curling in front of the mirrors, still with “lifting gloves”, and still probably not a lot of really strong people. But there will be a few strong folks.
  • Generally has more fitness gear to pick from. More squat racks. Fancier machines (generally keeping the weaklings off the barbells, which is great). More ellipticals and crap like that to also keep the Cardio Princes and Princesses off the barbells.
  • Saunas, nice lockers, nice showers, swimming pools, places to eat and grab a bite, and nice little touches like hair dryers and shaving gear.

Perhaps one of the biggest things you’re buying with an athletic club membership is just that: a club membership. The community and culture of a gym is generally absolute shit, as where the people in an athletic club while not necessarily a better “class” of people tend to have their act together. They care a little more. They tend to be older and more professional. The treat the place like something they’re paying good money for.

The front entrance to the Snow Creek Athletic Club. Looks a little nicer than some dump 24 Hour fitness clone, right?

Snowcreek also has a racquetball court. Multiple trampolines with actual no-kidding trampoline progression. Martial arts. Yoga. Dance. Kick boxing. Zumba (sigh). Tennis courts. Kids programs.

So when you brag about your dump-of-a-gym $20/month membership and laugh at my $160/month family membership to Snowcreek, I challenge you on the math and on the results.

That hefty price tag is for two adults and two kids. Our kids can attend classes, for free. I go roughly five days a week. Charlotte goes at least a few. So for the roughly 34 times a month we go, we pay about $4.50 an hour. Pretty dirt cheap for everything we get. I’m a huge fitness guy, sipping my IPA, and I’ll frequently tell folks that you either spend time and money to be healthy or you spend time and money to be sick later. You still may get sick, but odds are that you’ll be healthy and able to do more with your life for a longer period of time.

What’s the main thing keeping people from snowboarding, backpacking, and mountain biking? A base of fitness. Fit and healthy, you can walk into pretty much any sport and achieve novice level competency in a shockingly quick amount of time: what a nice way to live.

So I was inclined towards Snowcreek Athletic Club, but after going for a week I feel that I made the right decision. Let me show you around.

This looks like hell to anyone who isn’t into strength training. For the community of weight lifters, an empty room with a cage, chalk marks, and some plyo boxes is gold.

So basically there are three rooms you need to concern yourself with. First, there’s the “box”, which I don’t really know if it has a name, but it’s the classic empty room with a bunch of gadgets, a power cage, and some plyo boxes.

The gadgets in the box room. Kettlebells, bands, an ab wheel, some balls (lol), balance board, medicine balls, some stupid ab thing from the 80’s, etc.

I don’t know when everyone goes to the gym, but around 8am it’s pretty much a ghost town. There’s maybe two or three other dudes in there all of which are, you guessed it, curling in front of the mirrors. God bless them.

The squat rack in the box room. The bar is a old and smooth, and the floor is a bit spongy but loaded up it compresses well enough under your feet that I don’t really feel it. A year from now I’m asking to have a wood base put in.

I spend pretty much my whole time in the box. It’s where I feel most comfortable, and you can move around and exercise, as opposed to whatever the hell is going on with all those machines in the other rooms.

Room number two. I show off the second of the two squat racks in the gym. To the left out of focus are dumbbell racks. To the right you’ll note a gentleman texting while sitting on the bench. At least no “lifting gloves”. Room three beyond it there in the next door frame.

There might be four rooms, I can’t really tell. There are so many frigging machines it’s like walking through a robot factory. But I noticed the chalk on the floor, and the locked up bin of some heavy-ass-lifter’s gear and it made me wonder: I bet there’s a glute ham machine in this joint.

Some dude’s private stash of gear, all locked up. I saw a chain belt in the unlocked one and let it be. Note the chalk scattered about: this makes me happy.

The glute ham raise (GHR) is pretty much the only machine that anyone should use, except for lawn mowers, snow blowers, drills, and saws. Sadly lacking in almost every gym in the nation, it rocks the posterior chain and makes you strong like bull. But given that there must be a power lifter lurking somewhere near this gym, I wondered: maybe a miracle happened and a GHR is here.

Holy crap, a GHR. Note the chalked grips.

Not only is a GHR here at Snowcreek, but it’s not the powder coated white of every other machine meaning that it was specifically ordered by someone.

Mammoth truly is a fitness freak’s paradise. Trails to run on. Trails to ride bikes on. Trails to cross country ski. Mountains to ski and board down. Lakes to paddleboard and (if you’re crazy) swim in. Mountains to climb. And now I can positively prove that there is a legit strength training facility to help you take advantage of all of it.

Mammoth Lakes, so far I’m pretty much in love with you.