Why you can’t escape politics — even at the gym
By Ian Bremmer Too much travel is an occupational hazard with trying to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I try to maintain sanity by hitting the gym every morning. But I’ve discovered there’s a political angle even to workout arrangements. In Tokyo recently, I was bemused by the fact that the ...
By Ian Bremmer
By Ian Bremmer
Too much travel is an occupational hazard with trying to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I try to maintain sanity by hitting the gym every morning. But I’ve discovered there’s a political angle even to workout arrangements.
In Tokyo recently, I was bemused by the fact that the cybex machines have kilogram stack weights … but the incremental weights on the side of the machines are in pounds. It’s like American car manufacturers selling left-hand drive to Japan for decades. We just don’t care that much.
The gym at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel is quite small (essentially one hollowed out hotel suite), but it has extraordinary efficiency. There are easily 10 folks working out there every morning, a number that wouldn’t work well in a space twice that big in New York … but I never felt particularly cramped. On the other hand, maximum dumbbell weight is pretty low — about 40 pounds. That works for me, but some of my beefy American contingent seemed disappointed, since it’s usually 60-100 depending on where you travel.
The exception is in Saudi Arabia, where my hotel in Riyadh had an astounding gym … and otherworldly dumbbells maxing out at 200 pounds. You have to think it’s all that sublimation going into the workout. After all, you can hardly think about the women that aren’t at the gym when you’re lifting 200 pounds in each hand.
Of all the countries I’ve traveled, I have to say that the Netherlands has the most balance of gym offerings. Most gyms follow basic American sensibility–treadmills, a few bikes, and major muscle groups (lots of abs, lots of chest, some leg stuff). At the Hilton just outside downtown Amsterdam, it was rowing machines upon rowing machines (have to prep for the floods), lots and lots of cycles (after all, they’re free outside), one chest press and not an ab machine in sight. Instead, there were specialized weight machines focused on abstruse muscle groups, machines I’ve never seen before. Apparently the Dutch take a more holistic approach to working out–they’re not just trying to impress. Or maybe they’re extraordinarily detail oriented. I’ll have to think some more about that…
Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. He is also the host of the television show GZERO World With Ian Bremmer. Twitter: @ianbremmer
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