Pump Room

Lifting weights in the armpit of Vinohrady

Kulturistický Sportovní Klub
Polská 1, Prague 2
Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and holidays
Tel: 222 254 455

The Kulturistický Sportovní Klub stinks. It reeks of perspiration and body odor. It smells of armpits and crotches and that sweaty patch of skin behind the knee. The walls are lined with ‘80s-vintage fitness photographs, and the manager is a freakish female bodybuilder who barks at the patrons, asking them whether they’ve brought her any new porn. She wears tremendous glasses and has a horrifying mole on the side of her neck.

You don’t go to this fitness center for the social scene. At least I don’t. I value the anonymity of the place, making use of the utilitarian weights and machines without any inclination to form one of those strange anomalies of working out, gym friendships. Though it is sometimes rewarding (in a purely anthropological sense) to walk out of the locker room and grunt “čau” and have a pack of Neanderthals grunt it back at me, I leave it at that.

And Neanderthals are what most of these men are. If you want to know why men sometimes get a less-than-honorable reputation, go to my gym, hit the weights, and observe. The place is full of mullet-headed men pulling heavy weights incorrectly, vaingloriously, ridiculously. Some huddle between sets around the obelisk-like machines, hurling insults at each other and doing much more posturing than exercising. Others – mostly sheepish young men – gather in mute pairs, their workout wear hanging loosely off their gangly frames, looking on as their partners go through their repetitions.

This is all strangely liberating. I’m not tempted to talk to anybody here, so I can concentrate. I put on my headphones (Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, Appetite for Destruction-era Guns N’ Roses) and push myself hard, egged on by the loud music and a sense of disgust. Each nostril-full produces an extra rep, each tonsorial outrage a mocking call to arms.

Locker rooms are lessons in humanity – the tension of mass nudity, the Darwinian urge to size up each others’ naked bodies while retaining the sense of discretion that is sometimes cited as one of the things that separates us from the animals. ... The rusty locker doors of the Kulturisticky Sportovni Klub hang off the hinges at odd angles from all the times they’ve been jarred open. There is hair permanently stuck in the grate in the barren shower room, and doubtless strains of athlete’s foot as toxic as anything Saddam’s scientists might have cooked up. I’m the only person I’ve ever seen wear sandals in there.

Occasionally a lone woman comes in to work out. She invariably has the look of the hunted in her eyes. Most are one-timers who realize their error and never return. Each stinking male (myself included, of course), dripping with atavistic urges and dizzy with testosterone and endorphins, lasciviously watches the sole woman meekly going through her routine. Other girls come with their boyfriends, big men swelled with muscle and murky anger who parade their bodies and wait – and probably hope – that a guy will look just a bit too long at his girlfriend.

You can purchase Creatine, the purportedly muscle-building powder beloved of many baseball power hitters, as well as anabolic shakes and even pivo. Also available are a range of energy and protein bars, bananas, Tatrankys, sugar sticks and fruity energy drinks. Many of the resident no-necks like to strut around drinking the neon-bright beverages, looking tough in their baggy, outrageously colored workout pants and vaguely pugilistic with their weightlifting gloves.

The Kulturistický Sportovní Klub is located in a giant monstrosity of communist-era school gym. Coming and going, you might bump into a troop of preteen ballerinas or a high school hockey team. At night the surrounding park is dark and empty, spectral figures prowling about the greens. I don my headphones and disappear into the shadows, half hoping, after so much pumping up, that some mugger will be foolish enough to take me on. And wondering how I’d look with a mullet.

Jeremy Hurewitz can barely lift his own head at letters@pill.cz

Fit In
A selection of Prague gyms

Fit Centrum Vagon
Národní 25, Prague 1
221 085 544
800 Kč/month
700 Kč/month for students
www.vagon_fitness.cz

World Class Health Academy
V Celnici 10, Prague 1
221 033 033
3,550 Kč/month for VIP- all inclusive
3,150 Kč/month for fitness center
2,790 Kč/month for swimming pool
worldclass@ti.cz

YMCA
Na Poříčí 12, Prague 1
224 875 811
2,000 Kč/3 months
www.scymca.cz

Hotel InterContinental
Náměstí Curieových 5, Prague 1
224 881 111 or 224 881 525
3,900 Kč/month
www.interconti.com

Corinthia Panorama
Milevská 7, Prague 4
261 164 791
5,000 Kč/month, other memberships available
www.corinthia.com

Corinthia Towers Hotel
Kongresová 1, Prague 4
261 191 326
2,600 Kč/10x 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
3,500 Kč/10x anytime visits
www.corinthia.com

Factory Pro
Nádražní 32, Prague 5
221 420 800
Cost: 1,000 Kč deposit/20 percent student discount
www.factorypro.cz

Hospital Na Homolce
Fitness Center
Roentgenova 2, Prague 5
257 272 016
4,000 Kč/20x, other memberships available
www.homolka.cz

Fitness Center Hilton Hotel
Pobřežní 1, Prague 8
224 842 713
3,960 Kč/monthly
4,000 Kč10 visits, other memberships available
www.cybexprg.cz

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