Hokkaido University gym - the birthplace of my muscles

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Technically, we were all born with muscles; they were just covered in all that baby fat.  And for those of us who lived an active youth, we grew out of all that baby fat and leaned up.  Then came adulthood where our metabolism slowed and our physical activities got sidelined by work, classes, family, and *ahem* straight up laziness, which can be a fatal flaw.  There was a point not too long ago where I could have cared less about my weight, body composition, exercise, etc. and worshiped my appetite.  Then came a Japanese doctor at Hokkaido University who frankly called me a "fat American", suggesting that if I continue my unhealthy habits then I could die in as little as 10 years.  I wasn't about to kick the bucket early, so I implored the doctor to give me advice on how to extend my life expectancy.  After following the instructions of a dietitian for a couple of months and shedding a good amount of fat, the doctor said that it was now time to hit the gym, which then I cringed but then agreed to.


Hokkaido University has a free gym located next to the undergraduate dorms on the northwest side of campus.  It's frequented by various sporting clubs and student athletes, which actually abound since Japanese students tend to take their clubs very seriously.  For my trip to Japan, I decided to revisit the Hokkaido University Sports Training Center to maintain my muscles.  Since I was slightly jet lagged and got up pretty early, I waited outside the gym until the the doors opened at 7 am.  The security guard in charge of the place poked fun of me in Japanese for waiting outside so early, stating that I liked the gym way too much, which actually to his credit is an absolute understatement.

Itty-bitty gym on the northwest side of campus

For a campus of 18,000 students, the gym is definitely undersized, especially considering that it's the only place on campus to hit the weights and even the treadmill.  The gym is in need of some serious maintenance with broken machines, aged equipment, and underweight dumbells. 

Heaviest dumbell weighing in at 12 kg (26.5 lb), which isn't even heavy enough for lateral shoulder raises

Are those power racks really going to support the weight of the loaded barbells when squatting??

How the plates are stacked, from 1.25 kg to 25 kg (2.75 lb to 55 lb)

The only cardio equipment for 18k students.  Good thing I don't do steady-state cardio.

The gym actually has not changed one bit since I frequented it daily 5 years ago.  I had expected at least some modest improvements or even some simple repairs, but I guess Hokkaido University just doesn't prioritize funds towards student wellness.

This is as close to a rock climbing wall as you'll ever get

Standing incline bench press!

Wobble wobble...



I recall that the dumbells were too heavy for me 5 years ago except for maybe rows and chest presses.  But now, even the heaviest dumbell is too light for my weakest exercises.  So I stuck to all the heavy compound barbell exercises: deadlifts, squats, bench press, and shoulder presses.  Technically, they are and pretty much always will be the most important lifts, so maybe this gym does have mostly everything you need?


Bottom line

As crappy and as rundown as the Hokkaido University Sports Training Center is, this place will always have a place in my heart (or muscles) since it's where my entire health turnaround started.  It essentially is the birthplace of my lifting, and it still can sustain the most important compound barbell workouts, as long as you're not scared of the power racks giving way to the heavily loaded barbells.  If anything, Hokkaido University needs to revamp and expand pretty much the entire gym to make it even slightly attractive for the least jaded lifter.

Side note: don't have a <100 lb Japanese girl spot you on the bench press.  You can guess what happened, and yes, I did learn the hard way.


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