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Gold's Gym At $4 A Month? Only In Pakistan

Muhammad Yasir, 23, lifts free weights at Gold's Gym in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Despite its name, the facility is not affiliated with the U.S. gym chain.
John Poole
/
NPR
Muhammad Yasir, 23, lifts free weights at Gold's Gym in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Despite its name, the facility is not affiliated with the U.S. gym chain.

In the industrial Pakistani city of Gujranwala, Gold's Gym is a big attraction.

The weightlifters at the popular gym say that a good workout can take the stress out of daily life -- and at $4 a month, it is a bargain compared with U.S. fitness centers.

But the Pakistani Gold's Gym, situated not far from South Asia's Grand Trunk Road, looks less like a health club and more like a steel mill. And it has no relation to the chain of workout centers of the same name in the United States.

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Here, there's no Stairmaster, no treadmill -- just a forest of iron bars and iron weights. Men lift barbells in suffocating heat, then grab a drink of water from a metal cup on a chain.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mansoor Samadali, the proud co-owner of Gold's Gym, says his gym's equipment "is the best in all Asia."

Gold's Gym is a home for bodybuilders. Samadali says he has trained many a Mr. Pakistan or Mr. Asia with these weights.

Samadali was a once bodybuilder himself. Asked whether he ever looked like the poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the gym's wall, he says no -- instead, he looked more like a young Sylvester Stallone, who is featured nearby.

This Gold's Gym, Samadali confirms, has nothing to do with the gym chain in America. He's not sure where the name came from. The gym is hidden among the tangled streets of Gujranwala, near the minaret towers of a mosque.

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Gold's Gym is a different kind of temple, its walls lined with mirrors so that young men can watch themselves getting ripped.

A customer in his 20s, Khurram Shahzad, says it's not easy to become a champion bodybuilder in Pakistan right now. A kind of depression has settled over Pakistan, he says, with its economic trouble and terrorism.

"There is an overall depression in the country, so we are not in a good state of mind, and we can't plan our future," Shahzad says.

The big problem is the economy, he says. You can train on the weights, but it's hard for a true bodybuilder to afford the right food, or find a steady job.

But at least he has a job, with a pharmaceutical firm. And he also has the weights, and a place to work out.

Asked if lifting weights helps relieve some of the stress, Khurram says, "Exercise is very good for every man."

Spend 20 minutes at Gold's Gym, he says, and the tension of Pakistan is released.

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