MOSCOW: It will be hard to find someone to tell you more about the history of bodybuilding in Russia than Valery, who has been working as a trainer for about 25 years.
“Before 1993, there wasn’t one fitness club in Moscow, just basement gyms” said Valery, who added he was among the first graduates of a 6-month state bodybuilding training course in 1988 that was titled ‘athletic gymnastics.’
Valery started working then in a so-called ‘basement gym,’ which resembled gyms in the documentary movie “Pumping Iron.” ‘Fanatics’ mainly visited such gyms in those days, he said.
Valery recalled how he and others would ask friends to bring back bodybuilding magazines from the US in those days. They would spend time trying to translate them.
The modern ‘fitness’ gyms like Gold’s Gym that started opening in 1993 were initially ”very expensive” for the average person, he said.
He said the people coming to his gym began to change around 2000 as women, students & regular guys signed up amid a change in attitudes toward health. Basement gyms were no longer the provinces of the fanatics.
During the difficult days of the early 1990s, Valery – like many others – said he sometimes flew to Turkey to buy goods for resale in Moscow.
The history of Valery’s family is no less interesting. An Assyrian, his ancestors arrived in Russia 100 years ago with Czarist soldiers as they fled genocide by Ottoman forces.