YMCA Shenanigans

Located at Great Russell Street, London, the Central YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) still stands almost 200 years later so that I – Edylwise Romero – can hit the gym while abroad.

View of the Y as members enter

It’s really all thanks to a young Somerset apprentice named George Williams (1821-1905) and a group of fellow drapers who aren’t quite important enough to name, who founded the Central YMCA in 1844. Somehow they knew that 173 years later, I would come to London in search for the best gym for the best GAINS.

Erm, but actually… it started out with Sir George Williams’ concern for the welfare of his coworkers. Out of this concern he started a prayer and bible study group. His little study group attracted other working class men in London and soon it became a movement. Within five years since his first bible study group, “YMCA begins to address other concerns of young men working in the cities. Public lectures and education classes are developed. Reading rooms and refreshment areas help young men to adjust to urban life.” The first gym wasn’t actually built until 1881. Then in 1911, Central YMCA was opened as their first purpose-built home (that’s the gym I go to).

View from the corner of the 3rd floor

The original architecture of the Central YMCA had halls for meetings, restaurants, a gym, swimming baths, social rooms, a boys department and 240 bedrooms. During the World War I, Central YMCA joined British YMCA in the war efforts. The current Central YMCA Club was designed by Ellesworth Sykes Partnership and provided more space to “achieve our ambition of making people happier, healthier and more fulfilled.” I’ve included a photo in an attempt to capture the size of the gym. However, within each floor there are various secret doors that sometimes lead to the Mind and Body Studio, the praying room or other secret hallways.  

To learn more about the history of the YMCA in general or the Central YMCA please click the links provided.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really know the history of the YMCA until I suspected that there was some shenanigans going on in my gym which prompted me to do some research. I was skeptical that it was the “world’s first YMCA” but it was nice to confirm that it was not a lie. 

I go to the gym almost everyday, sometimes in the morning before class and sometimes at night until closing. I’ve even attended a few classes too like Zumba, Self Defense Workshop, and Ladies Boxfit. Because I’ve spent a decent amount of time at the gym I had time to notice a few things:

  1. Everyone is incredibly kind, maybe even too kind…
  2. There are little Trump children… by that I mean there is a massive group of children that are wearing little red hats with white lettering… (I would have taken a picture but I don’t think it’s allowed)
  3. My Ladies Boxfit instructor looks quite young (quite attractive too), his name is Tom
  4. During one of my Self Defense Workshop class my instructor referred to a couple of students as his regulars
  5. One of the Self Defense Workshop ‘regulars’ started wearing a bright blue YMCA outfit and told me she will be doing her own classes soon
  6. I saw The Self Defense Workshop ‘regular’ instructing a gym member with some of the machines with supervision
  7. The Self Defense Workshop ‘regular’ is only seen wearing the special shirt and walking about the gym
  8. When I was conducting my research I found a blog that had some information on squats and was by a qualified personal trainer. The qualified trainer that wrote the blog has been with the YMCA since she was 13 years old!
  9. Everyone talks to everyone like they’ve known each other forever… except me… but I’m getting there… I can confidently say I’m on first name basis with at least three people
  10. There are quotes and artsy stuff on the mirrors and walls to encourage members (but maybe they are trying to brainwash people or there are secret hidden messages for members in the know)

Some photographic evidence I was able to sneak:

“Disconnect to Connect”
Potential secret message to the members in the know
“I am not sure what I am looking for…Is it a new year resolution or a life change?”
“Mushrooms have feelings”
“What is behind this door?” Is this a secret message?








“Accept your body type”
The YMCA telling members how to live their life
“Go beyond…Look beyond…Think”










Apart from all the evidence I found, I remember when a group of us went searching for the gym during the first week in London. Instead of finding the gym, we stumbled upon what we believe is their corporate office. It was only a building away from the YMCA gym. After reading Sax Rohmer’s The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, I can’t help but think that there is a lot that goes on in London, England that only those who are in the know or look carefully can spot. Perhaps one of the secret hallways lead to the corporate office and something even bigger is brewing, I can’t yet confirm these suspicions.

All of these observations have led me to believe that there are some shenanigans going on that must be explored further and if only our program was longer than ten weeks, I would have gotten to the bottom of it all.


The Dubious Gym Member,

~Edylwise, ’19



Author: romeroe

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