By Legendary Bodybuilder Leon Brown
November 2010

Back in the good old days, I trained at the original Gold's Gym, when Joe Gold was still the owner. It was the first gym of its kind in the country, and it was like paradise.

I had always read about this gym in Muscle Builder Magazine and decided that one day I would have to make a trip to California to train there. At that time, most of the greats trained there.
The first day I arrived, I thought I was in heaven. Coming from the East Coast, I had never seen anything like it. Joe Gold was a nice man with a warm smile who treated people like he knew them all his life. I told him I was eager to train there and he graciously welcomed me. At 8:00 A.M. the next morning, I was at the gym. This beginning would become the most memorable experience of my life.

45LEON.jpgWhile training there, I became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It would become a friendship that I would cherish even today and it spanned four decades. For a while, we were training partners. Training came easy at Gold’s Gym. The equipment there was tailor-made for the modern bodybuilder. Looking back, I realize now that the equipment then was much made better than what’s available today.

Training at Gold's Gym was always inspirational. While I was training, there were always some bodybuilding champions and legends of the sport around. The amazing thing was how generous they were with sharing their time, experience, and knowledge. They were always willing to mentor me. So much has changed since then.

Some of those men in the gym were Frank Zane, Bill Grant, Ken Waller, Dave Draper, Dave Dupree, Chuck Colleras, Chet Yorton and many other greats like power lifting champ, Bill West. Also in the mix was Olympic Hammer Thrower George Frenn, Wayne Coleman, and Bill Graham the wrestler, just to name a few. They were all influential enough to encourage, nurture, and shape me to become the person I am today. The experience and environment was just amazing.
We all had a great time training at Gold's Gym. It was during the era known as the “Golden Age of Bodybuilding.” There was bonding and a true spirit of camaraderie. In our hearts, we were like a big family, a strong community of bodybuilders. For example, Arnold and I would train in the morning for 2 hours. Then we'd eat and go to Venice Beach 2 blocks from the gym.

We'd meet the other bodybuilders there and hang out for a couple of hours. Later, I would train with Arnold again at 6:30 P.M. for our second workout that lasted 1 1/2 hours. These were some of the best workouts I’ve ever had. Using these workouts as my foundation, I won many West Coast titles such as Mr. Venice Beach, Mr. Pacific Coast, Mr. California, Mr. Surf Festival and Mr. Western America to name a few.

Today, I draw upon the memories of my California days and the people who enriched my life. Though I’m 63, I am still training and competing in Masters Division in the 60 and over class. I also find myself in a new and most rewarding role of my life as mentor to the young champions who look to me for my years of knowledge and experience. As they listen to me intently, eager to learn, I share with them all the things I remember from my time in Gold’s Gym.