What have I learned in the gym? Gen Z are incredible – The Guardian

Young people have to contend with the terrible, unfair burden of crippling debt and a burning world. Thankfully, they are industrious, sensible and admirably strong from all those deadlifts
In many areas of life, I feel as if I am being pitted against generation Z by forces outside my control. We are endlessly reminded that they are pampered and feckless, addicted to social media and unable to cope in the real world. They are all too well aware that older generations are rapacious and unrepentant, about to bequeath them a pension crisis and a rapidly heating planet. It’s Capulets and Montagues, TikTok v Twitter, avocado smashers against latte swillers – there is no common ground. Except, apparently, for my local gym.
Here, among the treadmills and rowing machines, the kids are putting us to shame. For one thing, they are up early. I, a grown man with a full-time job, usually drag myself in by about 7.30am, by which time the squat racks are already packed with people. It starts to empty out by 8am, as the students head off to 9am lectures – something I would have considered an affront to human dignity during my history and politics degree.
But that’s not all: while they are in the gym, these youngsters are industrious, sensible and hardworking, doing well-informed workouts – nothing like the bench-and-curl blowouts everyone did in my day. The other day, a twentysomething asked me to spot him on a set of dumbbell presses, with a grasp of form and etiquette that put my younger self to shame.
I don’t know why this is happening, but I have my suspicions. Gen Z are a generation deluged with debt. They pay for university, worry about deposits and have to work out a way of ending our reliance on fossil fuels to make up for the sins of past generations. There is no stability in the job market and everything from artificial intelligence to the venture capital economy is making matters worse.
Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that they are choosing hustling over hangovers, swapping the dopamine rush of double vodkas for the endorphin high of a good airbike sprint. They are using the tools at their disposal smartly, prioritising properly, embracing hard work and getting things done. It is unfair that they have to do it at all, but seeing them crank out goblet squats without complaint makes me feel a lot better about the future being in their (deadlift-calloused) hands.
Joel Snape is a writer and fitness expert