Ercan closes its gym in Munich after 20 years

Munich – Ercan Demir has been lifting heavy iron in the Dreimühlenviertel for decades. Biceps, triceps, back, shoulders: he will soon pass on all his life experience somewhere else. A conversation about crying nuns, overweight doctors – and goodbye.

AZ: Mr. Demir, how did it all start with your bodybuilding?
ERCAN DEMIR: It was 1999. I was visiting the owner at the time. He talked about that he would hand over body gym. As a junior world champion in bodybuilding and vice world champion, he saw a suitable successor in me.

Was this meeting fate? You just wanted to say hello.
I think lifelines are fairly predetermined. And you land on them again and again. Surely some kind of fate, yes.

Ercans Body-Gym as a place of safety

Has this place always been a clean workplace for you?
No, much more. It is a place of meditation, well-being and security. A contrast to the city. Munich is anonymous enough. We all know each other by name here.

Now you’re going out. Exactly when?
On March 24, I lock in for the last time. Then exactly 20 years have passed. Exactly for the day.

And since when do you know you need to move out?
For about a year and a half.

So it’s no surprise to you.
no When I got the information, I thought to myself: Hi, another half year! But time passed very quickly. When I took over the studio, I thought to myself: After ten years, it’s definitely over. It was twenty o’clock. And I really have not had enough yet.

“Many of the neighbors here have never had to work for their money”

Do you go with anger?
No not at all. I just feel sorry for the members of the body gym. Some have been there for 40 years and are about 70 years old. Some have said they would also pay three times the monthly fee to keep it going. But that’s not the point.

Why is it?
The owner is dead. He was very wealthy and social. I was very lucky to be able to work in my dream job in the middle of Munich for a relatively low rent. In any case, it does not pay for the heirs to keep the house like that. You made it clear to me. That sounded sensible. The building will be demolished and replaced.

20 years of laughter, sweat, blood and tears

Are they bored?
I think the grief will come when I’m actually out of here. I did not even get to take the pictures down, because I want it to be the same for the members, until the last day. I have been laughing, sweating, soft, crying here for 20 years. It would be a lie if I could let go without pain. I was a cleaning assistant, caretaker, caretaker, trainer, conversation partner – everything.

Are you afraid of the aftermath?
I am not an anxiety person and optimist. If I close here, I take with me, not without me. I’m taking myself with me. I can do this job anywhere in the world.

Do you already have plans?
I would love to stay here. Here in small surroundings, as in a larger apartment, I can pass on most of my life experience and sports philosophy to people. I eat, cook and live here, and for decades I have set everything up that I feel comfortable with. And that’s why all my members are doing well, I think.

“If you give trust, you get trust back”

So what are you going to do from March 24th?
My primary goal is to help people who want it too. I worry about trust. You will not find anyone at the drinks counter here in the gym. Those who train here take what they want, whether it is food or drink – and simply leave money there. Sometimes I’m not there for five hours. I trust my members. And if three euros are missing from the cash register, I will not be poor. If you give trust, you get trust back.

Sounds sympathetic. But again, what are you going to do after March 24th?
I have no concrete plans yet, but I certainly do not want to submit to the city’s property frenzy. On the contrary.

What do you mean?
I would like to leave Munich in the long term, I am leaving Germany. A place with more sun.

Why did you make such a radical decision? You have lived close here for 20 years.
As much time as I have spent here in the gym, I would have only needed a bed there, not even a closet. The neighborhood has also changed a lot.

In which way?
In the past, when it got loud after midnight, people talked politely and it got quieter. Today, as people continue to drink in the inner courtyard after midnight, asking for a little more peace, they insult you.

What was the answer exactly?
“Hell, you bum.” I do not need it when I have worked 12 to 14 hours and just want to sleep. I do not like living here now. Unfortunately.

“My motto is the opposite of Munich”

Why does the sound get more raw?
A new environment is penetrating the district. People who have never had to work for their money. A nouveau riche generation of heirs, I think. Some somehow lack respect for fellow human beings. These are often people who sleep during the day and party at night. Everything will be luxuriously renovated. Ordinary people but also academics are moving away and can no longer afford the rents. But that’s how it is. It gets much louder. And if you do not want to, just move away as I will soon.

Which country would you like to move to?
heading south. I long for warmth and sea. A dog, a bike and lots of sun are enough for me. Italy or Spain is possible. Possibly Turkey too. My motto is: low standard of living, high quality of life – the opposite of Munich.

Can you recognize the new environment from the oversized luxury sleds with hundreds of horsepower?
I have nothing against riches. Many work hard for this. One wants nice shoes, the other a nice car. I would even be happy if there were two Lamborghini and a Ferrari here. Then I could see things up close. What matters is how people tick.

“In the beginning, people changed sides of the street”

Which meetings in your Munich gym will you always remember?
Basically to people who have cried right where you sit now.

I asked her that too. And many said: For the first time in my life, I have the feeling that someone is listening to me. It has always touched and enriched me.

Was it like that from the start?
No, first I had to work hard to win people’s trust and break through stereotypes: Turk, beard, lots of muscle. At first, some people were crossing the street when they saw me around. Many thought: bodybuilders are stupid and useless lifting irons. Here’s the thing: professional bodybuilders know exactly what they want. They just tick a little differently.

Biceps like a thigh

You had much bigger muscles back then, right?
I weighed over 250 pounds in a period of time and was 6 percent fat on my body.

How big was your biceps when you were at your highest?
57 centimeters circumference. A bit like your thigh. That kind of muscle mass can not last long. You need to eat and exercise all day for that.

Back to the meetings: Which people do you remember particularly well?
To a nun. She sat here in the black sofa once, I think in 2014 or 2015, in full cloak.

Sad meeting with a nun

OK, that raises a lot of questions.
The story was wonderful and sad at the same time. She was dealing with the past. The woman had started working out in the gym about 40 years ago, which I took over 20 years later. At the time, she was the first German weight training champion, which was what was called bodybuilding at the time. Later she decided to live as a nun.

And why did she come to you?
She became aware of me through YouTube videos where I train Sophia Thiel, a successful fitness youtuber. It is about conscious nutrition, exercise, health and harmony to master everyday challenges. So the nun found out that this gym belongs to me. So she decided to leave me her valuables that she had with her in a small box: gold and silver jewelry.

How did you react?
I did not understand all this and asked: why? Then she took off her cap. She had no hair, was in chemotherapy and knew she was going to die within two months. I will never forget that. She said: I can read your soul.

“We humans are sometimes like sheep”

Do you remember another meeting?
Yes, a hospital doctor from Saarbrücken. He came specially to train with me for three days. He just could not get rid of the pounds, cried and hoped for tips from me. We trained together for three days and I made an individual nutrition plan for him. I found it impressive that a doctor came to me for advice. He also found me on YouTube.

What did you conclude from this?
That everyone needs good advice from the outside now and then. We humans are sometimes like sheep, I think. Although the desert is obviously to the left and the lush green meadow to the right, most sheep follow them in front, even as they face the desert. We are all seductive to the worse alternative. You have to lift your head to walk towards the meadow and be happy.

Is weight training the way to happiness?
For some it is. But that does not apply to everyone. Yoga, jogging, meditation or religion can also make you happy.

Or just bodybuilding?
For me, it was completely natural to build muscle, a kind of duty. See a baby. That’s the first thing it does: build muscle to walk and stand stably, hold on, move sensibly, live actively.

“Millionaire? I want to be a time millionaire”

If someone comes to you and says: I want to look like you did 20 years ago with those mountains of muscle, what do you say to them?
I look at the person and try to figure out if they really want this and if it can make sense. What I did was competitive sports. And as we know, competitive sports are never healthy. I always address these dangers.

You were a talented football player as a child and youngster, played for Bayern and Sixty. A cruciate ligament rupture stopped you. As a bodybuilder, you ended up in second place in the world and got a biceps tear that held you back. Is the end of Ercan’s body gym another setback?
no way. I gave it my all for 20 years and will continue to have a job in the future.

What is your goal now?
I want to be a time millionaire. Not a millionaire. And as good as the time here in the gym was: This place was also a golden cage for me. I want more freedom and see it all as a great opportunity.

Are you having a graduation party?
I’m planning an open house. We can fix that now: March 9 looks good. Everyone can come in here, see everything and train for free. Everyone is welcome.

Read the interview with the operator of Café Kosmos here: “Glockenbach is dead”

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