Q: What do you think about this article? Do you have any suggestions on picking a quality gym?

A: Planet Fitness is… a strange place, I think. I mean, I get it. It’s profiting off of making a place where those who are insecure about hitting the gym can come and be in peace, I guess. I spoke about my insecurities regarding being in the gym when I first joined. I even went to the gym at 11 at night – it was a 24-hour location – so that I could avoid all the people who would see me sweating and all gross and nasty slaving away on a treadmill. (Obviously, I was one of those self-loathing fat girls. I really don’t recommend that life for anyone, because no one should be afraid to be seen anywhere.)


Quoting the article:

I’ve felt that discrimination myself firsthand. I’m not what you would call a bodybuilder, mind you, or a regular Planet Fitness member, either. But I have been to number of different Planet Fitness locations in the past few years, mostly as an “emergency gym” when I’m traveling. (The fact that I even have an emergency gym should tell you something about my approach to working out.) In some respects, it’s not a bad place to lift weights—very clean and quiet, and set up in an unusual yellow and purple design scheme with painted signs reading, “Judgment-Free Zone.” No one will judge you, presumably, if you partake of the bowl of candy on the reception desk, or of the weekly Pizza Mondays promotion. (Yes, they serve pizza in the gym.)


I’m not the only one who’s noticed this assault on people who are actually trying to get a workout. Men’s Health called Planet Fitness “The Worst Gym In America,” and over the past few months, my comrades-in-(big)-arms have been speaking out against the chain on blogs, in bodybuilding forums, and at the websites of weightlifting and health-club magazines. In March, a group of lunk activists successfully banded together to have the Planet Fitness You Tube channel shut down by organizing a mass flagging of their commercials as offensive material. The chain was forced to start a new one, under a different name. And other gyms have started making their own commercials in response to Planet Fitness.

Realistically speaking, I think there’s something to Planet Fitness’ end game, here. The truth of the matter is that the big huge weight lifting dudes can appear to be aggressive, scary and kinda obnoxious with all the grunting. That is… if you’ve never lifted 300lbs to your shoulders, before. The “no grunting” rule is silly – YOU try to lift 300lbs to your neck and see if you don’t grunt a little bit. Hell, once upon a time, the BAR ALONE was giving me grief, shoot.

However, as with most people that we unnecessarily stereotype or assign hateful qualities to. they’re usually nowhere near as evil or bully-ish as we think they are. It’s usually just in our minds.

That being said, having “the workout environment that doesn’t make you feel like you’re working out” feels a little troublesome for me, but I’m merely going off of what’s in the article. Someone will have to tell me if there’s more to Planet Fitness than there is in the article, but not having heavy weights? Assumedly, because they’re intimidating?


I can understand not wanting to feel intimidated in an environment where people are already tacitly admitting that they’re there to work on their flaws, but you have to try to develop a thicker skin and understand that we’re all in different points in our journeys. While there may be lots of people there who are farther away from their goal than you, there will always be that ONE (at LEAST) person there who is closer than you, and you can’t let that intimidate you.

And think about where that intimidation factor comes from? Is it about anything legitimate? Or is it about “Oh, in comparison to THESE people, I’m huge!” So what? You’re there to develop fitness, not to “compare” yourself to the people around you. Besides, no one pays that monthly fee to gawk at other people and beat themselves up for not looking like them. If it’s like that, you can do that outside of the gym for free. Stay focused.

At any rate, a gym that serves its clients pizza (which is, assumedly NOT clean probably the crap from a franchise pizza joint) and doesn’t have trainers to assist you in using the equipment – again, the article might’ve been sensationalizing one experience so I don’t know if it’s a company policy or not – doesn’t sound like a place that wants to encourage your fitness. It sounds like a place that is cheap enough for you to choose to maintain your membership all the while encouraging you to not lose much weight.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t about encouraging people to work out at a place where the environment makes them feel shame. It IS, however, about encouraging people to consider where the shame comes from and if it’s even legitimate. It usually isn’t. Save the shame – if you must indulge in it – for outside of th gym. That space that you pay to share with those “lunkheads” and “fit bitches” is just as much yours as it is theirs. Claim it.

That being said, let’s talk about how to pick a gym that does work for you. To me, there are six key things to keep in mind when it comes to picking a gym.

  • Hours: To me, the hours are important. Here’s a good example why: whenever I stay with my mother, I get a gym membership. I can go hit the gym during the hours my daughter is sleeping, not worry about her (because she’s with Mom), not have to worry about Mom complaining about watching her (because, technically, she’s not) and get everything done with minimal interference. No waiting on equipment, no gang of people to walk around, no common gym chit chat.
  • Security: Security is ahuge issue for me because, well, I’d hit the gym at 11 and come home around 1. If it’s a 24-hr gym, what are the security measures like? My former gym had impeccable security. You had to swipe a card to get in. Cameras were trained on the parking lot AND all over every area of the gym (excluding the bathrooms.) The owners had the “control panel” for the cameras, where they could view each camera and keep tabs on what was happening, both in their office as well as at their house. You had “life-alert” style badges that you could wear in the gym where, if you press the button, it alerts the police to come to the gym. The cops passed by there every hour. A woman could feel safe there if she came after hours. A lot of thought went into that.Those are the kinds of things that are possible when it comes to gym security. If your gym is in a questionable area, ask about security measures during the dark hours. Things like security cameras and mandatory identification (like those key cards) matter. They serve as a deterrent.
  • Size: Cute little boutique gyms are awesome and all… that is, until they become popular and cannot accommodate their membership anymore unless they accept that they’re being forced to expand. If you’ve only got an hour for lunch, and you go there during your lunch hour and see 6 cardio machines but 6 people are using them with another 4 people waiting in line? You might need to invest in a new gym.
  • Equipment: You want your gym to have an extensive weights section, and a considerable amount of cardio machines. If you are a person who enjoys classes and variety, try to find a gym that has an all-inclusive membership that includes all the classes they offer, as well. Make sure that they can accommodate you.
  • Location: Just like you can’t pass that fast food spot without feeling like you’ve got to go in, strategically position your gym along your ride to and/or from work.Also, consider whether or not its in a safe location. Nothing worse than leaving your work clothes in the car… only to come back and find that they’re gone. Just sayin’. Don’t do it to yourself.
  • Contracts and Price: The flexibility that the contracts allow make a difference. There’s nothing worse than paying “Only $10 a month!!” …for 10 years… and you don’t even live near that gym any more.Consider what you’re getting from that gym, and whether or not it’s commensurate to what you’re paying for it. My gym – with all the high-fangled security, 24-hr surveillance AND more than enough gym equipment to accommodate us all – was $35/mo in a midwestern town.Gyms often offer up flexibility for those who only want a few months at a time. All you’ve got to do is ask for it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, either. You’ll never know what opportunities will arise until you ask, and don’t be afraid to “walk out the door” if you think that’ll help you get the deal. But if you’re walking out disappointed, you CAN come back the next day and simply say “Well, I thought about it…”

So…. needless to say, there’s a lot to consider with the gym industry, and you should always remember that you have the money in this situation. If you’re going to be signing a contract you need to ensure that you’re getting all of your needs met, and for the best price possible. If you’re as cheap– er, frugal as I am, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. I know I do.

Did I leave anything out? What other tips do you have for finding the right gym for you?