HomeQ&A WednesdayQ&A Wednesday: On Planet Fitness & Picking The Perfect Gym

Q&A Wednesday: On Planet Fitness & Picking The Perfect Gym

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?

Really?

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?

By | 2017-06-10T11:20:58+00:00 January 27th, 2015|Q&A Wednesday|42 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and crtified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because lol why not.

42 Comments

  1. Sandra May 25, 2011 at 11:44 AM - Reply

    Thanks Erika! I never really thought about the security part. Good insight 🙂

  2. Reggie Carr May 25, 2011 at 12:10 PM - Reply

    We have now two Planet Fitness gyms here in Birmingham and I’ve been going to them for about 4 years now. First off, the best thing about Planet Fitness is the price. Here, you can pay $20 a month for the ‘black card’ membership, which gets you discounts on all the drinks, allows you to bring one friend to the gym an unlimited amount of times (so if you and your significant other can’t afford much more than the one membership, you both can still go as many times as you want as long as the card holder is present with the guest), and gives you access to any of the Planet Fitness gyms in the nation (though you can only bring your guest to your ‘home’ gym). If $20 is too much, they have a $10 a month deal; $60 the first payment and $10 a month for a year. And if that’s too much, a lot of times they do a “join for $10 and pay $10 a month for the rest of the year” drive about once or twice a year. (A couple of times it’s been $5 :-P) So if you are hustlin’ but still want to get a workout in, you can’t go wrong with Planet Fitness in regards of price.

    Second, they do have trainers; you just have to ask for them. They have sign up sheets at the desk for them. And the trainers are usually free. Once again, working out on a budget.

    Third, they do have large weight training areas. The free weights (which I exclusively use; don’t care for weight machines) include both dumbbells (up to 60lbs) and barbells, along with the Smith machines. There are weight machines ranging from bicep curls, to the butterfly machines, to some of the weighted ab crunch machines. They also have the 30 minute circuit training room like you find in Curves or Bally Fitness. And in case you are wondering, the cardio areas take up the majority of the gym. Treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines, and something like the Gazelle. Along with yoga mats, stretching equipment, medicine balls, etc.

    The gimmick to Planet Fitness is the ‘no grunting’ rule, which is aimed at those guys who do a lot of excessive grunting when working out (I mean, I’ve seen them and though they are lifting a lot of weight, the need to sound like a gorilla looking for its mate is a bit much). And even that is given some leeway; it’s not like they expect you to be silent when working out. I’ve always looked at Planet Fitness as a real-life “Average Joe’s Gym” (you know, from the movie Dodgeball). It’s more or less the same mentality; come in, shed a few pounds and don’t worry if you don’t look like a fitness model. I’ve never participated on the Pizza Mondays (first Monday of the month) or the Donut Tuesdays (first Tuesday of the month) because I think it’s silly; why come to the gym and eat junk? But for some people who are plain intimidated by the idea itself of working out, I guess it might add some comfort. *shrugs*

    • Lily Fluffbottom May 25, 2011 at 5:52 PM - Reply

      I joined Planet Fitness in Anchorage a couple of months ago, and I have to agree with everything you said. Every word. I love it. The only thing I kind of wish it had were classes, but I appreciate the overall “Average Joe’s Gym” quality, as you said.

    • Bill December 6, 2012 at 9:51 AM - Reply

      im pretty sure average joe’s gym isn’t any where close to Planet Fitness… Sorry but NO.

    • Christine July 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM - Reply

      I go to the YWCA..it’s close to my house and peaceful. I love the way its set up, kids stuff downstairs, weights and classes on separate sides upstairs. There’s a Planet Fitness about 3 miles away, but its always packed. I go to the gym to workout..not to talk,the Planet Fitness is more like a club..The only thing I hate about the Y is the after Christmas specials lol, but after 90 days most folks quit so its back to normal

  3. milaxx May 25, 2011 at 3:57 PM - Reply

    I picked my gym for 3 things primarily;did they have a pool, the location and the price. I was at the point where I didn’t care if they saw the fat chick in a bathing suit. I needed to do this. fortunately at my gym there are a variety of body types there. Yes there are a lot of hard bodies, but there are just as many not so hard bodies that if you are less than perfect you won’t be intimidated. I wasn’t going to be there over night so the fact that it’s open 7 days a week was enough for me.

  4. Marie May 25, 2011 at 10:04 PM - Reply

    I had a membership for years with Golds. I never went for 2 reasons, one of them being that I felt totally uncomfortable there. There were nothing but muscle building men/women and girls coming to the gym for what seemed strictly like trying to catch a man (I mean really, who works out in a full face of makeup and hoop earrings?). Everytime I walked in the door I got looks and stares, even from the employees. I let that membership lapse but once I made the mental decision to get my body together I needed one somewhere.

    I looked at anytime fitness along with planet fitness. Anytime Fitness had the same feel as Golds to me, even though I was just taking a tour. It felt like just a place to show off-not as bad as Bally’s though lol….but at Planet I saw people that looked like me. Definitely an ‘average joe’ as was previously stated. I saw lil old ladies on the treadmills, overweight guys on the elliptical & muscle bound men lifting weights. The people that were there seemed to be there for fitness only. There were trainers on the floor helping people and plus the Circuit Training area really appealed to me as well. They don’t have the bells and whistles as other places, but for me, all I want to do is work out hard and go about my way. The pool/sauna/daycare is nice, but not something I need personally in a fitness center. Although I don’t get the concept of pizza/donuts…that’s definitely counterproductive in my opinion.

    • Miss Fit And Tempting February 4, 2012 at 10:35 AM - Reply

      *meekly raises hands* I was. I had a very tight schedule so I would come home, put on my clothes quickly while my husband would load the kids up in the car, and we would fly out to the gym. I did not have time to wash all that crap off and I love hoop earrings lol. I do know what you mean though. I can see why it’s intimidating especially seeing some really fit women walking around in very short shorts and just a sports bra to workout. I feel like that Kevin Hart skit: “You won already!” I’m trying to win too lol.

  5. Eboni May 26, 2011 at 9:28 PM - Reply

    I’m heartened to read the comments about Planet Fitness. I’ve been fortunate to be in grad school for the past 2 years– so I had a free (of additional charge) membership to my school’s 4 gyms. I graduated, so starting in August, I’ll have to find a new gym. At minimum, the gyms in my area are $55/mo– with the exception of Planet Fitness, which as the ladies above mentioned, starts at around $10/mo.

    I used to be a Gold’s member. I loved Gold’s! There was a range of body types– all of which inspired me (there were bodies I was working out to avoid and others I was working out to emulate). Gold’s also had a special ladies’ fitness area for women who were self-conscious, but the equipment in there was WACK, so I just stayed in the larger, open areas. If Gold’s wasn’t so expensive, I’d still be there.

    But, back to Planet Fitness. If I join, I won’t be participating in pizza or donut days. That’s some foolishness. But, thanks to the ladies for your comments. I will feel a lot better about my decision to join PF. Of course I will still have to do a tour, but I have higher hopes than I did.

  6. mimi May 28, 2011 at 5:06 AM - Reply

    i think this whole thing is not necessary. Planet fitness has a target market. If you don’t fit that market go somewhere else. I liken this to men going to curves and complaining that they don’t allow guys there. There are plenty of gyms that have tons of weights. Why not go there instead of trying to bring planet fitness down. My bally’s gym class had a strip dance class that was only for women. Could some men have benefited from it? Yes but it made the women uncomfortable. I think people are to hung up on minor things.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall May 28, 2011 at 11:13 AM - Reply

      So… we can’t scrutinize companies for making questionable decisions because YOU feel like it’s unnecessary?

      Personally, I find it kind of GROSS that a gym would host a “donut day” and a “pizza day” for a gym that’s meant to cater to, as y’all call it, “Average Joes,” ESPECIALLY considering how the “average joe” is most likely to be easily lulled back into their old habits.

      Besides, considering how most people will indulge in pizza or donuts thinking “What the hey, I can just burn it off,” which means they’re not burning FAT THEY’VE ALREADY STORED, but working at (and far too often, FAILING AT) burning off what they just ate IN THE GYM? It’s a marketing ploy.

      You’re absolutely right – Planet Fitness has a target market. If you, however, are a part of that target market, you have to question why YOU – Average Joe or Jane – are the only clientele in the gym industry being fed pizza and donuts. Good luck with that.

      • Novelette September 8, 2011 at 12:58 PM - Reply

        I think we can definitely scrutinize the bad decisions (donuts, pizza) without completely dismissing the whole gym like the article does. Planet Fitness does have a lot to offer; hours, price, personal training, 30 minute interval space, comfort and those bad decisions does completely negate the worth of the gym.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall September 8, 2011 at 1:04 PM - Reply

          Not when there are countless other gyms who offer the same without the foolishness, no. I think there are far better places for that money to go.

          • Aimee October 17, 2011 at 10:03 PM - Reply

            Except there AREN’T plenty of gyms that offer the same benefits… I don’t know any gym that is as cheap as planet fitness. Why waste 50 to 100 dollars on a gym membership when you can pay 10? Just have to take the good with the bad; if you don’t like pizza or donut day, you don’t have to go on that day. Big whoop. You can take advantage of all that equipment for 10 dollars a month, almost 24/7

            • Erika Nicole Kendall October 17, 2011 at 11:03 PM - Reply

              Except that there ARE, if you do your homework. Your experiences are your experiences, but mine say otherwise. Let’s take it a step further. You can work out FOR FREE in YOUR HOME and don’t need to give $10 to ANYONE. As you put it, “big whoop.”

              Honestly, I don’t care anymore. Those who can handle that environment should do what they can. But those who cannot should be mindful of that and join an environment that is conducive to them meeting their goals.

              • ZMarie July 19, 2013 at 7:30 AM - Reply

                I really like Planet Fitness. It’s inexpensive, close to my home and I feel secure there. If people are saying they like the gym, but do not participate in the pizza/donut days that’s all that should matter. At the end of it all, they are working out and getting fit and isn’t that what you are trying to inspire people to do? You may not like it, but don’t make people feel like their choice is inadequate; you have to start somewhere.

                • Erika Nicole Kendall July 20, 2013 at 9:51 PM

                  “At the end of it all, they are working out and getting fit and isn’t that what you are trying to inspire people to do?”

                  I don’t understand this incessant need to defend a company that is, without a doubt, blatantly exploiting its membership.

                  Please, for the love of all that is tasty, don’t compare what I do to that. It’s more complicated than that and, if you can’t see that, that’s fine… but we don’t need to compare me to a giant exploitative organization.

  7. splitsun June 2, 2011 at 12:01 AM - Reply

    I have an issue with Plant Fitness. For a health center that purports no discrimination, it certainly doesn’t hesitate to keep certain clients out. It is my biggest turn off about this gym and sadly, I am a bit ashamed to say I am a member. For $10 a month on a tight budget, I get the world of exercise equipment and 24 hr access which is necessary for me considering my work hours. It is the closest gym to my house and I visit it more frequently than I did my local YMCA (which I LOVED but unfortunately a bit too far for comfort).

    It doesn’t bother me that there are people who like to lift lots of weight. I’m very certain I don’t bother them either and I’ve been to gyms where the two coexist quite peacefully, grunting and slamming included. I do not understand why Planet Fitness is making it an issue.

    I read an article that was written by a Planet Fitness employee that offered an explanation for pizza days; it was to show its clients that they can eat the foods they love in moderation. Frankly, I think the pizza, donuts, and tootsie rolls are lousy options for a gym to give its members. How about a healthy snack, fruit cups or coupons for groceries. I’d definitely come for those.

    • Miss Fit And Tempting February 4, 2012 at 10:42 AM - Reply

      I can’t get with their “lunk alarm” policy. I just can’t. I think they prey on people’s insecurities and weaknesses, market to it and bring them in only to create a cycle. This doesn’t go for everyone who goes there. However, if I were to tour the place, I would walk right back out the minute I saw the pizza or bagel day. I’m good at 24 Hour Fitness. I do understand affordability too.

  8. Laya June 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM - Reply

    I read the same article at about the time I was looking for a new gym, and it honestly made me bypass Planet Fitness. (Well, that and they don’t have pools, and since I’m training for a triathlon I need a pool.)

    Honestly, the whole “no lunks” thing offended me. In the past I’ve followed a weight training program that involved heavy weights, barbells, a squat rack, and standard body-builder type lifts, and I plan to return to that once I’ve completed my triathlon. Any gym that makes me or anyone else feel strange for doing those sorts of exercises is not the right gym for me.

    I was going to local (Baltimore) gym chain. It was cheap (I got a company discount), but the only location accessible to me was crowded, smelly, and hot. Other gyms were way too expensive – $99 a month is the average cost for a gym membership here. I ended up lucking out in that a) I got a car, which expanded my options and b) Bally is building a new club within a 10 minute drive of me. I cashed in on the new club deal and will be paying $15.99 every two weeks with no contract, which is less than I paid to the local chain. The new gym doesn’t open until July 8th, so I’ve been to almost every other local Bally Total Fitness in the meantime. It’s not as nice as the $99 gyms are (salt water pools!), but I’ve been satisfied with all of the locations.

  9. Alissa November 2, 2011 at 2:25 PM - Reply

    I had a membership to Planet Fitness a while back because it was $10. It was way too far from my apartment though so I ended up having to cancel in only a few months. I had heard about the pizza, but was never there when they had it. I think it’s a cool idea! No one is going to pile up a plate of pizza at the gym, so they may only take one slice and eat it on the way out then realize 20 minutes later that they’re not hungry anymore and let that be their lunch. Hey it could happen!

    I agree with the author’s considerations when choosing a gym. Although, those 24 hour gyms where you only need a key card scare me. I need a desk with employees staffing at all times. But thats just me. I am so paranoid, I hate those gyms with the open windows when it’s dark outside and so people can see in, but you can’t see out. It just doesn’t seem safe!

    The gym at my college was the best ever and I doubt I will ever find one like that. It was huge, open almost all the time, had fitness classes, a nice indoor track and had nothing but people my age in it. (No old men sitting on the machines just staring at me from behind while I’m jogging on the treadmill. Ew!).

    Currently, I’m at the YMCA and I like it. It’s not the gym we had in college, but it’s close, convenient, safe and affordable. #WIN!

  10. Kristen December 16, 2011 at 4:09 PM - Reply

    I belong to Planet Fitness and it works for me. I generally like to exercise outdoors or do boot camp workouts inside (bodyrock.tv), but I do like to switch it up by doing the bike or lifting weights here and there. It works for me and the gyms that I’ve gone to in my state don’t have the problems mentioned in the article. Maybe it’s certain locations? I think it’s perfect for people that dislike the gym, but want to be in and out during winter months.

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