Why you shouldn’t work out at Planet Fitness

If you’re an investor, or looking for a franchise opportunity with the sole purpose of making money, then Planet Fitness might be for you.  The brand is on the rise, thanks to a heavy dose of gimmicky but slightly clever marketing, and profits for PF franchises are up.  If you give a damn about your health, your actual fitness, and your quality of life, however, you will spend the extra dough and take your training elsewhere.

“Why?” you might ask.  On paper, PF doesn’t seem that bad.  $10 a month, no aggressive sales staff, and no silly stuff like juice or smoothie bars.  Then you keep reading.  “A comfortable, friendly” place to train.  “Brand name cardio and strength equipment,” but don’t go in expect any power racks or Olympic weightlifting platforms (think Nautilus, not Eleiko).  Hell, you’re not even allowed to deadlift anymore.

See, heavy weight lifting equipment breeds “lunks,” big, strong, powerful meatheads who “judge” others for being weaker, and project a “look-at-me” vibe.  And PF is a “Judgement Free” zone.  In fact it’s so judgement free, that if you’re judged to be a lunk, they sound the alarm and the manager comes out and publicly shames you in front of the entire gym.  That, or they just cancel your membership and ask you to leave.

Never mind the fact that endless cardio ellipticals and weight training machines will never get anyone into the kind of shape they actually desire (if they did, CrossFit wouldn’t be riding the wave that is their revolution in fitness).  Let’s focus more on the fact that the company so verbally against the judgement of fitness novices is in turn judging those at a more advanced level of fitness.  “…Members have accused the gym of judging with extreme prejudice, saying the club humiliates members whose physiques are too chiseled and who take their workouts too seriously.”

Some have argued that it’s a good thing.  They argue it’s a place to train for those who normally get the “sand kicked in their face” by big mean meatheads.  There are two major problems with this argument.  First, this model is static.  Sure, it’s a nice little club for all the insecure newbies to hang out at and hold hands while they spin or pump five pound weights.  It won’t however lead to any meaningful change, any development of their bodies or minds.  When they leave the door, they’ll come back out into a real world filled with real assholes once more, and they’ll still be weak, scared, and get sand kicked in their face.

In contrast, if they trained correctly, improved their strength and size, they’d find themselves no longer preyed upon, and with the backbone to kick sand back (should they wish). Go into any given gym and you’ll find firsthand accounts of people young and old who transformed their lives, their attitudes, and gained both physical and psychological strength through weight training.  Did they all suddenly become raging asshole lunks because their squat went over 315-pounds?  Of course not. Lifting weights is a neutral force.  If you have an angry, vengeful personality, it can amplify that.  It can also reinforce your kindness and give you the strength to withstand more than you ever imagined.

“Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.” – Henry Rollins (a great man who knows a thing or two about personal struggle and growth)

The second reason the Planet Fitness argument falls flat is simple: Most of your big strong gym rats are actually great people.  It can be intimidating to walk into a dungeon of iron and sweat and be surrounding by bodies built over years of discipline.  Yet every single one of those bodies was once like yours; powerful physiques are forged, not inherited.  Every great lifter was at one time a clueless beginner, and most remember it.  Most are happy to share advice, insight, tips, or give you a spot.  Many will mentor, coach, and guide you if you just ask. Why?  Because contrary to Planet Fitness’ marketing, they want to see you succeed and achieve your goals.

Ultimately, however, what Planet Fitness is selling you is fiction and fear.  There’s no progression in Planet Fitness’ model, no path for growth for their weaker members, and its attitude towards their stronger members disregards an entire aspect of the Iron Life important to many of us, one that Henry Rollins wrote so beautifully about.  Planet Fitness would do better instead to create an environment filled with members and staff that teach, mentor, and encourage its members to get stronger, faster, and more confident in themselves.  An environment with community that celebrates strength rather than asking it leave once it exceeds a certain point.  An environment that reinforces proper nutrition and weight training, not cardio machines and SlimFast and free pizza.

You get what you pay for.  And if you care about your health and fitness, you should take your money someplace other than Planet Fitness.

5 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t work out at Planet Fitness

  1. Rose says:

    So not only do I have a membership but I am also employed at a Planet Fitness. I can understand your frustrations with our club but to say that nobody will become stronger using our facility is a lie. To be 100% honest you can make improvements in your own home you don’t need a place to go. However, some people do need to go somewhere to be with one of their friends who has a membership too. And yes we do gear our advertising towards beginners. I am not out of shape but I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was working out and the person next to me was grunting and making disturbing noises. I realize it is a natural reflex, but it only is when your body is lifting more than you really should be. I don’t expect you to like Planet Fitness any more than you did before you read this post. However, I do ask you to respect those that are members pushing themselves to make themselves better. This club is making a difference in peoples lives weather you see it or not. I also understand that we are not for everybody. That’s why there are other clubs not one place is for everybody. Everyone needs to find what best fits them and will help them grow stronger as a person.

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  2. Tango Charlie says:

    Rose, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    I respect anyone that puts in the effort to make themselves better. However, I’m still going to tell them that I think that effort would be better spent in another facility. Planet Fitness artificially impedes progress by denying its members the most powerful tools available in a modern gymnasium (the barbell squat rack) and tempting them on regular occasions with junk food (pizza), literally setting them up for failure. You can advertise to beginners without insulting or mocking the dedication of more advanced lifters.

    Planet Fitness caters to making people comfortable, yet true, meaningful growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. If PF split the building, with a section for beginners and those intimidated by iron plates and then another out of sight enclosed area for more advanced lifters, I’d respect the brand for accommodating all walks of life. Instead, I see a hypocritical corporation preying on insecurities, a for profit day-care for people intimidated by the Valsalva maneuver.

    I’m glad you managed to achieve success there in spite of its limitations. I encourage you to now branch out and achieve even more.

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    1. Rose says:

      I totally agree with you about growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. I also do agree that some people can move on and go to other gyms. However, there are a lot more people than I even thought that tell me it took them a couple weeks to talk themselves to coming into PF. So they are pushing themselves already out of their comfort zone. (I also agree about the pizza, the bagels aren’t that bad of an idea but the pizza is horrible I hate working pizza Mondays because it sits there and taunts me when I know I don’t need it.
      Mainly what I would like for you to get from my comments is that PF is good for people who are looking to just get in shape, stay in shape and loose some weight. If you want to build a whole lot of muscle we do have some machines and yes once you grow out of our weights another gym would be more than appropriate but not everybody wants to have a bunch of muscles.

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    2. Rose says:

      One more thing. By looking at your picture you are in amazing shape and have a lot of muscle (if that is you). If I had you come in our club looking for a place to work out and get bigger I would give you the tour like regular but I would make sure to show you we only have up to this amount of weights and that because you are already big I honestly would recommend that you go to another gym that would have the heavier weights that you would like. I would still be more than willing and happy to sign you up with us I would just make you aware.

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