To cure my incessant lack of motivation to exercise, I signed up for a Planet Fitness membership last month. They wooed me with a "student discount," and since I can never turn down a good discount, I signed up for a 6-month commitment to the self-proclaiming "judgement-free" gym of all gyms. My thought was that if I am paying for a membership, I'll actually get up out of bed a few times a week and drive the short five minutes to a room full of treadmills and free weights.
It worked. True to my expectations, I find myself at the gym 100 percent more than I could previously say for myself. But as I've spent more time at Planet Fitness, I've noticed something that I think is a telltale sign of our culture and the lifestyle it has adopted.
Planet Fitness claims to be a "judgement free zone." Their motto says the following:
"At Planet Fitness, we're here to provide a unique environment in which anyone - and we mean anyone - can be comfortable. In the end, it's all about you. As we evolve and educate ourselves, we will seek to perfect this safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected. We are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that's what you need."
Seems fine, right? Well, not quite.
If you walk into the dressing rooms, you'll see a sign that forbids members from wearing string tank tops or sports bras with no shirt over them. Their reason is straightforward: to maintain a "no gymtimidation environment."
In addition, each location has a "lunk alarm." See for yourself below.
On the first Monday of every month, free pizza is offered to members. Likewise, there are free bagels on the second Tuesday of each month. A sign above the door says "leave your ego here," and images of cartoon bodybuilders are posted on the walls with a red line through them.
All of these rules and perks make Planet Fitness different from most gyms. As a company, they outrightly claim to be unlike any other gym - better, in fact. But I would have to disagree. By discouraging the bodybuilders, workout junkies, or just those people who like to regularly exercise, Planet Fitness is labeling themselves as a judgement-FULL zone.
They won't let women wear just a sports bra while sprinting on a treadmill because it's going to make the 300-pound woman walking on the treadmill feel bad about herself. The faithful weightlifter can't grunt when he squats 250 pounds because it will lower the self-esteem of the guy standing next to him who can barely curl 20 pounds.
Planet Fitness caters to the overweight and under-exercised. Yeah, free pizza is great, but can someone please tell me why any gym would ever offer free pizza? People are going to judge no matter what. I'm going to throw a second glance at the obese person on the elliptical, just like I'm going to look twice at the huge guy with the big biceps. People look at others and form their own opinions, but Planet Fitness looks at the healthy eaters, runners, and bodybuilders and says "no thank you."
I love to see all types of people at the gym. It makes my heart happy when I see people working hard to better their health, no matter what shape or size they are. What I don't like to see is a distinct exclusion of those who have committed to a healthy lifestyle.
Planet Fitness isn't judgement-free, and that's what sets them apart in the fitness world. Unlike their claims, the company is not making everyone feel accepted and respected. They aren't kicking the butts of the overweight and out-of-shape. They're kissing them.