The Planet Fitness Myth

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We’re stuck in an emotionally devoid rut. And Planet Fitness isn’t helping.

I am all for showering my fellow humans with compassion and empathy. Treat others as you’d like to be treated isn’t a bad way to go about doing things.

However, taking politics out of the conversation1, it’s a safe observation to note we live in an era where we have a proclivity to shield people from “bad” feelings or from experiencing failure or hardship.

Social media plays into it. I mean, everyone on Facebook and Instagram lives in a world of butterfly kisses and rainbows (and delicious looking entrees), and it’s hard not to compare and feel up to snuff amongst everyone else’s hunky-doriness.

Society, in general, plays a massive role too. All we need to do is look towards the idea of participation trophies and “safe spaces” to note how we’re seemingly desensitizing people from a wider spectrum of feelings and uncomfortableness.

NOTE: I’d highly recommend checking out the Pixar movie Inside Out. The whole vibe of the movie is to demonstrate that feeling sad or angry or scared is okay…and that it’s a normal, nay, a necessary component of growth.

In today’s guest post by Texas-based personal trainer, Shane McLean, he does a brief “deep dive” into the phenomenon of Planet Fitness and how it mirrors much of the sentiment above.

I.e., shielding people from failure and uncomfortable situations. Is it really helping?

Don’t worry, it’s not an anti-Planet Fitness diatribe. There’s no need to preach to the choir here. However, bringing the (albeit slight) nefarious side of why Planet Fitness even exists is something I find very interesting and something worth discussing.


The Planet Fitness Myth

The first time I entered a weight room, I had absolutely had no idea what to do or how to get started. However, isn’t that the case with almost everything we do for the first time?

The start of the New Year brings a stampede of newbie gym-goers who enter a gym for the first time disappointed by their ever-growing waistlines. They usually head straight to the cardio machines to watch TV or to the dumbbell rack to do endless variations of biceps curls hoping their belly will magically disappear.

The regular gym folk may get annoyed when ‘their’ gym is full or the machines have all been taken or the biggest granddaddy of them all, the squat rack is being used for biceps curls. This one makes me mad. How mad? This mad.


These newbies are looking to lose a few pounds and think doing endless sets of curls is no big deal. They just want to look better naked and are (usually) not interested in strength or performance goals.

The newbies may feel judged or intimidated because of the looks they receive from the regulars or from the lack of help they receive from the gym staff. Whether these feelings are real or imagined, they have led to a rise of gyms, like Planet Fitness, who market themselves as the “non-gym.”

Planet Fitness, which started in 1992 in Newington, New Hampshire now has over 1000 locations and 7 million members making it one of the largest health clubs in the U.S.

With their cheap per-month membership and their slick advertising slogans such as Judgement Free Zone®, Gymtimidation® and their world famous Lunk™ alarm, Planet Fitness is doing a great job of attracting these disenfranchised exercisers.


Planet Fitness has built its reputation on maintaining a non-competitive work environment which has led to banning of certain exercises (which happens to be my favorites) and certain types of lifters.

They keep their costs down by omitting fancy stuff like juice bars and personal trainers and by not following every exercise fad. They stock their facility with good old fashioned cardio, weight machines dumbbells and barbells and not much else.

I think Barney the dinosaur and LSU would approve of their color scheme. However, I’m not a fan of purple.

They also offer free pizza, bagels and even tootsie rolls to their members on the gym floor. What an ingenious idea. Can you imagine holding a slice of pizza in one hand and doing curls with the other? It boggles the mind with other possibilities.

It’s not my intention to rag on Planet Fitness because the facts speak for themselves. They are doing quite well and have cornered their share of the market, and they keep on growing.

However, I take exception to the way they portray non- purple commercial gyms.

Our first commercial gym experiences were probably similar. We were surrounded by people who were in much better shape than we were. They were bigger, faster and stronger and most of them knew what to do.

We’d scan the room and realize, “Shit, I’ve got some work to do.”

Sure, we may’ve felt slightly intimated or maybe even judged by the other regulars at the beginning but those feelings will fade with time and sweat equity.

Being out of ones “comfort zone” is necessary for growth, don’t you think?

Instead of cowering in the corner and waiting for free pizza, I used this as motivation to get better. People who have taken the time, effort and sacrifice to get in shape should be role models to others and not kicked out of the gym because they’re ‘too muscly’ or for making too much noise.

The gym floor isn’t a church after all.

Furthermore, in my experience these type of people are more than willing to help and share their tips, tricks and techniques. Sure, they might be intimating, but once you get to know them, they could be as gentle as a pussy cat.

Planet Fitness fits right into the era where we give out trophies for participation and ribbons for finishing last. Nobody likes to lose and nobody wants to get his or her feelings hurt.

However, this doesn’t fit with real life. We lose. We get our feelings hurt. We get judged. We get intimated by a situation or a person. Either we pack our bags and go home or use this as a learning situation and move onward and upward.

I’m assuming I’m preaching to the converted here. You take your health and fitness seriously and invest time, money, effort and sweat equity into it. However, if you have a friend, family member or co -worker interested in joining Planet Fitness, tell them this

  • The deadlift is an awesome exercise that strengthens the whole body. Have them read THIS.
  • Having temptation around when trying to make a change is a sure way to fail.
  • Excluding certain people from the gym doesn’t mean judgment and intimdation stop.
  • Those feelings described don’t last. Whether they’re real or imagined, use them for positive change.
  • How can you tell if people are judging you anyway? They might just be checking you out.

Wrapping Up

There will always be gyms who compete only on price and price alone. However, most people’s health and fitness is worth way more than $10 per month and free tootsie rolls.

No matter how delicious they are.

About the Author

Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is an A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer working deep in the heart of Texas. Shane believes in balancing exercise with life while putting the fun back into both.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. Which is a cluster fuck of fuckedness I’d like to avoid.