Response: No Gymtimidation @ Planet Fitness

If you have not seen the Planet Fitness 2013 commercials, consider yourself lucky. While I understand the marketing ploy, it saddens me. The commercials give an ugly, and inaccurate, perception of gyms. I have spent a lot of time in gyms the last 10 years. 30+ hours a week for the last 7 years. Gyms in Wisconsin, New York, Texas, and Minnesota. Small clubs, franchises, and ‘big-box’ gyms. And you know what? I might have met ONE person who fits the stereotype portrayed in these commercials.

The intimidation factor

Do not get me wrong – every gym has its fear factor. Doing anything new can be scary! But these our own fears and preconceptions of what we will experience. Own these fears as your own and then face them! Such an exaggeration of intimidation in these commercials may have a negative influence on individuals who have never physically been to a gym – and if they do not live near a Planet Fitness – now they may never go!

Further, I believe that the word intimidation is being misused.

Intimidation: to make timid or fearful; to frighten; to compel or deter by or as if by threats.
intentional behavior that “would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities” fear of injury or harm

No one is outright threatening you. No one is intending to frighten you. This intimidation factor, is actually fear. And this fear is created in our own mind (sorry)! And the more we hear that something is scary, to be feared, or intimidating – the more we will believe it! Yes, mind games. Psychological manipulation. Own your fear and then conquer it!

Let us use my analogy, my gym is my church, for greater perspective. Churches are often described as intimidating. Are the members of the church threatening? Are they intending to instill fear in you? NO! They are loving. They are compassionate. Again, your own fear takes hold – leading to intense anxiety, uncertainty, hesitation – and we look for someone else to blame and point fingers at—

Excellent perks

Planet Fitness rewards and entices members with food. One of the first rules of adopting a healthy lifestyle is to avoid food rewards. As such, it is important to reduce the association and avoid eating in the same environment in which you exercise. Members are supplied pizza on the first Monday night of the month and bagels on the second Tuesday morning. Tootsie Rolls are handed out daily.

I will discuss the (research-based) issue of rewarding with food in a later post. But, do you like the idea of going to a gym to improve your health and fitness, just to have them tempt you with food items that you may be trying to avoid? Do you want to workout to the aroma of pizza or a fresh bakery? Do you like that they provide foods that will slow your metabolism and in effect undo what you are doing there in the first place? These perks – although included in a cheap rate – are setting you up for failure when you buy into them. Cheaper is not always better! In fact, in the words of a very wise man:

Only a rich man can afford cheap shoes.

NOT for bodybuilders nor powerlifters

I am not a bodybuilder. Nor am I a powerlifter. But neither am I welcome at Planet Fitness. Why? Because I grunt – and sometimes I sound like a walrus when I do it! The facilities also lack the heavy weights and much of the equipment I desire to work with, but I realize that not everyone needs these things. My point – the “Judgement Free Zone” judges me. They are judging most of my friends, too. In fact, I have friends who have been kicked out of Planet Fitness because of their workouts—

Customer service leaves much to be desired

I have talked to my fair share of Planet Fitness goers. I have many former clients who are members at Planet Fitness because of the low rates and no-contract policy. The member service representative gives you an orientation to the equipment. And if you are lucky, this individual has a no-name personal training certification. The chances are you are being taught how to use equipment by someone who has never used it and/or does not really know how to use it. If you are afraid of the gym because you are unfamiliar with the environment, the equipment, and the concept of exercise – do you have confidence that an unqualified front desk employee can put you at ease?

Please consider who you place your trust in. Very few Planet Fitness staff are truly qualified, because the job description does not require it and because the compensation does not suffice for the qualified fitness professional. Would you trust a medical receptionist to draw your blood? I did not think so!

The “Judgement Free Zone”

I have met and spoken with an endless number of individuals regarding health and fitness. I know  individuals who were afraid of photo (6)fitness classes and the idea of others watching them. Others planned to attend the gym during slow times – they feared judgement and what others thought. And you know what they eventually realized? When you are working, you are focused on yourself and no one else. And if you are focused on yourself, the chances are most of your fellow gym-goers are focused on themselves as well. If you can judge someone else at the gym, then YOU are NOT working hard enough. And if EVER someone is judging you and has the galls to say something, you tell them just that, “if you are able to judge me, then you clearly are not working hard enough.” You have my permission to do this.

The bottomline

Stop finger pointing. Intimidation is something that is done with intent. It is an intentional behavior by definition. More often than not, no one at the gym is intimidating you. The Planet Fitness commercials may be exacerbating your fear factor – a fear that is perfectly legitimate. But do not blame those of us who are already at the gym. We did not do anything – other than work hard. And very few behave like the actors in the commercial.

My grunting intimidates you? Well guess what, I have no idea that you are even there when I am working out -so how could I be intending to instill fear in you? I am focused on breathing and finishing my lifts safely. I am in my church!

With that said, am I intimidating you or are you afraid of me? 

You want to go to Planet Fitness? I am not discouraging that. I am, however, encouraging you to be smart. Avoid their perks. Seek assistance from a qualified fitness professional if you are unsure of what you are doing (meaning not the chick sitting behind the front desk). Lastly, do not let ridiculous commercials, gimmicks, ploys, or manipulative marketing strategies get between you and your goals. The journey is scary – gyms included – but your desire is stronger than fear itself.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” – 1 Peter 3:13-14

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. – Matthew 10:26


3 thoughts on “Response: No Gymtimidation @ Planet Fitness

  1. As a former PF member as well as former UFF member, I agree with some of what you said. But I loved the atmosphere at PF. I felt very welcome but left alone, which was what I wanted. I did my workout and didn’t pay much attention to anyone else. There were a few guys that looked like they should be at Gold’s instead of PF. Hardcore. But most were just regular people getting in a workout. I used to go late in the evening and I would see one girl frequently. Her face was deformed on one side. She always came in with who I assumed was her sister. No one stared at her. Maybe they were used to seeing her, as I soon became. In fact, she became a welcome sight, because she was obviously comfortable there and accepted. I loved that gym. True, the free “personal training” is questionable in terms of quality, and I never understood the pizza thing (nor did I partake, it seemed counterproductive). But for $10 a month I was very happy while I was there and felt more comfortable there than in any gym I’ve ever been at. The commercials are of course overdone just to make a point. I don’t think anyone would take them seriously. But when you’re NOT in shape and going to a gym, you are intimidated going in by the people who are in shape. That’s just a fact. You don’t measure up, it shows, and you know it. I would bet that everyone who’s out of shape takes that mentality with them into a gym to some extent. You’re embarrassed and you’re intimidated. Not because people are grunting; because you feel you don’t belong in a room full of fit people.

    • I understand what makes a gym uncomfortable. I have been there. I have not always been fit. I was afraid of the gym. I was afraid to go into a group fitness class – afraid I would stick out like a sore thumb. I am happy with the attempt to create a safe place for individuals to pursue health and fitness. I am disappointed in their promulgation of myths and presumptions. I am disappointed in their promotion of unhealthy behaviors in a healthy environment – which to trumps their efforts to create a safe place because it is no longer safe.

      You mention seeing guys that looked like they should have been at Gold’s – what do those guys look like? And this proves my point that the “No Judgement Zone” still displays judgements. I have NEVER known anyone who looked at a ‘regular person’ at the gym and thought or said they shouldn’t be there and belonged somewhere else. I have friends who have gone to Planet Fitness because it was what they could afford – but they are fit so they don’t belong?

      And I understand being intimated. Again, been there. But the terminology and directional inference are inaccurate. Your own perceptions and beliefs are intimidating you, if anything – not the ‘fit’ individuals at the gym. Their are greater issues at hand – and for most individuals ignoring or disregarding this emotional and mental fallacies or thought errors will prevent them from achieving and/or maintaining their lifestyle goals. And sadly, the commercials and concepts make the mind set worse.

      And lastly, sometimes the greatest thing we can do for ourselves – for personal growth – is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

  2. I really appreciate all your posts, but this one is a great one. I have seen some of these planet fitness commercials and its frustrating to see these stereotypes amplified to ratify the insecurities and fear of those who go to gym. I am all about self-love and motivation, and judging one’s self against others is the direct route to fitness and health failure. People need to be healthy for themselves first and foremost. Thanks for a great read, Becca.

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