Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why I Already Dislike Planet Fitness

Against my will, I had to sign up for a membership at Planet Fitness. I recently moved, and Planet Fitness is the only gym within a 30 minute drive that doesn't require some sort of extended contract. I've only been a member for a week and every day I find something new that annoys me. So, here, in no particular order, are 5 of the things that annoy me the most...

Their Philosophy

On one hand, I respect what Planet Fitness does by encouraging people who are self-conscious about themselves to exercise and not feel like they're being judged. That's great. I was overweight for almost my entire life. Even after I began exercising regularly, I still couldn't get rid of my excess weight (then I discovered this thing called "dieting"), and I often felt inferior next to people who were in better shape than me. The part of their philosophy that really bothers me is that while they put up signs that say things like "No Critics" and "You Belong," they turn right around and denounce bodybuilders. Listen, I'm not a bodybuilder by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm in great shape and take lifting very seriously, and it just feels like Planet Fitness looks down on people that break a sweat in the gym. Do a Google image search and you'll find things like this:

And this...

And I refer to egg whites as "steroids."

I've worked out at all kinds of different gyms: College gyms, YMCAs, bodybuilder gyms, etc. Not one of them has ever had policies against letting in certain people, everyone was welcome. Planet Fitness is basically saying "Do you like to take care of your body? Do you take supplements? Do you like to lift heavy? Sorry, buddy, your kind isn't welcome." Which leads me to my second entry.

The Lunk Alarm

This picture hangs above the free weight area (if you can even call it that, but more on that later) in the facility I use:

That's adorable, they're publicly insulting people. That blue light up there is called the "Lunk Alarm." Basically, if you make too much noise (i.e. drop the weights too hard), it'll go off and everyone will stare at and judge you. What does this do? It discourages people from working hard. I don't have a partner at the gym, but I still like to work my muscles to failure, and the Lunk Alarm prevents me from working as hard as I want to. I can't go to muscle failure because without a partner, I have to place the weights on the floor, and that's a very hard thing to do softly when your muscles are completely fatigued.

On that sign, you'll notice they give a definition of what a "Lunk" is (I'll tell you what it's not, it's not a word, if my spell check is to be trusted), and then you'll see that they're kind enough to give you the word in a sentence like you're in a spelling bee. The part about slamming weights I don't really care about, but what exactly is wrong with wearing a bodybuilding tank top and drinking water from a gallon jug? What if I wore the exact same tank top but without a picture of a man lifting weights on it? Would that be acceptable? How about I just not wear a shirt? I mean, as long as I cover up that giant tattoo on my chest of a man lifting weights, of course. I've been carrying a gallon of water with me for years. Why? Because I drink a lot of water throughout the day, and it's a lot more convenient to just have it with me than to walk all the way across the facility and wait in line for a quick sip of water.

P.O.T.B. Signs

You'll spot small signs scattered all throughout Planet Fitness, and they're the dumbest things I've ever seen. These are the "Pat on the back" signs. They all start with the phrase "You deserve a pat on the back because..." and then follow it up with something that is no reason to receive a pat on the back. On each sign you'll see a #potb, so I decided to search Twitter to find other ones that people have shared. Here's some of the results:

Translation: "The bad news is that you ate so much that you're sweating. The good news is that you're sweating."

Translation: "You finished first in a one-person race. Good job?"

Here's the one at my gym:

Translation: "Congratulations, you got off the couch today."

Perhaps this is all coming across as a bit insensitive, but I really don't understand how any of those are meant to be encouraging. There's one on the front entrance at the Planet Fitness I use that says something along the lines of "Those extra 10 minutes of cardio go great with a celebratory martini." I read that as "Rather than letting the knowledge that your hard work is paying off be your reward, go ahead and negate that hard work by boozing it up.
Lack of Basic Equipment

I don't need a million-dollar facility full of brand new equipment to have a great workout. What do I need? Dumbbells, barbells, a few benches, and weights. So I walk into Planet Fitness (the one in Eastgate, for those wondering, so it may not be relevant to every Planet Fitness) and what do I see? A million-dollar facility full of brand new equipment. I thought "Great! They seemingly spared no expense for their customers. I know Planet Fitness has a bad reputation among people like me who take lifting seriously, but this place looks great, I don't see why everyone speaks so poorly of this place. Alright, let's hop on the bench press." Then I took a closer look. Where's the bench press? Where's the squat racks? Where's the barbells? I looked...and looked...and looked. I scoured the facility from front to back, and came up empty.

I understand that this isn't a bodybuilder gym, but you mean to tell me that you don't have the most basic of weightlifting equipment? Instead, you throw in 4 Smith machines and say "This is where you can bench press and squat." No, I want to bench press on a bench press. I want to squat on a squat rack. I was amazed the first time I did a leg workout and discovered they didn't even have a leg curl machine. You have 7,000 treadmills and 5,000 ellipticals, but you can't give me one barbell? I'm not even kidding, there isn't one barbell in the entire facility. How am I supposed to do dead lifts? Oh wait...

Everything is Branded

Planet Fitness makes sure that you never forget the name Planet Fitness. It's literally plastered on everything. Every piece of cardio equipment, every single weight machine, Planet Fitness clocks on the wall, Planet Fitness logos on their sanitizing bottles, they even put two Planet Fitness stickers on every dumbbell. I'm almost in shock that they didn't put stickers on the Gatorade in the fridge. Why not just make part of the membership getting a Planet Fitness tattoo on your face, that way we can all be walking billboards for Planet Fitness? Thank God they allow me to use their facility without wearing Planet Fitness brand shoes.

I've never seen a company so full of themselves in my life. Even Terrell Owens only had his name on his jersey once. You can't turn your head without seeing that stupid thumbs up logo. I'm sure that if I stay there long enough that I'll start seeing that logo in my dreams. I go to kiss my wife see only to see a giant thumbs up staring back at me. It's not even subliminal, they come straight out with it, burning it into your brain. I liken it to what M. Bison did to Blanca in Street Fighter: The Movie.
Like I said before, Planet Fitness was my only option when I moved, so my choice was to either lose all of my muscle, or workout at Planet Fitness. I'm still not entirely sure if I made the right decision or not.
You can follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas. I also have a videogame podcast that you can subscribe to on iTunes here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When Expectations & Results Don't Match

Perhaps I'm speaking only for myself, but sometimes I'll play a game that I have no interest in. The reason is simple: everyone said it was AWESOME! Sometimes I'm surprised about how I feel once I start playing said 'AWESOME' game. The examples I'll use are Sleeping Dogs and Saints Row the Third, both of which I played for the first time within the last few months. If you place the two side-by-side and asked me which one I expected to enjoy and which one I thought I would hate, the results would have been completely different than how it actually played out.

A gritty, open-world, undercover cop story set in Hong Kong, which was originally a sequel in a series of previous generation games that I didn't like? SNORE! An open-world game where you play a leader of a gang in the middle of their Beatlemania, with over-the-top humor, the ability to perform wrestling moves on pedestrians, and features Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam, and Burt Reynolds as voice actors? Are you kidding me? Grind it into a liquid and stick it in my veins!

However, Sleeping Dogs went on to be my favorite open-world game of this generation (partly due to the fact that I got to listen to Machine Head and Fear Factory while wastin' fools), and I stopped playing Saints Row after about 6 hours. I really tried to love it, it just didn't resonate with me. Due to the high praise SR3 received from pretty much every gaming outlet on the planet, I felt like I must have been doing something wrong. I continued to play long after I realized I didn't like it, because by all accounts, it's amazing, and eventually I'm going to get to that point where it clicks. It has good controls, it's got the type of humor that I love, fun characters, and so on, so what gives?

Not to say that Sleeping Dogs isn't without its humor.

I started trying to rationalize why I didn't enjoy it, analyzing my own psyche hoping to stumble across an answer. Then I had a revelation: I didn't enjoy it because.....because I just freaking didn't. Why did I need a reason? Why did I need an excuse?

Perhaps part of it was because of the Internet's tendency to fly off the handle when you don't love something the same way they do. "You don't love this thing that I love? Where's my torch and pitchfork?!?" I don't say that in an uptight, snooty way, because I'm totally guilty of the same thing. I love the Metal Gear series, and I understand that it's not for everyone, but if someone tells me that they don't enjoy Metal Gear Solid 4, I'll write a freaking dissertation stating all the reasons I'm right and they're wrong. It's the same with music and movies.

Look out, Internet, I'm about to denounce your Holy Grail.

I'll compare my experience with Saints Row to what happened to me with the movie The Big Lebowski and the metal band, Mastodon. I didn't see The Big Lebowski until about two years ago, and don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and thought it was very funny, but after 10 years of people saying it's the best movie ever, it didn't quite live up to expectations. I kid you not, as I was watching it, I received a message on Xbox Live that said "Best movie ever." Moving on, as a lifelong heavy metal fan, everyone always tells me how great Mastodon is, and I've tried on several occasions to like them. Every time they release a new album, I'll listen to it, and then an hour later I'll be sitting there thinking "Well, that sucked."

When something is built up as one of the best in its medium, we inflate our expectations to the point that there's no way it can possibly live up to them. Part of this may be because I tend to wait on playing big titles until after they've dropped in price (thank you PlayStation Plus), and if I had played Saints Row upon release, my thoughts may have been completely different.

I will, however, never get sick of this.

Of course, as someone who desires to one day turn writing into a paying gig, giving a game a bad score and writing "I just didn't like it" wouldn't fly, but sometimes I feel like there's no legitimate reason other than that. Like I said, by all accounts it should have been one of my favorite games of all-time, but for reasons unknown even to me at this time, it wasn't my cup of tea.

But I think the lesson I learned from this was that it's alright to not like something that's universally loved, and I don't need to force myself to continue playing a game once I've come to the conclusion that it's just not for me.

Thanks for reading,