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...
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 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.
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.