Saturday, September 7, 2013

Planet Fitness Review -- Research and First Impressions


I've been looking for a way to maintain my fitness level for a while now. Maybe it's a bit of workout ADD but I just can't focus for too long on a program. I've done P90X...for a month and a half. I've done ZCUT...for a month. I've also done pure barre and blogilates. Just never sticks. It's not like I don't have enough motivation. I see the positive results and the change and that's usually what pushes people to continue. For me, I just end up getting distracted by something else. Maybe it's cosplay or art or gaming.

So in a nice little "AMG-I'm-lame-and-this-is-why" nutshell, I decided to try more of a traditional gym environment to see if this would keep me going; if I pay money for it, then it's a waste if I don't go regularly type deals.

I did a bit of research and I didn't want to go to places like Gold's Gym or the local athletic clubs. It just didn't appeal to me after going to those sort of establishments before. I didn't want to spend money on a place that didn't take care of the equipment or just had a bunch of leering gym rats or cost as much as the latest PC game per month. One name that kept popping up beyond those was Planet Fitness.

Now the name has both good and bad online mentions -- one being the infamous Lunk Alarm. This, my closest internet friends, is an actual siren. From the videos I've seen, it sounds like an air raid type deal with flashing blue light. The employees flip it whenever someone displays signs of being one of those narcissistic bodybuilder types who throw weights around and grunt in triumph over their latest lift victory.

Secondly, I've read complaints about the free pizza nights / bagel mornings. On top of all that, AMG they're offering candy. What scam is this?? This must be a ploy to get people to be on a continuous cycle of eating poorly and then having to work it off!

...not really. Sure, it can be that way for some. But if you really can't resist the one pizza night and one bagel morning a month, theeeen maybe you need to do a bit of introspection before getting those angry mob torches lit. And the scandalous free candy is just a thing of tootsie-rolls. And it's not even the Halloween-sized ones. Those are mainly for if you need a boost due to low blood sugar or not eating before your work out. Again, if you don't have enough discipline to not cookie monster the free stuff, then something else is the problem.

Another negative thing that has been the "Judgement-Free Zone" selling point. They claim that anyone can join yet many establishments seem to single out those who are already fit, making it a point to dissuade them from getting a membership or picking on their clothing or noise-level. One person mentioned that when they joined her and her son were both given the free PF shirts in size XXL. When asked about the sizing issue, the staff member said that they don't discriminate by having different sized shirts. The list of negative points go on but I'll move on to my personal experiences with PF and my resulting opinions of the fitness center chain.

Firstly, Planet Fitness isn't a full gym in the general sense. It's designed to be a beginner's playground type deal or for those who were maybe fit before and are now out of shape. It's a place where you have staff around to help you figure out a machine or if you're rather self-conscious about doing those leg workouts in front of people, they're off in a chest-high wall enclosure.

They have a rather large number of cardio machines (mainly Cybex) with the intent that you won't have to wait for a machine to open up. Their weight machines are one of the things people largely complain about. Yes, they are Smith machines. Yes, their free weights are limited up to 60 or 75 lbs. But again, PF is about focusing on a certain type that isn't fit yet and I can see why they would limit things so that people wouldn't hurt themselves.

As far as the annoying Lunk Alarm and the hypocritical "judgement-free" staff, I believe it highly depends on location. Remember that these are franchises. There's going to be certain things that are standard and certain things that will vary with location. What one person would take as just a hard exhale on the last rep might be taken as a grunt for another person and they might flip the alarm as a result.

At the location I am currently a member of, I've had the chance to talk to one of the site owners. He seems very reasonable and has over eight years of experience working at more traditional gyms and being a fitness trainer. For him, the whole rule against grunting and dropping weights was more about the extreme. Some noise is expected -- some machines make clanking noises and if you aren't breathing hard then you really aren't doing much of a workout. What the alarm is intended for are those who make noises to draw attention to themselves. And as far as the online complaint that the free shirts only came in one size, again, maybe that was a thing at that particular site. The one I go to had all sizes available.

What it comes down to is: do your own research, go take a tour of the facility, and make your own call about it. Each place will be different in certain ways. I enjoy the place I go to because it's clean, it's well-maintained, the staff is friendly, and they have what I need for now to restart my fitness game at the last save point. Maybe one day I'll outgrow Planet Fitness and will have to seek a full gym and brave the problems with that. But I'll get to that when it happens.

Please be aware that this review was done on my own volition. No one sponsored or requested this review.


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