The Planet Fitness Health Club Chain Promises a Less Intimidating Gym Experience, But Do They Deliver? And At What Cost?
Gym/Health Club: Planet Fitness
Location Reviewed: Northville, MI
Hours: Varies by location; many locations 24 hours
Ratings (1-4 Scale: 1= poor, 2= fair, 3= good, 4= excellent)
Weight Training Equipment: 2
Cardio Equipment: 3
Fitness Knowledge of Staff: 1
Overall Facility: 3
Overall Rating: 2.2
First, let’s be honest: gyms and health clubs can be intimidating places, especially for a beginner. If you are overweight, out of shape and trying to live a more active and healthy lifestyle, being surrounded by really in-shape people can either be an inspiration or incredibly demotivating.
And because everyone’s goals are different, most gyms will attractive a diverse group of people, from hardcore bodybuilders, to power lifters to soccer moms and teenagers. This of course varies tremendously from gym-to-gym, but in general, gyms are a microcosms of the rest of society. And like the rest of society, we have to live with each other and get along. Period.
Gyms can also be a magnet for all kinds of stupid and annoying behavior, from high school kids loitering around the bench press and flexing in the mirror, to middle-aged “bodybuilders” in striped clown pants grunting loudly with weights that don’t really warrant that level of exertion, to rude patrons who needlessly bang weights around or leave their equipment strewn across the floor behind them after each exercise like a Tsunami of sweat, testosterone and ripped Gold’s Gym shirts.
So when Planet Fitness says it wants to change that and make gyms a little less intimidating for average people, the fitness populist in me says “it’s about time.”
Before we go any further, however, a quick disclosure.
I’m currently a member of the Northville, Michigan, Planet Fitness. The Northville location used to be an excellent premium, full-service gym called “The Water Wheel Health Club.”
Two years ago, the owner converted it to a Planet Fitness. I stayed on primarily for the location and convenience. This is not the first gym I’ve belonged to (I’ve been a Powerhouse member in the past and have spent a fair amount of time in other gyms over the years), so I have a pretty good feel for how different gyms stack up against each other.
While my review discusses some specific qualities of the Northville Planet Fitness location, it still is part of the overall Planet Fitness chain, and is subject to the same corporate policies as other locations. So the general experience is probably consistent with other Planet Fitness centers, with some exceptions that I discuss below.
The Planet Fitness Philosophy: Judgment Free Exercise
Planet Fitness, based in Dover, New Hampshire, is one of the fastest growing fitness chains in the country, with new locations sprouting up every day. In 2006, Planet Fitness acquired Joe Gold’s (of Gold’s Gym fame) World Gym franchise, which certainly jumpstarted their recent expansion. To date they operate around 260 Planet Fitness locations in 23 states.
So here’s the concept of Planet Fitness: Create an inexpensive, clean, low-frills fitness center that caters to beginning exercisers by creating a “judgment-free” gym. Emphasize machines over free weights, and enforce a code-of-conduct among members that discourages some of the more intimidating behavior you might find in a more hardcore gym.
So far, so good.
What To Expect at a Planet Fitness Center
Here’s what you should expect to find at the typical Planet Fitness gym:
- No squat racks
- No dumbbells over 70 lbs (in some gym locations this may go up to 80 lbs)
- Limited barbells (often only two to three bench presses)
- Prohibition on use of chalk for heavy lifts like deadlifts
- Preference for machines over free-weights
- Higher ratio of cardio machines versus weight and resistance training equipment
- No group exercise rooms
- A dress code that prohibits certain articles of clothing like bandanas, skull caps, jeans, boots, do rags
- No cell phone usage on the floor
- Ban on grunting, swearing and “psyching-up” rituals
- Ban on excessive noise (like banging dumbbells or dropping weights)
- A Giant Purple “Lunk Alarm” light in each major area of the gym that the staff will activate when someone breaks the code-of-conduct.
In theory, many of their policies make sense.
The cell phone usage policy is one that I wish more gyms would embrace, since there is nothing more obnoxious than listening to someone blather on about their colonoscopy at the treadmill next to you or pace around the free weight room on their Nextel talking to their girlfriend.
Also, discouraging excessively loud grunting and dropping of weights is also something more gyms should consider emulating. It’s rarely necessary to do either one of these activities to work out effectively (although, just to be fair, there is some evidence to support that grunting does assist in exerting more force during certain lifts.)
The dress code is a bit silly, since if someone wants to dress like a pirate and wear a do-rag, it’s not really your gym’s job to play the role of fashion police, as ridiculous as you may look. Your lack of dates will probably help you learn that faster than a Planet Fitness staffer or an alarm on the wall.
What About The Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm?
It’s this controversial “Lunk Alarm” that has gotten the gym most of it’s attention, both favorable and not-so-favorable.
Planet Fitness defines a “lunk” as anyone who engages in disruptive or obnoxious behavior in the gym (dropping weights, swearing, grunting, etc.) or someone who “judges.”
The “judges” part is interesting, because clearly Planet Fitness itself pre-judges its customers on how much weight they can lift or how serious they are about their training. The heavier you go, their theory seems to suggest, the more likely you are to be a “lunk.” The correlation is thin, at best. But it works for their marketing and it makes things much more black and white for the gym staff.
It’s also arguable that the term “lunk” in Planet Fitness’ eyes is really a code-name for “bodybuilder” — a clientele they clearly do not cater to, even if those bodybuilders are polite in the gym (which, believe it or not, they often are.) Indeed, the gym deliberately limits its free-weight equipment to deter bodybuilders from joining the fitness center.
The Planet Fitness ”Lunk Alarm” is applied as a form of social pressure to essentially embarrass anyone who exhibits these behaviors, either intentionally or accidentally (which does happen some times.)
It’s a high-pressure, highly-public form of humiliation that’s intended to enforce the gym’s code of behavior. Whether you approve of the Lunk Alarm, or think it’s an obnoxious, heavy-handed tactic of social control, will really will depend how far you think gyms should go to publicly-enforce codes-of-conduct among their members. There are probably more subtle ways to weed out impolite behaviors in the gym (like maybe just taking someone aside and suggesting that they take it down a notch), but this level of subtlety doesn’t have as much mass marketing appeal as a big purple light.
To Grunt or Not To Grunt?
The Lunk Alarm and the Planet Fitness practice of revoking memberships of people who violate the gym’s code of behavior hasn’t come without it’s share of controversy. In 2006, the New York Times picked up on the story of Albert Argibay, a bodybuilder and corrections officer, who had his membership yanked for grunting during a particularly heavy set of squats.
Management called the police, he was escorted from the gym, and he filed suit against Planet Fitness for defamation. Whether Argibay’s suit has merit is unclear, but the New York Times article does do a nice job of exploring some of the issues raised by Planet Fitness’ desire to micro-manage their members behavior so closely
Use of the “Lunk Alarm” also seems to vary based on the particular Planet Fitness location and whoever may be on staff at that time.
Some Planet Fitness locations and operators are less zealous in their use of the “Lunk Alarm” — and some locations have never used them. However, the “Lunk Alarm” is ever-present at any Planet Fitness franchise, looming over the gym like a great big purple reminder that if you stray to far from the Planet Fitness “philosophy”, you’ll be instantly called-out … and maybe kicked-out.
For some people, even those of us who find some of the idea of less grunting and posturing a good thing — the Lunk Alarm seems a bit over-the-top. It clearly has been a great marketing gimmick for the Planet Fitness franchise, and even the negative publicity it has garnered for them seems to help them further position their gym as a place for “regular people.”
What To Expect From a Planet Fitness Facility
Despite the lack of amenities that more upscale gyms and health clubs offer, the Planet Fitness facilities themselves are generally clean and well-maintained.
Because this is a relatively new chain, most of the equipment will be new or only a few years old. If you are looking for things like towel service or little perks in the locker room, like private lockers, this isn’t the gym for you. Some locations have even removed the omnipresent bathroom scale in the locker rooms, ostensibly to discourage people from not only judging each other — but apparently even judging themselves.
Most locations also offer tanning beds for those of you who want a little fake and bake with your workout. Customers can pay for use of the tanning beds by session, or if they upgrade to the Planet Fitness Black Card, they get free, unlimited tanning including in their monthly membership. This seems to be a particularly popular membership perk among high-school girls, who appear to be joining Planet Fitness in droves (at least at my location) more for the cheap tanning, than to stay in shape.
The chain also recently added coin-operated “massage-chairs” like you find in the mall to many of their locations. Again, with the Planet Fitness Black Card upgrade you get free use of the massage chairs to help you work out those kinks that you acquired from your Judgment Free workout. It also helps with digesting the free pizza and bagels they serve you once a month.
Be forewarned also that if you have an aversion to the color combination of purple and yellow, you’ll pass on Planet Fitness purely on the aesthetics. The chain has ensured that the colors permeate the entire gym, from the custom paint jobs on their resistance machines to the walls, carpet and floors. I personally don’t have a problem with it, but some people may find it kind of garish and distracting.
What To Expect from the Equipment at Planet Fitness
Again, because most of the Planet Fitness locations have opened in the past 2-3 years, the equipment itself is typically new and in good shape. The franchise has some fairly strict rules around what types of equipment their locations can and can’t offer (more on that in a second), but the operators are given some leeway when it comes to other equipment that they provide, especially cable machines.
For example, at the Northville, Michigan Planet Fitness that I based this review on, they feature a dozen expensive, high-quality FreeMotion Fitness strength machines which are very effective at emulating a free-weight workout on a cable machine.
In terms of variety, you’ll find most of the standard basic pulley-and-lever resistance machines, as well as a smattering of other cable machines, including the standard cable-stack stations. You typically won’t find multiple-installations of the same machine, nor some of the variations on machines that you might find in a Golds Gym, Powerhouse Gym or Life Time Fitness. This may vary from location-to-location, however.
Be aware, also, that the franchise purposely limits the amount of weight available on these machines. Again, the point here is to discourage heavy lifters (aka, “lunks”, apparently) from joining the gym. Advanced trainees may find themselves quickly hitting the maximum weights on a lot of these machines, which means if you want to continue progressing, you’ll either have to figure out a way to put additional stress on your muscles through slower-reps, more reps or higher set volume, or switch gyms.
Planet Fitness also offers a light-weight 30 minute circuit workout.
This consists of a series of stations with lever-and-pulley machines for each major muscle group. A green light tells you to start performing the exercise, and a red light tells you when to stop and switch machines. This is actually not a bad approach for beginners, and it takes some of the guesswork out of ordering exercises and choosing rep and set ranges. So while it’s not for me, or other more experienced members, it is a nice feature for people who are just getting started.
What About Free Weights?
If an extensive variety of free weight equipment is what you crave, you’re probably not going to love Planet Fitness.
They generally limit the number of available bench presses to three (less, in some locations), ban squat racks at the corporate level for all franchise locations, and limit dumbbells to 70-80 lbs. You won’t find traditional chin-up bars or T-Row Bars, either (although they may have a assisted pull-up station which is an acceptable substitute.)
They also seem to deliberately limit the amount of plates available for barbells and the Smith Machine to discourage heavy lifting. At the Northville location, you’re prohibited from using barbells for standard exercises like deadlifts, bent over rows, cleans or standing military presses. This seems to be a standard practice across all Planet Fitness locations. The size of the weight room at my gym is also limited, which is a bit ironic, because based on how crowded it usually is, it’s apparent that there is a demand among clients for more free-weight options.
For a beginning or intermediate lifter — and most women — the lack of weights above 80 lbs probably won’t be an issue. However, if you are serious about your training, it’s likely you’ll eventually max out on their weight selection. You can always switch to barbell moves, where it’s possible to pile on more weight, but in terms of dumbbells, you’ll be dead-in-the-water.
That Missing Squat Rack?
The lack of squat racks should be a concern to anyone who is trying to get a well-rounded workout.
Squats are fantastic compound exercises that almost everyone should incorporate into their workout, regardless of their experience level. They prohibit squat racks because they believe it encourages “lunks”, but it really does a disservice to their clients. Planet Fitness seems to believe that a Smith Machine is an acceptable replacement for a squat rack, but Smiths are among the most dangerous machines when it comes to encouraging injury, since they have a tendency to force you into unnatural planes of motion and place unnecessary stress on connective tissue.
Again, because there is some variation in equipment from location-to-location, you’ll want to take a tour of the facility before signing up to see if it will meet your needs. You’ll also want to consider where you expect to be in terms of strength eight months from joining, since you may find yourself outgrowing their equipment or weights.
If pounding away on a treadmill or elliptical machine is your cup-of-tea, you’ll generally be happy with Planet Fitness.
The chain tends to have a fairly wide-variety (and large number) of cardio equipment, including elliptical trainers, treadmills, stair-steppers, and recumbent bikes.
In terms of entertainment, most locations have a series of big-screen TVs that you can plug into and share with other exercisers. At the Northville location, they also have some cardio units with their own built-in entertainment centers, which can come in handy if you aren’t interested in watching another episode of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” with the rest of the hamsters in the cardio room.
Aerobics and Specialized Classes
Planet Fitness does not offer aerobics or specialized group classes like pilates, kick-boxing, Body Pump, or yoga. So if this is important to you, you’ll need to find another gym, or supplement your Planet Fitness membership with walk-in classes offered by other gyms, the YMCA, or a local community rec center.
Gym Staff and Personal Trainers
Some Planet Fitness locations may have independent personal trainers available if you need one, but they are not included in the membership package, and they typically don’t keep trainers on staff, even for hire.
Also, don’t expect to get much of an orientation from the staff showing you how to use the equipment. When you join Planet Fitness, you are pretty much on your own in terms of figuring out what to do. The staff is primarily there to scan people in, sign up new members, give prospective gym members tours of the facility, schedule tanning bed appointments, walk around to make sure people aren’t grunting, and depending on the location, activate the Lunk Alarm.
This isn’t as much of an issue for people who are already experienced at weight training, but for beginners, it’s critical.
Also, it’s important to know that their staff is not necessarily trained or certified in the fitness field. Since they are primarily hiring people to check clients in, the staff doesn’t have to have any fitness expertise or experience to work at Planet Fitness. In other words, they are just as likely to work at Wendy’s, as they are at Planet Fitness. Remember, this is McExercise, not the fitness equivalent of dinner at Spagos.
I personally have some issues with the lack of basic instruction on use of gym equipment at Planet Fitness, especially since they deliberately try to appeal to “average people” with little or no exercise experience.
There is a legitimate concern about safety and whether Planet Fitness, for all of it’s talk of empowering people to improve their health at their own pace, really has “average Joe’s” best health interests in mind. Clearly their emphasis on keeping costs down is behind their lack of trained staff, but it’s questionable whether they are really doing their novice clients any favors by skimping in this area. At every gym, you see people performing exercises incorrectly or with ineffective (and often dangerous) form, but this seems to be even more prevalent among the Planet Fitness clientele at my gym.
The Planet Fitness Gym Clientele
Obviously, the clientele at any given Planet Fitness gym will vary based on the location and how aggressively they enforce their “No Lunks” policy.
In general, expect to find a lot of casual exercisers, quite a few people with little experience in the gym, a ton of teenagers (since the $10 a month membership fee and tanning is appealing to this group), and a smattering of people who are serious about their fitness training.
The lack of certain basic free weight equipment will naturally limit the number of powerlifters, serious bodybuilders and even more experienced fitness buffs (male and female) that join the gym. It is possible for an advanced trainee to get a pretty good basic workout with the equipment available at Planet Fitness, but again, you have to get creative, especially without the squat rack and weights that exceed 80 lbs.
At the Planet Fitness that I belong to, the management is reasonable and does a generally good job at running a good shop. I’ve never seen them use the Lunk Alarm, and they take a more one-on-one, individual approach to enforcing the gym’s code of conduct with people who may occasionally slip up. I appreciate this, since I don’t think gyms need a bunch of wanna-be fitness Torquemadas running amok in the weight room. I do know that some people have had their memberships revoked for repeated violations, but this is probably the exception, versus the rule. I hated it when they removed the squat rack, but I adapted (although I wish it were still there.)
Complaints About Planet Fitness
My two biggest gripes have less to do with the equipment and more to do with a desire to see the chain do more about discouraging certain behaviors not from “lunks” but from their “Average Joe” clients.
The first complaint is that Planet Fitness could do more to educate their new members on basic gym ettiquete.
It’s not unusual at my location to see people leisurely camping out on equipment and benches (I’ve even repeatedly seen a guy reading the newspaper between his sets on the pec deck), hovering around your bench waiting for you to finish, not re-racking weights, or jumping in on a piece of equipment between your sets without even asking if you are done or if they can work in.
While this behavior isn’t unique to Planet Fitness, it’s ironic that the chain focuses all of it’s attention on gross violations like grunting from “lunks,” but doesn’t hold its other members accountable to the far more common violations of simple gym etiquette.
My second gripe concerns the proliferation of teenagers at my location — especially in the already congested free-weight room.
I fundamentally have no issue with teens wanting to workout and weight train (and actually think it’s great), but there seems to be a lot of loitering going on, and very little weight lifting among this group. And because Black Card Memberships allow you to bring in a free guest, I suspect there is a lot of doubling-up going on among ’bros who bring their buddies in gratis.
With limited space in the free weight room, and limited equipment like bench presses, the teens have a tendency to not only overcrowd the free-weight room while they watch their buddies pump iron, but they also round-robin on the benches which can tie up the equipment for better than 30 minutes without a chance for anyone to work in.
Again, these experiences may be unique to my particular Planet Fitness location, but it’s a product primarily of their drive to sign-up new members without providing any coaching on how to behave in the gym — which, of course, runs counter to their whole marketing pitch about creating a more respectful environment.
Perks: Free Pizza, Bagels and Candy?
In addition to the free tanning and Shiatsu massage chairs that come with a the Black Card upgrade, Planet Fitness offers three other perks to all of their members: free pizza once a month, free bagels once a month and the ever-present jar of purple Tootsie Rolls at the front desk.
Yes. I’m not joking.
When you join Planet Fitness to get in shape, once a month they reward you for those 300 calories you just burned on the treadmill with a nice 500 calorie slice of greasy, cheap pizza from a local pizzeria. Or how about a giant, high-glycemic carb bagel to set you on your way to great summer abs? And when you’re done working out each day, grab a couple of purple Toostie Rolls loaded with high fructose corn syrup.
This whole thing would be laughable if it wasn’t so absurd. I can understand providing some kind of “treat” to your customers every once in a while, but outside of serving fried chicken or corn dogs, I can’t think of two more unhealthy foods to offer. A better approach would be to provide some type of healthy snack for their members, that helped them get an idea that eating better can taste good as well. Why not wraps, high-fiber protein bars, or even a healthy version of pizza?
How Much Does a Planet Fitness Membership Cost?
Setting aside some of the limitations of the gym, there is no doubt that Planet Fitness offers one of the lowest monthly membership costs in the industry.
The basic package is $10 per month, with a one-time $59 start-up fee. The membership also is month-to-month, so if you move or decide to switch gyms, you’re not locked into paying-off 12-month contract. The worst that would happen is you if you left is that are out your $59 start-up fee. The basic membership is exactly that — you get use of the Planet Fitness facility (but not the massage chairs or tanning beds) for yourself. And of course, you get that free slice of pizza and bagel.
For the basic membership, you’re looking at about $180 dollars a year. This is a great value for someone who is new to the gym, because it allows you to get started with minimum financial commitment.
The Planet Fitness Black Card option is $19.99 and doesn’t have a start-up fee. However, it DOES require a 12 month minimum term, so if you need to cancel your membership, you’re going to have to ante up the balance.
The Planet Fitness Black Card
The PF Black Card (the $19.99 upgrade with the 12 year contract) does comes with a few perks:
- Free reciprocal use of all Planet Fitness Franchise Locations
- Unlimited use of the Planet Fitness massage chairs
- Unlimited Planet Fitness guest privileges (so you can bring a spouse or friend along with you for free)
- Unlimited tanning
- 1/2 price cooler drinks
- A Planet Fitness T-Shirt
The biggest value to the PF Black Card membership is the guest privileges, since it’s nice to be able to bring someone along for free without the high charges usually associated with day passes at other gyms. Also, if you happen to travel a lot to cities with Planet Fitness locations, the ability to workout for free is nice. Finally, setting aside the health concerns of regular tanning, the free tanning alone makes the upgrade worth it, since a typical tanning package from a tanning salon would cost you around $20 a month itself.
With the PF Black Card upgrade, your total cost of membership for a year would be $240 dollars.
Additional Planet Fitness Black Card Perks
In terms of the other perks, the 1/2 price cooler drinks isn’t that impressive, because their selection has been deliberately limited so as not to appeal to bodybuilders, serious fitness devotees or powerlifters. You won’t find protein drinks, but instead a pretty weak selection of Gatorade, bottled water and Vitamin Waters.
The massage chair is okay. I sat in it once when they first got them to try it out, and have never used it since. At my location they don’t seem to be used very often (except by the staff), so this just feels like another Planet Fitness franchise gimmick to make you feel like you are getting something more with your membership. Looks good on a marketing flyer, though.
Finally, the Planet Fitness T-Shirt isn’t anything to write home about — it’s your basic Beefy-T with a big “Planet Fitness” logo on the front (with the PF “Thumbs Up!”) and some marketing blather on the back about how being a black card members has it’s perks. Basically free marketing for Planet Fitness, provided anyone would actually want to wear this monstrosity of a T-Shirt. I cut mine up for cotton rags to wash windows with. I’m sure there are plenty of other, more creative uses for this.
Be aware that Planet Fitness loves to run their regular membership package and the PF Black Card upgrades as “limited time specials.”
I’ve seen the same specials being run “for a limited time only” with an actual date for when the promotion ends, only to see that deadline continuously extended in perpetuity. So if the staff tells you this promotion is about to end and you need to make a decision now on your membership, there’s a good chance that the exact same promotion will be running two months later should you return.
Should I Join Planet Fitness?
Like any decision you make, whether Planet Fitness is the right fit for you, will depend a lot on your experience in the gym, your health and fitness goals and your budget. If you are just starting out and are concerned about investing in a gym membership that you may rarely use, then Planet Fitness makes a lot of sense.
Also, if you find yourself feeling intimidated by other gyms you may have visited that are filled with hardbodies and chiseled abs, Planet Fitness might be exactly the environment you need to start getting in-shape, at your own pace, without the attitude and additional pressure to fit in.
However, if you are a beginner and are hoping that the gym staff will give you extra guidance on how to structure your workouts, use the equipment and develop a healthy diet to support your fat-loss and exercise regimen, it will be difficult to find that level of support from your typical Planet Fitness location. Remember, you get what you pay for, and at Planet Fitness, that’s typically a clean gym, a bunch of cardio machines, some basic weight training equipment and not much else.
For experienced trainees or more serious bodybuilders or power lifters, Planet Fitness will probably drive you up the wall.
Buyer Beware: Not A Gym For Everyone
If you are looking for a hardcore gym, don’t let the cheap price entice you in. You’ll be singled out fairly quickly as a “lunk” — especially if you subscribe to the “grunting helps you lift more weight” camp — regardless of how polite you otherwise try to be.
Setting aside whether this is fair or not, Planet Fitness clearly doesn’t want you there, and they’ll remind you of this every chance they get with their goofy “Judgment Free Zone” slogans and purple alarm. Save yourself the mental grief and just head back to Powerhouse, which has a better selection of equipment, anyway. You’re not going to change Planet Fitness, no matter how much the rebel in you tries.
Making The Most of Planet Fitness If You Decide To Join
That’s not to say that you can’t be serious about fitness and weight training and still take advantage of the low-cost and basic equipment that Planet Fitness offers.
Personally, I’m a back-to-basics guy, and aside from not having a squat rack, I’ve managed to continue to progress fairly well even with some of the equipment constraints Planet Fitness has placed on me. Even without the squat rack, there are plenty of ways to adapt your workout to continue making progress.
In some ways, I kind of like the challenge that comes with having to work under less than ideal equipment conditions. Kind of like the soldiers in Iraq who make barbells out of broom sticks and sand-filled water containers. I admire that ingenuity.
For example, performing walking lunges with 70 lbs dumbbells would challenge even the heaviest of squatters. Sometimes I think we’ve grown spoiled with all of the fancy Plate-Loaded machines and working with limited resources forces us to change things up more often — and that’s always a good thing.
A Niche Product That Some People Will Love
I also suspect that women (even females who take their weight-training very seriously) will generally find Planet Fitness a pleasant place to workout. It doesn’t have the same “meat-market” feel of a Crunch or LifeTime Fitness, and the weight room will likely be more inviting to a woman than the one at Golds. And because women aren’t typically going to max out over 80 lbs, the dumbbell weight restrictions are less of limiting factor than for men.
Bottom line is to know what you are getting into … and not getting at all.
You have to admire the marketing chops of Planet Fitness, since they clearly understand that if you don’t stand for something … you’ll stand for nothing at all.
Regardless of your feelings for their heavy-handed tactics, there is no doubt that they are appealing directly to an underserved market segment that will likely respond favorably to their pitch. And with more big fitness chains fighting for market share, their angle will probably work. Just understand this before you fall in love with their $19.99 price tag …. it does come with lots of strings.
Planet Fitness Update (9/12/2008)
After publishing this review of Planet Fitness, the manager (Dan) of the Planet Fitness that I belong to pointed out a few things that I wanted to pass along.
Since my goal here was to provide a fair and accurate assessment of what to expect at Planet Fitness, there are a few valid points that deserve some additional attention. Rather than going back and changing the original review, I’m going to deal with them here. I’ll let you make your own conclusions.
First, in terms of the age of equipment at Planet Fitness (and I have seen a fair amount of complaints from other members at Planet Fitness locations around the condition and age of equipment), I’ve been told that all Planet Fitness locations are required to update their equipment every five years. Take-away here is that if you are considering joining Planet Fitness, you should check with the management before joining to see when their last update was.
In terms of the apparent deluge of teenagers loitering around at my particular Planet Fitness location, management tells me that Planet Fitness Black Card member guests must be at least 18 years of age to use the gym, and they are required to sign a document stating so. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to use the equipment.
Practically speaking, this hasn’t really resolved the issue I have with the groups of near-teens dominating the little equipment available as they do whatever it is they are doing — but this is really has to do with not having enough available equipment to accommodate the new members they are recruiting. Add some more equipment, and I really don’t care how long you sit on the bench press between sets or how many of your buddies are cycling in.
Planet Fitness Cooler Drink Discount for Black Carb Members
Management points out that the half-off cooler drinks for Planet Fitness Black Card members are a great deal if you take advantage of it. If you drink 10 drinks a month, you basically gain back the difference between the Black Card membership and the normal membership cost in savings. I’ll buy that, but my complaint about the cooler drinks has less to do with the discount (which I actually think is good) and has more to do with the drinks that they offer. Selection is limited to Gatorade and recently — energy drinks like Rock Star. There’s not a single drink available in the cooler that provides protein, so they aren’t particularly useful post-workout. I rarely use this benefit for that reason. Add some protein drinks like Isopure in the cooler and I’ll change my mind on this. Also, what’s the deal with the Rock Star energy drinks? They are basically nutritionally-empty. I could think of a dozen drinks that would be healthier for your members.
The Infamous Planet Fitness Bagel and Pizza Nights
The management of my local Planet Fitness says that the free pizza and bagel nights are a “member appreciation” perk that is intended to show that “we are all human and pizza and bagels are okay in moderation.” Okay, I get this. People can have cheat meals and still hit their fitness goals. I don’t eat clean 24/7 and readily admit that. That said, I still maintain that one of the responsibilities of a gym or health club is to encourage people to understand that there are healthy options out there besides bagels and pizza. People have plenty of opportunity to eat crappy food all day long outside of the gym, they don’t need a “Planet Fitness” member appreciation pizza nosh to give them permission to eat junk food. They are probably doing it already. So let’s not pile it on more. If there is one place that you should not be greeted by fast food, I’d argue it should be a gym or health club. I’m still not convinced on this one guys.
Why In The World Does It Seem Planet Fitness Corporate Doesn’t Want You To Contact Them?
Since originally posting this review, I’ve had a number of questions from people about various Planet Fitness policies.
My local Planet Fitness has been great about clarifying things when they can, but sometimes, there are questions that are best answered directly from Planet Fitness corporate. For instance, there was a complaint from a South African about their local Planet Fitness posted in the comments on this review. I suspected that this was a gym not associated with the Planet Fitness franchise in the U.S. — but there was no way to confirm with Planet Fitness themselves because they do not (as far as I can tell) provide any method on their website of contacting corporate directly. Perhaps I missed it … and if I did, please correct me here. This is unfortunate, because if the reader’s comments had nothing to do with Planet Fitness US, I wanted to make sure this was clear.
I’m going to give Planet Fitness the benefit of the doubt here and chalk this up to an oversight. But based on some of the negative feedback (along with plenty of positive, to be fair), one has to wonder why any company would not provide a direct, and immediate method for its customers to provide feedback online to them? I would hate to think this is to avoid having to deal with negative feedback. Several times I have asked Planet Fitness CEO Mike Grondahl to respond to certain questions from readers here, and I haven’t heard back from him (despite knowing for a fact that he is aware of this review, since he has commented here once already.)
If you’re going to run a business, you’re going to take the bad with the good. I’ve found in my career that most people are reasonable when it comes to issues they have with companies, so why does Planet Fitness.com make it so damn hard to contact them? I just don’t get it. Maybe Mike Grondahl can provide a reasonable answer. We just need to hear it. So what is it Mike?
Category: Gym & Health Club Reviews
About the Author (Author Profile)Leader of the Best Internet Marketing Team in the World By Day, Fitness Nerd By Night.
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