An Open Letter to Planet Fitness

Before I get into it, I’ll tell you a little bit about me.  I’m an NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  I have a certification in Plant Based Nutrition.  I write this website right here, Raw Is Sexy, where I help people to get fit and stay healthy and find their own balance with health and fitness.   I believe in living a healthy lifestyle – for LIFE.  I know that proper diet and exercise gets results.  I am impassioned to help others turn their lives around, make a change and get on a healthy path.  Our bodies are the vehicles that we live our lives in and we need them to be healthy and fit so that we can do all of the wonderful things in life that we want to do.  Go where we want to go.  Be healthy enough to be an active participant in the lives of those we love.  Strong is sexy.  Healthy is sexy.  Being active is sexy.  Eating your veggies is sexy.  I want to empower everyone, especially women, to feel great in their bodies, feel confident in their skin, and to know that they can do anything they set their minds to.

But you’re a gym – so you already know the amazing benefits of fitness and daily exercise!  Of course you do. Oops, I’m sorry.  Scratch that.  Your website says that you are NOT, in fact, a gym.  You’re Planet Fitness. An entire planet of fitness? That sounds impressive.

So impressive that I was shocked to see this photo swirling around the internet on social media and I’d like to bring it to your attention:

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I could not believe my eyes when I saw this.

When I read this sign, I felt a negative connotation attached to these exercises.  You’re not helping anyone learn or increase their fitness aptitude by posting signs like these.  You’re becoming part of the broader problem.  This sign casts a negative shadow on weight lifting and insinuates that those particular exercises are terrible, scary things to the mass population. You may think you’re creating a comfy, non-judgemental gym (which is your big selling point in commercials, right?) but all you’re really doing is judging others and reinforcing weight lifting misconceptions and stigmas.  You’re creating an atmosphere where now, a girl who has no idea what a dead lift even is, will avoid it and view it in a negative light because of this sign. She might think to herself, “Oh, only professional bodybuilders do those things.  Those aren’t for me.”  Do you know how many women are hesitant to lift weights?  Do you understand that you’re only making that worse by posting things like this?  Lifting weights is a vital part of fitness.  It’s been proven to increase joint mobility, improve bone density, body composition, relieve stress, etc.  Being strong increases longevity and improves our quality of life!

Fitness in all forms desperately needs to be celebrated and elevated in this country. Not dumbed down. More than two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.  MORE THAN TWO THIRDS.  Doesn’t that alarm you?  Childhood obesity is skyrocketing.  Doesn’t that make you angry?  Doesn’t it make you want to help everyone and do everything possible to encourage all forms of fitness and daily activity?  People need to learn how to stay fit and healthy. People need to be educated.  Saying that you are creating a judgement free environment by not allowing people to lift weights in a certain way makes zero sense.  What would make sense would be to create a judgement free, encouraging environment where people can LEARN how to do these moves with the proper amount of weight for their level of fitness and ability.  This sign doesn’t help anyone.  It creates a separation and a division. It reinforces negative preconceived notions.   It doesn’t teach, encourage, motivate, support, or create a positive feeling.  And it really pisses me off.

Let me remind you of what your website says (I made bold my favorite parts):

“Welcome to Our Planet.  Make yourself comfy. Because we’re Judgement Free. It doesn’t matter if your legs have never seen a squat machine before. We believe how you work out is totally up to you. Take advantage of our unlimited fitness training programs or just do your own thing on the treadmill, we’ll cheer you on either way – if you’re in our house you deserve a little cred just for being here.

We believe no one should ever feel Gymtimidated by Lunky behavior and that everyone should feel at ease in our gyms, no matter what his or her workout goals are. And everyone should have access to lots of nice new equipment and feel comfortable asking for help. With all of these great benefits under one roof, we like to say: We’re not a gym. We’re Planet Fitness. 

The Judgement Free Zone®”

Gymtimidated?  Lunky behavior? Here’s the thing:  You are not a judgement free zone.  You are judging people in the fitness community by using language like that.  I know what you “think” you are doing…but putting others down with sweeping generalizations isn’t the way to do it.  You should never look down on someone unless it’s to help them up!  I get what you were going for but you’ve missed the mark.  No one likes to be judged.  You say you’re without judgement but you’re not all-accepting.  You make it clear who isn’t welcome on your “planet”.

You have a huge opportunity here, Planet Fitness.  You have a huge platform across this beautiful country of ours to take a positive stand on fitness against our obesity crisis.  You have an opportunity to give people the tools and fitness education they need to change their lives and you are missing it!  You are MISSING IT and letting it go to waste to uphold this brand image of “judgement free” and “we’re not a gym”.  When you make the idea of a gym a negative one, you are doing a disservice to everyone.  People make up a gym.  It’s the people who make up a fitness community, the same way that a family makes a house a home.  A house wouldn’t feel like “home” if not for the people in it, right?  There is nothing wrong with gyms!  Gyms aren’t bad.  They can’t be, because they’re all made up of people who want to work on their health and fitness.  Your attempt to elevate Planet Fitness above a “gym” has failed in my eyes.  You aren’t a giant “planet” of fitness when someone can’t even do a dead lift or an overhead press.  I love those moves.  Supersets are incredibly effective!  The exercises on that sign have helped to reshape my body…and my booty!  Did I always know how to do a dead lift?  No! Absolutely not.  Someone had to teach me.   We all start at zero.  We all start at the beginning.  We all have to be taught.  Your website says that you believe “how you work out is totally up to you” but this sign is in direct contradiction to that statement.

I now belong to Everfit gym in Malvern, PA.  I say “belong” instead of “go to” because it’s a place where the people really make me feel like I belong.  I’m not just a member; I’m not just a number.  Those people are my friends and together we all feel like a big fitness family.  I look forward to seeing them every time I put on my workout clothes. Sure, there are big heavy weights in that gym.  At Everfit there is everything from cardio equipment to ropes, squat racks, medicine balls, stability balls, bosu balls, benches, free weights, yoga, tire flipping, boxing, a smoothie bar – you name it – they’ve got it.  Did I feel intimidated when I walked through that door for the first time?  No.  Do you know why?  Because Eric McGee, Owner and Master Trainer walked up to me with a big smile, shook my hand, and spoke to me like I was one of his best buddies.  He showed me how to use the equipment.  He took the “scary” or “intimidating” factor out of it.  He was judgement free.  It’s the people who create a judgement-free space.  It’s the people who create the internal culture and that culture can cultivate the positive or it can cultivate the negative.  It’s not the signs you post.  It’s not the elimination of certain exercises.  It’s not the “lunk alarms” and it certainly is not a building that says they are better than a gym.

Ask yourselves how you can most effectively serve others.  How can you increase the fitness knowledge and ability of your members?  How could you make your message a positive one instead of elitist or snarky? How could you best serve your customer?

Here’s a hint: It’s not with the free pizza.

Lovely comments!

  1. Jennifer says:

    Bravo. Planet fitness does not care about the health of its members. They are exploiting people’s insecurities to make money. If they really wanted their members to be “fit” they wouldn’t bait them with pizza and chastise strength training, despite the irrefutable nutrition and exercise science evidence, respectively.

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