Slate just published an interesting article on Planet Fitness, the chain of gyms infamous for its "lunk alarms" and commercials mocking bodybuilders. First, please read this article:
Gym Rat Control
By Luke O'Neil
What does this article imply to me?
Planet Fitness doesn't care about your results, just your membership.
What makes me think so?
They don't offer any personal training. So basically, you're on your own even if you feel you need training. Not sure what is a good program? They won't help.
The owner dumps on the idea of training, too - saying "who the hell needs a friend for 50 bucks an hour?" Perhaps a friend for $50/hour might be what some trainers offer, but not good ones. While I approve of the idea of not trying to sell you training you don't need, I don't think it's useful or helpful to deride the idea of training.
Planet Fitness does offer group fitness instruction - which, apparently, is not renting a friend for an hour, it's renting friends for an hour, so that's different. I guess wholesale friends are fine, it's just retail they object to.
They don't offer up any heavy weights to lift, and frown upon excessive sweat. Okay, so if you lift too heavy or work too hard, you're out.
What this tells me is that you get no guidance, punished for working hard (or at least showing it), and given limited options for improvement.
They don't even offer up the expectation of improvement. Do you see anything in a PF ad or gym location that shows you what you can achieve with effective and efficient training? I don't. They offer you a chance to do some exercise, but not any form of goal or potential for achievement.
Heck, they serve you pizza! Pizza is a great food, but is it healthy and conducive to your fitness goals? Probably not. And are they serving it because they think you need that to reach your goals, or are they serving it because they have a good dollar return on doing so? Pizza isn't an ideal fat loss food, either, and I bet more people have that as their goal when they join PF than anything else.
Sharing the gym isn't reality and hasn't been for a long time.
The author of the article suggests that this might be the start of segmentation of the gym population. I don't think that's a legitimate fear; it's just reality. Some gyms cater to the general public, like Planet Fitness, or 24 Hour Fitness, or Gold's Gym. Some of these are as much pickup places as they are gyms - men flexing and women lifting in tight, tight outfits, all pretending not to be eyeing each other.
Others aim firmly at a crowd of athletes - look at DeFranco's Training or Diesel Crew.
Still more are powerlifting gyms - Elite and Westside Barbell, for example.
You'll find gyms that cater exclusively to people who want or need personal training.
Others are boutique fitness gyms, aiming at a somewhat wealthier crowd - you'll see these kind of places in every upscale NJ town, with clever names and SUVs and Priuses parked around the place.
Some gyms are more mixed, with both athletes and injury rehab clients and fat loss, but these are rarely big commercial places.
The gym population is already segmented. It's always been divided up; this chain is just trying to carve off the serious training population in the hopes of attracting a large pool of members from the crowd unsure and intimidated by training. And that's the real loss, to me. They don't care about your results, and they're essentially preying on the folks unsure of what training involves. People know they need exercise, they want to get in shape, but they don't know what to do or what works, and they're nervous around people training for something different than they do. PF does its best to cater to this crowd, get them in the door, and get their memberships in return for minimal costs (like paying trainers . . . ) It's probably a very good business strategy, and defining a strong "other" to mock and ostracize, especially when that other is a minority you can safely lose and replace with other customers, is effective.
I just think it's more sad than anything else.
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