The Planet Fitness chain prides itself on being the fitness center that welcomes out-of-shape, intimidated and “just starting out” gym enthusiasts. They’re also the chain that makes people feel bad about being in shape.
A member of a Planet Fitness gym in Richmond, California claims she was asked to put a shirt over her “intimidatingly toned body.” Tiffany Austin was recovering from a car accident and attempting to get back into shape. It was her first workout at the gym. It would also be her last.
However, her time exercising was cut short when a Planet Fitness employee stopped her. Austin explained, “She says, you know, ‘Excuse me, we’ve had some complaints. You’re intimidating people with your toned body. So can you put on a shirt?’”
Ms. Austin was wearing a spaghetti strap tank top and capri pants with her midriff exposed, and she doesn’t think her attire was out of line. “I don’t feel like it’s anything crazy, but I mean you tell me if it’s burning your eyes,” Austin said with a laugh. Reportedly she was only told that the gym dress code prohibited wearing string tank tops. The Planet Fitness customer agreed to wear one of the shirts the gym provides patrons for free, but while she waited for the tee, another employee approached her with objections to her clothing. Feeling harassed and intimidated herself, Austin decided to get her money back and cancel her membership at the gym advertised as the “Judgement Free Zone” whose policy bans “gymtimidation.”
Planet Fitness is standing behind their dress code policy.
I’m the former manager of a gym. I was a personal trainer. I still work out when life allows. All of those supposed to qualify me as an “expert” on this topic but I’d have the same opinion even if I never stacked a weight, wrote up a fitness routine or stepped foot in a gym.
Planet Fitness’s business model is 100% flawed.
I understand the concept because I’ve seen the research — the number one reason people give for not joining a gym is intimidation. At one point, I felt the same intimidation. After one or two visits, it passes, because the fantasy that every gym is wall-to-wall steroid freaks and bikini models is just that — a fantasy. Sure, those people exist, but they’re in the minority unless you live in Los Angeles, New York, Miami or any city where people look absurdly good all the time. I can’t imagine the gyms in Alabama are brimming with swimsuit models and soap opera studs. No offense, ‘Bama.
Planet Fitness doesn’t let in “juiceheads”, “Barbie dolls” or any person who might intimidate Joe or Joanna Q. Public from working out. So Joe and Joanna sign up but then after a few months they disappear because they don’t have the time, they’re lazy, and the last time they worked out they took a look around “am I ever going to look better? Look at all these loads around here. They’ve been working out as long as I have and they still look like shit.”
Gym attendance begins to dwindle. Profits generated from foot traffic is down. Want to know why? Because all the juiceheads, Barbies and work out fanatics were told to hit the bricks! The returning customers who pay for classes, buy smoothies and keep the light on where all told to take their ridiculously over-sized gym bag to another establishment.
Actually, Planet Fitness and other gyms don’t mind that too much, because even though Joe and Joanna are gone they still pay a monthly fee for the right to not stop foot in the gym. Gyms love those members most of all. It’s like free money. Maybe Planet Fitness isn’t so dumb after all. Except for the body shaming of specific customers.
My advice to people intrigued by the Planet Fitness “gymtimidation” sales pitch is to ignore it. If you’re looking for a gym just pick the one closest to your house or work that offers the classes or amenities you’re looking for like a pool or day care. Get a trainer to help kick start a routine and buy noise cancelling headphones to drown out the rest of the gym world.
A gym is no different than an office, school or any other social structure that involves a collection of different people. There will always be dicks who take it too seriously, there will always be the intimidating people and there will always be super nice people who make things a little more tolerable and drown out the dicks and the serious people. It’s life. You can’t hide from it.