There’s a growing chain of gyms called Planet Fitness. And I really, sincerely wish Planet Fitness would go the way of Alderaan.
Here’s what the typical Planet Fitness looks like: A huge purple warehouse full of cardio machines, with a few weight machines and a dumbbell rack that goes up to 60 stuck in the corner somewhere. Oh, and there’s a big siren on the wall called the “lunk alarm” that blares anytime someone clanks a weight or lets out a grunt of exertion.
Our Puritan ancestors used to shame people for idleness. Now we shame them for working too hard? Nobody likes poor gym etiquette, but since when is the solution to an annoyance the creation of a bigger annoyance?
Planet Fitness is a self-described “no judgment zone,” where people, no matter their level of personal fitness, are encouraged to come exercise. A gym packed with neophytes isn’t exactly ideal, but hey, if people are learning and making progress, awesome.
Except that’s not what happens. Rather than give the sedentary and unfit a safe place to begin a real fitness journey, Planet Fitness actively condones—and encourages—what I call “hamster wheel training.” I call it that because literally and figuratively, you get nowhere. You plod along on a treadmill or elliptical and watch reality TV. In the process, Planet Fitness demonizes folks who dare to approach fitness from a more functional standpoint—lifting heavy weight until they can’t lift it anymore.
I realize I sound like a total blowhard meathead here, and I swear, if doing an hour or two of brisk walking every week were enough to stay fit and healthy, I’d shut my mouth. But it’s not. If you think a glorified hamster wheel all on its own—with no flexibility work, progressive resistance training, or sensible nutrition plan—will keep you strong and lean, then you are fiddling while Rome burns, and Planet Fitness is robbing you blind.