About Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is a budget gym offering memberships for as low as $10, just about the lowest you can find among gym chains. The company’s philosophy focuses on making members feel welcome; they’ve adopted the phrase “judgement-free zone” to describe their facilities.
Their budget mentality is rooted in the company’s history. Founder Michael Grondahl started the first planet Fitness in 1992 as a way to compete with higher-priced gyms.
“He reduced membership prices to compete against better-known brands and focused on serving occasional or first-time gym users,” Entrepreneur writes in their Planet Fitness profile.
PF’s services are bare bones and their facilities are simple and cavernous. Most of their locations are open 24 hours a day.
Is the gym the right fit for you? That’s a matter of what your needs are and how the gym meets those needs. Over the next few minutes we’ll talk about each of those areas, and then we’ll present a few paragraphs covering what people say about Planet Fitness.
We’ll close our review with our conclusions and recommendations about Planet Fitness.
Knowing What You Need From Your Gym
Choosing a gym is kind of like choosing clothes. Just because something works for one of your friends doesn’t mean it will work for you. If you need a new wardrobe, you most likely wouldn’t go to the first store you see and spend all your money there.
Likewise, it’s a good idea not to sign up for the gym your friends or family use just because they like it, or because it’s the first gym near your home. Every individual is different and has their own set of needs.
So, before you think about joining a gym, write down what you want from your gym experience and what you need to meet your goals.
Once you know that, you can be far more prepared to make good decisions about whether or not Planet Fitness is right for you. Yes, their prices are cheap, but that doesn’t mean they’ve got the right mix of amenities to make you happy.
What Does Planet Fitness Offer?
As we mentioned earlier, Planet Fitness is a budget gym that offers bare-bones amenities while promoting a judgement-free atmosphere. We’re going to unpack those fees, amenities, and philosophies in this section.
Fees at Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness offers two different levels of membership: No Commitment and Black Card.
Planet Fitness No Commitment Memberships
The No Commitment membership is, at the time of publishing, $10 a month. Depending on where you sign up, you could pay an activation fee or $10 or $0; these details vary by location. While “No Commitment” implies that you don’t have a contract, remember that certain locations may charge the same for a month-to-month contract and yearly contract, while others may charge more for month-to-month.
If you sign up for a yearly contract, you’ll pay $10 a month and will be charged a cancellation fee amounting to the number of months left on your contract multiplied by $10.
No Commitment contracts entitle you to a free t-shirt when you sign-up, as well as unlimited use and training sessions at one location of your choice.
Planet Fitness Black Card Memberships
Black Card memberships are strictly yearly memberships and cost $19.99 per month. Considered an upgraded version of No Commitment, Black Card gets you the three perks of the lower membership along with the use of all PF gyms across the country, free guest passes, free use of tanning beds, free use of massage chairs and discounts on food and drinks at PF gyms.
Black Card members also get discounts at the Planet Fitness online store and on purchases at Reebok stores. Click here if you want to learn about other shopping perks.
No matter which gym you choose, keep in mind you’ll pay an annual fee that varies by location.
Planet Fitness gyms have four main areas: machines, free weights, mat workouts and Black Card.
The gym chain uses Life Fitness workout machines, a reputable brand that rates in the top five on FitnessHealth101 for ellipticals, exercise bikes and treadmills, three pieces of equipment that are very popular with gym members.
This area of the gym is usually skirted by weight machines, most of which have two machines per exercise, a nice perk for those who don’t like to wait to get their reps in.
In most cases, the back section of Planet Fitness is split between a free weights area and an open area with mats for body weight exercises and personal workout routines that require some extra space. Keep in mind that what each gym offers may be a little different. For example, we read about one PF that offers medicine ball training and heavy rope.
Each Planet Fitness also has a Black Card section, which houses massage chairs, hydro-massage beds and tanning beds. These amenities are limited to Black Card members.
Planet Fitness locker rooms include lockers and showers.
Planet Fitness offers free training, but the program isn’t quite what you think. Each gym has a specific schedule of weight-training sessions you can join, most of which focus on specific areas of the body. The classes can be one-on-one but are designed for small groups.
As we talked about in the introduction to this review, Planet Fitness pushes a judgement-free philosophy. In practical terms, this means that each Planet Fitness location has a specific set of rules for conduct in the gym:
- The free weights area has a “lunk alarm” on the wall. “Lunk” is slang for someone who grunts when they lift and slams weights around when lifting or putting them back on the rack. If any of this bravado takes place, the alarm goes off.
- A dress code that prohibits do-rags, skull caps, bandanas, boots, sandals, jeans or string tank-tops.
- A mission statement that pushes back against “gymtimidation,” the feeling newcomers get when they see lunks strolling around the gym showing off their muscles and making people feel inferior.
With the increased awareness of bullying and inclusiveness, Planet Fitness’ philosophy provides a safe place, at least in principle, for average people to go and work out without feeling stupid or ashamed.
But does that philosophy, as well as their facilities, hold up to public opinion?
What Other People are Saying About Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is a polarizing place; you tend to get people who really love it or really hate it. Aside from people’s workout experience being a defining factor in public opinion, there’s also the matter of the gym’s judgement-free philosophy.
Hardcore People Don’t Like Planet Fitness
Weightlifters and fitness fanatics tend to criticize the gym for being a place where out of shape people go to be coddled and pushed toward mediocrity.
As fitness website T-Nation put it, Planet Fitness is “a big, purple-colored adult daycare marketed to people afraid to go to an actual gym.”
A lot of what influences the backlash to Planet Fitness is the fact that the gyms aren’t designed for fitness fanatics who spend most of their time lifting weights and doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routines. On top of that, the gym’s free food perks (bagels one morning a month, pizza one night a month, Tootsie Rolls free at all times) tend to fuel the fire of its enemies.
We certainly understand the push back by some members of the fitness community – PF’s emphasis on people feeling comfortable can grate against the tendencies of more competitive people who prefer high-intensity or bravado-driven workouts.
But not everyone feels that way, and fans of the gym tend to be just as spirited in their defense of it as the gym’s enemies do. A good example is a 2016 Reddit thread about PF titled, “Is Planet Fitness really as bad as people make it out to be?”
Planet Fitness Is not as Bad as Some People Make It Out to Be
It’s important to remember that Planet Fitness isn’t designed for hardcore weightlifters or HIIT fanatics. Rather, it’s focused on average people who want to do cardio, use weight machines and dabble in free weights.
A comment from the Reddit thread by mr_tibbers sums up why people like (and hate) Planet Fitness:
“It's not that bad. For the price, it's solid. I pay 10 a month. I get access to the whole gym, locker room, and showers. They don't have all of the equipment that I would like to use for weight lifting, but I can get around it for the most part.”
We read another comment from a user named natron91 who did a good job describing the kind of person who would like PF:
“It's a decent beginner gym for people getting the feel of things and figuring out a healthy lifestyle or on a budget. But overall, it's not somewhere that can be used long-term because it's easily outgrown.”
The Gym Gets Low Marks for Customer Service
The gym experience, however, is a separate issue from customer service, and we found hundreds of reviews from consumers noting how difficult it was to cancel a membership and how, in some cases, they were required to send a certified letter to the gym at which they signed up in order to cancel.
We called a local Planet Fitness property, and they told us all we’d need to do is come down and sign a document saying we wanted to cancel.
On top of cancellation issues, customers reported they were billed monthly even after they canceled.
We also read complaints about Planet Fitness’ unwillingness to budge on their cancellation fee, regardless of the circumstances of the cancellation (illness, injury, etc.).
Know Your Contract Inside and Out
In light of these negative reviews, we think it’s best if you read through your contract so that you’re clear on the location’s cancellation policy. Request a copy of the contract you can keep for yourself, just in case you have issues with a cancellation.
Also, don’t be afraid to go to your local bank and dispute any incorrect charges to your account from Planet Fitness. Bring your contract and your cancellation with you as proof.
We’re not saying that you’ll have issues with canceling your membership, but we are saying the wise thing to do is to have all your paperwork ready (and understood) just in case you have to plead your case.
Our Conclusions About Planet Fitness
People are unique, so it’s important for them to choose a gym that best fits their needs. Planet Fitness is a low-cost option whose facilities are tailored to newcomers or average people who aren’t looking for specialized workouts and just want to get some cardio and weightlifting in.
So, if you’re the kind of person who hasn’t been to the gym in years, or has never had a gym membership, we think that Planet Fitness could be a good fit for you.
Also, if you’re easily intimidated at gyms and you want a place where you can feel accepted and anonymous, Planet Fitness could be a good fit because of their judgement-free philosophy.
Also, since many of their gyms are open 24 hours a day, you’ll be able to get a workout no matter how crazy your schedule is.
However, if you’re someone who spends more time lifting weights and likes a more raw, primal atmosphere, Planet Fitness is definitely not the place for you. Their gyms tend to be quiet and subdued because of their aversion to the usual customs of weightlifters.
You may want to look into HIIT or iron-heavy locations in your area, as those types of gyms probably have the atmosphere you’re looking for.
If you decide Planet Fitness is a good fit for you, then be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Read over your contract line by line to verify cancellation details and the length of your contract. Ask the gym associate to give you a copy of the contract, then hold onto it just in case you want to cancel in the future.
And remember, Planet Fitness has a reputation for being unforgiving when it comes to early cancellations contracts, so be ready to pay up if you want to leave early.
In the meantime, we encourage you to check out a pair of articles we wrote about gym memberships. You’ll get a very brief overview of four of the most popular gyms (Planet Fitness is included), as well as some background on the gym industry and some eye-opening statistics about gym members.
The information you learn in those articles will help you become a smarter consumer and, hopefully, someone who makes the right choice about their gym membership!