It was great watching "The Daily Show" skewer Planet Fitness - home of the Judgement Free Zone® - for discriminating against "lunkheads," deadlifters serious enough to make noise while they work out.
In "The Plight of the Muscled Americans," comedian-correspondent Jason Jones noted that anyone is welcome at Planet Fitness, as long as they exercise silently. The Planet Fitness representative identified even heavy exhalations as a reason that the dreaded Lunk Alarm might sound, to which Jones responded, "Really, I can't even breathe?" She called anyone who violates PF's rules a "jerk" and likened them to animals who belong in a cage. Nope, that's not judgmental.
We understand Planet Fitness's goal of creating an environment in which "regular" people feel comfortable. No gym owner wants weights slammed down or thrown, and any gym that tries to attract new exercisers doesn't want members screaming and yelling. However, it's quite another thing to stereotype anyone who works hard as a "jerk." (We've got jerks, too, but we handle them individually.) What we most enjoyed about the segment was that someone finally said it - Planet Fitness's Judgement Free Zone philosophy is complete hypocrisy, and we hope other gym owners are paying attention.
It seems that everything Planet Fitness does is fawned over by our industry. When they bought World Gym in 2006, it was described as a transformative event, but we wondered, "Why would Planet Fitness, which openly expresses disdain and disrespect for serious lifters, buy a chain whose reputation is based on its appeal to serious lifters?" So, big surprise, it didn't work out and they sold World Gym in 2008.
Earlier this year, Planet Fitness made news by not just eliminating personal training, but by insulting anyone who uses a trainer. It caused quite a stir, but again, it was no surprise that they couldn't make personal training work with members who are paying only $10 a month. They couldn't, so they pulled it. Big deal.
The real value in this Comedy Central segment was for anyone competing with Planet Fitness. You cannot beat Planet Fitness at their own game by dropping your prices and trying simply to appeal to the masses. If you want proof of that, be sure to watch this show called "Turnaround King," about a gym that was trying to match Planet Fitness's price, despite having a dramatically different facility and cost structure. Planet Fitness is very good at what they do, both in terms of what they offer and how they position themselves. But, there's a lot they don't offer, such as childcare, group fitness and personal training, and as shown by "The Daily Show," there are lots of people to whom they will not appeal - to begin with, anyone who breathes.