We’ve pretty much all heard of Planet Fitness, right? The gym of the “judgment free zone” and the $10/month membership?
I’d been a member before, but after not going for a month (I was doing DVDs and running outside) I canceled my membership. Then at some point I think over the summer I rejoined – a different club, newer – so I could do some runs in warmer conditions to train for Disney and have an alternative so I could run on cold days.
I struggled with remaining a member after seeing this ad:
Judgment-free zone? Hardly. At least they got the “dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb” part right. Why was I supporting an organization that thought this was a) appropriate and b) funny? Especially with my circle of friends and running club teammates.
Still, it was cheap, so I stayed.
And then yesterday happened.
I was on the treadmill doing my run. I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail and the shorter front section (and my sweat) was held back by my SweatyBand as shown here.
I should note I’ve worn this one there before. As well as this one:
No one has ever said anything to me.
Now, I should say here that Planet Fitness does have a “dress code” – but it is subject to the independent franchise owner and manager’s discretion. It states (as I was quoted when I posed a question about this on their facebook page):
“…We have a corporate dress code policy, for all Planet Fitness locations nationwide.
* No jeans
* No head gear except baseball caps
* No boots/sandals
The above are all subject to our discretion. Exceptions are made for medical and religious reasons. We believe that this corporate dress code policy helps us to consistently promote a non-intimidating atmosphere at Planet Fitness where members can feel comfortable working out no matter which Planet Fitness location they are using.”
But seriously? Who would consider a headband – an athletic headband that form-fits to my head and doesn’t move unless I move it – “headgear”? Certainly not me, and most definitely not when I see some of the things that people HAVE worn in the gym. Hair wraps (I know from a google search that there are some franchise locations that crack down on those – mine doesn’t, possibly because of the location in Downtown Brooklyn), non-baseball caps (more on this in a moment), etc. are OFTEN seen at the PF I have been a member of. I’ve yet to see any of the employees say anything to them.
So you can imagine how surprised I was when I saw one of the employees approaching me as I was running yesterday. I looked at him, curious as to what was going on as I didn’t hear any kind of alarm, and no one else seemed to be moving – so no evacuation. No one here would be calling me, and my parents wouldn’t have called the gym anyway. I was pretty sure I’d turned the ringer off on my phone. He said “You’re going to have to take your headgear off.” I thought he meant my yurbuds at first and said “You mean the machine has a slot for them, but I can’t wear them?” pointing at my ears. He said “No, the thing on your head.” Me: “My SweatyBand? Something hundreds of female athletes wear?” Him: “It’s headgear, and the only headgear allowed is baseball caps.” I was speechless. I didn’t make a move to take it off, but he walked away.
Now…fortunately I was on a walk interval as he walked away because down the row of treadmills, there was a man walking on one who was wearing this:
A newsboy cap. NOT a baseball cap, and far less secure on his head than my SweatyBand or anyone’s baseball cap.
And the guy who told me I had to remove my “headgear” walked right past him and didn’t say a thing.
It was one slightly less offensive and confusing thing when he was telling me as there wasn’t anyone in the gym with their hair wrapped. I had no comparison. But for him to specifically say “Only baseball caps” to me and then walk right by someone wearing what was clearly NOT a baseball cap (and I’m sorry…but I don’t know of any medical or religious reason that would make a newsboy cap required where a baseball cap wouldn’t suffice) and say nothing to him?
I’m not going to use the r-word, though my instincts are pinging wildly – because there is enough evidence on the web that some clubs DO seem to do something about scarf wraps. But something is definitely not right or consistent.
If you’re going to call a policy “corporate” then it needs to be black and white enforced across the board and not left to each club owner and/or manager’s discretion. It needs to be applied consistently across the company.
But I’m not sticking around PF to continue to support their imaginary image of a “judgment free zone”. It’s not worth it, no matter how inexpensive the membership is. They clearly have their “image” they want to keep up – which from my experience and observation is “urban” and “not serious” – and anyone who seems the slightest bit serious about what they’re doing is made in one way or another to feel not welcome.
So Planet Fitness, I’m breaking up with you. I’m taking my money and my SweatyBands and going to NYSC. (Where the guy I spoke with literally almost fell on the floor when I pointed to my SweatyBand (yes, I went after completing my run – which I was 5-10 minutes away from) and asked him if I was allowed to wear it while working out. He assured me “No problem on whatever you want to wear in your hair!” when he was able to pick his jaw up off the floor.
As we approach the time when we’re making goals (or resolutions), if “join a gym” is on your list, I encourage you to do some research about where you’re thinking of joining. Look at their ads (if they have them) to see what kind of message – explicit and implicit – they’re actually sending. Look at any kind of “code” and if possible, see how it’s enforced – is is consistent with all people? or is a certain type of person singled out? Is it a place where you’ll truly feel comfortable?
Cheap isn’t always better.