Welcome to Milquetoast Nation

I like a good commercial.  There is something great about taking an attempt to get you to buy something and transcending that medium to make you think, laugh, cry or just get plain pissed off.  Whether it was the famous Apple commercial from back in 1984 to signal their assault against the bland groupthink of personal computers or even last year’s Snickers commercials with Betty White.  I just enjoy something well-crafted and memorable.

A commercial I’ve seen recently and had a bit of a chuckle to was from Planet Fitness:

Now, Planet Fitness has a very particular business model for their “gyms”… and yes, I placed that in quotes and you’ll soon see why.  They have really low monthly rates and are incredibly proud of their “Judgment Free Zone®”.  If you’ve never been there, this is how they describe it on their Web site:

As the most innovative health club brand in the United States, Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our absurdly low prices, our Lunk™ Alarm, and most of all perhaps, for our Judgement Free Zone® philosophy, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.

What does this mean in practice?  Well, for starters, their dumbbells only go up to a certain weight because having more than that would attract the “lunks” in Planet Fitness-speak.  They also don’t allow any grunting, dropping of weights or… apparently… “judgment”.  And for that matter, they don’t seem to allow anyone who really and truly gives a damn either.  Let me explain.

While no one really wants to train in a gym with guys (and let’s face it… the biggest maroons I’ve seen acting like complete fools in gyms are 99.9999% of the time guys) who are there to call attention to themselves by needlessly dropping weights, hogging up sections of the gym floor and just being a general jackass.  However, what Planet Fitness is also driving out with their overly broad and… surprise!… completely judgmental approach is anyone who actually gives a damn about their training and is looking to improve.  The guy in that video might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you don’t end up looking like he does without a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Don’t believe me that some of these gyms are not for people who actually care?  OK, let me throw this out to you then.  Which environment do you think is better for improving yourself in?  A place where you are surrounded by others that strive for excellence and consistently push themselves to be better?  Or a place where we don’t want people to be TOO good because… gosh… then others may feel bad about themselves?  The latter is what you get at a place like Planet Fitness.  Me?  I would rather lift completely by myself as I have done the last few years or find a group of likeminded people to surround myself with to push me each and every day I train.  I couldn’t do this at Planet Fitness because if I suddenly let out any noise while lifting, I risk being kicked out.  Instead, I would have to sit there quietly and never do anything that could possibly offend my purple and yellow overlords.

Are there people who are serious at Planet Fitness?  Of course there are… just not as many as there ever COULD be.  I’ve had the dubious pleasure of training in a few Planet Fitness locations before and I can never imagine going back there again.  If you want to be surrounded by people who think the check-in-the-box of just showing up at the gym is good enough, then feel free.  Have a ball.  If you are only spending $10 or $15 a month, that might be fine for you and, in truth, some exercise is better than none at all.

But if you want to get results?  Something tangible to show for devoting your time and energy to being fit, strong and healthy?  Go elsewhere.  Find a smaller training studio with a well-certified strength coach or trainer.  Put the money down to get yourself to truly commit to making positive changes instead of just checking the box.  Find a place that won’t set off alarm bells if you did a deadlift.

Reject the Milquetoast, my friends, and embrace the chance to be good or even great… not by anyone else’s standards… but by your own.  Give yourself the chance to know the deeply incredible feeling of pushing yourself through a difficult training session and knowing when you’re done, that you weren’t content to just be average and passive.  It’s not just good for your body, but it’s good for your soul.

Alternatively, you could just join a gym where you can ring their alarm every time someone who cares and might have a few muscles comes along:

Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm

Because why should anyone dare to aspire to be their best?  It might just hurt someone’s feelings…

Reject the Milquetoast.  Save your soul.

2 Replies to “Welcome to Milquetoast Nation”

  1. That’s a good post ove there, Brian. It’s just a complete insane kind of place to me. I get that some people need a means to get into training for the first time… but I simply cannot wrap my head around the notion of a gym that really doesn’t want you getting TOO good or somehow harming the fragile self-esteem of others by being good.

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