Ever since college, I intermittently have periods during which I’ll become a bonafide “gym rat.” In high school and before, I wasn’t that into the fitness scene. It’s not that I was particularly unhealthy, but my dad had a treadmill, stationary bike, and weights in his basement and I just never enjoyed working out. Just wasn’t my thing. Then in college, I guess you could say the “freshman 15” crept up on me, so I felt compelled to give the new campus gym a try. And I absolutely loved it.
Fast forward a decade and I’ve now been a member of Planet Fitness for about a month. I’ve had memberships to Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness, and of course the Shepherd University Wellness Center, but Planet Fitness is by and large the best gym I’ve joined to date and the Black Card, which is the membership I have currently, is an incredible bang for the buck. But what makes Planet Fitness so awesome? Is it the cool name? The funky color scheme? Bagel Tuesdays? Unlimited personal fitness training? Well I decided to figure it out.
As Michael and I were working out this morning, I was on the elliptical looking around at the innards of Planet Fitness Martinsburg and trying to pinpoint what, exactly, makes Planet Fitness such a fantastic gym. I decided that it wasn’t any one singular thing, but rather all the things that a Planet Fitness membership offers. So here’s why I think Planet Fitness is the best gym ever.
Planet Fitness Gives You a Lot for Very Little
Firstly—and some might say most importantly—is the cost of a Planet Fitness membership. Planet Fitness offers two membership options: Basic and Black Card memberships. If you sign up when they’re having one of their occasional enrollment specials, the entry-level, basic Planet Fitness membership will cost you $10 or maybe even less up front and then only $10 per month; regularly the sign-up fee is $20 (still pretty cheap) and $10 a month. This basic membership gets you unlimited access to your chosen Planet Fitness location as well as unlimited personal fitness training with the trainers and a free t-shirt. If you’re not a bells-and-whistles type, this is an incredible bargain that will get you just about everything you need.
There’s also the Planet Fitness Black Card membership, which is a premier-level membership that will have the same sign-up fee—$20 regularly, but $10 or less when they’re having a promo—and will cost $20 per month. However, in addition to getting unlimited gym access, unlimited personal training, and the t-shirt, you also get access to the VIP area that consists of unlimited hydromassage beds, unlimited massage chairs, and unlimited tanning. Another great perk is that Black Card members also have unlimited guest privileges, meaning you can bring a friend or family member with you anytime you work out.
Like all other gyms, Planet Fitness also charges an annual fee to every member on June 1st. For basic memberships, the annual fee is $29 while Black Card members pay $39. These prices, in my experience, are either comparable to or less than the annual dues that other gyms require. Also, monthly membership fees are charged on the 17th of each month; therefore, each June you will be charged by Planet Fitness twice, the annual dues on the 1st and then your regular monthly dues on the 17th.
The Amenities of Planet Fitness
Many gyms offer certain accommodations for members that are intended to make membership more enticing or to make your workouts more comfortable. For example, Gold’s Gym has the Cardio Cinema, a separate darkened room filled with treadmills, ellipticals, stair-steppers, and stationary bikes that you can use while watching a movie on the big-screen as if you’re in a theater. While that might entice some to sign a contract, things like that always seemed kind of gimmicky and, well, a little unsafe to me.
There aren’t any gimmicks like that at Planet Fitness. They offer you all the essential cardio, weights, and resistance-training equipment you could need in a spacious, judgement-free environment. The locker rooms, changing rooms, and bathrooms are all exceptionally clean and well-designed. I’ve even used the showers quite a few times. They more than adequate, kept very clean, and it seems like they’re rarely used.
As I mentioned, Black Card members have access to the VIP area with hydromassage beds, massage chairs, and tanning beds. After I tried out the massage chairs a few days ago, I’ve now officially used all three. I think my favorite is the hydromassage beds. To use them, you have to sign in on the designated sheet at the check-in desk, which I would assume is to make sure there aren’t a bunch of people waiting while someone lies there for an hour. As long as there’s no one waiting for you to finish, you can extend your ten-minute hydromassage by adding additional ten-minute increments. The massage chairs work a little differently; you sign in for those as well, but after signing the sheet one of the employees has to give you tokens that you put into the chairs like a vending machine. Each token is five minutes in the massage chair with there being so many massage chairs, they’ll typically give you as many tokens as you want. For the tanning, you sign in and choose up to 12 minutes in a lay-down bed or up to 10 minutes in a standing bed; I prefer the latter as I’m claustrophobic and the standing beds are slightly more powerful and a little bit faster.
However, be aware that although Black Card members can bring guests, the guests won’t have access to the VIP areas such as hydromassage and tanning. For non-members to use the VIP areas, they must pay a $20 fee to have one day’s access to the entire gym; however, it’s worth noting that if someone buys a one-day pass for $20 and then signs up for a membership, you can simply show them the receipt and that $20 will be credited toward the new membership.
Additionally, all members get to participate in Pizza Mondays and Bagel Tuesdays, which are pretty self-explanatory; on the first Monday and second Tuesday of the month, they offer pizza and bagels, respectively, to all the members who choose to enjoy them. This might seem a bit contradictory for a gym to offer free pizza, but I highly doubt that anybody has joined Planet Fitness for the free pizza. To date, I’ve still not seen anyone eating the pizza or bagels they offer; it’s there if you want it, but nobody is forcing it on you.
And as I mentioned previously, all members get unlimited personal training with Planet Fitness trainers; if you’ve ever paid for personal training you’ll know what an amazing value that is. Personal trainers will meet with you and, based on your body type and level of fitness, develop a workout regimen that will help you to achieve your fitness goals, whether that be to improve your endurance or to tone and sculpt or to prepare for a marathon.
The Planet Fitness Experience
Perhaps more important than the value of the membership and the perks that come along with it, the experience of working out at Planet Fitness is what really sets it apart from other gyms. They have signs posted everywhere that say “No Gymtimidation,” which is their way of saying that they don’t want those muscle-head “lunks” making a big scene while they work out, yelling and grunting loudly as they do their weightlifting and just otherwise being a nuisance. I’m sure anyone who’s had a gym membership, especially to Gold’s Gym, knows the type I’m talking about. They usually congregate in front of the mirrors.
There’s none of that at Planet Fitness. For the most part, none of the members pay any attention to one another. It seems to me like we all just pretend nobody else is even there, which is pretty easy to do because the gym never seems to be very busy. Maybe it’s because of the size of the space, but even when the parking lot seems crowded I never have a problem using any of the machines I need or want to use. I’ve never had to wait for a tanning bed (any of the handful of times I’ve used them) or a hydromassage bed, or a shower in the locker room, or anything else. And it’s not because the gym doesn’t have many members because as I’m working out, I always notice there’s quite a few people coming and going in just a short period. Perhaps it’s because there’s no showboating or peacocking and people making a big scene that’s so typical in most gyms.
Planet Fitness also offers a pretty diverse range of classes, most of which target specific areas of the body like the legs, abdomen, arms, etc. Unfortunately, I didn’t see classes like Pilates or Zumba, but you can sign up for one-on-one classes with a personal trainer in which you can choose what areas of your body you’d like to work on and the trainer will create a class that’s just for you. These one-on-one classes are first-come-first-served and offered once or twice daily on most weekdays.
Interestingly, Planet Fitness also has a pseudo-social network called Planet of Triumphs. It’s where members post before-and-afters, their goals and accomplishments, encourage and praise one another, and so on. I’ve never quite seen anything like this for something like a gym, but I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’ve been browsing some of the before-and-afters that have been posted recently and it’s really inspiring.
Black Card Membership Perks
If you’re still not quite sure whether or not you should get a Black Card membership, there are a number of perks to having a Planet Fitness Black Card that you won’t get with a standard membership. For starters, Black Card members can use any Planet Fitness locations nationwide up to 10 times per month; after 10 times, you simply pay $5 each time you go. Black Card members also get half off all the drinks in the cooler in Planet Fitness locations. For the locations that also have an on-site salon, Black Card members get unlimited free haircuts.
Some locations also offer Total Body Fitness, which is “red light therapy” offered in the form of these machines (see image right) that look like stand-up tanning beds, but have red lights, vibrate, and play music. The point of these machines is to relax you, supposedly to aid with muscle toning and definition as well as improving skin elasticity. These sound somewhat gimmicky to me, but Black Card members get this feature as well; for me, this wouldn’t be a motivator to joining, but I would probably try it once if my location offered them.
Outside of Planet Fitness, a Black Card will get you a variety of other discounts too, such as 20 percent off your purchases from Reebok stores or online, 10 percent off products and services from Regis salons (which includes MasterCuts), buy-one-get-one 50 percent off from Australian Gold, and 10 percent off purchases from the Planet Fitness Store.
I’m very pleased with my decision to rejoin a gym and am even happier that the gym I’ve joined is Planet Fitness. Sure, Planet Fitness might lack a pool and a sauna, but those are things that most people aren’t going to use save for maybe once in a blue moon. For me, Planet Fitness is the perfect combination of value and features, so I don’t think I’ll ever be a member of another gym. It’s “Planet Fitness or bust” for me.