Who Says Planet Fitness Is Not a Gym? (Planet Fitness)

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A recent article about Planet Fitness and the company's own marketing campaign examines whether or not it is a gym.

Hey, guys, take a look at this article by Men's Health magazine! It says that Planet Fitness is not actually a real gym!

OK, full disclosure: The reason for the all the excitement is partially because of my cameo 10 paragraphs in. I'm honored to be included, but I'm still bewildered and hurt over why I wasn't asked to provide my real expertise for the Men's Health article "Pump Up Her Sex Drive." (I'm not going to provide a link for that one. You'll have to Google that on your own, probably after work, and probably after dark, considering the subject matter of the video at the bottom of that story.)

Back to the Planet Fitness article. The premise began with what author Lou Schuler described as "a Category 2 s---storm" on Reddit, when a poster complained that a squat rack was taken away from his Planet Fitness club. The rant from the disgruntled member made its way to several Facebook pages.

Schuler reached out to Planet Fitness Director of Public Relations McCall Gosselin, as did I, inquiring about the squat rack issue. Without knowing all the details of the Planet Fitness in question, Gosselin couldn't comment directly on the Reddit poster's problem. She did, however, tell me that Planet Fitness clubs do not have heavy free weights (more than 80 pounds) or machines such as squat racks and Olympic benches because "we focus on general fitness, and our members are typically first-time or occasional gym users. This is certainly not a new concept."

Nor should it be. Planet Fitness is now well-established in the industry, particularly for its $10-a-month memberships, "lunkhead" alarms and "Judgement Free Zone" (which is misspelled). Heck, even the CEO, Chris Rondeau, recently called Planet Fitness the "Southwest Airlines of the gym business."

Wait a minute. There's that word again: gym. I think we're dealing with semantics here. Of course Planet Fitness is a gym. It has equipment, locker rooms, memberships—all of that.

But in its new advertising campaign, which Planet Fitness announced Tuesday, the company makes it crystal clear its stance on the issue. Just check out its slogan: "We're not a gym. We're Planet Fitness." The first commercial in the series, shown above, even pokes a little fun at Zumba Fitness. (I tried to get a reaction from Zumba Fitness, but alas, to no avail.)

The point that Schuler makes in his article is that Planet Fitness is not a gym in the traditional sense of a gym—not a lot of heavy lifting going on.  Planet Fitness and other low-cost clubs want to attract the more than 80 percent of the population that does not have a health club membership. A lot of people do not—and would not—feel comfortable in an old-school gym.

That's not to say that members who belong to Planet Fitness do not count among the 17 percent or so of the population that belong to a health club. In other words (and without all the double negatives), Planet Fitness members are gym members, too.

The deck under the Men's Health headline says that "it's stupid to keep pretending" Planet Fitness is a gym. I won't go that far. Even though Planet Fitness says it is not a gym, it still is a gym.

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