Helping Vs. Hurting: My Experience At Planet Fitness

Helping Vs. Hurting: My Experience At Planet Fitness

Recently, I’ve witnessed an elitist trend permeate through the fitness industry that has influenced many well meaning coaches to transition from altruistic educators to snide critics. I absolutely think that there is a “right way” of doing things when it comes to training and I think that it’s essential for a coach to have conviction behind their philosophy. However, just as important as a stoute technical approach to training is a personal affect thats centered around helping others. And while I abhor exercise ignorance as much as the next coach how we react to these affronts is what makes the difference between an educator who builds and an elitist who separates.

While at my parents house about an hour south of my normal training habitat I’ve been working out the most detested domains of the training elite, Planet Fitness. Yes this gym has its share of short comings; No barbells, no real coaching, no weights over 70 lbs and an outward discrimination against meatheads (not sure if that’s a shortcoming as I’ve never been a big fan of imaginary lats and spaghetti string tank tops). Some people might include the fact that they have free pizza on Tuesdays and daily supply of Tootsie Rills as a shortcoming but I love pizza and Tootsie Rolls so I think thats great.

Based on my place in the performance training world it would be very easy for my to turn my nose up at the likes of those training at places like PF or any other domains in the fitness mainstream. I could have easily busted out my phone to film the fitness faux pas I saw today and posted them Facebook complete with a clever caption to garner some likes from those who share my beliefs. But what I also saw at them gym was a lot of people trying really really hard to get better. I saw a lot of people following apps on their phone or carrying a printed out program and doing their best to execute it to perfection. These people really gave a shit, whether or not what they were doing passed your litmus test. 

If you look like you know what you’re doing and you have a friendly demeanor many of the people you cross paths with in the gym actually want your help. Today, instead of laughing at the guy doing two dumbbell side bends I struck up a conversation with him and subtly suggested that a sideplank or suitcase carry may serve as a better option, to which he was thrilled to try. He didn’t reactive defensively because he knew I cared and I may have saved him from butchering his lumbar discs. Every time I have gone to PF or a similar gym I have had a similar interaction.

Now as a fitness professional you can stay up in your ivory tower and criticize those who lack the education and experience that you have or you can do your best to raise them up. I implore fitness professionals out there to view themselves as educators for the common gym-goer. Helping the rest of society, not just fellow coaches and those in your immediate space is how you can impact health on a grand scale. .
And if the big picture approach doesn’t inspire you I’d strongly encourage youth do it for your business. Gyms like this provide a low barrier/low threat option for people to exercise. Most people out there are too intimidated or too poor to train with you. This is something the fitness elite cannot compete with. At $10/month gyms with low cost models are a no brainer for those with economic constraints. Throw in the fact that you get free pizza and free bagels at PF once a week and that $10/month includes 8 meals plus dessert if you include the tootsie roll lol. 

All jokes aside though…Can you compete with that? With the world becoming more and more centered around technology that saves time and money those people who once paid for coaches will begin receiving coaching from their phone. .
Why pay $120/session when you can pay $120/year and get the same low cost coaching from a coach remotely through an app on your phone or for free on Instagram?

I’m not saying we should all shut down shop and move online, in fact I think that would be a disaster. I know that great coaches are made in the walls of a facility and that there will always be a market for direct coaching. But the coaches who will be here 10 years from now will be the ones who position themselves as educators rather than detractors and move to provide training remotely online in addition to their brick and mortar operation. So instead of Instagramming the next gym fail that you see try being a fitness super hero and lending a helping hand or put out content that will help prevent it from happening in the first place.