Is a Planet Fitness Gym Membership Right for You? – Sports Illustrated

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With more locations than any other gym chain, Planet Fitness gyms dot the landscape across America—chances are there’s even one in your neighborhood.
But even a cursory internet search will reveal that Planet Fitness is different from many other gyms. The brand has a laid-back approach to fitness, and catches flak for it from some people. While its tagline is a “judgment-free zone,” you may have heard it referred to as a “progress-free zone.” 
All joking aside, Planet Fitness can be an excellent option for many people—it just depends on your fitness level and what you’re looking for. We did a little digging into Planet Fitness to see what the fitness club offers and who might best benefit from membership.
Planet Fitness is a fast-growing franchise of fitness centers across America. With its home base in Hampton, New Hampshire, Planet Fitness has an estimated 2,039 fitness centers worldwide, with locations in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico and Australia.
A typical location is about 20,000 square feet and is easily identifiable by the purple and yellow shingle on the outside of its locations. Inside, users will find the same purple and yellow branding on its cardio, weight training and circuit training equipment.
Founded in 1992, Planet Fitness was initially envisioned as a “judgment-free zone.” It was created and designed for casual users and those just starting out on their fitness journey.
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Planet Fitness offers two membership levels, day passes for prospective members, guest passes and even summer passes for teens.
Planet Fitness is relatively affordable—$10 per month (plus taxes and fees) gets you unlimited access to your home club, Planet Fitness app workouts, free fitness training and free Wi-Fi. (The average cost of a monthly gym membership nationwide is just over $40.)
While monthly dues are only $10, it’s important to note that Planet Fitness charges an annual fee of $39 and a one-time start-up fee of $1. That said, there’s no commitment.
For those who have a little more flexibility in their bank account (and maybe their calendars), Planet Fitness offers a black card membership that earns you a few more perks.
For $24.99 plus taxes and fees, black card members get all of the standard membership perks (unlimited access to your home club, Planet Fitness app workouts, free Fitness training, and free Wi-Fi) with a few extra goodies, including:
Like the standard Planet Fitness membership, the PF black card membership requires a $39 annual fee and a $1 start-up fee, and there’s no commitment.
For those who want to give it a try, Planet Fitness offers free day passes for the club of your choice. Anyone who’s interested can fill out a form online, and a day pass will be e-mailed to them. If you’re using a day pass to check out your local club, keep in mind that you may be required to show some ID upon check-in, and all day pass users are required to take a free tour.
Citing research that showed teens weren’t meeting their daily physical activity recommendation during the pandemic and CDC statistics that point to a mental health crisis among teens, Planet Fitness officially kicked off its High School Summer Pass program in May 2022. Through this program, the company offered free summer memberships for high school students through August 31, 2022.
Currently, Planet Fitness has over 2,000 locations worldwide. Some Planet Fitness locations are open 24 hours a day, and some are only open for 24 hours on select weekdays with more limited schedules on the weekends. And as you might have guessed, holiday hours vary.
If you’re trying to get a feel for how much foot traffic you can expect at your local club, the website for your local Planet Fitness club will most likely have a crowd meter, so you know when to go and when to steer clear. 
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Planet Fitness is a gym, so you’ll find a good selection of the usual suspects, including cardio machines, ellipticals, exercise bikes and treadmills.
Gym equipment at every location also includes an assortment of:
What you won’t find at Planet Fitness are squat racks. Remember, Planet Fitness tries to maintain a welcoming atmosphere, so things that may seem intimidating to its members, like heavy weights and weight lifters grunting and dropping weights, etc., are really not welcome.
Planet Fitness doesn’t offer workout classes per se, but it does offer PE@PF. Essentially, this is a series of fitness training sessions led by certified fitness instructors. The classes are designed to help first-time members get familiar with the equipment and maybe even build an individual work plan workout plan to follow. The sessions are typically conducted in small groups, and they’re free to fitness members and often available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
While there are no free weights at Planet Fitness, members have access to dumbbells and Smith machines (a machine that combines a squat rack with a barbell), but that’s really as far as weight lifting goes at Planet Fitness.
Like most gyms, Planet Fitness also has personal trainers available on-site. And again, like most gyms, personal trainers are accredited through organizations like the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) or the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Personal training sessions are free with your Planet Fitness membership.
Keep in mind that while personal trainers at Planet Fitness are there to answer your questions, offer some assistance when you’re using a new machine and possibly provide some guidance when you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss. The trainers are not there to consistently coach you through workouts or check on your progress in any way.
Planet Fitness locations do not have bench presses; if you want to do some weight lifting, however, your best would be a Smith machine.
Planet Fitness offers a few nice amenities to its members. Some amenities are available to all membership levels, while some are only available to black card members and some may only be available at select locations. If you’re eyeing any of the following as a possible perk, you may want to call your local club to make sure they offer it.
For example, while researching this article, I needed to know if Planet Fitness still offered Total Body Enhancement, so I called my local club. Turns out my local club doesn’t, but one of the friendly staff members told me that the PF club about 40 minutes away does.
Most Planet Fitness locations will have Hydromassage beds and lounge chairs. As their name implies, Hydromassagers use water to massage the body. These machines are a great way to soothe tired muscles, and they’re great for post-workout massages. The Hydromassage machines are only available to Black Card members.
Planet Fitness offers its Black Card members access to its tanning booths and tanning beds. Tanning sessions are limited to 15 minutes, and the equipment is first-come, first-serve. If someone is using the tanning equipment, not only will you have to wait until they’re done, but you’ll also have to wait for staff members to clean the equipment before you can hop in.
With your Black Card membership, you can use the tanning bed whenever you like during your club’s opening hours, whereas spray tan booths usually have posted hours of operation. 
Some Planet Fitness locations have a total body enhancement machine as well. Also known as the Beauty Angel Booth, this machine leans into the science of red light therapy. Disappointingly it’s not a time machine, but according to research, red light therapy may help:
Planet Fitness Black Card members have unlimited use of the massage chairs available at every gym.
Planet Fitness locations typically have showers available for members to use post-workout.
It’s worth noting that they don’t have a towel service, so you’ll have to bring your own.
PF clubs also have lockers for their members, but keep in mind that you can only store your belongings for the duration of your workout, not overnight.
While Planet Fitness has plenty of gym equipment, massage chairs, tanning beds and Hydromassagers, they don’t have saunas. 
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While many gyms target bodybuilders and folks who are further along in their fitness journey, Planet Fitness targets novices and casual users. For that reason, Planet Fitness is best for newbies and those who take a more laid-back approach to their fitness.
Considering that Planet Fitness is designed for and marketed to casual users and those just starting out on their fitness journeys, it may not be suitable for more experienced users or fitness buffs. Moreover, the dumbbells in planet fitness only go up to 75-pounds, so anyone beyond that fitness level may not find much of a challenge there.
Planet Fitness memberships can’t be canceled by email or phone, but the process is still relatively easy. When you’re ready to part ways, you can fill out a cancellation form at your local club or send a letter to your club requesting a cancellation. 
A gym is a gym, and you’ll likely find the same types of workout equipment. Treadmills, ellipticals, leg machines and the like are all standard fare. As for amenities, each gym will prioritize and offer its own. Whatever the brand thinks its customer would like is what you’ll likely find.
The real difference between Planet Fitness and other gyms lies in its atmosphere and the overall fitness level of the user. While gyms like LA Fitness and Crunch cater to all fitness levels, Planet Fitness makes it very clear that the occasional user and even beginners are its bread and butter. For that reason, Planet Fitness skips the heavy free weights and offers more robust amenities like tanning beds and Hydromassagers.
Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide what their goals are. Knowing that will quickly inform their decision on which gym to choose.
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While members are required to submit cancellation requests in writing (not via phone or text), Planet fitness memberships are not hard to cancel.
Yes, You can bring anyone with you as your guest at Planet Fitness as long as they meet the age requirements, and you can bring the same person each time.
A Planet Fitness membership allows unlimited access to your local club, so you can go as many times as you like.
Yes, every Planet Fitness location has showers for its members to use.
Planet Fitness’s Hydromassagers are beds and lounge chairs that use water power to massage the body without the annoyance of removing your clothes. There’s no charge for the Hydromassagers, but only black card members can access them.
Planet Fitness offers a workout routine that targets every muscle group in only 30 minutes.
The 30-minute circuit includes:
While there is no dress code per se, Planet Fitness does ask its members to refrain from wearing clothes “that may be perceived as intimidating, revealing, or offensive.”
They also don’t allow clothing that may be considered a safety hazard or anything that could potentially damage the equipment.
While people certainly have a lot to say about Planet Fitness (not all of it good), the fitness club has earned its place among fitness centers and gyms. The fact is, it defined its target market from the jump and never strayed from its original intent. Ultimately, Planet Fitness was created with novices and casual users in mind, and for some, that’s their shortcoming. But for the busy mom who wants the freedom to get a workout in when time permits, or the newbie who’s just getting started on their fitness journey, Planet Fitness has a lot to offer.
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Sharon is an award-winning editorial writer and contributor. Learn more here.This author is writing sponsored content paid for by Pillar4 and not affiliated with Sports Illustrated. 


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