Most of us hate going to the gym. It's intimidating and, unless you're Hamilton Nolan, you don't even know how to use half the machines and weights. So when Planet Fitness showed up and started offering pizza nights and massage chairs, it all sounded great. But Planet Fitness doesn't really care about your fitness. In fact, they don't want you to come in at all.
Planet Money, which is probably the most interesting podcast about personal finance out there, just did an episode about the hidden costs of cheap gyms and it turns out that if you're paying 10 bucks a month for juice bars and tanning rooms, you're actually not getting much out of it. Probably because you're never going. Which is exactly what the gyms want.
For instance, Planet Money found that a Planet Fitness in Manhattan had more than 6,000 members but only space for 300 people at one time. And even with those mismatched numbers, the gym was basically empty when the hosts of the show went to visit. If that many people, even only 300, showed up in one day, Planet Fitness would be losing money because of crowding, wear and tear and a general unpleasant atmosphere. That's why the real gyms, the ones that aren't for filthy casuals (that's me!) cost so much (one gym mentioned on the show costs upwards of $500 a month).
Planet Money spoke to a gym designer who creates the type of gym that many of us belong to—I'm at the YMCA, but I feel fine about it even when I don't go because it's giving children money for camp and stuff—and he told them that the more comfortable and delightful the gym is, the less likely one is to go just to get a good workout. In other words, amenities can work as the opposite of incentives. And anyone commenting on this piece just to say "I go to Planet Fitness every day!" is part of an extreme minority, as most people feel that just paying for the gym is helping us get healthy. But it's not. Because getting fit takes more than just your imagination and free pizza night. (I type as I eat another fucking cookie.)
And of course, there are messed-up things you probably expect already. You know those annual contracts you have to sign? The things that are supposed to trick you into thinking you'll go to the gym every day even though you won't? Those things are ironclad. An acquaintance of mine once had to pretend to be the tour manager for CATS to get her friend out of a contract. Those gyms... they'll get you every time.
You can check out the whole episode here and then call your gym and try to get out of your annual contract.
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