GYM REVIEWS: Gold’s Gym vs. Planet Fitness

GoldsvsPF

I feel like a 10 year old kid all over again pitting my betta fish against my friend’s betta. The clash is inevitable. A winner must be determined, a champion crowned. Winner take all. Right? (please tell me I’m right?!)

Okay, this isn’t a fish fight, but I kind of feel that way comparing both Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness. But, I feel an obligation to the health industry (well, okay, really you the reader) to compare, contrast and evaluate the two gyms.

Why?

Well, first, why not? But, secondly, gyms are sacred ground. They’re homebase. They’re quite literally a home away from home.So, deciding on a gym should be a big deal. There should be opinions stated, observations made and practices mocked. Because, you’ve got to make a decision on the right gym for you.

It’s really a moral obligation on my part.

Now, as a disclaimer. I currently attend two gyms. I go to a local boot camp style gym here in Bountiful called Firehouse Fitness. I’ve been going there now just short of three years. Last year I decided to supplement Firehouse Fitness by getting a gym membership so I could have a place to run (especially to do speed work), do strength training and other general gym things. Since Gold’s Gym was up the street from my other gym it was an easy selection. Plus, they just came out with the $9.99 a month, no contract deal. So I reluctantly went back (I’ll get into that later).

But, after six months back at Gold’s I decided to jump ship (I have reasons, which I will list below) for Planet Fitness which just opened a location in Bountiful in December. It was a great situation and a good change. Each gym offers a contrasting culture. Gold’s has more … tools? (for the lack of a better term (but actually that might be the right term here?)) Then on the other hand Planet Fitness really attracts the beginners, the Biggest Loser crowd and more of the common folk who just need a place to workout or run. They’re big thing is the “judgement free zone.”

Since I’ve been a part of both, I thought I would give my opinion on both. Sure, I am basing this off of the Bountiful locations, but since these are national chain gyms I am sure you are going to get basically the same thing wherever you are. It’s like walking in Walmart, you know what you’re going to get (bad produce, good steak, dead goldfish and awesomely unique (read strange) people) from store to store around the country. It’s the beauty (and curse) of national chains.

So, take my reviews for what they’re worth. If you’re looking for a gym maybe this will help you? Maybe it won’t? So be it.

So without any further adieu, here are my reviews with a few pro and con arguments for both gyms, I hope you find it useful …

Gold’s Gym

The first Gold’s Gym opened in 1965 in Venice Beach gained a reputation for it’s bodybuilding, they branched out and franchised and now currently has over 700 locations open in 42 states and 30 countries.

Each location is equipped with cardio and strength training equipment. Some locations include a swimming pool, basketball court and/or Cardio Cinema … among other things. My home Gold’s in Bountiful is fairly basic but includes a tanning salon, spa and Cardio Cinema.

The one MAJOR gripe I’ve had (and many, many others) with Gold’s Gym over the years is their contracts. Before last summer, you basically had to sign your life away to even join the gym. When I joined six or so years prior they told me one thing at sign up and then changed it after I signed. I fought it, but to no avail. I vowed to never go back.

So why did I go back? Well, except for the treadmills and strength training? The $9.99 a month/no contract is what kind of lured me back in. I was hesitant about doing it, because I was just waiting for that big BUT … but … the extent of it was a $50 signup fee, which didn’t bug me. But, believe me, I made sure there wasn’t anything else to it.

The experience during my second tour was fairly non-descript. My biggest gripes were the crappy treadmills (most had individual TVs that wouldn’t work and one would shake violently after you got past a certain pace), the strength training floor (too many tools), their cleanliness (or lack thereof) and STRICT no picture policy.

I had a couple of unpleasant experiences with corporate calling and emailing me notifying that my selfies and pictures were in violation and that I would have to stop or lose my membership. One picture admittedly was not a selfie, it was a picture of a dirty bandage I found on a treadmill. It grossed me out and I did put it on Instagram. I got call about that. No apology for it, just blaming me for taking a picture. Sure, I could have handled it better, but so could they have as well. But, cleanliness is a BIG issue for me.

Because of that and the deteriorating treadmills and culture I decided to check out and eventually join Planet Fitness. But, that doesn’t mean I completely hate Gold’s Gym there are some great qualities in addition to the bad … like every other gym. And, what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. Hence me comparing the two gyms.

Pros

  • It is an established brand.
  • The culture attracts a serious crowd of bodybuilders and other fitness fanatics. It can be motivating.
  • Most locations have a pool or basketball court. Plus tanning salon so you can give yourself cancer.
  • The $9.99 a month is a great deal if you are looking for the basics (ie-strength and cardio).
  • They have more than enough equipment that there’s minimal waiting (if any) for equipment.
  • There are a number of classes (ie-yoga, spinning, etc.) to keep things fresh … if you are willing to pay more per month.
  • The salespeople are not as pushy as they used to be, because they’re emphasising the $9.99 a month more than contracts.
  • The hot tub is a great addition especially after a killer workout.
  • They have over 700 locations worldwide.
  • Two words: Cardio Cinema.

Cons

  • The culture can be intimidating, especially for beginners.
  • No selfies. No pictures. No fun.
  • No free Wi-Fi.
  • If you get the $9.99 a month plan it’s only good at that location and for only the strength and cardio floors. No basketball, tanning or pool.
  • Instead of hiring janitors corporate (or at least my Gold’s) requires the regular staff to clean things up, clean restrooms, etc. Needless to say, my Mother wouldn’t be pleased with the end result.
  • Needlessly dirty equipment … again … that dirty bandage comes to mind.
  • It’s very much a “judgement zone” unlike Planet Fitness.
  • The treadmills feel like an old clunker vehicle ready to kick the bucket.
  • Too many awkward naked men hanging out in the spa.
  • There still is a presence of pushy people. Things like this don’t surprise me.
  • The hours are not 24/5 like Planet Fitness, but then again how many people really work out after midnight? But, I like not feeling rushed to go workout if I do workout late (which I do from time to time).

Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness started back in 1992 when the founder purchased a struggling gym and then focused on dramatically low prices to compete against bigger gyms. Because of the low costs the clientele tailors more to occasional and first-time gym members. Because of the culture of Planet Fitness it has been a perfect partner with The Biggest Loser.

Because of this culture Planet Fitness tries to create the adopted mantra, “judgement-free zone” for each location. There’s a strict dress code to encourage a good, safe environment. Plus, they have a “lunk” alarm that sounds whenever someone grunts or displays … “douchie” … behavior in the gym.

Oh, and every first Monday of the month they have free pizza and bagels. What gym does that?

Packages at Planet Fitness generally fall into two groups. There is the basic $10 a month which gets you pretty much everything at just that location (ie-treadmills, equipment and workout stations). and then the $20 plan gets you the access to the spa, massage room, etc. and into any Planet Fitness around the country. Not a bad set up for a national chain gym.

While there are a lot of positive things about Planet Fitness, there are also a number of negatives as well (like anything in life, right?). In a way, I feel very hesitant to make a sound while working out. It’s almost like working out in a library. It’s pretty quiet and in a way that bugs me. Plus, there aren’t a number of free weights (probably because they don’t want to encourage the lunks?) in the gym compared to Gold’s or other gyms I’ve been to. That’s bit odd for me.

But, here’s a side by side comparison of some of those pros and cons for Planet Fitness.

Pros

  • It’s not Gold’s Gym.
  • The basic membership is month to month with no contract.
  • It is a motivating and safe place for bigger people to come and feel comfortable while working out. You don’t see a lot of that demographic at other gyms.
  • The gym is perfect for people who travel, especially if you have the $20 plan. You can workout at any Planet Fitness around the country.
  • You get discounts on their drinks if you are on the $20 plan (I haven’t bought any from them and this isn’t really a strong feature, but I still feel like you should know this?)
  • They have 2-3 workout stations for above average 30 minute workout sessions that are timed by lights. You can jump in at anytime.
  • You can sign up online for membership and do autopay via a checking account. Thus, eliminating any sales talk doing it in person.
  • But, even if you sign up in person, it’s not pushy at all.
  • Pizza Monday.
  • There’s hardly a wait for spa equipment (ie-tanning bed, massage chair, massage bed, etc.).
  • The equipment is well maintained, especially the treadmills.
  • When you are there late at night, you actually see janitors deep cleaning the floors and machines.
  • You can hook up your iPod to the treadmill while running (or watch TV).

Cons

  • It does feel like you are working out in a library. It’s abnormally quiet for a gym.
  • People tend to keep to themselves.
  • While the theory of the “Lunk Alarm” is to create inclusion, it doesn’t really do that. It excludes bodybuilders and more intense athletes. Shouldn’t inclusion mean EVERYONE is invited? Just food for thought.
  • The treadmills get used A LOT.
  • There are not that many free weights.
  • The bench press is a machine, so you don’t get the true balance training if you did it stand alone.
  • The only real difference between the $10 and $20 plans is the spa and it’s probably not really worth the extra $10 a month.
  • If you buy the $20 plan you are locked in for a minimum of one year.
  • It’s PACKED whenever the Biggest Loser is on TV.
  • Pizza Monday.
  • No Cardio Cinema.
  • No individual TVs on the treadmills, but you can tune into one of about 15 TVs.

Anyways, there’s my side by side comparison of the two gyms. I hope it was useful for you. Where do you go to the gym? Do you workout at any of these locations? Somewhere else? What are some pros and cons you have for your gym? Please feel free to share or offer items I may have forgotten or left off on my life.

Comments:

3 comments

  1. Laura Rummler says:

    Hi Josh! I read your blog every now and then and this caught my eye because like you, I started working out a lot more after Undergrad. I wanted to throw in my own observations too!

    I have never held a Gold’s Gym membership. It’s located right next to my work just like Planet Fitness but I agree with you. The contract bothers me a bit and the atmosphere downtown isn’t really full of trainers as much as it full of greasy salesmen who are there to stay away from their wives or because they have little to do at home. (I’m making a broad statement… but I do seem them a lot through a window that overlooks the river here.)

    Anyway, I used to go to Bally’s Gym. I loved it. The people were incredibly kind and very helpful. In fact, they would offer a free personal trainer once and a while to convince you to sign up for personal training all the time. Needless to say I was so exhausted and sick by the end of an hour with a personal trainer that I never was inclined to sign up… but they also taught me a lot about how to use the gym beyond just a treadmill or other machines. I learned a lot about free weights and cardio and the mixture from them. But then Bally’s had a management shift and they became pushy. I quit. Which was a hassle. I had to send a letter to the corporate office in DC. Not an email… a physical letter. It was a bit much, if you ask me.

    So then I bounced around, using my free 1-week memberships at a variety of other gyms. But most of them were just too expensive and I wasn’t looking for anything fancy. I don’t take classes often (most of the classes at those fancy places are during the day or at the crack of dawn… which told me they were for more mature participants) so I never signed. I also used my school’s gym while I was in Graduate school… because it was included with tuition… but I HATE working out with students. Girls are rarely there to work out as opposed to meet guys, and the guys there are DISGUSTING. They stare, they grunt, and they spit. Oh my gosh… the saliva was everywhere.

    Then I found Planet Fitness. This was perfect. I was unemployed for a time and needed to be somewhere affordable but indoors (because Milwaukee is Hell on Ice sometimes) and this fit the bill. It’s not a perfect gym by any means however I’ve stuck with it for over a year now. Here are my pros/cons-

    PROS:
    * My biggest PRO right now is that I’m pregnant and still feel comfortable working out here. I don’t feel weird walking around with a giant belly. Plus they have lots of yoga balls and stretching mats so that I can do my personal pregnancy stretches.
    * The $20 a month is actually a plus for me. Although I don’t use the “spa” while pregnant and I would never tan anyway…. I get to bring a guest for free anytime. So I bring my Husband most often. Also, if I travel home to Utah, I can use the Planet Fitness there too… or wherever.
    * No pressure. Although you may see other athletic people as motivation, I tend to view them as competition. I always feel inadequate when next to someone, man or woman. But this place… I feel normal.
    * There are rules but not stupid rules. I really appreciate the “No talking on the cell phone” while in the work out areas. Nothing annoys me more! (Well, actually gum chewing and having your ipod up so loud I can hear it annoys me too but I don’t know where to get rid of that). I also appreciate the “No Dropping Weights” rule, and the Lunk Alarm is interesting. I’ve never seen when they hit it… but it makes for an interesting eye turn.
    * They are clean. I’ve seen staff cleaning our Planet Fitness here, so I don’t think they all have nice janitorial staff but I do see them cleaning quite often. I also see them wipe down machines. Even though my Planet Fitness seems to have a lot of people who wipe down equipment after using, it’s nice to know they go through and do it again anyway.
    * TV. TV has been a savior for me while on a treadmill or an elliptical or any other machine they have. It keeps me moving for longer periods of time and I can plug in to listen to it… none of this weird “radio tuning” stuff.
    * The Locker Room is clean . Not always perfect, but for the most part, they keep it clean. I also don’t know about your Planet Fitness, but we have fresh flowers in the locker room that switch out every week. They also have amazing stone showers with the rain head and spray heads in different places. I love the showers there.

    CONS:
    * Even though the locker rooms are clean… the bathroom part always seems to be the worst. It tends to be smelly and I don’t know what is wrong with girls at the gym, but it is messy.
    * It attracts people who aren’t serious about working out. I can’t stand it when someone just sits on a machine and I can tell they haven’t been working out for months, maybe let a lone a day. They’re using the machine as a bench. That’s annoying.
    * Not enough mirrors. Some people may hate mirrors while working out but I learned that I do better if I have one to make sure my back is aligned and I have the correct posture. There are very few at my facility.
    * Goofy staff. Our staff isn’t very helpful. They’re incredibly nice and quick to check you in, but I wouldn’t trust them if I had a problem and I’ve never done anything about people in the Gym who break the rules because I just don’t think they’d do much.
    * Location. Granted, this is probably only for my gym but there is no free parking where I go. I just walk from work, but when my Husband comes he has to pay for parking. They do offer discounted parking… but I have ruled that out as it would still cost less to just pay on the street. I wish they owned a parking facility and it was included in your membership.
    * Stretching Zone. It’s always crowded and it seems to be the most used place in the gym and the smallest. I think they could improve it by providing more space.
    * There is a catch to the contracts. As far as I’ve learned, you are charged an annual fee at some point in October. You have to leave your contract before that in order to avoid it, but if you go over that time, then you’re charged somewhere in the ballpark of $60. I got out of it when I upgraded my membership and it shifted to another date so I’ll have to go back, but they do have catches like all other gyms… however, it’s pretty reasonable when compared.

    Ok! I hope that makes sense. Good luck and keep running!

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