5 Tips to Make Your First Day at the Gym a Great One

by Steven Auger

There’s an old adage that life begins outside of your comfort zone. For folks who are joining a gym for the first time, or who now belong to a new gym, walking in on that first day can be daunting. I still remember my first day 17 years ago. The uncertainty and fear of being judged can be enough to make you want to turn around. But if you let your fear stop you, you’ll miss out on everything the gym has to offer! Here are five gym tips for enjoying your first day, basedon my own experiences.

1. Remember Why You Signed Up

The predominant reason for joining a gym probably has to do with some aspect of your health. I first joined in the middle of January simply to have a place to jog indoors during the winter months to stay fit.

Maybe you’re looking for different ways to stay active, trying to lose some weight, or are looking to join a new and uplifting community. As you walk through the door on that first day, remember why you signed up to join a gym in the first place and focus on the fact that you’re taking the first step on a positive path.

2. Be Prepared

When I first joined a gym, it was right near where I worked. A couple of my co-workers were active members so I picked their brains about the cardio equipment it had to offer, how crowded it got after work, and what the members and staff were like. I later dropped by and one of the staff members gave me a tour, including locker-room facilities, before I officially signed up.

Nowadays, you can often take a virtual tour online (Bonus! Many Planet Fitness clubs offer virtual tours). Check out the club’s website to make sure it has the necessary equipment to allow you to meet your goals. (For example, if you’re strictly into cardio, you don’t want a place with only a few treadmills.) If you still have some questions, drop by for an in-person tour.

3. Find Your Comfort Zone

When you first walk in, the gym can be a scary place. Between the complex machines and all the folks who seem to know what they’re doing, it can sometimes feel like you don’t belong. To counter that feeling, seek out something that will put you at ease and get you into the flow. If you had taken a tour before, you should be familiar with the terrain, so you already know what’s available for you. When I first joined a gym, I was big into running. At first, I felt intimidated, but knowing I could walk in and jump on a treadmill helped me feel more comfortable. Find your treadmill.

4. There’s Strength in Numbers

When I first joined the gym, I didn’t find a workout buddy immediately. But what I came to realize is that everyone has a first day at the gym. We’re all newbies at some point, so there’s no reason to feel intimidated by those around you. Consider asking a friend to join with you so you can hold each other accountable. If you don’t have a workout buddy now, don’t sweat it at all. Before long, you’ll naturally find someone you connect with.

5. Stay Motivated

Everyone’s fitness journey is unique. And we all need motivation from time to time. For me, the compliments I received from friends and family always brought a smile to my face and drove me to push harder during my next workout. For a different kind of motivation, check out Planet of Triumphs – an online community for Planet Fitness members where they can share their success stories and cheer each other on. You’ll see members who’ve lost as much as 150 lbs — and received an outpouring of positive and encouraging comments from other members in response. What better way to stay motivated than to feel the support of your gym peers?

I hope these gym tips help you on your own fitness journey!

Planet Fitness goes public, hits mark in first day of trading

“Judgment-free” budget gym chain Planet Fitness is the latest fitness company to go public.

Shares of the Newington, N.H.-based company closed at $16 on its first day of trading Thursday, matching the issue price.

Planet Fitness’ gyms are known for cheap membership fees — as low as $10 a month — and its purple-and-yellow workout equipment. The company has touted its locations as a “judgment free zone,” where intimidating “lunkhead” behavior like grunting and dropping weights is discouraged.

Planet Fitness had 976 locations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada as of March, including 25 gyms in Southern California. Last year the company had $1.2 billion in revenue, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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With more than 7.1 million members, the company said it believed it was the largest operator of fitness centers in the U.S.

Health club memberships have risen since 2009, except for a dip in 2012.

In 2014, the total number of U.S. health club memberships hit 54 million, up from 52.9 million a year earlier, according to a 2015 report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Assn.

The increased interest has encouraged fitness companies like SoulCycle to go public to raise funds for expansion. The indoor cycling chain started trading last week.

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So far, companies like exercise-tracking device maker Fitbit and golf, country and sports club firm ClubCorp are doing well in the stock market, said Pamela Kufahl, director of content and engagement at Club Industry, a fitness industry publication.

Planet Fitness sold 13.5 million shares of Class A common stock to raise $216 million.

For more business news, follow @smasunaga.

The Real Story Behind Planet Fitness Pizza Monday

by Autumn Jones

The weekend is a tough act to follow, so by default, Monday has a lot to prove. But Planet Fitness has a cure for even the strongest case of “The Mondays,” and it smells like pepperoni and mozzarella.

The Story Behind Pizza Monday

Planet Fitness Pizza Monday is a tradition that has been going strong since 1999 — the year a club in Concord, NH found themselves without hot water for a few days. Despite the lack of hot showers, members continued to show up to the gym, ready to sweat. As a “thank you,” the founders ordered a round of slices for everyone.

The gesture was so well received that it soon became a regular occurrence, and Pizza Monday was born. Soon, Planet Fitness locations all over North America were following suit and offering free pizza on the first Monday night of each month

Then Came Bagel Tuesday

The pizza tradition became so popular that Planet Fitness then introduced Bagel Tuesday, offering morning gym-goers free bagels on the second Tuesday of the month. What began as a simple display of gratitude has become a fun way for members to meet, gather and build community — a cornerstone of the club’s culture and the spirit upon which Planet Fitness Pizza Monday is built.

Give Yourself the Thumbs-Up

It’s OK to indulge in a treat every once in a while. The truth is, one slice of pizza isn’t going to destroy a month’s worth of work in the gym, which is why Planet Fitness Pizza Monday and Bagel Tuesday only roll around once a month.

Moderation is key, and finding the right balance can benefit members in their quest for a healthy lifestyle.

Remember, You’re in the Judgement Free Zone®

No matter if you’re noshing on pizza and bagels or working through your 30-minute circuit, Planet Fitness remains a welcoming and supportive Judgement Free Zone®. When all is said and done, events like Pizza Monday and Bagel Tuesday simply provide a safe space for people to enjoy themselves while mingling with other members and Planet Fitness staff.

The next time you’re planning your workout schedule, consider heading in for a Pizza Monday or Bagel Tuesday. Try something new and check out one of these gatherings — just be sure to check with your local club for specific times, as each location can vary. Who says fitness can’t also be fun?!

In Defense of Post-Workout Pizza and Bagels

ICYMI, Planet Fitness locations give away free pizza on the first Monday of every month and free bagels on the second Tuesday of every month-that’s right, a gym that gives away pizza. As wacky as it may sound, it may be responsible for the gym chain’s crazy growth, according to Business Insider, and, well, they have a good reason for it:

“At Planet Fitness we believe it’s realistic and okay for people to enjoy a slice of pizza every once in a while in moderation,” said Brian Zehetner, director of health and fitness at Planet Fitness. “We’re a Judgement Free Zone and community through and through, and we whole-heartedly believe that it’s a-okay to treat yourself in moderation, especially as you’re working toward your individualized health and fitness goals, whatever they might be.”

But this whole free pizza business isn’t new: It started back in 1998, when the hot water heaters broke in the fourth club location in Concord, NH. As a thank-you for the members’ patience while the heaters were fixed, the PF team ordered pizza for everyone on-site. Needless to say, it was a hit (hello, it is free pizza) so they spread the cheesy-pizza love to all locations as a once-a-month treat. Now, each club serves an average of 5,500 slices per year. (What wasn’t a hit at PF: catcalling in the gym. Not cool.)

Like the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm (which essentially goes off when people are getting too aggressively fit, intimidating, or disruptive), the free pizza and bagels make it pretty difficult to be a fitness-obsessed human trying to get their workout on. (Just imagine walking into a gym that smells like cheesy, saucy goodness.) On the flip side, it does make a whole lot of people (who might otherwise steer clear of the gym) feel more comfortable sweating in a supportive, snack-providing environment-even if it is a little contrary to weight-loss goals. (That’s why they’re also supporting anti-bully orgs.)

So this whole free pizza thing is to foster a little #treatyoself vibe at the gym-we can def get behind that. But whether or not you’re a PF member who’s tempted with the smell of melty cheese mid-workout, it begs the question: does eating pizza post-workout undo the spin class, strength sesh, or long run you just did?

Abso-effing-lutely not.

While at its core, the simple equation for weight loss is calories out > calories in, that doesn’t mean that your health is as elementary as adding and subtracting. If you go crush a heavy lifting workout, noshing on pizza afterward isn’t going to nix the strength gains you just made. Ditto for improving your endurance during a run or aerobic exercise class, or getting more flexible during yoga. (And, for real, you need “cheat days.”)

Yeah, it’s not as healthy as a protein shake or feeding on clean whole foods to fill your post-workout nutrition needs. But that doesn’t mean you’re undoing anything-even if the calories you just ate in pizza equal more than the calories you burned on the elliptical while watching Friends. We repeat: YOU CAN’T ‘UNDO’ A WORKOUT.

“When you train hard, it’s only natural to reward yourself from time to time, even if that means post-workout pizza,” says Sarah Mattison Berndt, M.S., R.D., nutrition advisor for Complete Nutrition. “Although a savory slice provides extra calories and isn’t the cleanest recovery fuel, noshing on pizza isn’t going to nullify all of your hard work if you aren’t doing it all the time. In fact, it may help you to feel more satisfied and ditch feelings of deprivation that could otherwise build up to a blow-out.”

“Health is all about balance and the big picture,” she says. “Staying active and enjoying your favorite foods in moderation can boost motivation and support a healthier and happier you!” (However, that doesn’t change the fact that diet is the most important factor for weight loss.)

If Planet Fitness wants to bring people together with a “non-intimidating, welcoming environment” that happens to include pizza, they should feel free to do so. After all, literally nothing brings people together more than free food.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

Photo: Spanic (Getty Images)

My strip-mall gym is next-door to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, which I’ve thus far mustered the willpower to resist. But if there was pizza inside my gym, I’d for sure spend more time on crust than crunches. A Knoxville, Tennessee Planet Fitness, though, says free monthly pizza dinners and morning bagel-and-coffee buffets motivate customers to come work out.

KnoxNews.com reports the gym offers free bagels and coffee on the second Tuesday of the month, and free pizza on the first Monday evening of the month. The gym calls it a “reward” for getting out of bed to come to the gym, or for sweating hard on the elliptical or weight bench.

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“I come to the gym three times a week, but I always look forward to the bagel mornings,” customer Christa Johnson-Mayti tells KnoxNews.com. (She chose a plain bagel and black coffee after her workout—true discipline.)

Planet Fitness has a reputation as a “judgement (sic)-free zone,” so say the signs inside their buildings. (Most of these signs, and the company’s website, misspell judgment, which I have a hard time moving past. Once a copy editor, always a copy editor.) The pizza and bagels seem in keeping with that more inclusive attitude; you’re less likely to find the hardcore protein-shake crowd at Planet Fitness than, say, a cross-fit place. Of course, if you want to join a gym with no food, no distractions, and just hardcore weight-lifting, fat-shredding equipment, there’s always Curves.

How Free Pizza Helped Make Planet Fitness The Fastest-Growing Gym Franchise In America

Planet Fitness has built its reputation on being a non-competitive workout environment. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Once a month, national gym chain Planet Fitness has a free pizza night.

So many members come in for these food-filled evenings that the health club franchise usually gives away 250,000 slices each time, for more than 3 million pieces a year. That’s probably not surprising when you consider that Planet Fitness recently hit 5 million members and is now the fastest-growing gym chain in the U.S., according to co-founder and chief executive Chris Rondeau.

What’s taken the company, which began in 1992 as a small operation in Dover, N.H., to a nationally dominant chain? Rondeau says its all about targeting the right audience.

Most health clubs, Rondeau explains, cater to the roughly 15% of Americans who consider themselves fitness nuts and love to work out. Planet Fitness’s goal, on the other hand, is to attract the much larger percentage of people who want to be healthier but may only use the gym a few times a month.

“The rest of the industry is fighting over that 15%,” he says. “We’re going for the other 85%.”

To accomplish this, Planet Fitness has mixed fitness with fun through its monthly pizza nights and a bagel breakfast on the second Tuesday of the Month. Its facilities sport mostly bright yellow and purple equipment, with an emphasis on cardio and weight-lifting machines. To keep costs down, the company omits amenities offered by more upscale gyms, such as juice bars and personal trainers. Membership fees run as low as $10 per month (plus a $20 startup fee), and many locations are open 24/7.

Beyond being affordable, Planet Fitness has built its reputation on maintaining a non-competitive workout environment. If someone attempts to lift too many weights or seems to be grunting under the effort, staffers can set off a loud siren called the “lunk alarm.” On some occasions, particularly egregious lifting offenders have been asked to leave and then escorted out by police.

What’s more, Rondeau thinks the focus his company has on basic products like weight and cardio ends up being a strength, rather than a detractor. There’s always “a lot of fads” in fitness, he explains — aerobics, kickboxing, and lately, spinning — but the cardio and weight machines are the timeless essentials.

If further evidence is needed that Planet Fitness has a broad appeal, Rondeau points out that the gym’s 5 million members account for roughly 10% of the 50 million people in the U.S. who belong to a health club. The gym has more than 750 locations nationwide, with the heaviest concentrations in the Northeast, Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas.

At least right now, Rondeau isn’t planning any big changes in the model. He says the $10 price tag and the uncompetitive atmosphere are the two big reasons Planet Fitness has been able to differentiate its product. As he likes to put it, if all the other gyms are selling hamburgers, then Planet Fitness is offering pizza.

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Art Thomas, a Planet Fitness franchisee and owner of five Planet Fitness (PF) franchised fitness clubs, will open his sixth Planet Fitness at Suite 5 in Kendig Square, 2600 N. Willow Street Pike, Willow Street, in early December.

The new 13,100-square-foot location will offer brand-new cardio equipment, such as 30 Life Fitness treadmills, 14 elliptical machines, 12 ARC trainers, five recumbent bikes, five upright bikes, and four Matrix climbers. The facility also features new fully equipped locker rooms with day lockers and showers, two massage chairs, a 30-minute express circuit, two Hydro-massage beds, five tanning booths/beds, and one Total Beauty Angel booth. There will also be two cable towers, three Smith machines, and free weights.

Membership, which is available for $10 per month, offers a variety of benefits, including scheduled small group fitness instruction by a certified fitness instructor through the [email protected] program. With [email protected], certified fitness instructors show members around the gym, provide instruction on PF’s selection of cardio and strength machines, and design an exercise program to help members meet their goals.

Planet Fitness also offers the PF Black Card membership for $19.99 a month, which includes access to the more than 1,000 clubs in the Planet Fitness chain, use of the previously mentioned amenities, a discount on most cooler beverages, and the opportunity to bring a guest every day at no additional charge.

In addition, as a member appreciation gesture, Planet Fitness provides free pizza on the first Monday evening of every month, as well as free bagels and coffee on the second Tuesday morning of every month, while supplies last.

“We’re thrilled to bring our Judgment-Free Zone to Willow Street,” said Thomas. “We look forward to providing everyone in Lancaster County with a high-quality, judgment-free fitness experience, all at a very affordable cost.”

Planet Fitness spotlights its members with “Planet of Triumphs,” an online community that celebrates all accomplishments and inspirational stories of Planet Fitness members. For details, readers may visit http://www.PlanetOfTriumphs.com.

Thomas has lived in southeastern Lancaster County for more than 40 years, and his parents were born and raised in the Willow Street area. In 1950, eight years before Thomas was born, his parents moved to the Bronx and helped to start Mennonite churches in the Bronx and Harlem. After he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1975, his family moved back to Lancaster County, and Thomas majored in business administration at Elizabethtown College. After college, he worked in sales for AT&T in New Jersey. He and two of his friends opened the first A-Z Video Super Store in 1985 in Oakhurst, N.J.

Thomas has more than 30 years of business experience, which includes starting and building the A-Z Video retail chain, building the i-AM-TAN Tanning Centers, developing a strip mall in Lancaster, and now opening six Planet Fitness locations. His executive team includes his wife, Betsy Thomas; his brothers, Don and Dwight Thomas; Tasos Marinos; Nick Picca; and Allison Whittaker.

Thomas and his leadership team support the communities that they live in and employ 20 to 35 people at each Planet Fitness location, in addition to many general contractors, subcontractors, and service organizations that build and operate the centers. Thomas hired S.R. Campbell as his general contractor at the Willow Street location, and they have subcontracted with local craftspeople to build this Planet Fitness.

Planet Fitness is accepting applications for several positions at the Kendig Square location, and individuals may apply from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The club will be open 24 hours a day on Mondays through Fridays and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Individuals who join and like the location on Facebook will be entered to win a Planet Fitness mountain bike. For more information, readers may call 340-2626 or visit http://www.planetfitness.com/gyms/willow-street-pa-1189 or http://www.facebook.com/Planet.Fitness.WillowStreet.PA.

The fastest-growing gym in America has $10 memberships and gives out free pizza and sweets

IN A WORLD dominated by spin classes and circuit workouts, it seems easy to forget about the traditional, membership-based model.

In New York, there’s luxury gym chain Equinox with its diehard gym rats and the mid-level Town Sports Clubs.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s Planet Fitness, which went public this summer — just when SoulCycle announced it would file for an IPO.

Yet these two fitness setups couldn’t be structured more differently.

Planet Fitness is the antithesis of the boutique fitness model — a basic membership costs $10 (a “black” membership, which entitles you to visit other franchises and use the tanning stations and massage chairs, is $19.99), plus a $20 initiation fee. There are no classes. There are no frills. There are no free weights above 80 pounds. But there is free pizza.

The gym prides itself on its philosophy of “no judgement” and “no gymtimidation”— there are signs plastered across the gym stating it’s a “judgment free zone,” and signs on the equipment reminds members that they “belong.” A “lunk alarm” goes off if people exert themselves with too much machismo — that is to say, there’s no grunting permitted whatsoever.

The gym famously serves free pizza on the first Monday of the month and bagels on the second Tuesday of the month. There are also tootsie rolls available at the front desk.

This has made Planet Fitness the butt of many jokes. Look no further than a Buzzfeed listicle celebrating things you only see at Planet Fitness, including this:

Only at Planet Fitness pic.twitter.com/tSQSPiG3Lo

— Bodybuilding (@BodybuiIding) April 16, 2014 Source: Bodybuilding/Twitter

But despite the mockery, the model obviously works. The majority of Americans, after all, are not in SoulCycle’s elite bracket.

In fact, the the crux of Planet Fitness’s business model is its ability to zero in on its target demographic: people who are just getting used to work out — or people who really, really hate exercising.

“We’re going after the first time exercises or casual user,” CEO Chris Rondeau told Business Insider in a phone interview. “Gym intimidation is real.”

Hence no classes. The gym prides itself on its two circuits, one 30-minute full body circuit and one 12-minute ab circuit. The gyms, which are generally over 20,000 square feet, are rows and rows of cardio machines with some strength training machines and free weights. (For what it’s worth, Rondeau said the cardio equipment is what you’ll find at any $100/month health club.)

Ultimately, the company is trying to prep people who may not feel they’re fit enough to work out at a more upscale gym. It’s for the people who say “I’ve got to work out and get in shape before I join a gym,” as Rondeau put it. “I think it’s really cool who we’re going after.”

So it’s not that Planet Fitness is trying to inhibit success, it’s that it’s trying to help people who know that they aren’t fitness fanatics. It’s a starting point — and many Americans need a place to begin. Simply showing up to a gym is a success for these people.

And there’s a lot of these people, and they’re all over the country. Planet Fitness celebrated the opening of its 1,000th gym in June; there were 1,040 locations in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico when Planet Fitness’s third fiscal quarter ended on September 30th. There are plans for continual expansion, too.

Rondeau explained that 80% of Americans are without gym memberships. “The 20% that are, we have 7.1 million of them,” Rondeau said. “Naturally, there’s a vast majority of casual exercisers.”

“Other brands look at working out as a hobby, and I think personally that working out is a chore, and I believe most of America thinks of it the same way, they know they have to they’d rather go to to Chili’s and have a beer and have some chips and salsa, but you know, you have to, you don’t want to, so you kind of wince your way throughout. And I think most of Americans think this way.”

Burning some calories a few times a month, he said, is “better than nothing.”

Rondeau would know. Rondeau’s relationship to fitness is a realistic one; he says he’s “come and gone over the years.” Right now, he’s working out more frequently, but “I think now honestly, it’s more stress-relief.”

Rondeau also has an explanation for the seemingly out-of-place pizza, bagels, and tootsie rolls:

“Planet Fitness first started offering pizza to our members back in 1999 at our third club in Concord, NH. After a day-long shortage of hot water, we provided free pizza as an appreciation gesture for members’ understanding. They loved it and the popularity of the giveaway led to the creation of the once-a-month pizza nights in all our locations, which helps build camaraderie among members and staff. We also giveaway free bagels and coffee once a month for our members who frequent the gym in the morning versus the evening. The tootsie rolls are a unique, small treat and also serve as another opportunity for our members to come up to the front desk, and interact and build relationships with staff. Ultimately we believe that working out should be fun and it’s okay to treat yourself every once in a while in moderation.”

Pizza at planet fitness

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