On a Culture Where “Gymtimidation” is a Thing

I heard an ad for Planet Fitness the other day, and I thought they were joking at first.

-“No Lunks”

-“No Gymtimidation”

-“Judgement Free”

These things seemed a bit contradictory to me. (How can you keep the “lunks” away without judging them?) But besides that little problem, I wondered at what point accountability and motivating each other turned into “intimidation?”

Why would you WANT to belong to a place where nobody cares how fast you run or how much weight you lose?

…where meeting goals is misconstrued as “bragging,” and everybody basically tries to ignore everybody else? (Unless somebody looks TOO good, of course. Then somebody complains.)

But, after I got about halfway though writing my slightly-snarky perspective on all this, I found an editorial (“Your Judgement Free Zone Makes me Judge You”)–and I literally scrapped everything I was writing.

The author already says it all! I love it!

-“[Planet Fitness] is a hippy, flower-loving, everyone-is-perfect-the-way-they-are Leslie Knope gym.”

-“When I went to [my old gym] I was fat. Was I self conscious? A little, but I was at the gym so I wouldn’t be fat anymore. I was never judged.”

He humorously summarizes most of the reasons I’m a little embarrassed that gymtimidation is a “thing” in my culture.  (The oped has some language, but it’s worth your time. Read it.)

What Planet Fitness tries to do…what it claims to do…is eliminate that icky, self-conscious feeling we sometimes get when we compare ourselves to others. But, in reality, it’s impossible for the gym owners to stop that sensation.

Those feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment come from within a person–they have nothing to do with the “hot,” “toned” “gym-rat” on the machine next to you.  And, the really tough thing to accept is: some people deserve to feel inadequate and embarrassed.

If you’re not trying your hardest, you have a reason I feel bad. And when you see somebody nearby who’s breaking personal records and celebrating, you might be tempted to join a gym where those people aren’t allowed. But that doesn’t fix your issue with self-respect.

You’ll never be able to respect yourself fully until you’re giving it all you’ve got.

And if you’re giving it all you’ve got, but you still believe people are thinking negative thoughts about you, that’s a personal problem, too.  I’m willing to bet nobody’s judging you. Most people respect hard work and progress, even when it’s slow. Shut down the lies and keep moving forward.

That hot body next to you is supposed to be motivation–not intimidation.

Anyway, feel free to join whatever gym you want, especially if it’s dirt cheap and close to home. But the advertising hook for Planet Fitness is silly. They call themselves “judgement-free” because the truth sounds bad: “Join if you’re not very serious about getting healthy–and you don’t want people to ask why you never change your habits and slowly drop out.”

Seriously, even if it were possible to have a gym where no one ever judges your performance, why would you want that?


I want your thoughts. Is “gymtimidation” a real, external problem in most “ordinary” gyms? Or does this term get used mostly by people who want to be told they’re doing fine–even if they’re slacking?

3 thoughts on “On a Culture Where “Gymtimidation” is a Thing

  1. bethagrace

    Non-intimidation is not just people lazy people who are going to quit or play Angry Birds.

    When I started at the gym, I started slow. My friends made fun of me. I preferred going when the gym was empty. And guess what? By going to the empty gym regularly, I got in better shape until I stopped minding going to a gym full of people (at least, stopped minding for that reason).

    I don’t like learning new things in front of other people. If I have to, I want to learn with people as inept as me. Yes, it’s a pride issue, but if you let me nurse it for a while, I’ll get good at whatever it is. I’ll become the person who intimidates other people–and if those people need to do their workouts away from me, that’s fine. I’d rather they work out where they’re comfortable than not work out at all.


    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Your point is understood.
      Maybe the motto at Planet Fitness should be, “The place where the inept come to learn…then, if they learn too much, we kick them out.” 😉


  2. Pingback: I Don’t Want My Sister to Be “Nice” | Cultures at War

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