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What is the Difference between Golds Gym and Planet Fitness?

Updated on January 8, 2009

Often when we present our Corporate Wellness Program to local businesses and organizations we are greeted with a familiar reply: “We already have a corporate thing with Planet Fitness. What is the difference between you guys and them?” Well, my first response is that Planet Fitness has no corporate wellness program. Check it out yourself. Call them up and ask them to explain their wellness program. Ask them where you can find some info about it on their website. I can guarantee you that they have no wellness program. They can offer you the cheapest gym membership around – but no wellness program. To check out our Corporate Wellness Program please go to

I think Mike Grondahl, the CEO of Planet Fitness, can help me explain some of the other differences between Golds Gym and Planet Fitness.In a recent Business New Hampshire Magazine article, Mr. Grondahl describes Planet Fitness as the ‘Wal-Mart’ of the fitness industry (he said that, not me). He explains that “Unlike most other health clubs, Planet Fitness has no group exercise, no child care and no sales people. Clubs have cardio and lifting equipment in an open floor plan to allow minimal staff to keep watch over the club.”

All full-service health clubs do have group exercise, daycare, and customer service personnel because they are an integral part of a health club’s operation. How many of your employees have nobody at home to watch their kids while they work out? Without daycare many of these employees could never get to the gym. Don’t you think your employees might want a little more from a gym than cardio equipment? We have plenty of equipment too. But what about offering Bodypump and Zumba classes (two of our country’s most popular and fun group exercise classes)? What about Yoga and Pilates classes to help your employees reduce tension and help them relax? What about a great Spin class to help your employees burn off calories and blow off steam? How about instead of “minimal staff to watch over the club” the gym had certified personal trainers that actually interacted with the members – not just watch them. Golds Gym has all that and much more. We value our employees tons more than we value our equipment (although our equipment does cost a heck of a lot more than the stuff at Planet Fitness).

Mr. Grondahl describes his company’s main clientele as “first-time and occasional gym users.” Golds Gym also caters to the first time user. In fact, we provide all new gym members, whether they are neophytes or experienced exercisers, with a personal trainer. How many first time users can design their own workout program? We think not too many, or maybe none. That’s why our personal trainers help the new member design a program that fits their goals – not a cookie cutter bodybuilder type circuit intended for everyone. And most importantly, we definitely don’t want our members to be “occasional gym users.” We know the only way a member can get value from their membership is if they actually come to the gym. This may be a little self-serving to us, because when they see the value they are getting they want to tell their friends. And then their friends become Golds Gym members.

I do have one question: Planet Fitness says they don’t cater to ‘bodybuilding muscleheads.’ Why then did Planet Fitness decide to feature a bodybuilder, demonstrating a bodybuilding exercise on a bodybuilding machine in the December 10, 2008, Times Herald Recordonline article (check it out)? According to the article: “John Silver works at Planet Fitness in the Town of Wallkill. He placed third in the 2005 International Natural Bodybuilding Federation New York state champion men's novice middleweight class. He is a group fitness instructor at Planet Fitness, helping people learn how to use the machines there.” Hey John, ever hear of functional training? How about getting off your butt to do some real training? (Sorry, just me ranting a little bit.)

Marketing is the lifeblood of Planet Fitness. In the December 2008 issue of Club Insider Magazine, Grondahl discusses the importance of his marketing efforts. He states “For Planet Fitness, the marketing challenge never ends.” According to Grondahl “One of the toughest things about being a low-price club is that our message constantly has to be reinvented. It’s difficult to come up with a new pitch, but we keep working at it.” He adds “Marketing is more important than your treadmills, more important than your dumbbells and ellipticals, and much more important than your personal trainer.

I have a hard time agreeing with this last statement. I could get by without the newest dumbbells, treadmills, and ellipticals (although I don’t). However, I could never agree with the notion that new hyped up sales pitches are ‘much more’ important than personal trainers. Sales pitches aren’t going to get you healthier (but they will help get your money). Certified Personal and Group Fitness instructors help our members design the workouts that are best for them. Not only are these exercise prescriptions effective and safe, but they are also fun. Our trainers, group exercise instructors, daycare personnel, and customer service staff are the lifeblood of Golds Gym. We do take pride in our equipment – but its’ importance can’t compare to our people.

I have to admit there are a few things Planet Fitness has to offer that Golds Gym doesn’t. One of these is a ‘lunk alarm.’ The lunk alarm is an ear-rattling siren with flashing blue lights and a concomitant public scolding (Yeah, hard to believe, but they really have them in all their locations. I’ve been told it sounds like Richard Simmons going around with a police whistle. I also heard that Barney the Dinosaur pushes the button, although that hasn’t been verified—click here to listen to the alarm). A ‘lunk’ is defined on their posters, as “one who grunts, drops weights, or judges.” Obviously, Planet Fitness must have a bunch of lunks working out there. Why else would they have an alarm created just for them? I guess the reason we don’t have a lunk alarm is that we don’t have lunks in our health club.

Also, according to the claims to fame on their website:

  • Have you seen PF's famous candy jars filled with purple and traditional Tootsie Rolls®? We go through over 750,000 each month!
  • On Pizza Nights (the first Monday of every month) we go through 3,000 pizzas. That's 24,000 slices per year!
  • The second Tuesday of every month we serve up free bagels to our club members! Come on by and get your own!

Wow! What a great marketing pitch. What other club operator would have thought of such great ideas to promote a health club: Tootsie rolls, pizza (what, no beer with the pizza?), and bagels with cream cheese. Unfortunately we don’t offer any of the above. However, we do have a great juice bar that serves up nutritious and delicious smoothies.

I hope this little commentary of mine helps explain some of the differences between Golds Gym and Planet Fitness. It’s your pick. Do you really want your employees working out at the ‘Wal-mart’ of the gym industry? I’d love to discuss this matter with you in person or on the phone. You can call me on my cell phone at 845-656-6179 or email me at

Thanks,  Bob Roche  President – Golds Gym Middletown NY


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