3915 Kell E Blvd, Wichita Falls, TX 76308
Planet Fitness Photos
Planet Fitness (PFIP LLC) is an American franchisor and operator of fitness centers based in Hampton, New Hampshire. The company reports that it has 2,039 clubs, making it one of the largest fitness club franchises by number of members and locations. The franchise has locations in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, and Australia. It markets itself as a “Judgement Free Zone” [sic] that caters to novice and casual gym users, and has faced both praise and criticism for its atmosphere. It is reported to be the nation’s fastest growing fitness center franchise.
A Planet Fitness location in Waycross, Georgia in 2021
Planet Fitness locations in the United States as of 2015
In 1992, Planet Fitness founders, Michael and Marc Grondahl acquired a struggling Gold’s Gym franchise in Dover, New Hampshire. They eventually closed that original location, and brought on a third partner, current CEO Chris Rondeau. In 2002, they purchased the rights to the name Planet Fitness from Rick Berks and renamed their franchise.
Berks had started his own Planet Fitness gym in 1993 in Sunrise, Florida, and eventually expanded it to three clubs, along with a Gold’s Gym franchise. Berks had been catering to the bodybuilding culture in his Gold’s Gym. “I decided I didn’t want to deal with that crowd, so that’s when I opened the original Planet Fitness club in Sunrise, Florida, in 1993.” The name came from his daughter’s school project, “Fitness Planet.” The new model was an effort to provide a fitness hub for everyday people. Berks later went on to open the first Youfit Health Club in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Rondeau and the Grondahls recognized that there was a greater opportunity to serve a much larger segment of the population if they changed the gym environment, both in attitude and format, by creating a non-intimidating, low-cost model. Planet Fitness became known as the “Judgement Free Zone,” aimed more at the average user than the bodybuilder type of fitness enthusiast. They also dramatically reduced prices to compete against better-known brands. This low-cost business model focuses on the needs of occasional or first-time health club members, rather than more experienced members, and depends on many members rarely showing up. According to a Planet Money episode from 2014, “half of the Planet Fitness members don’t ever go to their gyms.”
As part of their effort to create a non-intimidating environment, Planet Fitness has alienated many serious weight lifters. The gym utilizes a “lunk alarm”, which is a loud siren and rotating light that is used when a gymgoer grunts too loudly or drops weights. Some bodybuilders and weight lifters have found the way they’re portrayed in Planet Fitness TV commercials to be offensive, and the way they’re treated in Planet Fitness gyms to be “quite possibly discriminatory.” Planet Fitness has been criticized for prohibiting certain weightlifting exercises–such as deadlifts and clean-and-jerks–that many experts believe are highly effective. In 2010, Men’s Health magazine called Planet Fitness “the worst gym in America.”
As early as March 2015, the “Judgement Free Zone” policy was expanded to allow trans women to use the women’s locker room. The policy states that “members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.”
In 2003, Planet Fitness opened its first franchised location in Florida, with Eric Dore and Shane McGuiness.
In the fall of 2013, TSG Consumer Partners LLC became an equity partner in the Planet Fitness franchise. Michael Grondahl, co-founder of Planet Fitness stepped down as CEO, and was succeeded by Chris Rondeau. The company went public on August 6, 2015.
In February 2016, the franchise was added to the Franchise Times’ “Fast and Serious” list of top franchises (#1), and in its 2016 ranking of franchises, Forbes magazine ranked Planet Fitness #4. It ranked in the top 50 of Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 in 2017.