Keene just recently welcomed Planet Fitness to town and, upon its grand-opening, students abandoned the gym facility provided by the college that they have already prepaid for to sign up for Planet Fitness memberships. What would make college students, many of whom often face monetary struggles, agree to pay a monthly fee rather than go to a gym they’ve already paid for? The answer lies in Planet Fitness’s “judgment-free” atmosphere. But making a facility truly judgment-free is nearly impossible.  According to the Planet Fitness website, the facility aims to make its members feel as comfortable as possible when working out. “[We’ve created] an environment where you can relax, go at your own pace and just do your own thing without ever having to worry about being judged,” the website stated. “This is your Planet. You belong.”

The appeal of a judgment-free zone is completely understandable. As someone who has no upper-body strength and should probably attempt lifting, it’d be nice to work out in a place where no one judges me for not knowing what the heck I’m doing.  But could someone with the same goal as me lift weights comfortably at the college’s gym? To put it simply: no, they cannot. The issue lies in the attitudes that are brought into the gym. Upon entering the Keene Recreation Center, one thing is very clear: the weight room consists of mostly guys and the cardio machines are occupied by mainly gals.

Meridith King / equinox staff

Meridith King / equinox staff

Though you will see a guy venture over to cardio every now and then, rarely do you ever see a lone female downstairs lifting weights. Most of the reasoning behind this is that those who have been brave enough to travel “to the other side,” if you will, have felt judged. Many times I have seen girls in the weight room linger at a machine for a few minutes and then leave. The same holds true for males in the cardio room. However, this staring and sense of being judged does not only happen between opposite sexes. Senior and communications major Matthew Pereira explained that he has felt judged in the Keene State gym many times. “Just the other day I went to the weight room to use a machine,” he said. “I immediately got strange looks because I’m not in there often and I’m not built like a lot of the guys in there. I left after a few minutes because I couldn’t figure out the machine and didn’t feel comfortable enough asking anyone in there.” Pereira also described a time he was in the multipurpose room doing lunges and felt as if the girls in there were staring at him.

“There have been multiple times where I’ve seen people Snapchat videos of people doing not-so-common work outs so who’s to say they weren’t doing the same to me,” he questioned. He explained that it’s because of these reasons that he now mainly works out at Planet Fitness. But just deeming a place a judgment-free zone does not truly make it judgment-free. Planet Fitness has faced complaints from customers for revoking memberships of transgender people and denying memberships to bodybuilders in order to make existing members more comfortable.  However the goal of making members comfortable is not so easily done. It is one thing to pick and choose who joins to create a welcoming environment, but there are often consequences from selective membership. Planet Fitness can easily allow non-bodybuilders to join, but that doesn’t mean some of those new members won’t have judgmental thoughts. Additionally, disallowing bodybuilders from obtaining memberships and revoking the memberships of transgender people leads to an issue with discrimination. Those who lift more weights than the average person are forced to go elsewhere. Transgender people are told to leave because they might not be considered “normal” by other Planet Fitness members. So much for judgment-free.

Claire Hickey can be contacted at

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