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January 21, 2009 > Judgment free zone comes to Fremont

Judgment free zone comes to Fremont

By Monica L. Barbara
Photos By courtesy of Monica L. Barbara

With every New Year comes the promise of health and fitness for many. Fremont residents have an extra incentive to pursue that goal this year with Planet Fitness, a new fitness center that opened in November 2008.

Located in the Mowry East shopping plaza, across from the movie theatre, Planet Fitness is a brightly colored, well-maintained and inviting fitness center that boasts 15,000 square feet of fitness opportunity. With 75 pieces of equipment, including cardio and strength training machines, free weights and a 30-minute circuit workout, the facility has quickly built a robust membership.

The price of membership is certainly a pull as well. For as little as $10 per month, members have access to the facility, including separate male and female dressing and shower facilities and personal lockers. Members can utilize free personal training, by appointment. For the slightly higher fee of $20 monthly, the Black Card membership is available, granting access to unlimited use of the gym's massage chairs, unlimited tanning, the ability to bring a guest anytime using the facility, 50% off cooler drinks and use of any of the Planet Fitness centers nationwide.

"A typical club has a wide range of programs and amenities, maybe a pool or basketball court. No more than 20% of members use those amenities," says Roger Bates, owner of the Fremont franchise. The cost of these arguably extraneous amenities is still included in each membership fee, however. This, says Bates, accounts for the much higher membership fees common to other gyms which can be upwards of $50 per month. "We provide a product that 80% of members use and so are able to offer great prices," said Bates.

In addition to the Fremont location, Bates is the owner of three other locations throughout the Bay Area: Hayward, Rohnert Park and Daly City. Bates became interested in the Planet Fitness brand, which is based in New Hampshire and has over 250 locations nationwide, because it offered a, "timely and valuable concept for fitness compared to what's been done over and over."

What Planet Fitness also offers is a unique approach to marketing and soliciting membership that is meant to cast a wider net than the typical gym may and therefore attract a broader range of clients. "We attract the main stream health club member," says Bates, "[but we also] create an environment that is welcoming and non intimidating to a wider audience."

Key to this environment is the Judgment Free Zone, a trademark of all Planet Fitness facilities. Part of creating this "user-friendly" zone is limiting the equipment to lower weights, making them easier to use, and restricting workout attire that may be deemed inappropriate or intimidating to others.

Perhaps the most noticeable, and certainly audible, sign of the Judgment Free Zone is the facility's "Lunk Alarm," which gives a short, loud buzz - think game show response to a wrong answer - whenever conduct deemed inappropriate by the gym is observed. The most common violation for this is dropping free weights on the gym's floor, creating a loud clunking sound, or grunting while weight lifting, which can be considered intimidating to other gym goers.

Says Bates, "If conduct is unbecoming of the environment, our light-hearted way of giving a warning is the Lunk Alarm." If disturbing behavior continues, gym staff will speak with the individual to restore the environment the gym strives to maintain.

Likely as a result of the Judgment Free Zone, the Planet Fitness facilities tend to attract, "a lot of first time users and older clients," and have a higher percentage of women to men in their membership. Bates maintains that this is because clients, "don't feel out of place from day one," and, "feel more comfortable."

The Fremont Planet Fitness is open Monday through Thursday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on the weekends from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The facility is open to those 15 years and older and hosts Pizza Night the first Monday of each month, with all-you-can-eat pizza for members, and offers free bagels and coffee to members the second Tuesday morning of each month.

Planet Fitness
Mowry East Plaza
39161 Farwell Drive, Fremont
(510) 797-5000
www.planetfitness.com

Monday - Thursday: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Fridays: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Weekends: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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