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The Birth of Pseudo-Fitness

I’m still shaking my head hours after having read this article!

Planet Fitness, one of the fastest-growing gym companies in the US, recently removed squat racks from one of its gyms because a customer complained that it was “too intimidating”.

Wow!  Just wow!!

This is a gym that offers its clients free pizza, bagels and tanning beds – to cater for, as this article puts it, “the casual gym goer who might be turned off by gyms being a little too ‘fitness oriented’.”

Wow again.

Seriously, what hope does humanity have of overcoming the obesity epidemic when we have celebrity medicos on TV peddling their miracle weight-loss scams every day, and now gyms – until recently places seen as being for “fitness fanatics” – feeding people fast food and teaching them that it’s OK to be half-hearted about fitness?

Well, let’s be realistic here . . . it’s not Planet Fitness’ job to help overcome the obesity epidemic, nor is it any concern of theirs.  At the end of the day, they’re a business and profits are the only thing they’re interested in.

So from that perspective, if you think about it purely from a marketing point of view, their business model is, admittedly, exceptionally clever.

Consider the client that represents the largest sector of the fitness market – the casual exerciser who doesn’t particularly enjoy working out, who only works out as little as they can get away with, who doesn’t want to work too hard but will cut every corner they can, who has little or no motivation, and who finds it extremely difficult to give up their indulgences.

Now, imagine if you were to:

  1. Assure them that they don’t need to try too hard.
  2. Take away their incentive for being extraordinary, after all, that’s hard work.  Instead, teach them that being mediocre is just fine – that’s where they’ll feel much more comfortable.
  3. Avoid offending their sensibilities by exposing them to people who are anything more than mediocre.
  4. If this isn’t possible, use leveling strategies such as ridiculing of extraordinary individuals to diminish their appeal.
  5. Remove any evidence that may possibly suggest they could be doing better, working harder, or striving to be more.
  6. Teach them that because they’re “working out” they’re free to eat anything they want, even fast food!  (It must be OK – it’s available at the gym!!)
  7. Provide them with all the fast food they want – this not only keeps them happy and coming back today, but keeps them dependent on your services and therefore coming back tomorrow – a double whammy!

What would you have?

You’d have a virtual nirvana for your target market.  As I said, marketing genius.

At some point however, I believe that companies need to start having a conscience and taking on some social responsibility, especially where public health is concerned.

We’re not talking about an infomercial selling the latest ab exerciser here.  We’re talking about gyms, with professional trainers.

It’s not always good enough to sit back and say that individuals need to be the ones taking responsibility for making informed choices for themselves.  Not when your business is seen by those individuals as a qualified and supposedly trusted source of information.

It’s misleading and unethical.

Health and fitness is confusing enough for the average member of the public without icons of the industry adding to the already-overwhelming mess of lies and misinformation out there!

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Fabian Colussi is a women's Bikini and Figure competition coach for natural athletes, certified personal trainer and gym instructor, and women's fitness consultant. He also has a background in martial arts, is an NLP Master Practitioner, and has a certification in Hypnotherapy. Fabian is a co-owner and co-founder of Million Dollar Baby Fitness.

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