Why Most “Fitness Centers” Suck

July 17th, 2008 | Posted in General

From an old sketch o'the week...
From an old sketch o’the week…

I was reading CNN the other day and ran across this article entitled “Dealing with Jerks at your Gym”. It was an accurate portrayal of what big fitness centers are like… both in the actual problems they have and in the way things that should not be problems become so because of the stupidity and selfishness of the human race.

I used to belong to a big club in Eagan, Minnesota called Lifetime Fitness. That’s where I really got back into weightlifting and I worked out there for about 5 years before I’d had enough and moved on to a smaller studio gym. I actually left because they fired my trainer just because some jerks at the club had some untrue complaints about him, but really that was just the last straw… I hated that place for a number of reasons that apply to almost all these mega-gyms.

Big fitness centers are not for people who seriously want to work out and exercise. They are designed for transient members who work out for a few weeks or months and then give up, only to return for short bursts now and again. They cater to these people, and have policies that actually deter those who work out regularly and for real results from wanting to continue to do so. They make most of their money collecting membership fees from people who DO NOT use their facility. If even a modestly decent percentage of a big club’s membership showed up at the same time to workout they would be totally overwhelmed. They want you to pay for membership, but not to work out. What they really market is the thought you COULD get to the gym and get into shape. Once they get you as a member, 99% of their goals are accomplished. Giving up your membership would be like surrendering to the idea that you will never get “back into shape”. Therefore you pay the fees and never go in, but you are always “meaning to”. Genius marketing.

Meanwhile the facilities are like candy stores… all empty calories. They have shiny mirrors, dozens of flat screen TVs, wood grain paneling, plush carpets and any real efforts are often discouraged in favor of the posh surroundings. The worst part is that often those real efforts are looked upon as annoying by other patrons. In the story I referenced above, some of the “jerks” cited are doing nothing more than sweating, making some noise or putting in 110% effort into their workouts. Imagine that!

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty if idiots at these gyms. I almost got into a fistfight with one jerk who jumped onto a machine I was clearly doing sets on and then proceeded to do a five minute multiple exercise super-set on it… some people think they are the only ones in the gym. Then there are those who make a big show of their workouts, expending more energy on noise and groans than on the weights. The facilities are also clogged with people “working out” in full makeup, hair done and in workout clothes that have clearly never seen sweat. The problem is that the people who run these gyms would rather make the part-timers and wannabes happy than the people who really want to use their equipment and facilities, because they make them more money than the serious workout folks. I left Lifetime and will never work out there again after witnessing management clearly siding with casual users over those who really wanted to get something out of their facility.

The bottom line is a gym is a place where you have to feel comfortable and can do what you need to do. I train to build size, strength and power, and need big weights, power racks and a little latitude to occasionally grunt my way through a heavy set. I sweat. I gasp for breath after a big set. I don’t do any of it for show but it does occasionally creep out. If that annoys those primped up pretenders at Lifetime then screw them… if any of them put in half the effort I do in a workout they’d be getting somewhere. Those mega-gyms are really for those people, and I don’t belong there.

I’m quite happy in the small studio gym I’m currently working out in. In fact, I am currently setting personal records in several lifts including bench (335 x 3), incline press (285 x 3), squats (405 x 2), deadlifts (415 x 3) and military press (255 x 3). Nobody complains and I have nobody to complain about. If you are looking to find a place to workout take a hard look at what your goals are, what you need to do to achieve them and then find a place that will provide you what you need for success. That may be the local super-spa, small sweatshop gym or some personal equipment in your basement.


  1. Michael Garisek says:

    Once again a very insightful post. Wow!! way to go with the personal best on all those different lifts.
    I patiently wait your Batman review

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks, Micheal! I actually did 435 x 3 squats today, so I’m still going up. I can feel my joints and tendons getting beat up, however, which always happens towards the end of a power/strength phase. Next week is my last week on this routine so I think it’s perfect timing. Then on to an endurance phase for about 6 weeks.

  3. kmcnutt says:

    Krikey… 435 lbs? That’s almost two-and-a-half of me… yow. Do you ever find that those workouts affect your drawing at all? Like the tired shakes or something? I notice I can’t draw for a while after I’ve had a session of wood splitting or the like.

    Where you go for size, strength and power, I’m looking to get back into light & lean endurance, or what I think of as “ropey”. Back when I ran my first Grandma’s (a marathon betwixt Two Harbors and Duluth, MN those who don’t know) I weighed in at 150 lbs, and oh, those were the days. Being a 36 year old desk-bound father of two, 150 is probably out of the question, but boy would I like to see 165 or 160 again. I guess mostly what I’m trying to say is I think it’s cool how you manage your workload and stay so fit. That’s a lot of work, but inspiring.

    BTW – I’m hearing good things ’bout Batman… things like “Dark, complex and unforgettable” (which could also describe my coffee this morning, but that’s another story) & can’t wait to see for myself. Are you going to see it opening day?

  4. Tom says:

    Kelly- well, I do avoid doing biceps or triceps on days I have to ink, as I am a little shaky sometimes for a few hours after… otherwise it only helps me by increasing my bloodflow and energy levels.

    I will probably try and catch the Dark Knight as early as possible… but my kids have a play performance tomorrow and I have to work all day on Saturday at Valleyfair, so I just don’t know when it’s going to happen.

  5. cybergoulion says:

    Do you play dodgeball in your gym by any chance? Just checking!



LA Workshop no. 2 underway today!

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: