Eight years ago I was a physical specimen. You should’ve seen me with my shirt off. It was pretty awesome. I’d show you, except back then all of the shirtless pictures I took of myself were with my dad’s old Polaroid camera, and they’re stored in a shoebox under a bed at my parents’ house.

How did I get to be this way?

Hard work. I would spend at least three hours a day trotting around a basketball court, and then I would spend additional time in a gym lifting free weights and subjecting myself to many other forms of voluntary physical torture in the hopes I could gain a competitive edge over all the other slow, unathletic white dudes I was often playing hoops against.

When my basketball career unceremoniously ended, I stopped lifting weights and vowed to never start again unless I had a reason beyond aesthetics to do so. I now work out only for health reasons, and so that my weight doesn’t balloon to obese proportions.

Like most normal people, my time can be better spent doing things other than getting my swell on so that I am more fun to stare at in the mirror and so that a portion of the female population will find me more attractive. (I believe this is why the majority of weight lifters you see in your typical “gym” are doing what they’re doing. They won’t admit this to you, but most of the reasons they give you will not seem too well-thought-out or reasonable.)

Also, like most normal people, I don’t really like being around these types when I’m at the gym. It’s difficult to not feel physically inferior. And God forbid you hop on a machine and don’t seem to know exactly what you’re doing. You’ll get looks like you just took a big old shit in a dude’s protein shake.

And this is one of the reasons I belong to—and enjoy—the Planet Fitness in my neighborhood.

You may have a negative perception of Planet Fitness at present, because they’ve been openly chastised in the media for their approach to fitness. (Bros are like DUDE THERE’S NO SQUAT RACK AND IT’S LEGS DAY, etc.)

But you might want to embrace the ideals of Planet Fitness.

See, Planet Fitness is kind of the antithesis of your traditional gym. The organization brands itself as a “Judgment Free Zone.” According to its website, they strive to provide an environment where a “ lasting, active lifestyle can be built.” In their marketing efforts, the organization openly mocks “lunks” and “gymtimidation,” the people who think they’re better’n you because they can lift heavy things, scream without shame or awareness of their surroundings after doing so, and find shocking their abs to be a meditative process.

In short: Planet Fitness likes to rip on the same people most normal exercisers do (though we tend to do so quietly and behind their back — or through an online post). It’s hard not to support that.

And here’s a secret: most women who go to gyms aren’t going to be hacked off if their chosen workout spot isn’t totally supportive of body builders. So you still get to look at pretty girls at the gym.

Oh, and:

  • Planet Fitness membership is $10 a month.
  • They give out free bagels and slices of pizza every now and then throughout the month, in case you need to carbo-load.
  • Most locations are open 24 hours a day.

The $10 per month price tag alone was enough to get me in the door. And the environment helps make sure I keep coming back through it.