Planet Fitness, Body Language, and the Key to Instant Respect

Planet Fitness commercials always catch my eye. They’re funny. And from a business point of view, brilliant. They market their not-so-gym gym to anyone seemingly unfit or inexperienced in the fitness world. 

They show you how to beat “gymtimidation” by becoming a member where they embrace those less impassioned about hitting the weights.

Whether or not you’re a fan, you have to give them this: they’re honest. Planet Fitness doesn’t want your business if you’re already fit. You’re not their target market. And if you’re fit, you’re actually the type of person they believe may scare away their target market. They’re looking for a specific type of customer and you don’t belong if you appear intimidating to anyone less experienced.
Social Awkwardness
The idea of gymtimidation is actually spot on. But if Planet Fitness’s target market knew how common a feeling it was for everyone, the not-so-gym gym would lose their clientele. 
Being in a new facility, whether you are fit or unfit can be intimidating. There’s always a getting-used-to-your-surroundings period. 
You feel vulnerable because you’re surrounded by strangers, different equipment, and an unfamiliar gym set-up. On top of all that, you’re about to do something highly personal: move your body around in ways that people don’t generally move when they’re out in public. 
So you feel awkward at first. Join the club.
But then that period is over once you’ve familiarized yourself with your surroundings and the people who are there at that time. And by that point, it really doesn’t matter what size you are, or how much gym experience you have. People of all fitness levels simply figure out what they want to accomplish, how they plan to accomplish it, and do what they need to do. People acclimate to their surroundings. 
And unlike the message spouted by Planet Fitness, those who are out of shape can garner just as much respect and kindness as those who are in shape. It all depends on attitude and what they’re projecting to the rest of the world.
But sometimes the getting used to your surroundings thing takes too long. If you’re struggling with intimidation here are some tools to help you through it. (Some of these can work in non-gym settings too.)

Find Your Focus

Ideally, your workout will become a greater objective than going unnoticed or appearing cool. Keep your mind on your main goal and you’ll naturally prioritize what needs to get done.

A workout log or journal can sharpen your focus, and if you’re shy or in a hurry, it doubles as a prop to look down at when you don’t want to make eye-contact or small talk.

Plus if you see “Legs/Glutes” listed at the top of your workout, you’ll know that’s what you’re there for. It’s a powerful reminder that you’re not done until those body parts have gotten the attention they need.

A Bigger Posture Translates to Better Confidence

Nobody really cares what you look like in the gym unless you’re showing some serious skin and falling out of your clothes.

The most experienced people there have seen every body type known to man, and they’re usually so busy focusing on themselves that they don’t care what you look like or whether you know what you’re doing or not.

But that’s hard to remember when you’re new.

Luckily there’s a way to get over it pretty fast: Fake your confidence. And by doing so, you’ll become self assured. If you haven’t seen this TED Talk, it’s applicable and helpful.




Project self-assuredness with a big posture and your body’s incredible hormonal response will make you feel self-assured. Cower, and the opposite will happen.

A powerful posture will reinforce this belief: I have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else.


You probably already know how to do this. Just stand up straight, and lengthen your torso, move with authority, and take up space as though nobody is there.

The Key to Instant Respect

Then, get lost in your workout. Unfit people who work hard in the gym elicit a lot more respect than extremely fit people who meander, flirt and act like douchebags.


The key to gaining respect at any gym is to work hard. But don’t tell anyone at Planet Fitness or the not-so-gym gym may go out of business.