Ask Rocco

Planet Fitness: The good, the bad and the WTF

By Rocco Castellano

When I decided to write this column it was going to be the ultimate “slam” article. I was going to rip Planet Fitness to shreds with funny anecdotes, stupid choices in marketing and the infamous snack policy. All of those things will be in here, but it won’t be the franchise shredding that I thought it would be. OK, maybe a little, because it’s too easy; but it will also have good stuff too. Maybe. Let’s have some fun.

Let’s begin by stating a few facts. OK, only one: I hate Planet Fitness. I have had at least 10 known worst gym experiences ever at Planet Fitness and that was just in the first month. Then I quit. I hate being quitter, but I hated Planet Fitness more. After owning my own personal training studios for over 30 years, it seemed weird having to go into a gym. I was thinking about going to Gold’s Gym or working out in my garage but I got an idea that joining Planet Fitness would be a good thing. It’s $10 a month, right down the street from my house and it would have nearly everything I needed to work out. Or so I thought…

I walked in, and upon entering saw a jar full of Tootsie Rolls. My greatest weakness is Tootsie Rolls. I love ’em. I can eat at least 50 miniatures in a sitting, guilt-free, and not look back. So when I saw the tootsie rolls, it didn’t automatically phase me – because I grabbed a handful. While I was downing about a dozen of those chocolatey delicious mini-treats of happiness, my brain went into “WTF?” mode. I actually said: “WTF? I’m eating Tootsie Rolls and signing up for a gym membership. What’s wrong with this picture?” I kept eating the Tootsie Rolls… and still signed up. This was the beginning of the end.

Many articles about Planet Fitness talk about their ugly colors and dress code policy. I’m not going to go there, because I actually think the colors aren’t that bad. They’re not the Satan-worshiping black on red, or black on blue with over-muscled cartoonish figures breaking out of bricks that I’m so accustomed to, but I had to sacrifice. It was still $10, and literally down the street from me. I walked there as a warm up. I wore shorts, a tank top and running shoes, so I guess I was within their dress code. Maybe my name, Rocco Castellano, scared the piss out of them. Nah, it was probably because I was within their dress code.

I started training on a Monday. Guess what was waiting for me when I walked in to train? Wow! You’re good! That’s right, 30 pizza boxes and a bunch of fatties eating pizza. Because it’s a “No Judgement Zone,” I felt I shouldn’t judge and walked past the pepperoni-, sausage-, meatball-topped pizzas and changed into my gym clothes to begin my brutal workout. Let me tell you, as an Italian American, working out in a place that has pizza aroma wafting through its air ducts is quite distracting. I don’t want to workout, I want to eat pizza. And I want a lot of it.

So, being the determined MF that I am, I quashed those cravings and began my workout. I always start with legs as a rule. I do a quick warm up on the bike: 12 minutes. I went over to the squat rack, put on 225 pounds and pumped out a nice, smooth 20 reps. My first workout was already kicking ass. A very happy me was thinking, “Damn I still got it!” I threw on 315 pounds with obvious balls bigger than my brain, thinking, “I’m going to crush this weight.” I got under the weight, did my little pre-squat dance and, all of a sudden, I got a tap on my shoulder. I didn’t yet have a training partner at this place, so I didn’t know who this could be. I’m going to crush 315 pounds for reps, and you’re bothering me?

The manager was looking at me through the reflection in the mirror and – no lie, I still get goose bumps thinking about it – he said, “You’re not allowed to lift that much weight here, it will intimidate the other members.”

I stepped out from underneath the weight, turned around and looked the manager in the eye. I said, “Really? Wow, you have a lot of pussies that work out here then… because I was thinking about squatting more.” I don’t think he liked that comment but he still let me work out. So, I went to the leg press and did a 50-rep set of whatever the rack was. Not a waste. I finished up with leg extensions and leg curls and a 6-minute bike ride for some active recovery.

I went over to the dumbbell area, wearing my iPod shuffle because the music being pumped through the speakers effectively sucks. I’d love to throw a 25-pound weight at Britney Spears – just sayin’. I grabbed a pair of 45s from the rack, and finished up a set of chest flies. I got another tap on my now-exhausted shoulder. Again, WTF? Obviously, I didn’t realize through the Metallica blasting in my ears that I was making a grunting noise on my last five reps. Grunting is, apparently, also too intimidating.

So, in my “Judgement Free Zone,” I experienced a hell of a lot of judgment on what happened to be my first day. I will write about my second day in a future post.

Did I mention I hate Planet Fitness?

The views and opinions expressed in Ask Rocco are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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