How Joining Planet Fitness Changed My Perspective

I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy going to Planet Fitness so much.

In fact, even when I joined, I had doubts about whether I would even want to keep my contract for the full year. Especially when I went in to take advantage of a supposed one week free trial at the Waterkloof branch in January and left having signed a 12-month contract.

Honestly, I felt a bit cheated, having been totally sucked into a sales agreement that I didn’t intend on going into, at least immediately. That sales guy was good.

But seven months later, I’m so glad I did go ahead and join, and that I went for the full contract. Here are some of the reasons why.

Reasons Why Joining Planet Fitness Has Changed My Perspective

I realised that I actually like exercising

I spent large chunks of my life doing little to no exercise. It definitely has something to do with laziness, but on subsequent reflection, I think it was more about not being comfortable in or connected to my own body.

When I thought about it, my first real gym experience was feeling completely self-conscious and clueless when walking around and trying to use the equipment at the now Virgin Active (then Health & Racquet) in Groenkloof when I was growing up.

(Awkward interactions with guys I knew from primary school around the standing ab machine, thing, didn’t really help with that either).

This kind of vague, non-committal gym-going carried on during university too, after deciding that it might be good to do some exercise at the Planet Fitness in Claremont in second year (and not smoke Peter Stuyvesant red cigarettes anymore).

I got better being committed to exercise when I joined my friend Linda’s My Pilates studio in 2008, but it was only when I starting going to hot yoga classes at the age of 25 that everything really changed for me.

It feels really good to connect to your body

I think the effectiveness of Bikram yoga in kickstarting my mind-body connection probably had a lot to do with the instructor I had at the time. Thinking back, he was of Indian descent, so maybe subconsciously it all felt more legit.

But he was also just a really good teacher. He made doing Bikram feel challenging but also calming- a radical shift from the classes I would do years later in Joburg (where there was a lot of shouting).

One piece of advice that I’ll never forget is the importance of breathing over pushing your body. As he said, “being able to connect to your breath will help you more in a stressful situation than being able to touch your toes will”.

But after stopping all the intensely humid 90-minute classes in Joburg when I moved from there back to Pretoria at the beginning of 2017, I didn’t think I’d be doing hot yoga again, at least for a while.

At the time, I was more focused on learning capoeira, which I’d done a bit of in Brazil, and which I found really intriguing and challenging. But after a year, I just felt like my body just couldn’t really keep pace anymore.

It was around about this time that I heard from my friends Chris and Jess that they’d been doing a lot of hot yoga at the Planet Fitness Signature gym next to the Club Centre in Hazelwood.

When you do things in the same place you get to know people

My first goal of going to the gym was definitely just to get fit. I could feel like I’d lost the momentum I’d built up learning to kick, cartwheel and contort myself into various positions while moving around within a circle or “roda” (while simultaneously trying to be present, keep eye contact and keep to the rhythm of the berimbau).

Insight into a Capoeira “Roda”

I decided, that with my limited budget, that the gym would be a good deal because I’d have a lot of variety to choose from when it came to classes.

(If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that exercise is easier when there’s someone telling me what to do).

But then I started to go to the same classes and actually get to know the people teaching them. So much so that I even went to a party organised by my cardio dance instructors (Fitness Icon). And, I’ve even started doing my yoga teacher training with Anri Lock, one of the hot yoga instructors, who also has her own studio, Mindful, in Menlo Park (after wanting to do my training for a while).

I didn’t think that there was even going to be time to get to know people while exercising, but really, I’d just forgotten how easy it can be to get to know people when you live in one place for a considerable period of time and do the same things with the same people in the same Planet Fitness studio repeatedly.

The physical release from exercise is cathartic

I don’t think I’ve felt a better release of energy than while doing choreographed dancing. It’s insane. I think maybe it’s because it takes me back to doing modern dancing, but it’s even better than that.

When you get over how stiff and inflexible you look in the mirror, that your arse just isn’t really built for twerking and you give up on trying to copy all the moves Miyagi or McD are doing on stage, it’s really fun.

When you dance and just get lost in the beat, it’s pretty fucking spiritual actually. Even with of all the very loud pop music that gets a lot of flak for being commercial that goes with it, which I’ve pretended not to like for so long.

(I’m enjoying the listening to this music so much that I even created my own Cardio Dance playlist on Spotify).

Going to yoga now is also even more an enjoyable experience, having spent two of the past few weekends at my yoga teaching training going through all the Bikram yoga poses in detail. It’s got to the point where I’m so into it I even brought a strap and a block to class, to adjust the poses to suit my tight back.

The fact that this Planet Fitness also has a steam room, and an enthusiastic management team that takes the time to make cardboard cutout letters to advertise upcoming events on the wall above the entrance counter, makes the monthly fees feel totally worth it to me.

Do you go to Planet Fitness, or any gym, and enjoy it? I’d also love to hear if you’ve had a similar experience of finding a type of exercise that really resonates with you in the comments.

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