Judgment-Free Zone?

judgement free zoneSince moving to Independence last fall, I’ve been doing my indoor workouts at the local Planet Fitness installation. With rows of purple treadmills and a wide selection of weight machines, they had everything I wanted. Mostly, I joined so that I would have a place to run on rainy or overly cold days, but since first passing the doors, I’ve taken advantage of the stationary bikes and, increasingly of late, the free (and semi-free) weights.

Planet Fitness is not inclined to be a bodybuilding gym. They don’t have those industrial-looking squat racks and bench press spots. They do have dumbbells that go up to, if memory serves, 65 pounds, and fixed barbells up to 60 pounds. Anything heavier and you have to work with one of the machines or in a Smith machine. Doing bench presses in a Smith machine is okay. Squats are reasonable. But if you want to do deadlifts, which I’d like to try out, the restricted motion of the Smith machine is less than ideal and the 60 pound barbell is going to require an awful lot of reps.

I did a Google search to see if deadlifting in such an environment was practical. The simple answer, easily acquired, was “no,” but I read on in some weight-lifting and bodybuilding forums, eager for the juicy details. What I read really surprised me.

One respondent asked, “what kind of gym doesnt have free weights???” Another, later in the thread opined, “If your gym doesnt have a barbell then your not at a gym.”

A bit later, as the discussion shifts from Smith machines to the deficiencies of the original questioner’s gym, we find this opinion: “I guess the name Fitness SuperCenters sounds better to the overweight cardio kings and queens. It’s a shame that any more our “gyms” are focused more on stationary bikes, treadmills, and stair climbers. The people come in and doing 15 ‘hard’ minutes on a bike and go home to chow down on their candy bars and potato chips.”

Planet Fitness calls itself the “Judgment Free Zone.” Does that mean that they’re catering to the “overweight cardio kings and queens”? As I look around at Planet Fitness, I see plenty of people who are clearly making some good progress. I see a World War II vet, a guy who fought with the Marines at Guadalcanal. There’s Joe, who walks hard and fast for an hour at a time. I see some legitimately overweight folks who, if they keep pushing like they are today, will soon be a lot less overweight–provided they don’t “chow down on their candy bars and potato chips.”

I don’t fault those bodybuilding guys for loving their gyms with all the grimy-looking racks and benches that look like torture machines. If they want to do Romanian deadlifts with 500 pounds while drinking from their gallon jugs of water, that’s their business, but why do they feel the necessity to deride others?

Of course, I’ll confess that I stroll around at Planet Fitness and glance at the speed at which others have the treadmill set. I feel a bit smug when somebody has it turning at less than 6.5 mph, and I assume that those who have it going at more than 8 mph are probably going to burn out fast.

Judgment of others, it seems, is one of the easiest things that people can fall into. How do we actually move into a Judgment Free Zone? I find it easiest to avoid judging others when I am most aware of my own sins. With them on my mind, the shortcomings of others don’t seem so significant.