Intimidation-free zone

STEUBENVILLE Planet Fitness has attracted more than 2,000 members since it opened its doors on March 17. New members have been enjoying the laid-back atmosphere at the location in Kmart Plaza near the Fort Steuben Mall, according to Nick Panzich, regional manager.

“We’re very excited to be open in Steubenville. We’ve had a really great pre-sale, a great reaction from the public here with a lot of member sign-ups,” he said.

The intense, competitive air of other gyms populated by experienced fitness buffs can sometimes scare away newcomers, and Planet Fitness hopes to welcome those newbies with low prices, easy-to-use equipment and free fitness training to get customers started.

“We’re known for being the ‘judgment free zone,’ which means we don’t cater to that bodybuilder or powerlifter mentality. We’re actually geared toward general fitness and first-time gym users. We want people to be comfortable, not intimidated. We don’t allow grunting, throwing barbells or slamming weights or that type of behavior you’ll find in a typical gym. The ‘Lunk Alarm’ goes off when someone is grunting, throwing dumbbells, slamming down weights – it’s just an alarm that we have on our wall in the middle of the facility. If someone’s doing that we set it off, and it lets everyone know that we heard the problem and we will handle the situation accordingly,” Panzich explained.

“We have free pizza night the first Monday of every month and free bagels the second Tuesday to say thank you to our members for being here at Planet Fitness. It gives us an opportunity to get to know them better as well. We want to make people feel as comfortable as possible at our location.”

To assist with that goal, the gym provides free instruction to help members learn the ropes and make the most of their exercise.

“Free fitness instruction is offered by our famous instructor, Emily Viglianco, and she offers three different types of programs that are completely free and unlimited with any membership option,” Panzich said. “We have a ‘design your own program’ option where you can sit down, talk to her about your health concerns or goals you have, and she will help design a program for you. There are muscle group sessions, where she will take you around the gym and show you exercises based on the different muscle groups in the body to make sure you get the full benefit of your workout.”

The 20,000-square-foot facility has almost 100 pieces of cardio equipment, user-friendly strength machines, circuit training rooms and nearly 20 60-inch TV screens that members can listen to via their own headphones while using the treadmills.

In fact, some of the workout options available at the gym resemble those featured on a popular television show.

“Our PF360 machine is very similar to what you see on ‘The Biggest Loser’ with the ropes and the kettle bells and all that stuff on there. We also have the 360 class, which is one of our favorite classes here. It’s a 10-minute instructional period followed by a 20-minute boot camp style workout similar to what you see on ‘The Biggest Loser,'” Panzich said.

The facility is open and fully staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and features relaxation resources in addition to the exercise equipment.

“Our facility is always very clean as well. Our locker rooms are state-of-the-art: showers, changing rooms, restrooms, vanity mirrors,” Panzich described.

Tanning beds, massage chairs and hydro-massage therapy beds are available to “black card” members.

A “home club” membership gives you access to the main gym floor and fitness instruction for the price of $10 per month, a low start-up fee, no commitment, and a $29 annual fee billed on June 1. “Black card” membership requires a 12-month commitment and provides access to tanning beds, including standing models; total body enhancement; and the relaxation zone, including massage chairs and hydro-massage beds.

Patrons also can bring a friend for free with the black card membership option, which costs $19.99 per month, a start-up fee, plus a $39 annual fee billed June 1. The annual fees guarantee that the price stays the same in future years even if Planet Fitness decides to raise rates down the road, Panzich said.

(Dalrymple can be contacted at