In 1992, Mike Grondahl bought a gym that was struggling financially and lowered prices dramatically to compete with other gyms in the area and Planet Fitness was born.

Planet Fitness' arrival in Rochester, NY occured about a decade ago with one tiny franchise in Greece.  Expansion of the gym's presence in town really exploded in 2010 when a franchisee opened large-scale versions of the model in Henrietta, Irondequoit and Gates.  Area gym owners felt the pressure from the chain's low price point and large national advertising campaigns.  Some gyms retreated to towns where there was no direct geographic threat, like Gold's Gym some doubled down on their higher-end model and added services and facilities, like MidTown and many lowered their prices to compete, such as Flex Gym, which became Knockout and spin-off, Spunk Fitness, Downtown Fitness Club and World Gym. Even the Rochester Athletic Club had to adjust their decades-old, 3 month for $99 pricepoint to $49.  Today, Spunk and Downtown Fitness are gone and there are now 5 area Planet Fitness locations, with clubs open in Webster and Victor.  We thought we'd rank the $10 clubs for you below:

3. Planet Fitness.  These clubs are all still relatively new and appear to be in decent overall shape.  Their google rankings range from Henrietta's 3.4 stars to Webster's 4.2 stars, with most negative reviews coming from frustration over equipment not being repaired in a timely fashion and the inadequacies of the shower facilities.  There are reviews about little annoyances with the bathroom being out of paper towels and more than several that chronicle everything from isolated incidents of misunderstanding to outright 'beefs' with managers, it seems as though some locations are managed better than others. Here is a summary of the remaining plusses and minuses along with things you should know before joining here:

  • Plusses
    • plenty of equipment
    • 5 area locations with access toall 5 withthe purchase of a 'black card' membership (this also allows you to use any Planet Fitness nationwide, good if you travel)
    • plenty of parking at the facilities
  • Minuses
    • the locker facility is designed to be minimally useful for anything other than a quick trip to the bathroom.  Shower facilities are just adequate to get you in and out, but not without some sacrificing comfort
    • contract and cancellation issues generally have to be handled through a customer service hotline as opposed to in house
    • crowding at various times, especially after 5pm.  
    • poorly lit floorplan with poor ventilation.  Many in the fitness community have debated whether this is just poor design or intentional to psychologically discourage members from using the facility, either way, it's a complaint that comes up somewhat frequently in Google reviews
  • need to know
    • Dress code.  Planet Fitness has a dress code in place that essentially states any apparel that is deemed offensive can result in revoking of membership privileges. Examples of clothing that is not allowed:
      • too revealing - loose fitting tanks on men, where nipples might be exposed.  sports bras with no tank or t-shirt over them as a second layer for women.  shorts that are too short or compression tights that are too 'revealing' along with anything that is too sheer (see-through) is not allowed.  jeans and boots also not allowed.  Grey-area...slogans on apparel that may be deemed offensive, cultural apparel, like 'pant-sagging' and religious apparel, like head wraps MAY result in an enforcement of the ambiguous dress code
    • Limited equipment.  By design, there is not an abundance of weight lifting equipment, to discourage powerlifters and bodybuilders from populating the gym.  Additionally, there are exercises that are not allowed to be performed in Planet Fitness, such as barbell rows, deadlifts, cleans & jerks...think heavy compound exercises.
    • Yes, there will be candy, pizza and donuts on occasion.  Planet Fitness is designed for the casual exerciser, which includes people who like to have a treat once in awhile.  If you join Planet Fitness and complain about this online or through social media...you're the problem.
    • No daycare available
    • no locker rentals available
  • Summary.  Good value if you want to get some cardio in and hit the circuit for some general weight training AND you can attend most times outside the busy periods.  Do NOT join with intentions to progressively get in great physical condition as there is neither the atmosphere nor equipment/facilities for it...and even if you join with the intention of 'starting' there and then moving to another gym, cancellation can be a bit of a process.  If you don't mind carrying a second membership to utilize when you travel, if you do so frequently, the Black Card is not a bad purchase.

2. Knockout Fitness. Flex Gym was a part of the Rochester Gym landscape for 20 years when Tom Renner entered into a partnership with a company from out of town that converted the venerable gym to 'Knockout Fitness'.  Knockout offered cheap memberships to compete with PF and people started migrating to the location on Culver, right next to Sticky Lips BBQ.  Tom and the partner had a falling out and Tom took over control of the gym again, moving it around the corner to a building opposite the East High athletic field on Atlantic.  Tom has since sold the business to some local people, who I don't know personally, but this gym is proof that IF you go to a $10 gym model, you can't go back from that...the 'cheap' membership concept has stayed.  I walked in the new location a couple years ago and have been back several times since, and have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean and modern the space looks.  Here is a summary of the plusses and minuses along with things you should know:

  • Plusses
    • Tom was an equipment 'junkie' and Knockout has his fingerprints on it for sure.  There is a good assortment of high quality equipment that can has something for everyone from the novice to the elite.
    • atmosphere.  Knockout is home to a diverse membership which creates great energy and interesting friendships.  You can find members of the local chapter of the 'bartendaz' movement (think park workouts on playground) doing muscle ups and acrobatic movements in entertaining routines on the bars in the back and competitive bikini, figure and physique athletes slogging out their hours of cardio in the front along with a lotof average joes in between.
    • flexibility. Knockout offers cash membership options, albeit at a higher price point, for those who don't choose to utilize financial instruments like a checking account or credit card.
  • Minuses
    • parking is a struggle at various time of day
    • some equipment is dated, maybe a purge is in order here?
  • need to know
    • no dress code.  as opposed to PF, you never know what you might see.  Generally non-offensive, but not everyone practices good gym etiquette and snow, mud, grassy boots on the exercise floor ain't cool.
    • there are personal trainers that work out of the facility, it is unclear as to what qualificatons are required or who is allowed to train clients there. 
    • no daycare
    • locker facilities are adequate, unknown if locker rentals are available
  • Summary. Good value if you live or work nearby.  Knockout can accomodate all levels of fitness, it is unknown if they have an orientation program for beginners and if you are self-conscious or just don't prefer crowds, the gym is all pretty much in one open space, so don't join here if that makes you uncomfortable.  There is a sign up fee and rate lock fee with Knockout memberships to be aware of.  Google gives Knockout 3.9 stars with limited weekend hours being the most common complaint.

1. World Gym Rochester and World Gym Greece.  World Gym has been on East Avenue across from Wegmans since 1998.  In my opinion, this location is geographically, the absolute best in Rochester, 15 to 20 minutes away from nearly every eastern suburb of Rochester and with World Gym Greece now open, 15 minutes away from anywhere in Monroe County.  In the almost 20 years in business, World has established a loyal clientele of regular workout folks with a nice mix of students, young professionals from the close-by city neighborhoods, corporate clientele from the close by downtown district and retirees who attend the silver sneakers programs offered. Here is a summary of the plusses, minuses and need to know:

  • Plusses
    • Convenience.  You can get to either World location at anytime during the day, although, I'd recommend avoiding Ridge Road in Greece during heavy traffic periods, that said, there are plenty of alternative routes to take.
    • Equipment.  World has the most equipment in town and it's suitable for all levels of fitness.
    • Group Exercise classes.  Included in the membership.  That is unheard of and an amazing value in and of itself.  With studios popping up around town that charge single visit fees in excess of what it costs per month to belong to World Gym...why would you go anywhere else?
    • Experience.  The staff at World Gym is among the most tenured staff in town. Tina Westhoff-Cali has been employed as Quality Assurance Manager and with over 30 years experience, she has elevated the staff to an even higher level of performance.
    • Atmosphere.  Ron & Michelle Sember are the original owners and are still in the club daily, grinding out their own personal workouts and overseeing every aspect of the club.  It shows.  You can feel the commitment to health and fitness for everyone when you walk in the door.
  • Minuses
    • There is plenty of parking in the front, main and upper lots, but even so, there are times it's a challenge to find parking at the East Ave location...if you can avoid it, stay away from the after work window. Greece is located in the mall, which can get busy at time, but go to the back entrance near the movie theatre and there generally is plenty, again avoid Ridge Road if you can during heavy traffic periods and holidays!
  • need to know
    • As with all $10 gyms, there are additional fees, be sure to understand what they are, such as a semi-annual rate lock fee, and definitely have a clear understanding of the cancellation fees.  
    • the weight room is filled with big dudes (and some big women) and can be a little intimidating.  Ask at the desk for an equipment orientation or inquire about a personal training session to acclimate yourself.  I have found the clientele to be friendly and accomodating to other members despite what movies or PF commercials try to portray as 'lunkheads', it's quite the opposite in World's weight rooms (with obvious occasional exceptions not withstanding)
    • Daycare is available, in some cases as part of a higher priced membership option and always as a stand alone fee
    • Locker rentals are available for $12/mth.  Great convenience if you are showering at the club to keep a towel/toiletries along with an extra set of gym clothes.
      • note.  this isn't high school football...it is no longer cool to go long periods of time without washing your gym clothes.
    • unsure of reciprocal use of other World Gyms, ask at the desk if this is important to you.
  • Summary. Excellent value. Full time staff that cleans club well. Google gives 2.4 stars, but almost exclusively, the complaints are about the contract terms.  Understand all of the membership options and choose the features best for you.  World Gym Rochester has a comfortable, laid back atmosphere and that includes non-agressive desk staff, which people who have belonged to RAC, LA Fitness and, now extinct, Bally's appreciate...if you cannot get the information you need regarding the contract before signing, ask to speak to Shannon or Tina, they will get all of your questions answered. Reality is that all $10 gyms end up costing closer to $15/mth when all is tolled in, including two months' notice, rate lock fees, etc.  The fact is that, for the value received, World Gym has all the markings of a $50/mth gym, it is well worth the prices they are charging. 

 

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