Planet Fitness Celebrates 5 years in Canada: An interview with Becky Zirlen

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Planet Fitness is an iconic fitness brand known for the Judgement-Free zone and its affordable membership. Established in 1992 in New Hampshire, Planet Fitness has expanded to Canada, Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. This January, the company is celebrating its fifth year in Canada, as well as the opening of two new locations in Alberta and New Brunswick. OnSide Media had the pleasure of speaking to Becky Zirlen, Senior Public Relations Manager, regarding the expansion of the Judgement-Free Zone and the goal of making fitness accessible to everybody!

Becky Zirlen, Planet Fitness
Becky Zirlen, Planet Fitness(Picture Courtesy: Becky Zirlen Linkedin)

With so many fitness facilities to choose from, what makes Planet Fitness different from any other gym?

What makes Planet Fitness so unique is that we are home to the Judgement-Free Zone. What that means is that we want people, from fitness enthusiasts, members, regular Janes and Joes, to come into our clubs and feel welcome. Fitness is intimidating to a lot of people.

We want people to come in without fear of being judged and get their workout started. Whether they have never stepped foot on a treadmill or whether they are training for a 10k run. We have a lot of athletes who are training, and we also have a lot of people who have never stepped foot in a gym before. So, we really coin the Judgement-Free zone because we understand that fitness can be scary, and majority of the population does not have access to a gym membership.

Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness was founded in 1992 and has only grown as a franchise in the following decades. How does the company continue to stay up to date with the ever-changing fitness industry?

The industry is constantly changing. There are trends, digital content, the in-club experience. What is so important to us right now is to get our clients into the door and get started, but also cleanliness is more important than ever. Everyone in the world is battling this pandemic, so we have extensive cleaning regimens for our staff, everyone is required to wear a mask, there’s 20-minute walk-arounds, and we have touchless check-ins.

Another piece that keeps us up to date with what’s happening in the world is the crowd-meter on our app. The crowd-meter allows you to check the club capacity from your house before you go into the gym. If it is more crowded that you would like, you can go at an off-time, like the middle of the day or on a weekend. This way, our members feel as safe as possible.

Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness began as an American company and has expanded to 5 more countries. How do you make the Canadian sector unique to Canada?

We have locations in Panama, Mexico, Australia, and Canada. What makes Planet Fitness so unique is what I mentioned earlier, being home to the Judgement-Free Zone and creating this welcoming, non-intimidating environment for members anywhere in the world.

Something that is universal is that fitness can be scary. People are intimidated in Panama, Australia, Canada, and we can give them an affordable place to get their fitness routine started.

Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness

In your own words, what does the “Judgement-free zone” mean to you?

Whatever your orientation is, we welcome people from all walks of life. We want people to have that non-intimidating fitness experience. No matter who you are, we want people to have a safe place to get their workout in.

How did your company pivot in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

All our facilities closed in March. It was stressful for all of us to be stuck at home with no place to go and workout. So, we launched “United We Move”, a Facebook Live workout series, which is still going to this day. Every night at 7 pm Eastern, we had a live workout. We had celebrities, PF trainers, and that allowed people to work out whether they were in their bedrooms or their living rooms. Physical activity is so important right now, both mentally and physically. So, we were able to provide an outlet to our members and non-members for free, in addition to the workout content on the Planet Fitness App. We were able to launch the FaceBook Live workouts within 48 hours of our gyms closing in March.

What do you hope to accomplish for the company in its 5th year anniversary in Canada?

Amidst this global pandemic, we were able to open two new locations in Canada. One in St. Albert, Alberta, and one in Moncton, New Brunswick. So that is super exciting as we continue to grow in the country. Otherwise, for the brand, we want to get millions of people moving. Working out is essential. We need to keep our physical and mental health top of mind during the pandemic, and get people moving. Get them off the couch and get moving, even for ten minutes, and make physical activity apart of their routine.


Vanessa-Butera
Vanessa Butera
Author: Vanessa Butera, Content Writer, The Onside Media, Toronto, Canada. If you have stories to share kindly email: – vanessa.butera@theonside.com