Yesterday’s New York Times had a mindboggling article about a New York area fitness club that revoked a man’s membership because he was making a grunting sound while lifting weights. He was bench pressing 500 pounds at the time, bless his soul.
If this were the independent action of a particularly fussy club manager, it would be one thing, but the “grunt-and-you’re-out” rule is a policy of the club’s parent chain, Planet Fitness — a company whose management would, indeed, seem to be from outer space.
This article caught my interest because I’m currently doing a “trailer park” yoga program four days a week. It mixes yoga with weightlifting, jumping rope, running stairs, working with wrist and ankle weights, and working with heavier weights, including 15-pound handweights and a weight bench. I haven’t heard anyone in our group of two dozen women grunt, per se, but I have heard plenty of moaning, shrieking, and screaming. And maybe a howl or two. The teacher, who is the most inspiring fitness instructor I’ve ever encountered, encourages the sound effects.
I tend to shriek, myself. Fifty leg lifts hurt.
According to the Times article, the club’s no-grunt rule (and a few other weird ones, as well) has nothing to do with cutting down on distracting noise in the gym. It’s based on the chain’s philosophy that most members are intimidated and discouraged by body builders and other serious fitness types. The club therefore has crafted rules that discourage those fitniks from patronizing the gym and disturbing the place with sounds of physical effort.
Oh, heaven forbid anyone should connect hard work, physical or mental, with achievement. Americans are fervent believers in overnight weight loss, cosmetic surgery, and unregulated herbal potions. Hard work and discipline? Argggh! Fortunately Planet Fitness is here to protect us from the sight — and sound — of it.