Everything You Learn Overnight at a 24-Hour Planet Fitness

What kind of monster goes to the gym at 2:30 AM on a Saturday? There was only one way to find out.

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Mar 1 2019, 6:35pm

Images courtesy of author.

The 24-hour gym. They’re everywhere. Look to your right. Now look to your left. One of these buildings will someday be a 24-hour gym. But who is taking full advantage of these? What is it like working out in the wee hours of the morning? I decided to find the answers to questions by spending all night in a Planet Fitness. I went on this journey so you never have to. It’s a journey fueled by curiosity and one that was sure to be stalled out by shear boredom.

I have a membership to a Planet Fitness already because it’s cheap as dust and removes the financial guilt of skipping a workout. This location is at Dupont and Dufferin in Toronto. If you know anything about this intersection, you’ll know it is home to the Galleria Mall. The worst mall I’ve ever been subjected to. Legally, I’m not sure it even qualifies as a mall. There are more gum ball and hockey card vending machines than there are actual people. It exists in its own little world, where old Greek men are kings, griping over Styrofoam cups of black coffee that cost a drachma.

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Besides an LCBO, there is little value in this obsolete time capsule. Most of the stores have their windows covered in brown paper like they were wrapped for Christmas by the laziest member of your extended family. Past all this is the mecca of this tired place: Planet Fitness.

This was my new home.

Midnight

It was a frosty Saturday night in February. Snow hung softly in the air as I trudged along.

While huddled masses stood on King Street, shivering, but vindicated by not paying for coat check, I embarked on my little adventure.

On this night, I didn’t have the pleasure of walking this graveyard of a mall. Everything at this hour was closed except Planet Fitness. This meant I had to walk around back to a separate entrance. How VIP.

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When you get to the Planet Fitness itself you are given the opportunity to look longingly at the rest of mall. You can gaze through the metal slats onto what would be the saddest exhibit at a zoo.

When you enter Planet Fitness, you are met with a variety of motivational sayings, proudly displayed to keep you at ease. Phrases like: “Judgement Free Zone”, “No Critics” and “Storage Room.”

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Beyond these is a giant display labeled: Lunk Alarm. An alarm which will sound if anyone is seen acting like a lunk. It’s important to remember, lunk is not a word. I Urban Dictionaried it, and it says it was invented by Planet Fitness. Much to my dismay, the late-night employees do not sound this alarm every hour on the hour just to keep everyone alert.

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There are screens that play PFTV the whole time, which is just a CP24 for Planet Fitness. I was surprised to see a Meghan Trainor song and video playing. And not the one we all know. A different one. I had forgotten about Meghan Trainor.

There were half a dozen people going about their routines as if it wasn’t one in the morning. They were mostly middle-aged men with sagging old marathon T-shirts. There may have been a longing for a former glory hiding behind their eyes or maybe I was just searching for a narrative.

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None them seemed like freaks. But I had heard those come out at night. Maybe it wasn’t quite NIGHT enough. I knew I had to be patient.

I decided to kill time by actually doing a work out. I figured I might as well get absolutely ripped while I chronicled this experience. For once, the bench press was free, so I did a few reps at a real leisurely pace. I followed this with some squats as I managed to indulge in all the most coveted exercises in one session. I even did those obnoxious cable chest flies, which at any other time of day, would draw the attention of everyone in the gym. But tonight, this place was mine.

The Dead of Night

2:30AM. The workout was a mistake. I was tired and hungry.

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I decided that if I was going to get through this night I would need sustenance. When I stepped out into the cold darkness, the golden arches shown like a beacon of hope. A quaint, family-run burger joint called McDonalds. It was perfect, and by perfect, I mean nearby and open.

When I arrived, I found there were more people at this 24-hour fast food restaurant than there were at the 24-hour gym and isn’t that so telling about society and these modern times? Is that not such a smart metaphor for the western world and aren’t I such a learned man for noticing it?

I ordered a few Junior Chickens for the protein.

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I made my triumphant return to Planet Fitness and decided to talk to the guy working the desk. I ask him what it’s normally like in the middle of the night and he says it’s mostly like this. This was huge information to learn. You can all rest easy knowing how little you’re missing out on.

I asked if they ever get any weirdos in there and he told me that the weirdest thing he’d seen was a man playing his own music off a boom box as he worked out. At some point, without warning, he called another patron a ‘bitch’ so the man and boom box were asked to leave.

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I saw nothing of the sort. There was a steady… four or five of us, all night. I really thought I would be the only one at some point. But no. For every me, there were four or five others out there, clocking in for the night shift. I assume they were there for the same reason I was. I’ll be interested to read their articles.

There are signs explaining how maintain their no “gymtimidation” environment. Just another made up word for this purple plastered palace. One of these rules is to not wear sandals, which made me question my perceived definition of ‘gymtimidate.’

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I walked on this treadmill for a full hour at an unreasonably slow pace. One and a half miles. No one around me cared but it really felt like an abuse of this equipment.

Two others were on treadmills nearby and I prayed they would dance or fall or something. If I’m going to be there, I could at least get a viral video out of it. They did nothing of the sort. Selfish.

There was one other guy in the ‘abs and stretching’ room and for a time I enjoyed just doing made up, borderline silly, stretches across from him to see if he’d come help me. He left without any advice. I am beyond help.

Dawn

More people started to show up pretty early on Sunday morning. Little did they know that this yawning boy they passed, lying on the mats, had been there all night. And he had seen it all. From a handful of people doing fairly average workouts to reading No Country for Old Men in the empty locker room, this was truly an experience I would recommend to no one.

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The most exciting moments were watching the same NHL highlight packs on loop and seeing a man in a toque with a brim. I didn’t know people still wore those. Truly, the Meghan Trainor of hats. I was definitely bored and I was underwhelmed with the number of freaks, but I will say to the credit of Planet Fitness, through it all, I never once felt gymtimidated.

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