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You’re standing there, looking in the mirror, trying to figure out what a “curl” is and how it will help you when you hear it: the grunt.


A guy with veins popping out of his neck is swinging weights larger than your head.


What is he doing?


You can’t be doing it right if your veins aren’t popping and you’re not grunting. And look at your puny arms. You shouldn’t have even come to the gym.


No Meatheads

Going to the gym can be intimidating. Maybe you’ve never been or maybe it’s been a long time — either way it can be difficult to navigate through the classes and equipment to find the best workout, all the while worrying about others judging.

But multiple fitness centers in Denver boast a welcoming atmosphere. The motto at Planet Fitness tells us it’s a “Judgment Free Zone.”

“We don’t cater to bodybuilders or powerlifters; we really gear toward general fitness,” explains Kristi Jost, who owns two of the eight Planet Fitness franchises in the Denver metro.

The YMCA also supports a welcoming atmosphere.

Both employ personal trainers to help members determine the best workouts given their abilities and goals.

Getting Started

“That’s really a question that everybody has when they join a gym: What do I do? How do I go about getting to the goals that I want to get?” says Matt Flick, member experience director at the Littleton YMCA.

Matt, who has a degree in sports medicine and is a certified personal trainer, says each YMCA branch in Colorado has an orientation program to acquaint new members with facilities, services, and equipment.

“When people join, they automatically get access to this program that will pair them up with a nationally certified personal trainer that will meet with them, sit down with them, and talk about medical history and exercise history — basically why they’re here and what they want to be doing then point them in the right direction from there,” Matt says. He said the will give members a cardio and strength plan, as well as suggest classes.

“I really encourage people to take advantage of the trainers we have at each of the branches,” says Matt.

Planet Fitness offers the same option with a design-your-own-program class and a personal trainer.

“[It’s] really beneficial for first-time gym users because he sits down with them, talks about their fitness goals, and writes a detailed, specific program specifically for them,” Kristi explains.

There are other classes throughout the day that focus on different things like arms or legs.

Popular for Men

Included in memberships at Planet Fitness and the YMCA is access to many classes for free. “What we see for the most part, the cardio and strength classes are usually the main goal for men,” Matt says.

Welcoming Environment

“Because we do that judgment-free zone, we do closely monitor the type of behavior that’s out on the floor,” Kristi explains. “We don’t condone the bodybuilder — stereotypical of what you think of a gym. We have on the wall … our [lunk] alarm. You’re not supposed to be slamming down weights. If someone is doing it excessively we’ll sound the alarm. We have no problem going up and talking to someone specifically that may be intimidating.”

She said that is to foster a welcoming environment.

“If you’re a first-time gym user and you’re on a machine and you’re watching somebody who seems to know what they’re doing, they’re slamming weights and they’re grunting — it’s just an uncomfortable feeling and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

And that’s important for her clientele.

“Most of our members are first-time gym users,” Kristi says. “So because of that, we try to create that non-intimidating atmosphere.”

Cori Streetman, a spokesperson for the Denver-area YMCAs, notes the welcoming atmosphere.

“The Y is all about encouraging people to try,” Cori says.

She says just because a class at the Y has a majority of women doesn’t mean men aren’t welcome — from Zumba to yoga.

“There is a community feeling here; people feel a little safer to try some of those things,” Cori says.

Matt concurs.

“The Y really prides itself on being a community-based gym where there’s no judgment, there’s no classification that if you are a male entering a gym you have to go to these classes and do these exercises,” Matt says. “And that’s the beauty of the Y — you can do whatever you want and feel comfortable doing it.”

Kristi notes a community environment. As members get into a routine they often see the same people each time they go and build friendships.

“You’ll see them at some locations. They’ll all line up on the treadmills together chit-chatting as they go,” Kristi says. “It’s just great to see that community that they build.”