New Health Club in Alexandria/Mount Vernon Offers ‘Judgment-Free Zone’ Remove


Trainer Manny Danso works out with Planet FITness client Eden Brown

Planet Fitness, the health club franchise known for its “judgment-free zone,” opened its second club in December. Located at 5960 Richmond Highway, the club celebrated with a grand opening party on January 14. Special guest, “The Biggest Loser” finalist, David Brown, was available to talk about fitness tips and his own fitness philosophy.


Brown was an inspiration to at least one of the opening attendees; Madonna McGovern, an Alexandria resident who just joined the Planet Fitness gym, said she loves it. She is also a member of another gym in the area, but they are not open 24 hours like Planet FITness. She also likes that the trainers are free and are much more focused on her. “Planet Fitness’s customer focus is amazing,” she said. “They really seem to care.”


McGovern, who had an accident that left one side weaker than the other, said she got “routine” training advice from the other gym and the trainer seemed bored. At Planet Fitness, “the trainer was much more aware of my situation; he told me that I had a weak side and that he would develop a diet for me that would help me strengthen that side. The “judgment-free zone” philosophy is important to McGovern. Success stories like Brown’s are also important.

Brown weighed 409 pounds when he began his fitness endeavor; he gained weight caring for his wife and children with brain cancer for 10 years. When she died, Brown looked at himself and realized he was all his children had left; he applied for the Biggest Loser program but as he told them, “I’ll do it, with or without a TV program.” Brown has five “essential habits” in her daily routine: working out, praying, serving in some way, connecting with family, and reading/writing. He dropped 222 pounds on the show. Although he doesn’t train 7-8 hours a day like he did in “The Biggest Loser”, hr takes 2-3 hours.


Mario Ballestros, the new gym’s general manager, said one of the things he does at Planet Fitness is “circle” every 15 minutes. He seeks cleanliness (“just because it looks clean doesn’t mean it is”) and he asks customers when he walks around, “What do you like? What do you not like ? He wants his customers to be happy. He doesn’t want to see anyone queuing, and with 81 fitness machines, that shouldn’t be a problem. Ballestros was ripped off by owner Kevin Fagan from his job at another gym to take over the new location due to his belief in Planet Fitness as a concept. One feature that seemed particularly useful is the QR code on the machines: hold a phone to it and it will tell you which seat position to use. Another feature, for Black Card holders, is the Hydro massage bed: 92 degrees of water run up and down your spine for five minutes, and you can tell the machine where it hurts the most.

The gym also offers the 30 minute workout: 30 minutes, 20 stations.


The 15,000+ square foot gym offers state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines, fully equipped locker rooms with day lockers and showers, flat-screen TVs, whirlpool beds , massage chairs, tanning beds and total body enhancement cabins. The club will be open and staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The other Planet Fitness in Alexandria, which opened in 2010, is located at 4620 Kenmore Ave. is also open and staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We are thrilled to open our second club in Alexandria,” said Planet Fitness franchisee Kevin Fagan. “We look forward to bringing even more Alexandria residents a high-quality, non-judgmental fitness experience at an extremely affordable cost.” For more information or to register online, visit


Comments are closed.