Umi Shahid, general manager of Planet Fitness in Welland, demonstrates how to use the equipment at the gym. The equipment counts reps, offers pictures and a QR code to access videos on how to use the equipment properly.

Walking into a gym for the first time can weigh heavy on a person’s emotions.

Someone who’s new to a gym might experience fear of being judged for how they look. They could be intimidated by the different types of equipment and unsure how to use them properly.

But Umi Shahid, general manager of Welland’s newest gym, said he and his staff work hard to ensure people from all walks of life and all fitness levels feel welcome at Planet Fitness, located at 835 Ontario St.

He explained Planet Fitness’ model aims to provide customers with a comfortable, diverse judgement-free zone whether they are young or the young at heart.

“Creating this atmosphere is a matter of being friendly, and letting people know we are here to help and to encourage them,” Shahid said.

That also means checking in with customers, asking how they’re doing and offering positive encouragement.

“Before the pandemic, we would give high fives. Now that’s a bit different. We might give a thumbs up instead,” he said.

He said staff always ensure they greet gym users and are available to answer any questions about the equipment and how to use facilities.

“We build our members for a lifetime of fitness. It’s important, and fitness is something that should be a part of everyday life,” he said.

Shahid said more locations are expected to open in Niagara. A Planet Fitness in St. Catharines is anticipated to open in the fall, and another gym is expected to open in Fort Erie closer to the end of the year.

“As of right now, that’s where new locations are expected to open, but things could change. They could open even sooner, or later, depending on timelines,” Shahid said.

The Welland gym officially opened earlier this year in February but finally celebrated their success with a grand opening party on May 17.

The festivities included tours of the facilities, food and drinks and, most important, the presentation of a $1,500 cheque to the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Niagara.

Shahid said Planet Fitness believes in organizations like the BGC of Niagara because they support children. The organization’s values, which support antibullying and judgement-free, safe spaces, align with the gym’s values.

When Planet Fitness opened this year, it had about 180 members initially sign on. As of May, Shahid said the gym now has about 2,700 members.

“That is exponential growth and it says a lot about the community. Especially after the pandemic, people are ready to get back at.”

Planet Fitness is offering a promotion to help students access the gym. Teens ages 14 to 19 can work out free at Planet Fitness all summer until Aug. 31.

There are two membership options: the classic membership ($16.95 taxes included) gets gym members access to all the equipment, and the black card membership ($28.24 taxes included) offers more privileges including the use of any Planet Fitness location, 50 per cent off select drinks, the ability to bring a friend and use of the gym’s spa, which boasts massage chairs, hydro massage, tanning and all-natural red and infrared light therapy treatment.

Planet Fitness is open 24 hours Monday through Thursday, Friday until 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, Shahid can be reached at [email protected] or call Planet Fitness Welland at 365-364-5737.

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