Additionally, like most journalism, that Slate article is just designed to bait readers for commercial advertising purposes. It's not objective in its assessments. It purposively and inaccurately tries to stoke controversy that doesn't really exist.
"So it does, but should we take the success of special-interest gyms like Planet Fitness as a welcome shift in the culture of exercise? Or could it represent a sad departure from the one-size-fits-all health clubs of old?"
No, because this is the way niche business works. They fill a niche. They aren't out to proselytize and convert America to a bunch of wussies who can't power lift.
Where is the evidence that "one-size-fits-all-health-clubs" are going extinct? Where is the evidence that muscles and macho-ness in America--of ALL COUNTRIES!!--is in danger of disappearing? I can tell you the exact opposite--ten thousand ways in which bloated macho rhetoric and b-llcr-p of all kinds is detrimental to the integrity of our culture and cultural conversations.
Is it so bad people want a judgmental free zone when they work out? Ok, I don't really care about the average middle class person, who is pretty apathetic and selfish. I'm talking about myself--even though I don't fall in the gym-wussy category. All my life, I've traveled between different subcultures and demographics of people. Getting racist hate, jealous hate, old guys putting down young guys, middle-class Frog-faced office jockeys being douches, thugs and gangsters and wiggers being douches, seemingly ok people turning into muggers, you name it. Our vicious culture, at war with each other on a hundred fronts. I sure as heck don't appreciate going to the gym and getting dirty looks from egotistical meatheads, on top of all that.
I agree that there is an analogue in running, which isn't really an exact analogy, of hobby jog races and gimmick runs which is detrimental to running. But you know what? The pillar participants of the distance running community, like Judas Iscariots, have also betrayed distance running. Distance running is the most exalted of sports. That is why I've spent my life dedicated to it. I have been around some of the best distance running talents and professionals of our time and none of them are conscious of this truth, this importance and responsibility. The great distance runners wh-re out our sport. Too bad that the rest of the country and other cultures outside our own don't respect it. Maybe the two are interconnected. Go figure.