Staying Fit in South Tucson

Michael Vega
May 2, 2022

I heft the 35 pound dumbbells, arch my back, and watch myself in the full-length mirror as I complete my last set. One, two, three … once I’m at twelve reps I’m breathing heavily and sweating. But I’m not the only one! The girl with the grey sweatband, and red earphones next to me is benching with the 25 pound dumbbells as she is breathing heavily, sweat falling down her face, and the intensity beaming through her eyes.I look past her, see the two guys bench pressing at the Smith machines, pushing for their one-rep maxes. One of the guys is pushing hard trying to go as hard as possible, the other motivating, and almost roaring to him saying “Come on, you got this!” I glance back to the dumbbell section and see a kid sweating, pushing with all his might curling the 15 pound dumbbells with his older cousins, trying to replicate their form.

We have a lot in common: we are all “beginners” in this art of amateur bodybuilding. We’re pushing hard to music jamming in our headphones. And we’re all part of the community at my favorite gym in South Tucson: Planet Fitness at S. Calle Santa Cruz Road where there is no “I am better than you” attitude. I feel comfortable and confident here, just as I do at home. We’re all here to to learn weight lifting and support one another along the way.

A great place for beginners (like me)!

Walking into this Planet Fitness location, I see many beginner weight trainers whose goals are usually the fundamentals and basics first, Carlos is a barber who is a regular at this gym, who told me he began his fitness and weight training journey at this Planet Fitness and now attends 5 days a week. He said: “I would recommend for beginning bodybuilders to start here as the machines are very easy to understand and use, as well as the people around you, most of them are in the same league physically, meaning everyone is learning with you.”

When I asked Anthony, an employee who works the front counter greeting people and occasionally trains those who sign up for the classes offered at Planet Fitness, who he would recommend this Planet Fitness to he mentioned – “I would certainly recommend it to those beginning in their weight training journey,” he told me. “If you were just beginning bodybuilding, honestly this gym is perfect, so many people here would love to help you when needed.”

 So true. When I got into weight lifting all I wanted was a place that would teach me the crucial fundamentals and raw basics to allow myself to weight lift properly and safely while maximizing my potential to succeed in my fitness journey.  Anthony agrees: “The machines are totally user friendly with examples so that people learn how to use them. It’s honestly the best idea to start here, especially as a beginner bodybuilder.” 

On the south side of Tucson, the Santa Cruz Planet Fitness location is known for a couple of things. First of all it is quickly accessible for the everyday joe including myself, having very long open hours of operation which means anyone can work around their schedule and attend the gym. Even the membership prices are completely affordable compared to other big gym corporations, with Planet Fitness starting at $10 dollars a month to $23 dollars a month. 

“I think for all of us money can be and is usually pretty tight,” Anthony said, “and to have the gym be only $10 a month is extremely key to allowing access to the everyday person. The gym’s location is honestly perfect, as it is basically in the middle of south Tucson and many people have access to it being here at the spectrum.” 

What If I’m not sure about committing to working out here? 

No Problem! To those beginning their fitness journey like I did 6 years ago, there is an option to request a “Day pass”  which allows you to visit Planet Fitness for 1 day completely free. This allows for the user to get a real hands-on experience of the friendly environment of Planet Fitness as well as what they can look forward to in terms of machine equipment, free weights, and the atmosphere before actually purchasing a monthly membership to this gym.

This is all the behind the scenes Planet Fitness does in order to seem less intimidating to those beginning their fitness journey that may include their first time lifting weights, and being in the gym atmosphere. Even when browsing the Planet Fitness online web page, you understand their goals are to create a –– “Workout environment where everyone feels accepted and respected”.  

That “something” about the South Tucson community

Attending this gym is as easy as a bowl of cereal on a lazy Sunday morning. 

I get up, get ready, head over, walk into my daily “Hey what’s up, man, how are you doing?” by the workers there, sign in, and that when I get ready to start my workout. As I’m walking past the machine, I realize this place really is encouraging, we have the big bold letters saying “ Judgment Free Zone”, and yet, the people usually give you a little nod, or act respectful when you look at them or just walk by. 

I’m not the only one who feels the inviting atmosphere and notices how clean the place is. Crystal mentioned — “What I mean is people here share machines, and clean up after themselves, it’s such an inviting atmosphere. When I workout here, I know I’ll be able to do me and not worry about anything else.”

When I go to Planet Fitness, it tends to be pretty crowded at certain times, usually 7am to 9am, and 4pm to 6pm, meaning a lot of those attending the gym including myself are attending before or after work, as even Carlos notices this in the gym. “I think it helps so much,” he told me. “I think teens, and those working a 9 to 5 all come to this planet fitness because it’s in the middle of south Tucson, the membership is extremely cheap, and the hours are perfect for those who can only go before or after work and school.”

All of us attending this Planet Fitness on the south side of Tucson, are in a community of those trying to become the best versions of themselves, while maintaining their lifestyles, and to be able to try and dedicate ourselves to the gym, is a huge accomplishment on its own.  

Starting off is always a little scary

Being a beginner at anything is something we all come across in our lives multiple times, and sometimes even more than we could ask for. The topic I am referring to is beginning weight lifting and those who consider themselves beginners when it comes to the fitness scene. That is what Planet Fitness aims to help everyone in. They are providing the friendly atmosphere that me, you, and any other person looking to kick start their weight training journeys, can easily attend this gym. 

Weight lifting is something I have enjoyed personally since I was young. Even now, at nineteen, weight lifting is something I feel like I need  to do in order to be healthy and reach my fitness goals. Like most people attending this gym, many are here trying to get healthier and most importantly feel better. 

The interest is not to max out my body and lift thousands of pounds, but instead to engage my muscles and allow mobility in my joints, all with the same goal of becoming healthier than I was yesterday. For example, when I first started working out, I used to be at the top of this dumbbell rack, now, I find myself using the bottom dumbbells.

There is so much that goes into weight lifting that I wanted to specifically point out a certain gym that has personally helped me and as from what my research tells, has helped many others in the South Tucson Community. 

That being said, this is my take on the Santa Cruz Planet Fitness location in South Tucson.   



Michael Vega is a freshman at the University of Arizona. He has a passion for all things automotive and is pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree.