Gym Throws Out Weightlifter for Grunting

Nov. 19, 2006 — -- Some call the grunt the harmony of exertion: Monica Seles made her grunt famous as she blasted tennis balls across the court. Tennis superstars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams are also known for their grunts.

And at health clubs across the country, hardcore weightlifters can be heard grunting and groaning through their workouts.

Usually, such guttural outbursts elicit nothing more than beleaguered looks from fellow exercisers.

But the Planet Fitness in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., has a strict policy in place: No grunting allowed. The gym says grunting is annoying, and an alarm sounds if anyone breaks the rules.

Al Argibay, a 40-year-old corrections officer, recently set off the alarm during his workout -- and set off a controversy about what is appropriate in gyms and what is not.

An 'Absurd' Policy

Argibay claims that grunting was enough to land him in trouble with Planet Fitness. The gym's manager says there's more to it.

"I set the alarm off and reminded him that there was no grunting," manager Carol Palazzolo said. "He told me he was not leaving, [that] he had to grunt because he lifts heavy weights. And he challenged me. … He wanted to start a fight with me."

On "Good Morning America Weekend Edition," Argibay said the thought of fighting Palazzolo never crossed his mind.

"That's the first time I heard I was going to pick a fight with her," he said. "There was no confrontation. I just challenged her interpretation of a grunt."

Planet Fitness has revoked Argibay's membership. He is now planning legal action, but the gym stands by its decision.

"For me to hear him from the back of the gym, it was not just a breathing motion," Palazzolo said. "And no we don't throw people out for breathing. It's not a question of whether grunting is bad. … It's part of our policy."

Jason Stern, Argibay's lawyer, called Planet Fitness' policy unreasonable.

"The issue is two-fold," Stern said. "One is the absurd policy of saying no grunting in a gym. … This is really a marketing gimmick by Planet Fitness to really go after people who aren't serious about working out."

Stern asserted that gym-goers have the right to grunt.

"Everybody has the right to grunt," he said. "A gym has the right to set its own rules, but it's about the reasonableness of those rules."

Argibay is fed up with Planet Fitness. Even if the gym apologizes, he won't be working out there anymore.

"I would accept their apology, but no, I would not go back." he said. "Grunt on."