I went to Planet Fitness for the first time last night, and I absolutely LOVED IT!
I worked with one of their fitness instructors to come up with an aerobic workout that wouldn't put too much stress on my knees and feet. It was just enough to get my heart rate up where it needed to be without feeling any pain. It was perfect. :)
I started out by warming up on the treadmill. I walked at 3.5 mph with the incline set to 1% (to mimic walking outside) and then 3.0 mph with the incline set to 4%. I did intervals for ten minutes, using the manual setting so I could scale back if my foot started to hurt. It didn't hurt until near the very end, but it wasn't bad, so I kept walking. (Yes, I plan to make an appointment with a podiatrist. This has been going on for six months.)
After the treadmill, I moved to the recumbent bike. I was supposed to do 10 minutes on level 2 and then 10 minutes at level 3, with my RPM between 80-100. The balls of my feet started to hurt after 10 minutes, though. She checked my form, and it was fine. We have no idea why my feet hurt so much. It was like a burning pain more than a muscle pain. She had me stop since slowing down didn't help.
Then, we moved to the elliptical. I was supposed to start at 4:00 on level 1 and hang onto the middle bars. She wants me to add 30 seconds per day, which seems like a good pace. I told her hanging onto the middle bars would feel like cheating and that it isn't very comfortable. She agreed, saying using your arms gives you a better cardio burn and cautioned me to move back to the middle if my heart rate got too crazy or I started to feel dizzy.
So, I used my arms, and I really liked it! My knee started to bother me after one minute, so she told me to go backwards for thirty seconds and then go forward again. Going backward was easier on my knee but BOY did it kill my thighs! She said she often does intervals, forward and back, because it works more muscles.
I continued to do that for four minutes and burned through the last minute, pushing myself because it felt awesome and horrible and exhilirating all at once. I probably could have done another 30-60 seconds, but I was also a little glad to get off the machine. ;) Now I see why she wants me to add 30 seconds per day. It's easy enough for me to handle without dying but not TOO easy. It's perfect. Eventually, she wants me to get up to 30 minutes on level 1, and then I can start over again with level 2, then 3, and so on until I reach a comfortable point where I can spend 30-45 minutes on whichever level is most comfortable for my knee. Once I get to that point, she'll show me how to change the levels for really good interval training.
Everyone on the staff was really nice and inviting. They all smiled at me, welcomed me, asked how I was doing, said goodbye, etc. I got a really good vibe while there. It truly is a "no judgment zone", just like they advertise. There were people of all shapes and sizes, and everyone was focused on their workout.
Additionally, the shower and locker room is really nice. The shower stalls have curtains (yay!), and there are many lockers of assorted sizes. You can bring a padlock to secure your stuff.
I highly recommend Planet Fitness if you're looking for a gym. I'm paying $10/month with no commitment. The special runs through December 31. I'm so happy I joined!