Between the flaky—and often creepy—options I've come across on apps and a hook-up social scene that's like a real-life parody of 50 First Dates, having a thriving "love life" in 2017 has become sort of a sad joke. Throw in long office hours and post-work evenings filled with spinning and burpee-ing at studios, and it seems like it'll take a miracle chance encounter to meet someone IRL.
Instead of viewing my gym time as something getting in the way of socializing, maybe I should actually take advantage of it.
Then, I had a thought: Instead of viewing my gym time as something getting in the way of socializing, maybe I should actually take advantage of it. After all, during my treadmill runs I'm usually surrounded by guys who appear way less sketchy than the profiles popping up on Tinder. And everyone has their gym crush (right?)—I just never act on mine.
So I set out to do the (near) impossible: talk to a cute guy at the gym. (Hey, they say find someone who shares the same interests, right?)
Here's what happened when I treated my gym like a bar—and set out to find myself a date.
Just like you need to train for a marathon, I recruited a pro to help me get my head in the game. As a newbie to this kind of forward flirting, I knew I needed one with guts and initiative, since this situation involves zero liquid courage.
Enter Alexandra Roxo, an intuitive coach and mentor who has a special knack for relationship real talk. On our intro call she explains to me that she is very hands-on: "I help my clients with every aspect of flirting and dating—from what they wear, to what they talk about, and even how they sit or stand," she explains. "When you take away the games and confusion, attraction can be very straightforward."
Her style advice revolves around a "feel good, look good" mindset. No "sexy" activewear needed. Instead, she instructs me to wear my favorite workout look—something that just makes me feel good.
Roxo encourages me to act as the "predator," approaching a cute guy and striking up conversation: why they like this gym, what group classes they've taken, what they do for a living, if they live nearby. Roxo explains that typically—although not exclusively—this would make me the "dominant" and therefore I'd attract a more "submissive" partner. (And no, this isn't a 50 Shades of Grey thing.)
The backup strategy
The alternative would be to let a guy come to me, essentially. Ask for help with a machine, advice for a weight or rep goal, or simply just throw a few smiles in the direction of a guy I was interested in. While it might sound a little old-school, Roxo—herself an avowed feminist—promises this isn't a 50-year step back. "It simply attracts a dominant, outgoing type of guy—you still hold the power as the attractive girl!"
With my new flirting tips and tricks acquired and my nerves (sort of) in check, I set off to the gym to try them out.
The (heart-racing) attempt
At Roxo's suggestion, I start to go as regularly to Equinox as possible. But the gym is wildly intimidating to me (not a great place to start, TBH)—especially during the post-work rush, where every single treadmill, bike, and elliptical is taken and the weight floor is filled with people who seriously know what they're doing. Even to a fitness junkie like me, it's nerve-wracking. (Why oh why didn't I choose a spin class?)
After falling into a routine of running on the treadmill and awkwardly finding my way through the weight machines and onto the mat to stretch (and scope things out), a serious feeling of dread falls over me: This is never going to happen.
But like a runner who hits the wall, I have a choice: give up or keep going. Never one to back down to a challenge, I grit my teeth and start to really put myself out there—I mean, as best I can among gym rats and serious lifters. First up, I try playing up a slight damsel persona: "Hi, do you mind if I ask you a question? How many reps would you suggest? Do you think this is enough weight?" (Wildly embarrassing, I know.) While all of the shiny-armoured knights are polite and helpful, it oddly doesn't end in dinner and a movie.
Never one to back down to a challenge, I start to really put myself out there—I mean, as best I can among gym rats and serious lifters.
My next tactic is to chat with guys who are a little more idle—i.e. those who look like they're maybe just hanging out. I survey eligible bachelors on their favorite group classes, throw some friendly hellos around the water fountain, and even spark up a conversation with someone who is wearing my alma mater's T-shirt ("Oh, cool..." he says, though it was just a collectible he picked up during a trip to Boston). Every guy I approach is courteous and pleasant—I'll give them that—but it never makes it past the small-talk phase and into potential date banter territory.
And so, my 30 days come and go with zero success.
Granted, I'm not exactly one to confidently approach a man and strike up a random conversation—least of all when there's no wine involved—but even after weeks of trying, it seems like no one was keen on chatting.
And Roxo admits that the gym might not be the most ideal place to find a mate—even if it is one of your main interests: "Most people at the gym are focused on their phones or blasting tunes—and likely in a 'get in and out' mentality," she explains. "In a bar setting, people are inherently relaxed and more open because they're just there to hang. So even if you use the exact same tactics in a bar, someone is much more likely to respond in an open and accepting way."
Her solution? Attend activities (rather than places) that you love, which will therefore ignite a happy and relaxed feeling in your brain. If you're seriously sporty, go to a Saturday morning outdoor boot camp or join a co-ed soccer league. If you love Kundalini yoga, schedule in the same class at the same time every week and spark up conversations with regulars. "Find something that excites you and enables you to talk freely," she says. "That's what will allow you to meet compatible mates."
If only a street style sneaker walking club existed....
Another way to make connections is to brush up on your conversation game—here's how, in seven easy, expert-approved steps. Or check out these pro tips on how to flirt while sober—and not be awkward.
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