Pickup Tricks For The Gym

Ever tempted to break the ice with that guy doing bench presses or the gal on the elliptical? Here’s how to work it while you work up a sweat.

By Jen A. Miller

ou’re gasping for breath on the treadmill, but not because you’ve set the pace too high. It’s that guy over in the corner, dipping down into a perfect lunge. Or, the beauty in the strappy tank top who’s stretching her hamstrings. Well, stop staring and make a move—because believe it or not, the gym is a great place to look for love (and one where you’re guaranteed to find someone as fitness-minded as you). So, if you’re more into chiseled features than beer guts, it’s time to start breaking the ice and meeting people! Here’s how to pull it off with style (because let’s face it, flopping might convince you to cancel your membership entirely, and that’s not a good thing).

Cool your headphones
If you want to be social, you have to look social, and while tunes might keep you grooving through your workout, ear buds scream “Don’t bother me.” “Having music shoved in your ears makes it impossible to break the ice without major effort,” claims
Women, head for the free weights. Guys, go to a yoga class.
exercise junkie Kimberly, 34, of Denver, who met her boyfriend at the gym. So if you want to give the gal on the next weight machine an opening to say hi, leave your mp3 player at home or work out with just one ear bud in place (and your hearing will thank you 20 years from now).

Don’t go overboard
There’s nothing wrong with a woman wearing a hot outfit for a workout, but coming to the gym with just-done hair, perfectly powered face and all of your best jewelry? Not a good idea. “If I see a girl who is wearing makeup and looks like she is there to flirt, I laugh,” says Jay, 27, of Philadelphia—and he doesn’t mean in a good way. The same goes for guys, too. Full-on gelled-up hair fit for a nightclub? Not such a great idea, either. Keep it cute, but keep it real, too. Remember, you’re supposed to sweat. The singles scene is an added bonus.

Mix and mingle
This isn’t a middle-school dance, so ladies, go where the boys are. “Learn how to use dumbbells and go to the men’s free-weight section,” says Lisa, 41, from Poughkeepsie, NY. She should know—she met her husband that way. And don’t worry if you’re not bench pressing 400 pounds. Go for the smaller hand weights, and ask for advice if you’re
I always make sure that she is looking directly at me.
not sure what you’re doing. This mix and mingle rule goes for you, too, guys – don’t count out your gym’s yoga, body-sculpting or even dance classes. Not only are they good for your physique, but the man-to-woman ratio can’t be beat.

Time it right
To minimize your chances of getting a brush-off, pick the right moment to make your move—as in not while she’s maxing out on cardio or in the middle of a rep set. Instead, make your move at the drinking fountain (after they’ve slaked their thirst, of course). If your gym has post-workout relaxation areas, use them, or you can stretch your stiff muscles by exploring the halls; it takes you out of the workout element and gives someone an opportunity to say hello. But if you can’t keep your eyes off the bombshell rocking to the beat on the elliptical machine and want to take a shot, put yourself in her field of vision first. “Before I approach a woman at the gym, I always make sure that she is looking directly at me,” says Aaron, 27, of Los Angeles. “Also, I take my headphones out first—that helps signal ‘I want to talk to you.’”

Use exercise as your alibi
Since everyone at the gym has a common goal — to get in shape — there are plenty of segues into conversation. Ask for advice on how to use a certain weight machine you’ve never tried before, or, if you’ve got decent knowledge under your belt, share it by correcting someone’s lift technique. Offer to spot each other. Or, if you’re on neighboring treadmills, say “I’ll race you!” with a wink. Suggest grabbing a coffee or carrot juice afterwards, or, since you know this person will likely return to the gym again, just say, “Well, I usually work out on weekdays at six. Maybe we’ll cross paths again.” If you’re really bold, suggest becoming workout buddies for added motivation—because after all, couldn’t we all do with one more reason to work up a sweat on a regular basis?

Jen A. Miller is a New Jersey-based writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Psychology Today, Washingtonian and Men’s Fitness.
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