Making Friends at the Gym

I have a question about the gym:

How is it that everyone makes friends there? I feel like I’m constantly hearing women refer to their “friend from the gym” and I just don’t get it.

Let me tell you what my gym experience is like: Arrive, change into workout clothes, put headphones on, run, do some pushups, leave.

My body is usually too consumed with pushing through a workout and getting it over with to give off vibes of “friendly and open to new friends.” My expression says “How many minutes are left on this machine?” not “Come talk to me! I’m silly and love brunch!”

There’s this one gym in Chicago that is super nice and from what I can tell is more country club than workout facility. You can do your laundry there, eat dinner, get a haircut. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never actually been there myself. But the people I know who belong meet people at this gym all the time. Seriously. I’m pretty sure some people join in hopes of meeting their future spouse (some have told me as much).

Apparently, it’s all about the classes. Somewhere between warm-up and cool down, after the bicep curls but before the squats, people get to talking. Swapping life stories and eventually phone numbers. I don’t get it. I’ve mastered (or come close to mastering) many new-friend scenarios. I’ve figured out how to take a relationship from easy banter to friend-date, where to guide conversation for maximum connection, how to say yes to any invitation. But I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to meet a friend at the gym.

Trying to make a move during someone’s much needed water break seems pushy. Interrupting a runner’s treadmill time to ask how her day was strikes me as inconsiderate. Starting conversation while she’s changing in the locker room? That’s just awkward.

So this is a gaping hole in my friendship education thus far. I’m still keeping an eye out for my opening, but I’m not even sure I want one. I enjoy my gym time as me time. I want to get in and get out. But then, who am I to say no to an opportunity for a new pal?

While I figure how to strengthen this friendship muscle (Har har, lame pun. I know), let me turn the tables. Please, share your gym friendship stories!

15 Comments

Filed under The Search

15 responses to “Making Friends at the Gym

  1. hb

    I totally agree. I wonder this all the time when women are chatting away in the locker room. I think that most of them are friends from classes. They often talk about the teacher or wonder where other people in the class have been. Maybe if you take the same class all the time, a group of regulars starts to form and they become friends. Too much work for me. I’m like you ….get in, get out.

    • It is all about the classes. I have been attending the same gym for five years and take classes three times a week. I have made several friends. You talk to others as you wait for the classes to start. Last fall I hurt my shoulder and had to skip the classes working out on the machines upstairs instead. I didn’t talk to anyone. Not even are you almost done with that machine. Quite a different experience.

  2. M

    My aunt has a group of women she is friends with at the gym from her Zumba class. When she got sick and didn’t go to a couple of classes, they actually called her to check on her.
    Everybody at my gym is really nice but no one seems to be in friend-making-mode. The only person I’ve met is my complimentary trainer. Maybe I should make some time for the classes…

  3. It has to be classes. I do not talk to anyone at the gym because, like you said, I’m just trying to get in my exercise and get out. I have in headphones, I have a magazine to read, and I’m usually breathing in a manner that is not conductive to communication. Plus, I’m sweating and possibly smelly. Not things I’d like to be when starting new friendships.

  4. Classes are the key! I’ve always hated working out on my own and much prefer classes. I used to go during busy times in the evening and on weekend mornings, but now I go at 6 AM daily and it’s a super tight-knit bunch. Everyone is sleepy, but not as rushed as the evening crowd. The same people show up most days and you talk about the instructors, class formats, new moves, and eventually normal life. It’s a slow process, but after seeing the same people repeatedly, friendships develop. You talk before class, when getting equipment, after class, etc.

    Before one instructor’s wedding, a gym member organized a surprise bridal shower with food and decorations during her class. They also threw me a party to celebrate my wedding (outside the gym). When one of our own was in the hospital, many people visited and sent cards.

  5. Agreed – it’s consistent attendance at a class, which is how I’ve met every one of my gym friends. Oh, and I’m the teacher, which helps.🙂

    I don’t talk to a soul when I just go to do cardio, and in fact avoid eye contact so I don’t get drawn in. I also work out at a different gym than I teach at just so I can avoid the chit-chat on the floor.

  6. Marie

    As others have said, classes are a big part of it. You have to go to the same classes each week and arrive early. Then don’t be afraid to start up a conversation before and after. There are many potential topics … what props are required, have you done this class before, what other classes do you recommend, or comment on their workout gear (clothes/shoes).

    I’ve also met other gym members when working out with a personal trainer. The trainers tend to know a lot of people and you end up meeting others through your trainer. Once you’ve been introduced it’s much easier to start making small talk between sets or in the locker room.

    The key to making friends at the gym is to leave the headphones at home. Then engage in conversation like you would anywhere else.

  7. Alex F.

    I love my gym friends! We do 3 classes a week together and suffer through it with one another. We joke about our terrible food choices, weekend binge drinking, lapsed work-outs. We don’t hang out outside of the gym but I do run into some of them in the neighborhood, at street festivals, etc. We say hi and hang when we run into one another but it’s informal.

    What I love about my gym friends is that they are totally separate from my “real” life. And they help motivate me at the gym and keep me on track! These aren’t best friends but they’re nice friends to have!

  8. Ann

    Pick a class you love. Be adamant not to miss it. If you love it, chances are, others do too. If friendship it bred by familiarity, then seeing the same people 3 days a week for 4 months… Will inevitably give you some friends. My only gym friends came from my cross fit-like gym in Portland. We were often paired by our coaches for partner workouts. Cheering each other on, and making it through a killer workout together, gives you mutual respect and common experience. Not as many (but still a few) friends came from the aerobics class in New York. There, I befriended the teacher (and showed up twice a week). She introduced me to a few others who were also loyal followers.
    The gym has been my most fruitful friend outlet yet.

  9. I have made friendly acquaintances at the gym — in classes, as others have mentioned — but that’s all. If a bunch of people go to the same class week after week, there’s a little bonding. I’ve found people to be more likely to talk to each other if the class is hard — pain is your easy common ground.

    I have had people initiate conversations with me regardless of headphones and a book (when on a bike, for example), but I really wasn’t interested in talking to anyone who can’t read social cues well enough to know not to strike up a conversation with someone in headphones AND a book😉

  10. Amalia

    I too have not had any luck making friends at the gym. And I’ve tried. Invited one out to a mutial party, no response. I do belong to bigger gym wtih a spa, salon and cafe yet I can’t imagine going there unless I was already working out. There is a health club near me where there is a bar and they serve alcohol. I’ve heard from my parents who are retired and members that many young adults go there and apparently you can be drinking a beer while on the treadmill!

  11. Like everyone else has said, I think consistently showing up for the classes would be the best place to make friends. ( I haven’t tried this yet but hope to soon) . Also, for me when I go to the gym it’s not about I’m going there to make friends” , it’s more about ” I’m going to the gym b.c I had a crazy or stressful day and just want to let some steam off or get moving because I’ve been at the computer all day” .. so mainly I’m the same, get in get out type unless I see someone who I already know , and that too is a quick convo.

  12. Julia

    I’m with you that when I do a really tough workout, I don’t really want to chat. In fact, I may be physically unable to chat because I’m breathing so hard. I think the rule is really “If I have my music on, I want to be left alone.” But in between things, like walking to the locker room, drinking water at the drinking fountain, or getting a coffee (some gyms have a cafe inside them!), I think it’s okay to chat.

    Oh, and at the gym I think there should be a policy that says no one should ever, EVER be approached with “Hey baby, wanna go out?” Blech.

  13. I’m not great at making friends at the gym. I exchange hello’s and smiles, but it never moves beyond that. My focus is to workout and I don’t usually linger. Once I’m finished with my workout, I’m ready to jet.

  14. You have it right, it’s all about the classes. You start to see the same people week after week, you get there a little early, chat, class starts, chat after. Maybe walk home together, decide to meet up oin the weekend, it kind of just snowballs.

    One girl I became friends with, works out on Mondays. I started going on Mondays, and she says oh good I need someone to talk to while I work out, I looked at her, and said sure. She did most of the talking and the time went by quick. Now we text quite often. My gym is small and often organizes get togethers after hours as well. Plus it’s an all female gym, whihc prob helps🙂

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