Flexing my dating muscle
February 17, 2007 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Uncharted territory: who's had success (or crashed and burned) with getting dates at the gym?

There's a woman I'd like to talk to, but the gym is sooooo awkward for striking up conversation. There's sweat and iPods and, most important of all, timing. I sure as hell don't want to talk to her while she's on a machine and I'm not too keen jumping off mine all panting and damp when I see her walking around. As far as I can tell she doesn't take any classes so I could at least find that "common ground".

I go to an innercity Y with no "juice bar" so that's not an option. I've thought about waiting downstairs until she's done with her routine and ambush her then, but that strikes me as creepy.

And the worst is the small talk I'd have to come up with: "Killer workout, huh?" "Boy, my glutes are on fire!" "As far as I can tell, you'd look great naked." (sorry, scratch that one.)

Ideas? Recommendations?
posted by DonnieSticks to Human Relations (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
please don't stalk her, and relax. if you relax and she even remotely likes you and she's available, things can go well. you don't really need a "juice bar", it's not about props.

if you insist on preparing a script beforehand = recipe for disaster

don't try too hard, relax, don't be creepy. casual conversations are just that, casual -- life is not a Woody Allen film, thankfully.

good luck!
posted by matteo at 12:41 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know, I was thinking the same thing yesterday. No useful advice here but you're not alone on this one.
posted by special-k at 12:56 PM on February 17, 2007

Start by smiling at her. If she smiles back, you know you are on track. A lot of women I know don't really like to be hit on at the gym, so take it easy and slow.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on February 17, 2007

Basically what matteo said. Don't plan too much or try too hard; just relax, smile, take it slow and be you. The situation will be awkward if you get nervous or try to micromanage it.

That said, it might be appropriate to say hi to her downstairs- it's hard to say without knowing more about your Y (is "downstairs" a lobby sort of thing, where you might have an excuse for lingering? or just a dingy entranceway? are there other people there? etc.)
posted by Count Ziggurat at 1:11 PM on February 17, 2007

(Good luck!)
posted by Count Ziggurat at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2007

You mention iPods- is she wearing one? If she's wearing an iPod you really can't approach her without being obnoxious, which is the point of wearing one.

But if she makes eye contact and smiles at you, iPod or no, smile back. That level of contact should continue for a couple of meetings in the gym. Then you can talk to her. If she keeps her headphones on when you talk to her, you're never going to get anywhere with her. It's a 'go away' sign.
posted by winna at 1:15 PM on February 17, 2007

Most women feel especially vulnerable at the gym. We don't like being seen sweating, we don't like the nasty gym clothes we have to wear, we don't like men looking at us while we are trying to burn off fat that we generally think is much more hideous than it really us. We hear about gyms being meat markets, and we don't particularly want to be picked up by some sleazy greased up weight lifter. (I'm obviously generalizing here, but trying to give you a peek inside women's gym minds.)

Which is just to say, tread carefully. The 'smile at her and see if she smiles back' advice is good. But that's really all I can think of, as I am one of those women who would almost certainly not want to meet a guy at the gym.
posted by brina at 1:21 PM on February 17, 2007

Certainly agree with smile and see if she smiles back. If you see her there often, a few instances of smiling at each other in recognition would probably lead to saying hello, and from there a chance to make conversation.

It shouldn't seem creepy at all if its a slow progression towards friendliness rather than a one time, scripted interaction.
posted by skinnydipp at 1:24 PM on February 17, 2007

does she use any of the treadmill's or bikes? Cause you can can sort of talk to someone next to you on those, maybe.
posted by magikker at 1:30 PM on February 17, 2007

You certainly can't wait for her to leave the gym (which is how I imagine the downstairs plan), you can't jump on the next treadmill and start talking.... I think the smiling/making yourself familiar plan is your only option here that might work. Due to how the timing will work out, it might take awhile (some days you won't see her), but patience is a virtue.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:50 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Watch for when she’s done with her routine and heads to the showers. Then take your shower, but quickly. Go to the front desk and strike up a conversation with the receptionist. As she walks out, smile and nod. Do this a few times and see if conversation starts up.

From your post, you’re not creepy, so relax. If she gives you the “you’re creeping me out” look, explain the situation, that it’s awkward and you’re just trying to not be awkward. If she’s worth it, she’ll understand, might even find it sweet or charming.

You mentioned an iPod. If she has one, it’s a good point for conversation as she’s going out the door. Ask her what kind she has, you got this kind, was thinking of trying something different, or it’s too small etc, etc.

If you happen to bump into her on the way out and she’s in street clothes, compliment her on something and mention that your sister/mom/aunt/sister-in-law would love something like that, where’d she get it from, oh cool, you love that part of town, remember when X happened there back in Y etc, etc

Or the hell with all that, just wait downstairs and ask her out for a cup of coffee, in front of the receptionist. There’s a great scene in the comic book “Jinx” where one guy really likes a girl, but she’s seating in a diner, reading a book, so he doesn’t want to bother her. But he really digs her, you know, can’t get her image outta his head, so after leaving the diner, he calls the diner on the phone and asks to speak to her. And begins by explaining how odd the situation is, how he’s really not trying to be creepy, but how he’s already in this “hole” if he comes up and starts talking to her outta the blue, while she’s reading, ‘cause there’s just no real socially acceptable way to do that without a guy coming off as some drooling, leering caveman. After hearing this, she agrees to coffee and a muffin. Of course there’s gun shots, a car crash and bit of physical violence, but that’s comics, right? Anyway, it’s a good scene and matches your situation so you might want to try that tactic, with a bit of self deprecation humor, while in front of the receptionist so she knows she’s safe and you’re just a charming goofball who can buy her a cup a coffee

Keep in mind that if she isn’t interested, then things could get awkward. Do not let them. Ignore and avoid her in a civil fashion or break eye contact if it comes up. Signal that you understand she’s not interested and you’re not going to bug her about it.
posted by The Behatted Wild Man of Greenfield at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2007

Whatever you do, don't wait too long.

It took me weeks to screw up my courage to talk to a girl I had been seeing at the gym. We were there at the same time nearly every day. We smiled at each other several times. All the signs were there for me to just say Hi and break the ice. I finally thought I had the right line, the right idea, and walked into the gym...

... and I never saw her again.

She just disappeared. Changed her schedule. Moved to another city. Didn't renew the membership. Took up cycling. Something. I'll never know exactly what. Just, poof! Gone.

Make your move NOW, kiddo.
posted by frogan at 2:52 PM on February 17, 2007

Ironmouth nailed it.
posted by Listener at 3:06 PM on February 17, 2007

Being hit on at the gym is creepy, for all the reasons Brina mentioned.

I agree that starting with a friendly smile and then a wave and then, IF she seems amenable to that, going over and going "Hey, by the way, I'm Joe, I thought I'd finally introduce myself" is fine. If she's vaguely interested, or even just up for being friendly, she'll smile back and hold eye contact. If not, at least you haven't made the girl feel like she now needs to avoid you. Good luck!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:09 PM on February 17, 2007

Just to nth the creepiness factor of being hit on at the gym... some guy the other day was on the elliptical next to me and instead of doing something non-threatening like smiling or asking me (after I was off the machine) what music I was rocking out to, etc, he said "I wonder if this machine gets your heart rate up as much as it does when you're making love." I shrugged and broke eye contact, and then he asked it again: "Do you think YOUR heart rate gets this high when you're making love?"

... Ick.

So yeah, tread carefully. YMMV, but I agree with Brina that women feel more vulnerable at the gym, it's like getting hit on when you're in a changing room at the beach, or getting hit on in a meditation space. Plus, you're stuck in a situation (on a machine, in a class, etc) where it's difficult to just make an excuse and walk away gracefully. Instead you have to just stare straight ahead and ignore them and it messes with your whole working-out head space.
posted by np312 at 3:38 PM on February 17, 2007

What they all said. Lots of people consider the gym practically a private place, and if they could they'd be working out in their own gym at home instead of having to share one. They're there despite there being other people around.
posted by mendel at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2007

Thanks all. Sometime the simplest answer is the hardest one to think of on your own (in my haze of not being able to get over myself).

I'd love to meet her outside the gym, but wouldn't even know where to start with that one, so a wink and a smile it is.
posted by DonnieSticks at 3:46 PM on February 17, 2007

The next time you're "not stalking her" but happen to be nearby, can you ask her a question -- something natural-seeming like "How do you adjust this machine?" or "I don't really feel any results with this; do you?"* Even if her reaction is friendly, don't push it. Say hello the next time your paths cross and see what happens from there.

*NB: Do not conflate your proposed pickup lines. Rest assured that "As far as I can tell, your glutes are on fire" will NOT get the desired result.
posted by rob511 at 3:51 PM on February 17, 2007

I kinda think you're fucked trying to meet someone in a gym. There's just no good way to do it. That's part of the reason I don't mind TOO much that my gym, located in the neighborhood in which I live, reflects the neighborhood perfectly: a bunch of characterless, former frat/sorority brats who then went to business school and never acquired personalities. Because as much as I find these people obnoxious, vapid, and annoying, hey, at least I won't ever risk being attracted to anyone.

In my last gym, before I moved here, I saw someone I thought was cute, but of course, never did anything. A couple of months later, by some insane coincidence, I saw her on a dating website I was on. I sent a short, rather non-creepy (I'd like to think) message to her, just mentioning in passing that I saw her profile and it struck me that she looked familiar, that I think I've seen her at the Bayshore health club in Old Bridge (NJ).

Aside from getting no answer, it was something like six months before I saw her in the gym again . . .
posted by CommonSense at 3:55 PM on February 17, 2007

The line that np312 got must've been published on some dating site or a magazine or something, becuase a girl using a machine next to me at the student rec center got that line ... her response was "Go the hell away before I get one of the attendents over here." ... after he left, I pulled one of my ipod phones out and said, "Did he say what I think he said?" and she nodded ... I said, "Well, if you ever need anyone to walk you out to your car, just ask." and made it a point to smile and wave every time I saw her. It's worked much better so far than some creepy 'line'.
posted by SpecialK at 3:56 PM on February 17, 2007

The difficulty level for successfully doing a "cold intro" in a gym setting is so very high as to be *almost* impossible, for two reasons. First, women are already used to being objectified for their bodies, and in the gym, the focus specifically is *on* the body; additionally, women's sportswear is often almost as revealing as lingerie. Women are very vulnerable when they are exercising, and as a result, I think the instinct to be protective against unwanted come-ons is on high under those circumstances. (And rightly so, I daresay.) Second, I think that the standard societal convention in gyms is to be solipsistic: to be in your own internal world and concentrating on yourself (thus the popularity of iPod and tuning in to your own music, etc.). Breaking into the internal world someone's in while exercising is thus against convention.

That's just to explain what you're up against, however. If I were you, I'd try to embody genuineness, aw-shucks-farmboy-ism, self-deprecation, an awareness of how the situation might make her feel awkward, and an immediate willingness to back off in your question. I know that's a tall order, but in the circumstances, I think those qualities would be the ones that might tip the scales towards a "yes."
posted by WCityMike at 4:46 PM on February 17, 2007

I just thought of something...
I work out 2x a week with a rowing team that has a few women on it. What it I had one of them do the dirty work for me? My beard, so to speak, in a non-threatening manner.
posted by DonnieSticks at 11:41 PM on February 17, 2007

That might work. And while gym come-ons can be creepy, generally, they don't have to be. I have a friend who met her perfectly lovely husband at their gym.
posted by judith at 4:03 AM on February 18, 2007

I work out 2x a week with a rowing team that has a few women on it. What it I had one of them do the dirty work for me?

No. This is technique reserved for junior highers only, and creepy as hell coming from a grown man. You need to have some balls and do this yourself.

And having a woman ask out your crush wouldn't make that woman your beard; it would make her your wingman. Beards are for gay dudes trying to look straight.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:44 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

If she has an iPod, start from there. Ask her what she's listening to. I think that's a good icebreaker.
posted by drstein at 10:11 PM on February 18, 2007

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