Our 20s are a great time to start hitting the gym, and this January there will be more people than ever there. As someone who has worked out all through college, helped introduce friends to the gym, and worked at a gym before, I'm familiar with the interesting social dynamics.
These days there aren't too many places where we can meet people our age, and so it is strange that we don't talk to each other in the gym. I used to jokingly refer to people I saw everyday in the gym as "my gym friends," even thought we never said a word to each other.
Guys especially seem to think they can't talk to females in the gym. As a female, I'll say that I don't want a guy constantly bugging me if I'm not interested, or certainly not saying anything creepy, but I would be happy to make some new guy and girl friends in the gym, and would like people to introduce themselves more.
After working out long enough, and strategizing with my real friends (who I actually talk to), we came up with some simple and easy ways to actually talk to people in the gym. And people tend to be far more receptive and happy to talk than you'd think, based on their focused and serious demeanors.
1. Smile and Make Eye Contact: The simplest gestures go a long way. When you catch someone's eye, shoot them a friendly smile. This lets them know you are open to talking, and, based on how they respond, can give you a hint of whether they are open to being approached. If they glare you down, maybe they're not as in to the socializing-at-the-gym thing.
2. Offer a Friendly Nod or Greeting: A simple nod or "hi" when passing by someone you recognize can open the door to conversation. You don't need to open a whole conversation right away, but again give an indication that you recognize the person and are open to talking to them.
3. Ask for a Spot: Need a spotter for that heavy lift? Or just want an excuse to talk to that potential new gym buddy? This is one of the most socially accepted ways to talk to a stranger in the gym. Most gym-goers are more than happy to help out, and might even be flattered that you asked them. The key is to then thank them and ask their name. From then on, you'll be able to say hi and open the conversation more.
4. Compliment the Gains: Everyone loves a good compliment, especially at the gym. Whether it's acknowledging someone's impressive lift or praising their dedication, a genuine compliment can kickstart a conversation and make someone's day. I'll still remember when a random gal walked up and complimented my form on a lift so genuinely, and we then started chatting about workouts we did after.
5. Introduce Yourself: If you are a frequent gym-goer, you'll definitely start to recognize some of the same people. The easy line I've used to break the ice with some of those people is "Hey, I've definitely seen you here lots of times--I'm Sam, by the way." They'll probably be glad you introduced yourself, and from then on you can start chatting between sets.
6. Be Mindful of Personal Space: While socializing is great, it's important to be mindful of personal space and others' workout zones. Avoid interrupting someone mid-set, and make sure your approach is respectful of their focus.
7. Build Your Gym Crew: Over time, you might find yourself forming a community within the gym. While I'm all for a focused session and tuning out everything else, it can be super fun to have people around you and cheering each other on. It becomes such a bonus when your gym time can also double as your social time, and when you have people to share goals and wins with.
So, there you have it – your go-to guide for turning the gym into a social hub. This month let's get after it, with healthy mindsets, healthy activities, and healthy friendships. 💪