The place is hot and steamy, pulsing with the beat of blaring music and gyrating bodies. You see her working it across the crowded floor, and you have to meet her. A brilliant idea: you’ll buy her a drink. But wait a second – that only works in nightclubs, and you’re at a health club. So while you could send a 20 oz. Tropical Xtremo Gatorade her way, that probably won’t produce the intended result, no matter how important it is to replenish fluids during strenuous exercise. What do you do? Gyms notoriously attract eye-catching people. There’s no greater concentration of sinewy muscles and tight, skimpy clothing anywhere… except maybe the adult thriller section of your local Blockbuster Video. Let’s face it, even the most average-looking gym-goer is fit and healthy, or at least will be in a few months. But while fitness clubs are a veritable bakery of available beefcakes and beefcakettes, they can actually be rather tricky places to meet people. Gyms are often chock full of cheesy pick-up artists with sleazy come-ons, or, on the other side, designer gear-wearing posers who walk around a whole lot and manage to lift very little. But there has to be some way for normal people to meet other normal people at the gym, right? The simple answer is yes, but not without keeping several things in mind – especially if your idea of a good opening line is something like “Nice shoes, want to french?” Listen up, all you muscle-bound Casanovas out there: no matter how eager you are to begin the mating… err; dating process, you’ve got to scope out the scene. Some gyms are as flirty as all-you-can drink “body shot night” at Club Med. Others, well, you’d probably have better luck cruising a Buddhist monastery. Look around. Are people talking… with each other… and not asking whether they can “work-in”? If that’s the case, fire up conversations at will (we’ll cover what to say shortly). But if the atmosphere is more businesslike, it’s probably best to keep minding your own. Unsolicited banter, no matter how witty, can stick out worse than a left elbow during assisted tricep dips. Next, and most importantly: you can check someone out, just don’t freak them out. It’s one thing to sneak a peek while she’s sprawled on the stretching mat, but quite another to train your penetrating gaze on her (no matter how amazing her side crunch technique might be). Among the women I’ve spoken to, the consensus is clear. One or two quick glances, and maybe even a little smile, are flattering; prolonged staring, drooling, or high-fiving your equally lecherous friends, is not. Of course, even the strongest exhibit occasional weakness – if you absolutely can’t help it, use the gym’s mirrors for a far less detectable stare. (This technique can also give you a better view of, shall we say, the traditionally hidden parts of an alluring physique.) You’ve spotted someone on the lat machine, you’ve used the mirror, and you like what you see. You’re ready to make your move, right? Hold on there, tough guy. The next step is recognizing her receptiveness. Just as exercise is a social experience, it can also be solitary and serious. Some people just want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. This is especially true at gyms where members squeeze workouts into hectic appointment schedules, or even before the workday begins. People probably aren’t looking for romance in the midst of the daily grind, and while your hormones might be awake at 6:00 a.m., it’s unlikely that someone who gets up while it’s still dark wants to meet anyone, aside from the coffee stand guy. The same can be said of those who hit the gym after work – chances are they just want to exercise, go home, and eat a salad. If some meathead wearing zebra-print Zubaz pants impedes that progress, do you think he’ll get that number (the real one)? She might have caught your eye, but you can’t assume the feeling is mutual unless she sees you and smiles back. Even then, wait an extra minute, just to make sure she’s not there with her championship kick-boxer boyfriend, who’d be more than happy to use your face as a leather focus mitt. When it comes to opening lines, we all have our stand-bys. But at the gym, inspired pick-ups like “Sagittarius, right?” “I’m on the football team,” and “please don’t call the cops” might not work as well. True, women’s reactions vary, depending largely on delivery, making it tough to say what to say. But there are definitely techniques to avoid. Worst offender? The old “let me show you how to do that” maneuver. We’ve all seen this move in action, and might even be guilty of trying it (listen up, personal trainers). There’s nothing wrong with correcting someone’s form – unless it’s used as a pretext to ogle her body at close range, or, worse, place an “instructive” hand on it. Most men don’t mind a stranger’s touch (and probably fantasize about it), but women like it about as much as filthy bathrooms, back hair, and spitting contests. Here’s something else they hate: guys who comment on how stretchy they are. Yes, women are flexible, and flexibility is awesome – just ask Emoke Ritter, world-famous Hungarian contortionist (you’ve never heard of her?). Women understand they can bend in ways that stir the male imagination – spare yourself the embarrassment of mentioning it. The last thing a woman wants to hear from a stranger, unless you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, is “boy are you flexible.” Same goes for “great muscle tone,” “killer pecs,” or “nice ass.” Keep the focus off her body, at least out loud. Instead, comment on the book she’s reading or the music she’s listening to. Or simply ask what her name is. Talk a little. Work out a little. Established a rapport first, then you can show her the right way to do a shoulder press. Better yet, let her show you.
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