There are only some breathy quips, a few smiles, heavy panting, and encouraging nods between us. We’re unapologetically sweating and moaning and I don’t even know your name. But how do I strike up a conversation with you in a gym class?
You can meet new friends everywhere, some people say. Followed by: “You just say something,” or a similar tip. Because to those some people, it’s just that easy.
Anyway, I go to the gym with my mom. She talks with other fifty-somethings and they seem nice, but somehow I can’t imagine asking them out for a cocktail date with a side dish of an Eva Green versus Tom Hiddleston discussion (the subject is people playing hot villains). The problem is, when the odd twenty something shows up in my Gladiator Work Out class, I have no clue how to ask them out (or ask anything, really). Because what do you have in common besides an age group and the urge to slowly kill yourself because your heart rate quadruples in four minutes? How do you make an entire sentence without interludes of gasps? And how do you make sure your mother doesn’t butt in with, “She’s a great girl,” or similar comment?
As with making friends in any kind of situation, there’s always a bit of awkward involved. And no matter what you do, no one can promise you that a satisfying, successful, lifelong friendship will evolve from it. Besides, we’re in a gym, how are you going to move that friendship past, “See you next week”?
You don’t know until you’ve tried. I started with small talk, like comments about how our instructor is slowly trying to kill us. You can learn their name when the instructor asks everyone to come pick up their passes. Getting a, “See you next week?” after three shared classes feels like surviving the first boss level because, yes, this shows mutual interest. With some work I can find her social media accounts and with some more guts I could ask her to share a celebratory we-survived-drink. But there’s no hurry.
I like having someone my own age to meet up with at the gym. I like that in the few minutes before the start of the brutal class, I can talk about this and that without feeling like I’m bothering or boring the other person. Maybe she’ll drop out in a couple of months. Maybe I’ll move, get eaten by Godzilla, or find another legitimate excuse to give up on my gym routine. It doesn’t matter. For now, I have someone to share my sweaty suffering with. For now I have a gym friend. And her name’s Nathalie.