I have met so many amazing people from just smiling and moving; it’s a universal language.
Gyms and exercise classes can create the most incredible little pockets of community. I never anticipated that I would be make so many intimate friendships in my late twenties. By attending regular gym classes I have met new people who have given me the opportunity to uncover things about myself and my body that I didn’t know existed – my love for movement and yoga are two of them.
In my experience, friendships formed at the gym can help us to peel back a layer of ourselves and reveal passions, motivations and strengths we aren’t aware of. They can also help us to understand the old beliefs we hold about ourselves, that no longer serve us and are holding us back. Friends do this by supporting us to challenge what we think our bodies are capable of and help us to stay focused on our goals.
These types of friends sound pretty rad right? Here’s the magic formula to finding them….
It’s so simple but smiling actually makes all the difference. When I work out at 7am, the members at my gym see me in my truest and rawest form – sleepy, scruffy hair and likely to still be rubbing sleepies out of my eyes. I sound delicious right? Seriously though, a big smile can enable us to all transform, and a grin alongside a simple “morning” and an upbeat “how are you doing” will put anyone at ease. Start doing this and see what happens over time.
I smile and acknowledge everyone, sometimes people don’t always smile back but you’ll find that in time, they will do. Be gently persistent, people can feel really shy and vulnerable at the gym.
2. Find the busiest classes
If you see a large group of people working out together in a freestyle area or in an exercise class and they all look like they’re having a super time, ask them why. Ask them what’s good about it and what other classes or sessions they recommend. If you decide to attend the next time it’s on, you can thank them for it and ask them how they’ve been. Just from that alone you’ve built a connection.
3. Choose the time of day that you can regularly workout
Consistency is everything. If there is a certain time of day that only works for you (generally it will be around work or childcare) the chances are, it will be the same for others members. Pick one time of day and you’ll meet a group of people who you have something in common with immediately.
I go to the gym in the mornings before work and the people who I have bonded with have made the same lifestyle choice. Through busy times at work, through the dark mornings, the wind and the rain we all keep a check on each other. It makes all the difference to know that when you’re feeling tired and cold on a train first thing in the morning that there is a friendly face or two, waiting for you in the gym.
4. Chat with the class instructors or gym staff
Class instructors and gym staff are at the center of it all. Introduce yourself when they ask is anyone new to the class and say thank you when the class finishes. This group of people help nurture and grow the whole gym community and they are a great contact to have. By building a connection with them you’ll be introduced to other like-minded people.
5. Approach the people that inspire you
Never be intimidated by the people that inspire you in the gym – remember they were exactly where you are now at some point in their fitness journey. Comment on whatever it is they’re doing that inspires you and even consider asking them for advice on how you can progress. In my experience, people will always take the time out to share their tips with you. You never know where asking a simple conversation may lead you too.
Don’t ever feel as though you can’t approach the person who is looking super serious as they stretch on the mat beside you. Like me, it’s probably just their concentration face when actually they’d probably much rather chat as they stretch to pass the time.
I love working out, but I love it more when I’ve had a quick chat at the start of class with some of the regulars. By talking, we are connecting and when we’re connected we feel part of something more powerful than just ourselves – it feels like we’re truly in it together. It’s that feeling of being in a team that makes you work and sweat harder.
7. Don’t rush off
Sticking around after class to continue to stretch or play is the perfect time to bond. If you’re working towards something in particular – whether it’s strength, flexibility or endurance, share your dream with the people that surround you. Both staff and members can be an amazing resource for advice and tips – their passion might also give you the bug to try something new. Perhaps you haven’t considered doing what it is they’re doing, perhaps you thought you’d never be capable. Now though, through your newly established network you have the support to give it a try.
8. Compliment others
If you’ve noticed someone making leaps and bounds in their training, tell them. If you are jealous of their outrageously cool leggings, tell them. If they nailed their dancer’s pose beautifully, tell them. If they’ve moved up a weight, recognise their achievement by telling them. If you know they’ve done a 5km run at the weekend, ask them how it went and congratulate them.
Little compliments like these will lift people’s hearts and they’ll leave the gym with a spring in their step. They’re also more likely to stop and have a chat with you next time they see you.
9. Give someone a hand
You don’t always have to be an expert to help someone correct their posture, or try a new stretch that will do them a world of good. If you can do what they’re trying to do and you have the confidence and knowledge to deliver some helpful advice, share it. Seeing someone nail a yoga posture or a kettlebell swing based on the advice you have given is the best feeling in the world and better still it helps create trust which is the perfect foundation for friendship.
10. Welcome new members
Finally, be kind. Smile and acknowledge people who haven’t attended the class before. We all know what an instant relief it is when someone acknowledges our presence when we’re new and feeling nervous.
Just a mix of good old fashioned manners, kindness and enthusiasm can help you to meet amazing people who in time may become truly wonderful friends.