When it comes to making friends, I’m a big fan of the “do nothing and maybe they’ll find me” method.
As part of the rare breed known as the introverted extrovert, I love being social. I love talking to people, and I’m a fan of group hangs. However, I’m pretty shy when I’m on my own. And thanks to some bonus moderate social anxiety, I don’t even like talking to servers at restaurants.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that making (and keeping) friends is rapidly becoming one of most difficult parts of being an adult. Gone are the days of lunch buddies, chem class friends, and college roommates fleshing out our social calendars, and—especially for those of us who don’t work in a traditional office setting—it can be hard to fill the gaps.
Enter the gym. It’s definitely not the prettiest place to make a friend, especially when you’re raining sweat, but think of it like this: Gym friends already know what you look like when your hair’s a mess and you aren’t wearing any makeup. I’m pretty sure that means you get to skip at least three steps on the Monopoly board of friendship.
But how do you make friends when you’re sweating blood and iron?
Ask for some help.
I know, I know. This sounds crazy, but I don’t mean walking up to someone and pretending you don’t know how a machine works. (Although, that’s a practical method too—but only if you really do have questions about any of them!)
Try asking someone to spot you on the bench or—if you’re in a class—ask if they’ve tried that buti yoga class your studio just started offering.
Give a compliment.
Like that girl’s leggings? Tell her! See someone crushing a 200-lb deadlift? Give them a high five.
Don’t force flattery and don’t be a pest, but there’s nothing wrong with issuing a polite compliment. A little goes a long way, and it might open the door to further conversation—and maybe a recommendation on where to get new leggings, which I’m pretty sure everyone needs.
Try a class.
Solo gym sessions aren’t always the best for socialization, but classes make it easier. Opt for something high-intensity like kickboxing, barre, or Barry’s Bootcamp, so you can bond over sore muscles post class.
But, uh, maybe don’t try to talk to someone during that post-yoga savasana?
Skip the headphones.
Preposterous, I know. However, it’s a great way to make yourself seem friendly and accessible. Headphones are my way of telling people to keep away, and—for the most part—it’s a strategy that works, but sometimes I like to leave them at home.
Not only does this make me more approachable at the gym, but I can also crack a joke to my gym neighbor about the Avril Lavigne song playing on repeat every 10 minutes. Instant bonding!
I’ve made friends in some pretty weird places (hello, bus stop buddy!), and it usually starts by remembering to be a decent human being and just, you know, saying hi.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. After graduating from Huntington University with a B.A. in history, she went on to receive a master’s degree in modern British history from the University of East Anglia. In her spare time, Sutton enjoys fangirling, running, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto is still a planet in her heart. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.