I have never dressed sexily for the gym – I have never seen the point. Either I have been partnered during my stack of memberships or, more usually, I have had no interest in romance among the kettle bells. In the dank, municipal hellholes where I like to work out, I have somehow known instinctively that Mr Right was not lurking by the lockers.
While my latest gym is clean and modern, it is most certainly not a place where I will ever feel lustful and attractive. It is so basic, so stripped back, that there is not even a swimming pool – thus it is devoid of the comforting pong of chlorine to mask all the toxic BO of my fellow gymgoers. You don’t just feel the burn; you breathe everyone else’s.
Any attempt I would ever have made to dress sexily – my running shorts are cut pretty high, I guess – is instantly negated by the inability of the staff to really grasp how air conditioning works. Unless you climb up inside one of the three or four pathetic air con units protruding from the wall like tin-covered beer guts, you’re unlikely to experience anything more than a light breeze that feels like it’s coming from several planets away.
A spandex-clad set of cockerels strutting round a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.
Thus it takes no more than three half-hearted tugs on a machine that likes to call itself “Lat Pulldown” (very Star Wars cantina) before I am tomato-red, gasping and dripping in vodka-infused perspiration.
While most people are only there because the vending machine is the place to get the coldest Coke Zero in the western hemisphere, for some the gym is a total cruising experience. Cruisier even than being winked at in a public toilet or coughing suggestively in a sauna. I have watched these men (and women, of course, but it is the gay guys who fascinate me) strutting around – a spandex-clad set of cockerels surveying a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.
It seems no part of the gym is off limits when it comes to being chatted up or flirted with or, in the most extreme of cases and depending on your proximity to Vauxhall, a spot of shagging. The sunbed room at my gym – 12 tubes, an Ikea chair and a bin filled with discarded wet wipes – is almost always occupied and I have never seen any ultra violet light beaming from under that door.
The locker room is where things begin, of course. I have lost count how many times I have shot down clumsy attempts at flirting as I stuff my bag in a locker only to find it’s broken. (About six or seven, in reality.)
The reality is I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls.
A range of subjects from where I got my padlock to the colour of my socks, via the incredible “Where did you get your hair cut?” have been among the awkward opener for potential suitors.
Of course, in my head, my tongue is an anti-aircraft gun and these hapless blokes are the Luftwaffe circling. Bang! Bang! Bang!
The reality, however, is that I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls. As soon as politeness will allow I give a friendly, yet curt, nod and head out of there.
I have seen it work on others. The chat will begin super-innocently in the changing rooms, and then once they’re out in the exercise area, chat will turn to protein drinks, running times and before long they’re ‘spotting’ each other’s ‘reps’ in that sweat-glazed palace of meat that is the free-weights area.
This part of the gym is full of mirrors, and our boys spend as long as possible glaring into them, but actually at each other, trying desperately to gurn as sexily as possible. The success rate is below sea level.
Not that it deters them – like attracts like, after all. Before you know it, they’ve got their towels over their shoulders and a mortifying time in the locker room for everyone but them is all but guaranteed.
But how to avoid all this eye-fucking and unrequited lust across the yoga mats? Well, why would you?
Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…
Nobody ever said all football fans had to be able to score goals at Wembley. Strap yourself in for the ultimate spectator sport – you still get the fitness benefits but don’t have to compete. Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…
Once you’re muscle-buddies and getting regularly up close and physical, though, what next? What about the times you can’t always make a training session? Is he there without you, making those same locker-room eyes at the cute guy on the treadmill? What if he says “great pecs” to all the boys? Is his spandex hanging out with other lycras?
Maybe look further for your next partner than the end of your dumbbell – save your communal sweating for the bedroom.