Date Ideas

The Art of the Gym Date

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art-of-the-gym-date-HSSThis article originally appeared in Details and is reprinted with permission.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 4.30.20 PMAs he was dressing for a date with Rebecca, Mike Greeley, 28, a Boston real-estate broker, passed over the monochromatic suits and chambray shirts and chose a sweat-wicking top and sneakers. It wasn’t an attempt at a casual look gone too far; he was meeting his crush for spin class. “I work 60-hour weeks, so it was a way to see her on weekends,” he says. “But we were sweaty and our guards were down, so we really got to know each other.”

Like Greeley, Dan Nainan, 32, a New York City comedian, began fitness dating out of practicality. “I travel a lot, and it’s efficient to hang out while exercising,” he says. Nainan chooses outdoor cycling for early dates. “It’s more fun than a formal meal and saves time—any woman who says no probably isn’t a good match.”

These men are part of a new mating ritual: exercising together. Parks, gyms, and fitness studios are filled with couples putting their raw selves up for view. Celebrities are embracing workout rendezvous too—Jake Gyllenhaal was recently spotted emerging from Barry’s Bootcamp with new girlfriend Alyssa Miller. It’s now a staple paparazzo shot—although not officially dating, Ashley Greene and actor Jamie Campbell Bower were snapped departing a gym together in Studio City, California. This may be the best advance in courtship since alcohol (another oft-used guard-lowerer). If you’re considering hooking up, and eventually coupling up, nibbling entrées won’t reveal as much about the other person as a round of burpees might.

Ariane Hundt has noticed certain characteristics in the exercise daters who attend her Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. “They’re often comfortable in their skin, in their thirties, and looking for a partner,” she says. She adds that this is not the terrain of the preening, egocentric gym rat eager to show off his heaving muscles. “It’s not the overconfident jocks,” Hundt says. “That doesn’t work, because most women don’t care if you’re an impressive exerciser. They care about compatibility.”

How much you bench may not be a factor, but where you do it might—since like restaurants and shoes, the facility you choose indicates taste. “The studio scene lends itself to the trend,” says Cate Brinch, owner of Recycle Studio spinning clubs in Boston, who has seen a sharp rise in workout dates. Boutique gyms imply status (a sign that you can afford pricey classes and hang with tough instructors), and, Brinch says, “now you can invite someone to your yoga or cycling class without a membership. It’s a more social environment.”

While they’re informal, exercise-based outings can also be a way to connect. Greeley soon joined Rebecca on her marathon-training runs, too, fast-forwarding the relationship. “It was an opportunity to be supportive about something important but not serious,” he says. “Helping her through a 15-miler became a blueprint for the future.” The couple that sweats together stays together—or stays fit enough to lure future lovers.

Visit Details for the perfected gym date dos and don’ts, top date-friendly workouts, and where to go afterwards.

By Arianne CohenPhotograph by Adam Voorhes

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