8

I'm a male in my mid 20s. Over the past year, I've started working out to try and get in better shape (I've always been overweight), and discovered that I love group exercise classes. I've found several great instructors in my area (it's a college town) whose classes I attend regularly.

The only problem I've run into is that most of the attendees--and instructors for that matter--tend to be women around my age. I'm not particularly interested in romance at this time, and I'm certainly not looking to hit on or flirt with any of these people. But I do want to be friendly (it's a group class after all) and not come off as the "creepy guy standing in the back every class".

Even on a good day, I'm not the best with social interactions. What can I do to avoid giving off a creepy vibe during these classes?

  • 2
    Do you feel like you're coming off as creepy in these classes? – sphennings May 31 '18 at 18:07
  • @sphennings: I don't think so -- at least definitely not with older participants, several whom I've made friends with -- but I'm not great with social interactions, so I guess I'm just a little worried about my age group. One of the classes in particular is a kick-boxing-style class, and we spend the entire class facing mirrors and shadow boxing. So no matter where I stand, I'm basically looking someone else in the face. – tonysdg May 31 '18 at 18:15
  • @sphennings: What prompted the question is an encounter I had a few days back; I went up to an instructor (close to my age) after class to thank her and ask her a question. Granted, it was post-class, so everyone's tired, but she seemed uncomfortable when I said thanks and tried asking about a class later in the week. – tonysdg May 31 '18 at 18:17
  • 7
    @tonydsg can you elaborate on why you think she was uncomfortable and add this anecdote to your question? This is important information to give you a good answer! :) – scohe001 May 31 '18 at 18:26
  • @scohe001: I'll definitely do so as soon as I can -- been swamped with work the last few days. Thank you!! – tonysdg Jun 2 '18 at 12:21
8

One practical suggestion is to stand at the front, if the class is arranged in rows like that. If you are feeling self-conscious it may be your natural inclination to hide away at the back. But it may be assumed that men who stand at the back of exercise classes are trying to look at the ladies' bottoms.

People may interpret behaviour as creepy if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Remember that everyone else in the class is likely there to lose weight too or to improve their bodies in some other way, which means that a good number of them could have body issues and feel self-conscious. By going to the front of the class you remove any fear you are checking them out from behind and you give someone else a space to hide away at the back and feel less self-conscious about themselves.

Also, being at the front will demonstrate that you are serious about the exercise, and that is your main concern.

Don't worry if you can't always get to the front because other people beat you to it - if people arrive at the class early and choose the front row then chances are they are more confident.

11

I understand exactly the situation, because I've been taking exercise classes at various gyms and health clubs all my life (I'm in my 60s) and it is awkward being one of the few guys in the class. It can be particularly awkward if the class does some exercise that requires pairing up.

A few ideas to make it more comfortable:

  1. Make it clear you are in the class for exercise. That can be as simple as getting there early to stretch, and as the opportunity arises, commenting on what you like about the class workout.
  2. Usually there are some women in class who are comfortable chatting. A little casual conversation about the class ("do you know if we need heavy bar bells today?") again makes it clear that you are there to work out.
  3. If you like the class, talk it up in the men's locker room and try to enlist a few more men. Once you aren't the only guy it becomes much less of an issue.

Remember You have a perfect right to be there and work out. You don't need to be defensive or apologetic. Just treat it as a workout.

2

Personally, I'd say gym groups are one of the easiest circles to break into. If you are there to work hard, learn, and improve yourself everyone will instantly accept you. Whatever the activity make your only priority the workout at hand and getting the most from it. Don't worry about what you think other people are thinking. Don't care where you stand, take the first available spot, help get the equipment, when the coach speaks listen.

Then no matter your skill level, people around will want to get to know you and work with you. I've been a part of a lot of gym groups over the years and you can instantly tell if people don't want to be there or are not there to work hard. If you are though it's nothing but sweat, high fives, and jokes from then on.

1

The best way to not come across as creepy (and to also work on social interactions) is through practice. Try to make some friends around your age group and talk to them. Crack some jokes, talk about common interests, do everything you would normally do with your older friends in that group. You can even try to introduce some of the older participants to the younger ones so you have a good social network in the class.

If you struggle with social interactions, just remember to stay calm, relax and think about what you are going to say. Don't just blurt out whatever comes to mind, as what you say might offend someone and give the wrong impression of you.

I totally understand the feeling of giving off a creepy vibe, as people who I have met would usually confide in me about how they used to think I was "just another creep" before they actually took the time to really get to know me. Don't stress about it too much and just try to become a genuine friend.

1

Yup. I've been there. I've often wound up being the lone male in a yoga class. To make matters more interesting, I work at a university and use its facilities, so often I'm in a class filled with early to mid 20 year old women, while I'm in my early 30's. Like, you, I enjoy socializing. What to do? Well, in short: be friendly, be respectful, and be there to exercise.

Don't actively engage in "avoiding creepiness."

DO engage in friendly, open behavior.

On dialogue:

  • Keep socializing brief initially. Smiling and saying "Hello" and "How are you?" is good. Helping others with equipment, and short positive comments when wrapping up a session are okay too. Seek to make others feel welcome. If and when they wish to speak further, let them take the next step. You've already demonstrated you're open to conversation.
  • Thank the instructor! Ask them questions if you actually have any, too. The instructor is literally paid to talk with you, to answer appropriate questions. Other members may have questions too, and from what I find, dialogue begets dialogue. Treating the instructor as a fellow human being can really open a class up after a few sessions.
  • If you actually know someone in the room from outside the class, say hello in some shape or form. Perhaps consider inviting a friend along once or twice. You'll have a partner to chat with, and others will see that, well, you're a real person.

On practice:

  • Don't deliberately position yourself behind self-conscious members, those who wear revealing clothing, or those who may distract you personally.
  • It's generally okay to ask for advice. People like to know that a) their efforts have paid off and b) that they're useful. So, the occasional compliment on someone's technique and the seeking of their help is probably okay to ask. It's a good segue into dialogue, as asking for advice on physical activities is an exchange of questions, gestures, and motions. If they're not in the mood to help, though, don't worry about it.

On observing others:

  • If you can read subtle cues and can tell that another member is self-conscious or overly aware of your presence, don't let it faze you. Most likely, the member has yet to calm into their exercise mindset and may feel a bit of a spotlight effect. Maybe they were rushed from work or had a stressful day. Keep your focus on your exercises, or if resting, engage in some relaxing stretches and in general, pay them no mind.
  • If your eyes wander, recenter yourself on your exercise and breathing. It's a natural occurrence, and not one to be ashamed of - controlling yourself by looking away is in and of itself a respectful act. Even if the other member takes note, it's not the end of the world.
  • That being said, it is okay to look at another's form! Exercise is about growth, and we learn a lot from observing one another. In this case, take in the information briefly and deliberately. Your eyes and face should signal curiosity and perception. Again, be mindful of who you observe and how often. Observing more skilled practitioners, who display confidence, is generally more acceptable.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.