Your group fitness class exposes you to a whole assortment of people you never would have met otherwise. It turns out that group fitness classes like Barry’s mimics the three criteria that sociologists say are necessary to promote friendships: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other. So, if you go to a regular class time, you start seeing familiar faces and before you know it, you are commiserating about how you almost died during the last run, exchanging texts to reserve treadmills next to teach other and “rehydrating” with cocktails after class.
In our time-strapped society, it’s no wonder that the gym becomes your social life. But not all gym friends are created equal and they can be compartmentalized into several groups.
The Social Media Maven
Unless it’s checked in and tagged on FB, the workout didn’t happen. Although it’s nice to be included in all the chummy, sweaty group pics, the constant tagging causes all kinds of problems when you’ve called in “sick” to work or another social or family function just so you could workout. And let’s be honest, that happens on the regular.
Also known as The Drama Queens of the class. They hate every moment. They’re always dying. They can’t lose weight. They’ve always got an injury. They complain bitterly about everything. But outside of the gym, they’re the life of the party because they really know how to self-medicate with alcohol and food.
The Six Packs
These bros (both genders) don’t own a real shirt. And the ones they do own apparently have rip-away Velcro because it’s off faster than Clark Kent changing into Superman on a speeding treadmill. They tend to congregate and flex in packs, intimidating yet attracting everybody with their sinewy muscles and veins. When you do see them outside of class, IRL, you don’t even recognize them because they’re wearing clothes and stuff.
It’s probably a symptom of Stockholm Syndrome, but after being tortured by your captors day after day, you really do grow to like them. Weird.
The Mommy Mafia
Usually, when you tack on the word “mom” to describe something, it’s instantly rendered uncool (e.g. mom jeans, mommy blogger, mom hair). Don’t underestimate the mom you’re racing against on that treadmill next to you. These multi-tasking moms will outrun and outlift your hungover ass and still manage to run the school bake sales, raise three kids, work a full-time job and rock a washboard stomach. You see, they have a high pain threshold after pushing out watermelon- sized babies through an opening the size of a coin and look down on your pansy ass. They’re most likely to be the den mother of your circle of friends and always know what that your mystery rash is and even have something in their enormous mom purse to treat it.
They’re the Goopiest friends you have and are always on the cutting edge of every plastic surgery procedure and beauty trend. Their Facebook page looks like Page Six. By association, you’re now only two degrees of separation from the hoi polloi. The downside: you get invitations to charity events and luncheons you can’t afford.
Julie, Your Cruise Director
She or he is The Planner. The one who schedules a group of your fit friends to work out at the same time, even booking your treadmill. Depending on her level of crazy/attention to detail, she may even try to coordinate a matching outfit.
They’re usually trainers themselves, whether they teach spin, yoga, martial arts, CrossFit or barre, they are certified fitness bad asses. Warning: they’re most likely to comp you a free class at their studio so they can move you from your present location and kill you on their own home turf.
Barry’s attracts celebs from A-list actors and supermodels to porn stars. Maybe you haven’t made their Xmas card list yet, but getting the “hi” and the head nod from Kim Kardashian or running next to Juliette Lewis or Katie Holmes gets your heart racing before you even start sprinting.
He or She Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken
Because you don’t actually know each other’s names. I mean, you’ve exchanged small talk numerous times, commiserated about the brutal runs in the lobby and seen each other in passing constantly. You’ve probably even seen them naked in the locker room. But you don’t actually know each other’s names and now it’s just plain old awkward to ask. Of course, you see this person everywhere in the neighborhood and you have to say, “Hey…You!”
That Crazy Friend
They’re either stalking a trainer and/or you. You always make sure your treadmill and bench is as far away as possible. Their workout habits are singular and distracting, at times. They don’t just make standard exertion noises or grunts when they lift or sprint, they speak in tongues. They may also have creative choreography and tendency to make shit up on the floor. You’ve learned the hard way not to look to them to see what the next exercise is and experience utter humiliation when you get reprimanded by the trainer for now following along.
Technically, this isn’t your friend, this is your arch nemesis. You know the one(s). Maybe you had a negative interaction once: You accidentally took their treadmill/water/towel/spot in line for the bathroom/ parking spot – whatever. But now they hate your toned ass. Or maybe they’re just jealous. Whatever the reason, they give you the once over and that stink face every time you approach or simply pretend they don’t know you and refuse to acknowledge you. Of course, you don’t really “hate” anybody. It’s just that your relationship with them solely revolves around you running at least .5 faster and lifting heavier than them.
For the lucky few who finds their bootcamp bestie, this rare individual is close in athletic ability and really challenges you to the next level because you try to keep up with each other’s speeds and weights. This naturally segues into running races together and bitching about all your other friends (see all of the above).
Ultimately, the best thing about group fitness classes like Barry’s isn’t the healthy competition, it’s the connections. And there’s no better ice-breaker than breaking a sweat with strangers.
Minsun Park is a blogger, writer and a black belt in taekwondo who gets her ass handed to her daily by her two sons. She’s written for iVillage, SheKnows, ePregnancy and is featured in “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” by Jessica Denay. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter