The gym is a very peculiar place where all kinds of people gather. Over the years I have seen a wide variety of specimens in the weight room: professional bodybuilders, recreational steroid users, fat powerlifters, biceps brahs, celebrities, lawyers, drug dealers, whores, semi-whores, soon to be whores, whales, bears….etc. The list is very long, and bigger facilities usually offer even more diverse freak shows.
Gyms are a lot like exercise bars. People don’t get there to drink and share emotional struggles, like it happens in the movies, but rather to fix visible physical issues. The weight room still offers us magic and out of this world experience, but instead of booze, there are weights for the task.
Question is, how realistically is it to make friends there?
On paper, the gym attracts people with common interests. Therefore, there is a pretty big chance to meet more of your kind in the weight room.
We are always looking for “more of us” in our friends and “less of us” when it comes to girlfriends and boyfriends. You may disagree, but over the years I have come to the conclusion that people are more likely to add you to their friends list, if you share similar characteristics. Examine your current or former friends. Chances are, you share way more common traits than you think. At the same time, when it comes relationships – the opposites attract better. That’s why “the good girls cry for the bad boys”, and those who don’t qualify as the latter are simply used as a filler and emotional recycle bins.
I don’t care who you are – you’ve had a rival in the gym. At least once you have faced someone there, at the same level as you, who also wanted to beat you badly.
When I first started out, I had different rivals for almost every day. Those are the type of guys who remember the weights you are lifting, how many reps you are doing, how many reps you did last time and what results you are getting. Those guys are essentially a human training log. And trust me, even if they act like they don’t care – they still do. It’s human nature.
When you are in competition mode, you are less likely to make friends. Why would you allow a rival to become a close friend anyway? Why would you share secrets with that person? It makes no sense. Therefore, those people usually get the iFone treatment and their fair share of scrutiny.
I would say that this is the default category. Unless proven otherwise everybody you meet in the gym falls in the rivalry department naturally. Therefore, it often takes a special kind of experience to become truly close with somebody in the weight room.
NEW FRIENDS ARE ALWAYS HARD TO MAKE
Making friends cannot happen through force. You cannot just say: “I am going to make this person my friend and go do it”. It’s not as straight forward as losing a few pounds is. There is a strong fate factor in friendship and relationships.
Usually people don’t have more than 1 or 2 really good friends throughout their whole lives, and the connection also requires years of repercussions to be tested truly. Consider yourself lucky, if you have built a long lasting friendship with someone.
In the gym you can make a lot of rivals/lifting buddies, but just because somebody spots you on the bench press and tells you cocaine and sex stories (I’ve heard similar stories many times in the gym.) does not make him or her a real friend. There is a world of difference between a real friend and a lifting buddy. Real friends are always hard to make. Remember that.
THE LOUD-MOUTH GUY
In 90% of the gyms I have visited, there’s always a guy that’s there mainly to meet people and repeat nonsense day after day. It’s usually the type of person that knows everything about politics and why the world is such a bad place, even though he is essentially a low-life loser. The loud-mouth guy goes to the gym early every day and stays until noon while doing about 5 sets worth of training. Most of the time is used to drink coffee, spread gossip and annoy people.
The loud-mouth guy may enjoy the company of many lifting buddies, despite being an irritating broken clock, but has no real friends at the end.
Needless to say, this is a definitive proof that while the gym is a fine place to socialize and meet new people, you should be there primarily to train, at least most of the time.
HOW DO YOU MAKE FRIENDS AFTER HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE?
I hated school really badly, especially when I was little. Of course, part it was me being lazy and spoiled, but I also had really hard time with the kids. I thought everybody is mean. In the beginning this was understandable since between 1st and 7th grade I got beaten decently a few times. I experienced punches in the stomach and a bloody nose on a couple of occasions. Every year I would participate in at least one fight with some blood in it. Nothing unusual, but similar experience, coupled with my character and the fact that my family was semi-poor, was one of the reasons I chose to live in isolation. This continued throughout high school as well, although to a much lesser degree. However, even I was able to make a couple of good friends there.
This brings me to a question not many people think ask – how do you make friends once you are outside of the school system? It’s a lot harder, depending on what profession you get. When you are in school, at least you meet people at a similar age and social level. It’s a place where socializing is relatively easy. This is one of the reasons most people make the majority of their long-lasting friends there. Once you are outside of the system things change – you are kicked into the big ocean.
When you are finally in the free for all world, it becomes even harder to socialize with people, except on small “islands”. And one of those small islands could be the gym – a place attracting people with common interests, motivation and work/job location. Similar islands are not as many as you may think. We only have a few. That’s why I consider the gym a pretty good place to socialize and meet potential friends.