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Get a Gym Crush

Photo-Illustration: by Stevie Remsberg; source images Getty/by Stevie Remsberg; source images Getty

While it can be totally unthinkable to go to the gym, it can also be very easy to go anywhere a crush might be. So simple math suggests that if we want to go to the gym more, we should find our hearts a little gym crush.

When the snooze alarm is blaring for an HIIT class and I remember that the instructor is a substitute who once made me do 60 push-ups and that parking is competitive but I know someone cute with nice arms is often there, I’m suddenly on my way! The destination remains torturous, but my brain has been fooled into believing it’s going to a party. The existence of a crush makes hell seem like: not hell. Or hell but exciting. Or hell with a possibility of kissing. Someone I had a crush on once told me, “Crushes are the sauce of life.” What a perfect thing for a crush to say! It’s true, I think.

And a crush doesn’t just get you out to the mats. Proximity to a crush at the gym could transform you into a quiet show-off with perfect form who uses the heavy weights almost the whole time. If a crush doesn’t show up, I’m likely to lily-dip around and skip ab things entirely.

Because I like having a gym crush, I don’t want anything to progress to beyond crush. This is best achieved by not actually talking or lingering around. I need nothing from this crush other than for them to do their own thing. The morsels are fun — seeing that we put our mats together, a time they kindly share a weight with me. It’s easy to crush in this context. First, everyone is strutting around being sweaty and strong (a flattering time). Second, you’re bonding over the shared hardship of doing a million Bulgarian split squats. And when it gets dire during an endless plank, you can play games like wondering, What sorts of people are they attracted to? Are those people me?

In her new book My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Jenn Shapland writes that “a crush leaves room for imagination, a space that makes crushes so luscious, so self-sustaining in their way. Without pursuing them, they can be so much more, can be anything we want them to be.” They can be a general concept that gets us to rock climb before work.

At my cute, cheapie gym, I have a crush on the whole place. Though not officially queer, Everybody is filled with queer people, admirable guidelines, and kumquat trees by the ropes. I know “the gym” has a stronghold in queer history as a site of shvitz-y cruising. That’s not the energy at Everybody, which is definitely centered on bodies but is more high-minded about its community function. It’s not like there’s an overt cuddly cheer, but you can tell that people think it’s a special place where they can feel most like themselves. Of course, this is intoxicating to be around.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard of some fitness crushes resulting in committed love situations.

The last time I saw an old co-worker, she had a crush on a DJ at her dance class; I think they might be married now. I also remember an ex telling me that her ex, before they dated (keep up, y’all), took up jogging in the same park so they might run into each other. The thing about these stories (the pursuit of someone trying to take care of themselves or do their job) is that they seem a little creepy, even after I know there was a mutual attraction the whole time.

Also anecdotally, I’ve heard more about gym crushes going very sideways. First, I get brutally sore the day after running into my gym crush because I’m both distracted and showing off. I saw two studies: one from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine that showed exercising with someone you’re close with can increase aerobic performance, and another, from Kansas State, about how people work out harder if they’re with someone they think is “better.” I felt judged by both of these studies and also like the back of my arms were going to throw up. And socially, it can be worse. After briefly dating someone from that class that’s a cross between the club and a rowing dungeon, a friend found himself on the machine next to her. Now he can “never return.” In New York, I knew a couple that hit a thrilling rough patch over both of them having crushes on a hunky kickboxing instructor. They might have all dated each other, actually … I should find out.

Unpredictable and by nature responsible for an outsize number of stomach flurries, crushes can’t be counted on. You don’t know what will happen with a crush. It can all come crashing down. For example, if your boo (the purest crush of your heart) comes to your cutie gym for once and receives an obvious and generous glance from your gym crush, then you’ll have only your inner resources for motivation.

Get a Gym Crush