All sweat and no action

Gyms are losing their reputations as meat markets.

Published June 1, 2006 1:05PM (EDT)

Thanks to a piece in the New York Times Thursday Styles section for pointing out what I've suspected for a while: Health clubs are no longer the pickup hot spots they were once purported to be. (Remember those dating manuals that advised women to dress up for the gym and find a cute guy to ask how to use the triceps machine?) According to Melena Ryzik, gyms today are about as sexy as everyone's old raggedy college shirts. That's because people are too busy working out to be checking each other out.

Apparently, it was a way different scene in the early '80s when Rolling Stone magazine published a 1983 cover story called "Looking for Mr. Goodbody," which called gyms the "new singles' bars." Gym-goer David Antencio told Ryzik of those days: "You met people, you dated people. It felt more like a nightclub. There was a lot of endorphins kicking off, a lot of wildness in the first couple years. Were women at my beck and call? Yes -- I taught aerobics!"

He'd be shocked to see my gym, where people are zoned out listening to their iPods and the majority of conversations center around whether someone is going to get off the elliptical because it's been 30 minutes already. Ryzik blames the change on the fact that gyms are no longer bastions of the buff and toned: So-called gym bunnies have been joined by the time-pressed, aging "saggy masses," who are more interested in fitness than flirting.

I find all this interesting during the age of women-only gyms, such as Curves and Lucille Roberts, which have been touted as estrogen sanctuaries far from the leering eyes of men where women can feel comfortable letting it all hang out.

What do readers think? Is your gym a good place to meet people? Is the experience at all-female gyms any different?

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

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