“Why making friends in the gym has transformed my experience of working out”

You might not realise it, but the gym is the perfect place to find new friendships. Here, four women share what their gym friends mean to them,

Going to the gym is one of select few things that we’re generally happy doing on our own. Unlike going to a restaurant or to the theatre, there’s almost no stigma around the idea of training on your own, probably because it’s something you’re doing for your own health and as a form of self-care.

Ironically, doing things on your own actually puts you in the perfect position to meet new people. And whether it’s at a workout class, while swapping places on the squat rack or over a post-workout smoothie, the gym is a great place to meet new friends.

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Meeting people in the gym means you’re guaranteed to have at least one similar interest, and it also makes starting conversations easy because who doesn’t love complaining about how sore their legs are or how much they hate burpees during a particularly difficult session? For a lot of us, the gym is also somewhere we’ll visit regularly, often at the same time each day or week, so you’re bound to bump into the same people, making it relatively easy to maintain and develop friendships.

One novelty of gym friendships is that they also provide an opportunity for sober socialising, something of a novelty for those who are always meeting a friend for a drink or dinner and drinks. Being able to socialise during the week at the gym is a great way to please your inner extrovert without breaking the bank or putting too much pressure on yourself to go out and have a late night.

Clearly, gym friendships are something to be cherished. So, we spoke to four women who have found friendships at the gym about how they met their fitness friends and what is so special about these relationships.

Tori and Alice

Tori and Alice met at an F45 class in 2018.

“I met Tori at an F45 class back in 2018,” says 30-year-old Alice. “We pretty much laughed our way around all the exercise stations – especially as we both sucked at the pull-ups. Afterwards, we grabbed a coffee and I don’t think we stopped talking – mainly sharing stories about our equally disastrous love lives and the awful dates we’d been on.

“Friendship in your 20s is hard. I suddenly found myself living miles away from my university friends, my school friends were all married off or living with long-term boyfriends, and so my closest friends became the ones I lived with, exercised with or met through work,” Alice adds.

“Since meeting, Tori and I have continued to put the world to rights over many a brunch, championing each other’s ambitious career dreams. She cheered me over the line at the London Marathon, celebrated my 30th birthday with my family and we’re hoping to go on holiday together at the end of this summer.”

Tori feels similarly sentimental about her friendship with Alice: “I adore Alice’s friendship,” she says. “We bond over wellness and mental health. We can talk for England but also sit in complete silence. It feels very much a two-way street. We don’t see each other every week but we both make the effort.”

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Lucy, Laura and Natalia

Natalia, Lucy and Laura met at outdoor gym classes during lockdown.

“I met Laura and Natalia at group classes in the park [during lockdown] that our personal trainer, Hannah, ran,” Lucy, who is 23 and from Liverpool, says. “We spoke at the classes, swapped numbers and made a group chat so we could train together in future.

“I love having Laura and Nat because they’re the only friends I actually see on the regular,” Lucy adds.

Nikhita and Emily

Nikhita and Emily met at a CrossFit box in south London.

“Emily and I met at a CrossFit box in Tooting in 2021 as we were both interested in doing some competitions,” Nikhita says. “We immediately got on so well and realised we had one main thing in common: cheering and championing each other to become better and stronger and taking pride in watching each other succeed.

“When you train with someone consistently and genuinely care about their progress, you get to know them on a personal level,” Nikhita continues. “We walked into the gym to train together and walked out with a best friend who is there in all aspects of our lives. These are the kind of gains we weren’t expecting but we will never take them for granted.”

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Aideen and Hettie

Aideen and Hettie met at the hip thrust machine earlier this year.

“I met Hettie at the gym back in January of this year,” says 25-year-old Aideen. “I was dreading getting back into the gym alone, especially with the January blues, but I saw Hettie using the hip thrust machine that I wanted to use, and I asked her if I could watch her use it.”

“It started a good conversation and we clicked straight away, so we planned to go to the gym the next night together,” she continues. “Five months later, we train between three and five times a week together as well as socialising outside of the gym too.”

“Having a best friend who you go to the gym with is like no other,” Hettie says of her friendship with Aideen. “Not only is Aideen my gym friend, who is a cheerleader on the sidelines encouraging me to do those extra reps I didn’t think I could accomplish or increase the weight on the next set, but we also use our gym sessions to discuss health and nutrition goals, unload all of our worries of the day and have a heart to heart.”

“No matter how I feel going into the gym, when I come out of a session with Aideen I feel so relaxed, refreshed and so much happier” Hettie adds. “There is no one who could get me out of bed for a 6am gym session apart from Aideen.”

For more fitness stories and tips by women and for women, head to the Strong Women Training Club.

Images: Tori Porter, Nikhita Kumaros, Lucy Greeves, Aideen Sweeney

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