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MariahSnow

How to deal with unwanted approaches at the gym?

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Hi ladies,

 

I work out at a big box gym because I do a lot of different things (running, cycling, swimming, lifting). I'm training for a triathlon so today was brick day where I cycle and then run back to back. So I'm about halfway through my cycle, headphones on, and a guy comes up to me. He looks to be over 40. Here's what the exchange went like,

 

Him: "Are you doing that race to Austin?"

Me: "Oh... the MS 150?" (The MS 150 is a 150 mile bike ride over two days from Houston to Austin, and I think it's in the next month. Lots of different types of people do it)

Him: "Yeah, you could do it" *looking me up and down slowly*

Me: "I guess I could"

Him: "Is there anything else coming up?" *still looking me up and down* Note: I'm cycling so my legs are pumping and I'm literally dripping sweat

Me: "Yeah there's a triathlon in late April"

Him: "Where is that?"

 

etc etc, continued on with him asking questions and me giving the shortest answer possible and him looking me up and down, slowly. At one point he said I shouldn't run on a treadmill but instead I should call him up so we can go run together.

 

So after this little exchange, I'm on edge a little because he didn't just ask a question and go away, he wanted to have a conversation. And he was lingering, and staring at me. So I looked around the gym to figure out where he was so I could be ready if he came by again, and we unfortunately caught eyes. Ugh.

 

Round 2! He comes back over, I'm still on the bike, he makes me take out my headphones again, and he's like, "how far are you running?" I thought he meant today, but he meant in the triathlon, so I tell him how far the swim, bike, and run are. And he says, "I'm going to do it with you!" and walks off. Oooookay? I absolutely kicked myself for telling him about the triathlon. What if he shows up? I kept my eye on him for the rest of his workout and watched him leave.

 

So there are three scenarios here:

1. He's totally harmless, just asking questions, happens to be a little bit socially awkward.

2. He was actively trying to engage me in conversation, trying to ask me out, or otherwise pursue me in a sexual way.

3. He is super creepy, follows me to my car, figures out where I work (next door), with intentions of pursuing me in a sexually violent way.

 

#1 is totally possible and I'm going to see if he's around again just in case he's actually really nice but he's just awkward.

#2 is also totally possible, and if he does come up to me again, I will explain kindly that I'm not interested. 

#3 is possible as well, and if I explain nicely that I'm not interested, that might not work. My short answers didn't seem to be working today. And if I say something blunt like, "leave me alone", will that make him angry?

 

I'm always scared of being a total jerk to guys because it takes a lot of guts to approach someone. And you never know what someone might do if they are pissed. So how do you explain that you aren't interested in someone? Just keep saying no? Ask them to leave you alone? What if he is #3? Obviously, if I explain that I'm not interested and he's still hanging around, I'll say something to the managers. 

 

Do any of you ladies have experience with this? I felt really vulnerable after this whole exchange because I literally work next door to the gym. I'm at the gym like 5 days a week. I live in the neighborhood. He could easily figure out where I work, when I'm at the gym, and where I live. I also felt like, what did I do to attract this attention?

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First of all STOP.  RIGHT HERE!!!

what did I do to attract this attention

 

HELL FUCKING NO.

 

It isn't your fault your super sexy and kick ass. you didn't do anything- that's a god awful thought. So knock it off!!  <stamps food>

 

Just be casual and cool and do what you do- I will go out of my way to make things awkward for people sometimes- short one word answers- then tell them I can't talk and I have to finish training.  

 

it's my point to NEVER ever ever date at the gym- or accept dates- or even imply that I'll accept dates.  I have a very very particular work out schedule because of the aerobics room stuff (I dance in there after they are there and before they are in there- so I can't just "change my work out time"... which means if I bump into someone, or go on a date and it gets weird- I have to deal with it.  Nope- no thank you- did it once- never again- he was such a creeper.  

 

So policy- NO DATING- only coffee/juice bar encounters that are casual and just friendly. It helps I have a boyfriend- but if I were you I'd lie and make one up (I wasn't very good at doing that but it worked in a pinch if I had too).   

 

I will work out with people- but never with people that appear to have one goal- most of the people know I'm there to work and work hard- and I have no time for shennanigans and flirting while I'm working- make it a point that you don't flirt or talk while you're working.  

 

I'd also from a safety stand point- NEVER walk out with him to your car.

If he's there and you do- go back inside say you forgot something, make friends with someone bigger than him.  

if he does manage to be leaving at the same time as you- NEVER drive straight home.  

Lie about where you work.  

 

I hate gym picker-uppers and I hate that guys think it's such a great place to pick up women.  hate hate hate it.

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First of all STOP.  RIGHT HERE!!!

 

HELL FUCKING NO.

 

It isn't your fault your super sexy and kick ass. you didn't do anything- that's a god awful thought. So knock it off!!  <stamps food>

 

Thanks I-Jo! I know I shouldn't think that, but it's hard not to.

 

I'm absolutely going to be looking over my shoulder for this guy. I've made the mistake before of walking to my car after being approached by a creeper and immediately regretted it when I watched the rear view the entire way home. I go straight to work from the gym, which is just across the parking lot. Maybe I'll be sneaky and go around the block once. I hate that I have to change my schedule because some guy is creepy. It shouldn't be my problem, but it is.

 

I know the people who work there, so I will definitely tell them what's up if he's loitering in the parking lot or something. I'm also thinking about making friends with some of the regular guys I see there. Or at least smiling and nodding like, "hey, you see me? I see you. We're in here a lot at the same time"

 

Luckily, I do have a boyfriend, and he's really sympathetic to this kind of stuff. His first response was something like, "It must suck to be a woman and have to deal with that." 

 

About guys hitting on girls at the gym (in case there are any guys reading this!) it's not a bad idea. When I first started at this gym, one of the guys at the front desk was really nice. He said hello to me every morning. Then one morning around Valentine's he said, joking, "so are you going to be my valentine?" He was a cute guy, fit, with glasses (win win win!) but unfortunately for him I have a boyfriend. So I just told him, "no, I don't think my boyfriend would like that". I still see him every day, he still smiles and says hello. I don't feel uncomfortable at all and I'm mostly just flattered that he was interested. So there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. What happened this morning was definitely wrong.

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I've been at many gyms for a long time.  Mostly men at my current gym.  And once in a while (rarely actually) I get a guy talking to me.

 

Here's the deal.  Some guys are just socially a little awkward and just want to talk.  Honestly, it's probably that guy.  He wants to train for something and maybe is just happy to see someone knocking out the bike.  99% of the time, it's this guy.  Sure, some are creepers but creepers are rare.  He might want a date - not a problem not a creeper. 

 

Most guys who strike up conversations with me in the gym are interested in what I'm doing or interested in trying to "help" me.  Ha ha - I'm talking to you Mr. "You should always use the smith machine".  Ha ha ha.  Well, that guy (who is a "trainer" - ugh the worst kind) used to bug me somewhat regularly.  I think he thought he was helpful.  I think he just wanted the squat rack I was using.  He bugged me on and off for a couple of weeks with things like "why are you doing that combo?" or "you shouldn't pair those moves" or whatever.  Finally one day he came over and started to say something and I said politely but firmly "what makes you think I need or want your help?  Please stop interrupting my workouts."  End of story.  He never bothered me again.  He wasn't a creeper he just thought he was being useful. 

 

I've had other guys stop to talk about my body changes or whatever and they are generally just really wanting to talk fitness with someone. 

 

DO NOT adjust what you are doing (how you enter the gym etc) just b/c a guy talked to you.  That's giving him way to much power.  You do not know he's a creeper so don't let your imagine run away with it.  If he comes to talk to you again simply state "I am working out too hard *gasp gasp* to have this *gasp gasp* conversation.  Please let me finish my workout with my headphones in."  He'll get it. 

 

He probably won't be hanging around.  don't worry about it unless it really happens.  Really. It isn't worth the energy to create that fear. 

 

Lots of people talk to you for all sorts of weird reasons at the gym.  I tell them I'm too busy working out for a chat.  It works, it's true, it's polite.  I've said it to men and women. 

 

I actually had a situation where a trainer was training a client and the client interrupted me mid set (mid lift actually) to ask me how much weight I was lifting.  I finished my lift and replied "I'm lifting what I need to lift.  Sorry, but I need to listen to my music" and tuned her out.  She figured it out.  Rude?  yes Malevolent?  no just had no clue.

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I absolutely agree most people just want to talk- but that guy was a little aggressive- even by gym standards.   Figuring the bikes are out of the way- and he made the effort to come talk to her not once by twice- so he had to leave what he was doing and walk over to her.... fairly annoying/aggresive behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud like- yesterday.

 

I have people come interrupt my dancing to come either hit on me or ask me what I'm doing... which means they have to walk back to the back corner (usually they are there CLOSE by) but then into the aerobics room- which both doors are always closed- and then across the entire floor to come literally stop me from what I'm doing- which is dancing... it can be VERY awkward- sometimes they are cool- sometimes it's weird.  Most of the time I'm like- look I have limited time- come back and chat with me some other time.  I love talking to people but I really need to get the work done.     

 

 

 

as far as gym dating- it seems fine- until things don't go well- then every day you have to walk in and see the guy that you turned down- or he turned you down.    It's a personal policy for me- Never ever ever date at the gym- it's my time.


I'm friends with LOTS of guys there- I talk to LOTS of guys- but I'm there to work.  So AFTER working- I'll catch up but otherwise- get to stepping lol

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That's totally cool if he is just curious and wants to talk. I'll talk his ear off about training if he wants. But what made me uncomfortable was the way he was looking at my body, like slowly looking me up and down. Maybe he was shocked at my ability to sweat all over a bike :P And saying I should give him a call so we can go running. And also, like I-Jo said, the multiple approaches when I'm clearly busy (on the bike, with headphones). The first time he came up to me was out of the blue. I thought he was going to ask about how to adjust a seat or something or if he could change the TV channel. But the second time, he made a point to walk over to my bike from across the gym. However, he did walk right past me on his way out and didn't say anything. So maybe he got his questions answered and he's done with me.

 

I really want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt and not overreact, so I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and see what he does. I really hope he's just a harmless curious gym goer. Otherwise, I'm going with what Cline said, "it's not worth the energy"

 

Thanks for all your comments!

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Maybe he didn't mean to be creepy.  But he was creepy.  Actions have consequences, even if we don't intend those consequences.

 

Maybe no one's ever told him that aggressively checking someone out in a public setting like a gym (or the bus, or work, or grocery store).  But it's not your responsibility to put up with it.  It's also not your responsibility to teach him.

 

If he made you uncomfortable at all -- and he did! -- you are allowed to tell him to leave you alone.  The fact that you didn't say so last time doesn't mean you can't say so next time.  You are NOT obligated to try talking to him again "just in case" he's a nice guy with bad social skills.  A reasonable consequence of creepy actions is not getting to be friends with the people you've creeped on until you can prove you've learned better -- and sadly for unintentional-creepers, that may be impossible.  Oh well for him.

 

I'm not saying be rude to him.  But if he talks to you again, a simple "I'm busy with my workout.  You can see that.  I don't want to talk" is polite, concise, and to the point.

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And if I say something blunt like, "leave me alone", will that make him angry?

 

Who gives a ish if he gets angry? I hate it when guys don't "get the clue." I mean come on, you're not laughing and giggling with him, you're giving him super short answers, and dammit, you JUST WANT TO WORK OUT! Hence - the sweat. That should be enough of a clue to dudes to back the frack up.

 

If you're worried about hurting his feelings - because I know I'm like that too - I worry about being rude to people - just pick another time to go to the gym and avoid him that way? Or another option is to tell him, I'm sorry, but I really wouldn't like to be distracted while I'm working out. I hope you understand - thanks kbye.

 

You don't have to be rude about it - just let him know. I'm sure he'll understand.

 

There's this one dude at the gym who seeks me out to come talk to me. I clock onto him the minute I walk into the gym (thankfully I only see him on the weekends) - and so I take a roundabout way to avoid him. Then he'll wave at me from across the room and I'll give him a slight smile, and look down and keep working. A lot of times - I purposely will go sprinting when he's in the gym because NOBODY ever bothers people when they're sprinting.

 

I hope this issue resolves for you. It sucks when you cannot focus on your training and have to deal with nonsense like this. :wub:

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Ugh... this is all so unfortunate.... and the reason I actively ignore all talking unless they are asking to work in on a machine or rack or inquiring if I am done with something. If they have a question I can answer yes/no, I will if I feel like it outside of the practical ones above. If I'm alternating using something with someone, and they asked nicely to begin with, I'll make the small talk, or even talk about my training if they ask, but if I get any semblance of a weird vibe I tune them out until I am done and moving on to other things. I'm sure I seem rude, but oh well.

 

I once was followed by a very creepy guy while I was running along the coast in Biloxi. He actually got in his car at one point (trail ran parallel to the ocean and a highway) and drove to the next beach parking lot and got back out and sat on a bench. I turned around and ran back to my hotel. It scared me, but also pissed me off because I was powerless to make another decision because the risk was too much. But in the gym, where there are generally lots of other people, I'm not as worried and will ignore people if I need to.

 

I assume your gym has clerks/trainers on staff who would be willing to walk you to your car if there was ever a need. Other than that, I would hope you don't need to change anything about your routine other than possibly telling him you're too busy to talk.

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Maybe he didn't mean to be creepy.  But he was creepy.  Actions have consequences, even if we don't intend those consequences.

 

Maybe no one's ever told him that aggressively checking someone out in a public setting like a gym (or the bus, or work, or grocery store).  But it's not your responsibility to put up with it.  It's also not your responsibility to teach him.

 

If he made you uncomfortable at all -- and he did! -- you are allowed to tell him to leave you alone.  The fact that you didn't say so last time doesn't mean you can't say so next time.  You are NOT obligated to try talking to him again "just in case" he's a nice guy with bad social skills.  A reasonable consequence of creepy actions is not getting to be friends with the people you've creeped on until you can prove you've learned better -- and sadly for unintentional-creepers, that may be impossible.  Oh well for him.

 

I'm not saying be rude to him.  But if he talks to you again, a simple "I'm busy with my workout.  You can see that.  I don't want to talk" is polite, concise, and to the point.

I do tend to have a low threshold for this kind of thing. But something about him really creeped me out. I've had guys talk to me before, approach me, whatever. But for some reason, this guy just really got me.

 

 

 

Who gives a ish if he gets angry?

 

I don't care if I hurt his feelings. What I don't want to have happen is for me to say, "hey man, back the f off" and then he's waiting for me at my car. Or following me to work. I don't want to make someone angry who might express that anger in a violent way.

 

I'm not sure how he didn't notice that I was really uncomfortable because he'd ask me something, I'd answer shortly, then there was a pause where he would stare at me and I would look away or look down or look somewhere else because he was making me so uncomfortable.

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I once was followed by a very creepy guy while I was running along the coast in Biloxi. He actually got in his car at one point (trail ran parallel to the ocean and a highway) and drove to the next beach parking lot and got back out and sat on a bench. I turned around and ran back to my hotel. It scared me, but also pissed me off because I was powerless to make another decision because the risk was too much. But in the gym, where there are generally lots of other people, I'm not as worried and will ignore people if I need to.

 

I used to run on a trail in the early morning hours that is very well lit and very well populated. I was running one morning with my boyfriend (we run in opposite directions because he pisses me off with his speed), so we weren't together. I noticed that there weren't very many people around and then I also noticed that there was a car on the road next to me pacing me. I thought about running the opposite way (it's a one-way), but I saw someone up ahead and I was getting close to the parking lot (lots of people, lots of lights). Of course, it's entirely possible that they were texting and that's why they were going slow and me being there was just a coincidence. However, that feeling of being powerless is so overwhelming and frustrating. This guy at the gym didn't do anything to me but talk to me. Yeah he made me uncomfortable. But he didn't actually DO anything. And so if I say to someone, "look this guy is bothering me", will they think I'm overreacting? Will they believe me? I HATE how something has to happen before it's okay to speak up (and honestly even then it's not well received).

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yup yup yup

 

tell people (male or female - I have a female "stalker" at my gym) to back off.  Figure out a way to say it nicely and politely (so you are comfortable with it - YOU not them) and then be firm and direct and speak loudly enough that people here.  I leave my earphones in as a good excuse and usually say something like "hard to hear you over my music but I'm working out so please don't talk to me", etc.  It works.  It empowers you to be in control of the situation in a way you are comfortable with.  Then again, I also told Mr. Smith machine "what makes you think I want or need your help" and believe me, I'm comfortable being rude.  Told my female stalker I was too busy to chat.

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Since something (probably the way he was checking you out, but possibly something else) signaled the red flag of danger to you, I think it's worth having a chat with some of the staff members.  You can be honest and say that you don't really know if there is a problem, but that you wanted to make sure they were aware that there could be.  They can't watch out for you (and any other clients who might not say anything) if they don't know.  And they'll probably make a point of being around if they see him chatting you up, which they might not do if they thought you wanted to be chatted up, or were already buddies with this guy.

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I do tend to have a low threshold for this kind of thing. But something about him really creeped me out. I've had guys talk to me before, approach me, whatever. But for some reason, this guy just really got me.

 

I imagine he creeped you out because he was staring at you like you were something to have sex with.  We're all used to glances and "check outs" but the staring -- and the following around to stare more! -- are very clearly beyond social limits.

 

If he checked you out briefly, then conversed with you while treating  you like a person, it might have been very different.  But he persisted in the Sex Stare to the point where he could not fully converse with you.  The difference between "check out" and "stare down" is a very, very basic social skill.  He's not excused from having it.

 

I don't care if I hurt his feelings. What I don't want to have happen is for me to say, "hey man, back the f off" and then he's waiting for me at my car. Or following me to work. I don't want to make someone angry who might express that anger in a violent way.

 

I understand the fear he could be waiting for you!  The response to polite "please leave me alone" in bars/on the street is not-uncommonly an escalation.  "HOW DARE YOU ACT LIKE YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME"  etc.  But I think a gym is a relatively safer place to risk that.  Shouty behaviour is unlikely to be tolerated in most gyms.  I'd risk it myself, even though I don't risk it on the road/in bars/etc.

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However, that feeling of being powerless is so overwhelming and frustrating. This guy at the gym didn't do anything to me but talk to me. Yeah he made me uncomfortable. But he didn't actually DO anything. And so if I say to someone, "look this guy is bothering me", will they think I'm overreacting? Will they believe me? I HATE how something has to happen before it's okay to speak up (and honestly even then it's not well received).

Just because it's hard to quantify body language does NOT mean he didn't actually do anything.

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Even if the guy is totally harmless it doesn't mean he wasn't also being creepy; conversation is one thing but the checking you out is not really appropriate behavior and it doesn't matter if he "doesn't mean anything by it" -- he needs to not do that. So I'm with Cline -- if he's bothering you, ask him in a way that you're comfortable with to back off and if he gets it and backs off, great, and if he doesn't, tell the staff.

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Just an update - It's been a week since that guy approached me. I've been at the gym M-F and haven't seen him at all. I always go at the same time, so maybe he just got inspired by watching the finale of The Biggest Loser and went to the gym one random day. This honestly is the best outcome - no confrontation, no stress, I can go back to working out and not scanning the entire gym looking for him to have my guard up. Yay!

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This is actaully why I hate gyms and try to avoid them when I can; guys usually don't talk to me, but I'm painfully shy and am a little scared of having to talk to anyone (males in particular) that I don't know.

 

What usually works really well, is going to the gym with some male friends, no one is going to talk you if you're working with a bunch of guys. Plus your friends can help you with your work out. 

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Update!!

 

I have not seen this creeper at the gym. HOWEVER! I was at Target Friday which is across the street from work which shares a parking lot with the gym. As I'm leaving, I walk out and almost run into someone. When I look up, IT'S HIM! I tried to keep a poker face, but he made absolutely no sign that he recognized me. He was walking towards the gym with his gym bag. I kept looking at him (from behind) to see if he was turning to look at me. I took my time going to my car. He honestly paid no attention to me, and probably didn't even remember me. He just kept walking on his way, paying no attention to me. I was also wearing my glasses (incognito Clark Kent win!). It was weird and I'm still kind of freaked, especially since my boyfriend is gone for two weeks. But I really think he doesn't remember me at all which is excellent. He was probably just hitting on me, and then forgot about me. Woot!

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don't sweat it- if you can adjust to avoid- do so- but I wouldn't alter it too much right now.  It'll warp your brain too much. 

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I think at some point, hitting on women has to be like applying for jobs. You just apply anywhere and everywhere because you never know when someone might call you back. 

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This is why I avoid big box gyms. Too much of a meat market. When the men aren't leering (I've got huge tracts of land, the bouncy kind) I've had women body shaming. Love my current gym where everyone is working so hard no one cares about anything but completing the set!

 

When it happens (out running and stopped at a light, just left the gym, etc) I tend to just say "Sorry, I'm really concentrating on my run and don't have time to talk."

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