Is It Ever Ok to Hit on a Woman at the Gym? Yes, Here’s How.

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Ask any woman if she has a horror story about a weird interaction with a man at the gym, and she’ll probably laugh and say, “Just one?” Sadly, men don’t have the best reputations for gentlemanly gym conduct. And just because you don’t think you’re one of the bad guys, the behavior of your y-chromosome-bearing buddies is giving all of you a bad name. So instead of treating the gym like a meat market, use these tips to become the kind of gym guy women enjoy being around (and maybe even get a phone number).

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Take Care of Your Personal Hygiene

It shouldn’t have to be said, but please put on deodorant and check your breath before sweating and panting your way through the weight room. “I workout at Crunch,” says Kathi Elster, an executive career coach in New York City, “and my biggest issue with men is when they don’t wear deodorant and they stink up the whole room.”

It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone, male or female, and it’s really not that hard to throw on a swipe or two of your Speed Stick. But please, don’t try to mask your male musk with a bucket of cologne — too much scent of any kind is a surefire way to send women scattering.

Clean Up After Yourself

There’s not a woman in this world who wants to use that nasty-ass bench you just drenched in sweat. Aside from earning you the “gross and inconsiderate” title, this bad habit isn’t helping your pick-up game. “If a guy is at the gym hoping to pick up a woman, she will never date the gross pig who doesn’t clean up after himself,” Pam Sherman, a personal trainer, says. “This goes for re-racking weights as well. If you don’t clean up at the gym, you certainly don’t do it at home.”

Stop the Creepy Staring

Try not to stare at all. Very few women enjoy feeling like they’re being mentally undressed by strangers. But if you can’t help doing a double-take when you see a beautiful woman, avoid turning it into the creepy, blank-faced stare that Liz, a 27-year-old marketing manager, says was enough to make her cancel her gym membership. “I’ve transitioned to workout classes that cost five times as much, but I was tired of feeling like guys were watching my every move,” she says. Creepy staring is not OK. Keep it classy and stick to normal, brief eye-contact and a quick smile or hello.

Respect a Woman’s Workout Just as You Would a Man’s

Sexism is alive and well at the gym, where some men assume that the fact that they’re a man means that: 1) their workout is more important than any woman’s, 2) they know more about getting in shape than any woman, and 3) they have the right to interrupt or interfere with a woman’s workout under the guise of being “helpful.” None of these are true.

“I was squatting with a weighted barbell once, and this guy walked up behind me to give me advice about my form,” says Chavonne Hodges, an AFAA-certified fitness professional. “As a fitness pro, I knew my form was correct, but I let him talk. After he finished yapping, he stood behind me like a creep and watched me squat for the next five minutes, then asked me if I wanted to grab dinner with him after I was done. I declined.”

Pick Up On Non-Verbal Cues

Some women are open to starting conversations while working out. Some women aren’t. If a woman smiles or says hi, she’s giving you the go-ahead to engage in small talk. If, however, she’s wearing headphones, avoiding eye-contact, and is completely engrossed in what she’s doing, don’t interrupt her. “I had a guy interrupt my HIIT workout to offer me a protein bar that he ‘happened to buy an extra’ of,” says Julianna Eldemire, founder of The Corso Code. “Then he stood there until I felt awkward enough to take it.” In this instance, the gesture wasn’t terrible, but the timing was poor. When a woman’s focused on her workout, don’t break her focus.

Be Smart About Your Pick-Up Tactics

While it’s true the gym is a good place to meet singles with similar interests, you need to leave the catcalls and awkward pick-up lines behind you.

Alexandra Allred, a longtime fitness instructor, suggests you try bonding over your workout, instead. “Come to class and choose a spot near the woman you’re interested in so your conversation can be about the workout,” she says. It’s harder in non-class settings. But it’s still possible. “Rather than try to correct a woman’s form, say something like, ‘That’s a tough one.’” The key is to treat her as an equal and to talk about something other than how good she looks in her yoga pants.

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