How (Not) to Talk to Women


Girls are cannon fodder at the gym. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, but that’s the way it’s always been—and the way it always will be if we don’t stand up for ourselves. Every girl appreciates the well-timed compliment, but there are ways guys can improve the way they go about doing this—and things they shouldn’t be doing at all, ever. The bitch of it all—no pun intended—is that it’s not always easy to figure out how to respond without looking like a brat when things go sideways.

This seems to be a theme with me lately, and I’ve had a whole series of inappropriate, inexcusable, irritating interruptions of my personal gym space and time over the past few weeks. That’s where this piece of writing is coming from: the sense of infuriation I felt after something that happened the other night.

Why We Wear Headphones

Sometimes I’ll hit the gym without my iPod. This happens when I listen to the same playlist too many times in a row—it gets boring—or I forget to charge it. When it’s the playlist thing, I keep it in the bag because I’ll end up wasting time switching music after every set. Occasionally, though, it helps me to focus on my lifting form when I can hear the music and buzz from the gym, and the clatter of weights all around me. The night I’m about to describe was one of these music-free workouts.

My gym is also a busy one, so I typically don’t get harassed the way I would when I trained in a big-box facility. Most people there are very nice, the trainers are terrific, and I don’t go there expecting to run into problems.


“You must be in your early twenties.”

Okay, an innocuous comment where a guy was fishing for a response. That’s fine, but he was bothering me in the middle of a set, so I replied, deadpan, “I’m 34.” There was no smile to go along with this—just a glare at someone who didn’t respect my right to train in peace. This was followed up—and preceded, I’m sure, although I didn’t see it—by some seriously rude ogling. Guys, no matter how much you think you know about women, we don’t appreciate it when this is done so blatantly—when we’ve just met you and we’re standing right in front of you. It’s stupid, it’s gross, and it’s weak.

“Do you compete?”

This isn’t terrible, but if you say this to a girl in the gym, thinking you’re scoring points in some way, you need to think long and hard about your strategy. I understand that this is intended as a compliment, and it’ll surely be taken that way if it’s offered in a sincere and respectful manner.

Let’s say we’ve made eye contact as we’ve passed. Saying something like this is totally cool, but it requires some discretion. There’s a difference between an acknowledgement and a forced acknowledgement. If a girl hears this, then gives you a quick grin with her lips closed, she’s saying, “I see that you’re alive, and I’m acknowledging that, but I’m busy right now.” This means that now is not the time to attempt to disrupt her session.

The same advice applies when I’ve been waiting for the piece of equipment you’ve been using—and vice-versa. This offers an opportunity for a quick interaction, so if you ask a girl whether she competes—or offer some other compliment—that’s fine. Here’s a little tip: If she says no, just say, “Well, you look like do,” and walk away. That indicates to me that you’re not a douchebag—yet, at least. Better yet, if you’re sincere, say, “You train like you do.” This means you might actually know something.

How to Piss Off a Girl

“You have pretty decent symmetry, but you need work on some things.”

Sure. That’s a great thing to say to a girl. Tell me that, or any girl that, and you’re lucky you don’t get bitch-slapped. If you walk up, look me up and down—obviously leering—and tell me all about how you used to be a bodybuilder back in the day, I’m going to look for the nearest exit. If you say something blatantly rude, you’ll get a lot worse back in return.

Seriously, we don’t ask for any of this in the gym, do we? Who needs some washed-up, insecure, Viagra-dependent gym douche making cracks like this? It’s never appropriate to comment on someone’s body—especially that of a total stranger you’re seeing for the first time. If your opinion hasn’t been solicited, you don’t offer it. This, however, doesn’t stop guys in the gym when it comes to women—whom they seem to regard as naïve, vulnerable fish in their barrel.

Think I’m overreacting? I’m not. Nobody has the right to make you feel bad about yourself. Ever. End of story. This happens to women in gyms across the country—I’ve lived on both coasts and I’ve seen it everywhere—and some women get caught up in it, saying to themselves, “Oh, wow. Maybe I need to work on some things to get better.”

You don’t. These people don’t matter. They’re the ones who need to have their heads examined for saying something in the first place. Even if I was a competitor, why would I listen to random advice coming from people hanging out—usually doing nothing at all—in a commercial gym? If I had a competition coming up, I’d be paying a coach to help me get ready for it, wouldn’t I?

These people are strangers. That’s what we need to remember. Someone I didn’t know from a hole in the wall was telling me what he thought was wrong with my body—a stranger offering up unwanted and unwarranted commentary based on a scenario (me competing in a sport I’m not even involved with) that didn’t exist. For men, is your ego that fragile that you have to do that to someone? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Are you compensating for something?

Guess what, grandpa. We’re perfect the way we are.


Men need to understand that women have a hard enough time coming to grips with their body image without crap like this. This is a huge issue with all of my clients, men included. While we’re struggling for our own acceptance of ourselves, we’re also working on gaining strength, power, and precision in our training. This means it’s a bad idea to interrupt anyone in the middle of a set.

The other reason to “bother” a stranger while they’re working out would be to warn them of danger—or possible exposure to gamma rays. Stuff like that. Wait until people are finished.

Courting the Nut Shot

annaWhen that guy said what he did, I wanted to reply, “Excuse me, I just told you I don’t compete, and I have no desire to do so. At no time did I ask your opinion of my body, so I find your comments insulting, degrading, and totally unnecessary. I would like an apology immediately before I kick you squarely in the nuts.” Instead, I just walked away and finished my session—but as I went, one of them said, “Don’t worry. We’ll get you to change your mind.”

Seriously? Change my mind about what? The fact that you’re an insecure little prick that I can outtrain in my sleep? Sorry, man.

Just because a stranger is too ignorant to know they’re insulting you doesn’t mean you need to waste your breath lecturing them. The same applies if they’re doing it to be manipulative, too. Next time, however, I’m not going to stand there and be polite. Headphones or no, I’m going to inform anyone with the balls to interrupt me that I don’t have time to chat.

Ladies, if you don’t do this already, I suggest you take the same approach. If you’re feeling extra nice, let them know they can talk to you after your workout is finished—and not after theirs. And no, this doesn’t make you a brat or a bitch, either. You’re perfect just the way you are, even if you don’t know it yet.