“I went to a singles fitness class – here's why it's probably best way to date”

Sick of Hinge? Tired of Tinder? Then how about trying a workout class exclusively for singles? Writer Alice Porter gave one a go to see if getting your sweat on with someone can lead to something more than a damp hand towel.

Ask any single person you know and they’ll tell you that meeting new people in 2022 is hard work. Gone are the days of watercooler romances (because most of us work from home now) and getting set up by a friend isn’t only rare but often unsuccessful. Of course, some people meet new partners at a bar or a club, but what if you don’t drink? 

It’s no surprise that most of us single people do most of our dating on apps, with Ofcom’s Online Nation 2021 Report revealing that 1.85 million British people are on Tinder (still the most popular dating app in the UK).

But dating apps aren’t for everyone and there are those of us who’d much rather meet a potential new partner IRL. Enter: Thursday, a company that initially began as a dating app that was only active on (you guessed it) Thursdays. 

The initial premise was that users were able to match with other users and go on a date with them that same day. But the app has become known for its weekly events that are designed to help single folk meet each other. Many of the events are hosted at bars but they also host weekly events at boutique gyms, like Barry’s Bootcamp and 1Rebel, across London. 

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It’s a very good idea… in theory. Going to a gym class is great for meeting new people without the crutch of alcohol and it ensures that whoever you meet has a shared interest in working out and keeping fit. But just how success is the concept in practice?

What happens at a singles fitness class?

The premise is simple: it’s a workout class and everyone’s single. There’s no speed dating or forced social interaction – it’s purely a chance to meet someone.

To see how it works, I took my single self down to one of Thursday’s recent events at Sweat by BXR in Canary Wharf (where I assumed I’d be exercising mainly with finance bros). I arrive at 7:30pm to be informed that 30 minutes have been set aside before the class for attendees to get to know each other. That feels pretty daunting, given the fact that I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve successfully flirted with someone sober.

There are around 20 people in the welcome area about to take part in the class and we’re given a free pre-workout shake to sip on before the class started. I’m convinced that simply holding a drink makes you feel less awkward, even if it’s full of protein instead of Prosecco.

Our class took place at BXR, after a 30-minute ‘getting to know each other’ session.

I put my bag away in the changing room and when I return to the lobby, I’m immediately greeted by two men who start making conversation with me. Clearly, this whole experience is going to be very different to my regular workout experience. One of them starts to flirt straight off the bat, which takes me aback (when was the last time someone complimented you on your smile, as you were limbering up for a sweaty cardio session?). 

It’s definitely weird to be scenario in which everyone there knows you’re single, something I usually keep quiet (because it’s no one’s business). It’s a vulnerable position to be in, but I suppose being vulnerable is the best way to meet someone you have a genuine connection with.

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I end up chatting to one of those guys (let’s call him Alex) for the majority of the time before the class starts, mostly about the gym and fitness interests. And then it’s time for the main event: the versa climbing session – something I’ve never tried before. 

The versa climber is a machine that mimics the natural motion of climbing and allows for a full-body cardio workout. It involves putting your feet into two pedals, one of which is raised and the other one on the floor. Holding onto handles, you move your legs up and down, pushing against the pedals, so your legs switch place with each movement.

I’m on the climber next to Alex and to be honest, it’s a little awkward trying to get set up on the machine knowing someone you’re trying to impress is watching (it’s not the most elegant of positions – one arm stretched in the air, the opposite knee hovering by your waist), but we both laugh it off. Between the instructor, the dark lighting and the pumping music, we don’t get a chance to speak during the class, but that’s probably for the best – who wants to actively flirt when they’re pouring with sweat and struggling to catch their breath?

A good thing about versa climbing is that it’s low impact and targets the entire body, so by the end of the class, I feel like I’ve had a serious cardio workout. Whatever happened romantically, I’ve got something positive out of the experience – which is something you can’t often say after another failed drink date.

After the class ends, there are free smoothies available in the lobby and we’re told that our ticket also includes entry to the Thursday singles event at a bar just around the corner. Alex, however, takes things into his own hands and asks me to go for a drink on our own after the class, so I shower and we leave to find a pub. 

Ending up next to Alex for the class, Alice was then invited to go for a drink.

Are singles fitness events the best way to meet new potential partners?

They’re great ways to meet new people, if you’re really into fitness

The best thing about these classes is that you’re guaranteed to have something in common with the people there so it’s easy to start a conversation – and maintain it – around a subject you’re almost guaranteed to be interested in. While I’m not invested in fitness enough to want a relationship that revolves around weekend Parkrun or CrossFit dates, it’s still a big part of my life. On the night, there weren’t any awkward silences with the people I met.

But if that’s all you have in common, they might not offer long-term success

So, how did my date with Alex pan out? While fitness proved to be enough of a bond to have a drink, it quickly became apparent that was the only thing we had in common. I’d definitely consider going to an event like this again though, as it’s refreshing to meet people who have no idea what your digital presence is like. And it’s pretty good for the ego to be asked out on a date when you’re drenched in sweat post-workout.

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It’s hard to talk to people during a workout, but you can go to classes that involve teamwork

The main downfall to this kind of dating is that it’s almost impossible to interact with other people during the workout. However, Vanessa Hoh, the founder of Work Me Shape Me, who organises many of Thursday’s fitness events says this isn’t always the case: “At an event we do at RowBots, we partner people up so they can work together; sometimes there are group competitive elements.”

In fact, Thursday even offers a game of dodgeball for particularly competitive singles looking for an unusual meet-cute.

There’s no guarantee that there’ll be enough partners to go around

Speaking to some of the other women at the event in the changing rooms, they did note that there were far fewer men than women in the class (there were probably about 14 women and six men). I also noticed that Thursday events like this one seem very heteronormative, with men and women coupling up like they’re on Love Island

However, a representative from Thursday has informed Stylist that they previously ran LGBTQ+ events, including one at Barry’s but decided to stop running them due to lack of demand. They are, however, hoping to restart them very soon. It’s also worth flagging that people of all sexualities are welcome to all of Thursday’s events in theory, but there’s no guarantee that there’ll be anyone who shares your orientation there.

Singles fitness classes: the verdict

Ultimately, I found attending a singles fitness class to be a really positive experience. I had a great workout, a free smoothie and I met a few new people. In fact, Hoh says this is why so many people attend these classes each week: “I always see the same people each week and I know some people have created a WhatsApp group and go to the fitness events together so they’ve definitely formed friendships,” she says.

Images: Getty/author’s own

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