Grace is already blushing. "This all sounds really stupid when I say it out loud," she says. We're sitting on a plush velvet couch, just the two of us, and she's describing her current crush. I want to know how they met. "OK. He set up my weights for me," she sighed. "He'd noticed what I was lifting. It was so chivalrous."
It's Valentine's Day, and if you don't have a sweetheart you may be tempted to reach for your phone and start swiping. But while research shows more and more of us are turning to apps to find someone special (millennials' use of dating apps has tripled in the past 3 years), that isn't the only place where new connections are made. As fitness, sobriety, and wellness continue to rise in popularity, the gym may supplant the bar as our favored meeting spot. "I'm convinced I'm going to meet my husband at the gym. And I'd like for my love story to have that theme," Grace, a 24-year-old Brooklynite, mused. She's not alone. A recent survey by Blink Fitness found that 47 percent of Americans consider the gym a great place to form a romantic connection. One of them is Rachel, a late-20s brand manager living in Manhattan. "You're already in a place where you have common interests with people; you're already doing an activity together. This is essentially a first date. So if you have the nerve to strike up a conversation, it's easy to meet people at the gym." She's met the majority of her partners at Equinox. "Two guys I ended up dating struck up conversations with me while I was weight training. They brought me into their routines. I think that's super sexy because they were teaching me something, and being encouraging, and modifying some things for my needs."
We all care about our fitness and health (no one is doubting that), but according to the numbers our well-being is far from the only reason we lace up our sneakers. Thirty-two percent of Americans say the possibility of meeting someone at the gym motivates them. For Grace that number is higher. "It's half of my motivation for going. Last year, I had a gym inside my apartment building. I never went, because no one was there. I would like to think my fitness is more important than that but there was no, 'Maybe I'll meet somebody.' Then I joined an Equinox and I was there six days a week. The possibility was a motivating factor." And presence of potential partners not only incentivizes us to show up, but it drives us to work harder through our workouts. An attractive guy on the yoga mat next to hers spurs Rachel to push herself just a little further. "It's totally motivating. Nobody wants a quitter!" And it can work. Jamie Krauss Hess, the 36-year-old vice president of a PR company, fell for her husband at Barry's Bootcamp. "During a one-hour class, we fell in love with sweating together. We shot flirtatious smiles back and forth through the mirror while we lifted weights, side-by-side. Eventually when the time came for George to propose, he did so on their treadmills!" Now the duo chronicles the unfolding of their fitness love story on Instagram as @NYCfitfam.