When people ask me why I don’t have a boyfriend, I immediately tell them that it’s because I don’t have time to date. The fact that I write so much on the Internet about being single (on top of the vagina steaming and public armpit sniffing) probably isn’t doing me any favors, but I choose to blame my singlehood on scheduling. So, when I got an e-mail that Switch Playground—a workout studio in NYC—was hosting a speed dating event on a recent Friday night, I was obviously in. A Friday night activity that allowed me to multi-task a workout with a singles mixer? Hell, yes. In New York City, we’re nothing if not efficient.
By nature, Switch Playground’s format lends itself fairly seamlessly to meeting people. It’s a partner-based sweat sesh in which pairs rotate through 20 exercise stations, spending two minutes at each before moving on. In a normal class, you stick with the same partner for the full hour, but at the mixer you got a new partner at every interval to maximize efficiency. So over the course of the class, I had the chance to cycle through 20 different stations and 20 different potential husbands.
“I believe Switch Playground lends itself to the perfect opportunity to meet someone by sharing the experience together and having fun,” says Steve Uria, the founder of Switch and mastermind behind the event. “It removes the awkwardness of conversation and brings you right to a state of elevated endorphins and happiness, the perfect opportunities to meeting someone.” Add to that the fact that you already know that you and the person you’re meeting have at least one thing in common (you both like working out), and it certainly does feel more targeted than, say, chatting up a stranger in a bar.
Cut to Friday night at 7:45 p.m., with me in my skimpiest push-up sports bra (I figured if I was going to be sweaty and, like, probably smell, I may as well look hot). I threw my hair—which, yes, I washed, blow dried, and straightened before my workout—into an effortless-looking French braid that took me an exactly un-effortless 17 minutes to perfect, and mentally prepared myself for some seriously awkward conversations.
All 90-plus attendees were instructed to find a mat for the warm-up next to someone of the opposite sex (FWIW: This was a straight mixer, but in the future, there will be mixers for the LGBTQ+ communities). “Don’t be shy! It’s just like the first day of high school!” said trainer Jeff Blue, and, frankly, he wasn’t wrong. Everyone mulled about uncomfortably until settling into their spaces, which was not unlike what I remember from walking into 9th grade. I found a spot next to a guy who introduced himself as “Doug.” Doug did not seem particularly interested in knowing anything about me aside from my name, so we were off to a great start.
After the warmup, we made our way over to station number one, which for me involved resistance bands and a series of different squats. My partner—a nice guy who lived on the Upper East Side and works in finance—did the whole “what’s your name, where are you from, where do you live, what do you do” dance before the conversation lost steam and we both decided to stop talking and focus on our workouts. At the end of the two-minute circuit, I high-fived him and wished him luck.
This basically continued for the next 19 stations, though for what it’s worth I’m pretty sure it was my fault. I couldn’t quite figure out what proper flirting etiquette was while someone was trying to lift weights, so I did this weird thing where I’d introduce myself and then stand there waiting for them to keep the conversation going. More than a few of my partners had no interest in talking at all, which was weird, considering they had chosen to spend their Friday night at a singles mixer where the whole point was to try and meet someone.
And according to science, all signs point that this could’ve been the once-in-a-lifetime, love-finding stuff of rom-coms. Time and time again, research has shown that fitness is a way to strengthen bonds, increase affection, and deepen friendship. So, with all of this evidence on my side, I was optimistic.
In theory, sure, science you win. In practice, not so much. As I quickly learned, it’s not so easy to focus on getting to know someone while you’re also focused on doing a proper crunch, throwing a medicine ball into the air, trying not to fall off of a curved treadmill. And, as I also quickly learned, I apparently just suck at flirting. “Wow, look at that form!” “I see you workin’ it with those heavy weights,” and “I don’t usually get into this position until the third date” were all actual phrases that came out of my mouth, to (surprise, surprise) no avail. (Forget the vagina steaming—maybe that’s why I’m single?)
Did I leave the event with a four-carat engagement ring on my finger? Um, no. But I did have exactly three interesting conversations, which is two more than I’ve had with guys in bars over the course of the past six months, so that’s certainly saying something. And I did make tentative plans for a future workout date with one guy, who I’ve been texting with since the event. Plus, I got a really tough workout in, so can chalk it up to a productive hour of my life—in more ways than one.
Think you’ve left the days of workout singles mixers behind you? Here’s how to know you’ve found the one. And here’s how dating apps closed the coffin on meet-cutes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.