I’m doing tricep dips next to a very attractive man who is very clearly not into this or me. You see, he doesn’t really want to be here, he tells me, but his friend convinced him. He’s an actor, but he won’t tell me what shows or commercials I might have seen him in. Maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll tell me later, he says. As I struggle to lift my coffee mug-sized kettlebell up and down behind my head, he glances at me with piercing eyes. His hulking muscles flex. He chuckles. He lifts his bigger kettlebell with as much effort and nonchalance as you'd lift a toothbrush from its place on your bathroom vanity.
“Ok switch!” A fitness instructor yells in our direction.
My sweet Adonis of a man and I bid each other adieu, and I declare that the worst and shortest date that I've been on (it lasted two minutes). We were paired up by Love at First Switch Fitness Speed Dating, which is put on by the fitness studio chain Switch Playground. At these events, you’ll meet 20 partners for a couple of minutes over the course of an hour. The twist? You’ll do all of this while sweating it out at different workout stations. Per the Switch Playground model, you rotate around and do different activities together, including planks, squats, and the elliptical. Ideally, you’ll lock eyes with someone nice while doing sit ups, and maybe even fall for someone who loves getting swole as much you do. The drenched-in-sweat dating escapades take place about once a month for heterosexual people hoping to be paired up, while events for same sex couples occur about every six weeks.
I’m happy to say that, after my lackluster experience with my kettlebell boo, things got better — although the men got sweatier. I had some decent conversations with some good looking people. One guy even complimented my leggings. But the longer we held a plank, the more the conversation dropped off.
Steve Uria, Switch’s founder, explains that the vision for this special class was to give people a shared experience and take the “discomfort out of blind dates."
“You can tell a lot about a person from the way they exercise,” Uria adds. “When it comes to dating, the first step is having something in common, which, in this case, is a mutual likeness for exercise.”
Fifty-year-old Uria says he hopes that some of the people who meet at Switch speed dating will get their happily ever after. Just like he and his wife of 23 years did. The pair met through mutual friends in Los Angeles after he immigrated there from South Africa. They were friends first. Then she asked him to come along with her on a trip to Las Vegas. He says she was a nanny at the time, and the child’s parents wanted her to accompany them on a trip to Sin City. She told them Uria was her cousin visiting from South Africa so that he could come along. “We spun this story, and I had to learn who her mom and dad were so it would be convincing,” he recalls. “We weren’t even seeing each other yet, but once we got to Las Vegas, it was like we were this couple with a kid at the pool. It just happened.”
His best advice for couples: Communication is key. “I do believe that honesty and communication and transparency will help you,” he says. “But the main thing is communication — that’s the thing that will keep you connected.”
For the record, communication can be a little tricky at some of the Switch stations. For example, you might be too out of breath to talk to your partner on the treadmill. There’s also a boxing station, and it’s pretty weird to have small talk about your favourite restaurants as you punch a bag. Trust me. Another thing I noticed about this fast-paced dating method is that you can only ask people what they do and where they’re from so many times. After a while, I started switching up my questions (pun intended). I asked men what their most brutal workout ever was (one dude had done a marathon), and if they’d met anyone interesting in this class (one guy told me he met a girl who ran into her boss at this event).
As far as picking up partners at something like this, I do have a few tips. The time to stake out your claim is in the opening stretch. Everyone lines up on yoga mats at the beginning with the lights up, and this is a great time to assess who in the crowd is cute enough for you, and who looks like they’ll talk your ear off about Wall Street banking. Judging a sweaty man by their cover may not be right, but it’s efficient.
Uria told me multiple couples have met at Switch and a few have even gotten married. But when it came to couples from the speed dating event, no one at Switch could connect me with any one who would go on the record about their experiences.
With that said, I can see how all this could work. After the workout, there’s a mixer with healthy snacks and juices (no alcohol though). I actually reconnected with a guy I’d met on the treadmills, and hadn’t been able to talk to much, due to all the huffing and puffing. We hit it off, and ended up going to a bar after the class (with a friend of mine who was also at the event and met a guy!).
I’m not saying you’ll fall in love, but you might meet someone interesting — if you can keep your mind open and look past their sweat stains.