Last Saturday in Sydney was a stunner – the perfect fusion of sun, waves and clean air. After a 5am wake-up to watch a few hours of golf from the US Masters, I felt the call of Australia's most beautiful run, Coogee to Bondi Beach.
I ran. I ran hard. The only thing that stops me on days like this are dogs, because I love them more than people. I saw a beauty, and I wanted to give it a pat - at first I hardly noticed the woman owning the lead.
She spotted my Chicago baseball hat, and said 'Oh hey, I'm from Chicago too.' I looked up and … wow. For the moment I forgot all about the run and the pooch. She had my full attention and I wanted to do something about it. But how?
I know there'll be howls of protest from some about turning an exercise situation - whether at the gym or out in the open air - into an attempt to 'pick up'. But really, just because you're exercising shouldn't necessarily mean that admiration is off limits, or even a respectful approach.
It's a grey area, though, so it's worth laying down some ground rules for any exercise-related engagement. Here are my top five:
1. Pick the right opportunity
Stalking them into Zumba class won't work, and your out-of-step moves aren't the way you want to grab their attention. Additionally, when they have just finished 20 burpees in a CrossFit WOD isn't the time to start chatting. Approach as they're bouncing on the treadmill? Zero chance.
Be patient. You might have to wait a few weeks to bump into them on the way into (or leaving) the gym. You might see that special someone at the coffee/juice shop close by, or maybe at the local wine bar close to the gym on Friday night.
Smile, relax, and then approach … "Hey, I recognise you from the gym. I'm Mike."
2. Keep it classy
This one's for the guys in particular. Don't do pick-up lines in the gym, or you risk scoring a serve of Dutch Chocolate protein shake all over your Hulk Hogan singlet. Keep it classy, Australia – be a man, not a Wicked campervan.
3. Repeat after me: 'less macho, more humble'
Guys again: yes, the women who are interested have already clocked your guns, chest and abs. So too much show, too much grunting, and you'll hear the snickering. Tone it down. Be modest if you want to gain respect and attention.
Ladies: wearing teensy slips of Lycra while taking 'gelfies' (gym selfies) to grow your Instagram fan base isn't cool. Your fellow gym-goers will take you about as seriously as a Kardashian. And nobody deserves that.
4. Watch the whiff
Top up the deodorant and make sure your clothes are clean and not full of holes. A bit of gym sweat won't cause dramas because a man or woman doing something for their health is attractive. But if eyes are watering around you, abort that approach and hit the showers instead.
5. Be open to it
I know the comments are coming: "I'm not at the gym to meet somebody."
Really? Why not? You can meet a new friend, date or lover anywhere. The gym is loaded with people with whom you already have something in common - care for your health and body.
If someone wants to say hello and respectfully compliment you on your smile or fitness passion, where's the harm? Absorb it with a smile, and be kind in return.
But what happened?
The suspense is killing you. I know you're wondering. How did I go with Miss Chicago?
For 15 minutes, we walked, we chatted ... and then?
I blew it. Fear of rejection won, and I wussed out. Instead of asking for her phone number, I said "Hey, if you fancy a drink sometime, add me to Facebook… my surname is J-A-R-O-S-K-Y." And off I ran.
Facebook? Nerves morphed me into a dorky 12-year old. And off the cuff, nobody's going to remember my weird surname. As expected, my 'friend request' notices are crystal clear.
My last tip is this: Do as I say, not as I do. And do it with confidence.
Have you met people while exercising that you became friends with or dated? What should or shouldn't you do?