Gym PDA Is the Worst PDA

No canoodling at the gym in 2022, thanks

Happy sporty couple giving high five to each other while doing push up or side plank exercise together in gym
Nitat Termmee

Last week, Justin Timberlake capped off 2021’s trove of unhinged celebrity couple behavior with one word: “swolemates.” In a last bit of celebrity cringe content the internet definitely did not need after a year dominated by the likes of Kravis and Machine Gun Foxy, Timberlake posted a video of himself and his wife Jessica Biel cycling through a variety of workouts together to Instagram, declaring them “swolemates” in the caption.

While this is pretty standard annoying celebrity behavior that probably cannot be stopped, there are some lessons for us normals here about what not to do when working out — namely, any couples shit. While I’m sure Jessica and JT were probably being swolemates from the comfort of their private home gym or wherever rich celebrities work out, you and I, non-rich normals, usually have to work out in a public setting, where I can assure you no one wants to see you and your partner getting up to any cutesy swolemate antics. If hitting the gym is among your 2022 resolutions, I beg of you, leave the object of your publicly displayed affections at home.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong, technically, with going to the gym with your partner. Personally, my favorite thing about the gym is that I don’t have to talk to anybody there, but I can understand that some people might like having a gym buddy, and if that gym buddy also happens to be someone you are having sex with, so be it. If that is the case, however, I shouldn’t be able to tell. If you’re working out with a partner, I don’t even want to know for sure if you know each other at all, let alone the nature of your relationship. This means no kissing, no pecks between reps, no suggestive spotting or congratulatory ass pats. None of it.

While I think a good general rule of thumb is that PDA should probably be avoided whenever possible, I’m really not a total prude about it in most contexts. As someone who is a big fan of getting caught up in moments, I have of course engaged in my share of public horniness. PDA is one of those things, like being really loud with your friends at a restaurant, that is amazing for the people doing it and extremely uncomfortable for everyone else. Still, having engaged in my own share of first-date restaurant makeouts, I’m generally willing to look the other way when other besotted lovers seem to be getting a little carried away. At least they’re having fun.

But there’s a difference, to me at least, between committing some tipsy indiscretions in a restaurant booth on a particularly good date and casually canoodling with your partner at the gym. In my opinion, there is a time and place for PDA — or at least a time and place where you can get away with it — and the gym is not it.

For one thing, the gym is already an inappropriately sexualized environment, particularly for women who often have to deal with unwanted advances or otherwise unsolicited attention when they are just trying to work out in peace. Canoodling at the gym with your partner only adds more unnecessary horny energy to a space that’s already filled with a bunch of sweaty strangers, tight clothes and vigorous, rhythmic body movements. Moreover, this kind of amorous behavior further promotes the idea that the gym is an appropriate environment in which to conduct your romantic business, encouraging the kinds of unwanted sexual attention so many gym-goers are hoping to avoid.

Also, the gym is disgusting. I don’t care how fancy your fitness club is or how much your membership costs: if the amount of time gyms were closed during the pandemic can tell us anything, it’s that gyms are gross. To me, kissing in a gym is one step above kissing in a public restroom. (Yes, I know people have sex in public restrooms. That’s gross too, stop doing that.)

More importantly, unlike restaurants and bars or other public settings that are meant to foster a social environment, the gym is a place where the vast majority of people come to focus on themselves. It’s a shared space, but not, in most cases, an inherently social one. If you and your partner are being all coupley during your workout, even if you think you’re being discreet, you’re definitely a distraction.

Look, I get that for some people the gym can be a turn-on. There’s all the exercise endorphins and you and your partner are all sweaty and contorting your bodies and just look at her ass in those leggings! But you’re an adult, control yourself. Go home, take a post-workout shower together and enjoy each other’s sexy #fitcouple bodies in the privacy of your own home, and let the rest of us work out in blissful, uncoupled peace.

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