friendship

Confessions from the women who always stand at the front of gym classes.

Image: Beware the Gym Clique. 

The front of every workout class has one: an instructor, a catchy soundtrack, and a cult.

Their ritual is gymtimidation, and their target is a fresh face. While most of us will never progress beyond a snubbed smile, a few souls do make it into the hallowed inner sanctum.

The 7 kinds of people you’ll find at the gym

But, until now, no one really knew what happened inside. Do they host sacrificial burnings of lazy people’s unused gym cards? Do the CrossFitters start Twitter wars against the SoulCyclers? Do they secretly carve trapdoors into the floor of the yoga studio so no one steals ‘their’ spot again?

The rest of us can only watch and wonder what goes on in those cliques...

The only way to know for sure was to ask. Here, nine former-clique members reveal the inner workings of the extreme exercise A-list:

“It was the constant competitive questioning that got me. Always, ‘How many classes have you done today then?’. And not because they were interested, because they had to make sure they’d done more. One girl would do three or four back-to-back, just to have a higher number – even though she was so exhausted by the end that she’d have to keep stopping for water and air.”

"Help: Other women’s bums are making me feel self-conscious at the gym."

“I got let into a clique when I was in the ‘crazy stage’, which many gym-goers go through. It's an intense pressure to do an unhealthy amount of exercise and you won't let anything stop you. If anything comes between you and the gym it leads to feelings of anger, resentment, fear and anxiety. You plan your social life around the gym and feel constantly fatigued, yet HAVE to make those two gym classes. Then when you stop, you look back and go… Sheez, I was actually a bit crazy back then!”

“The clique likes to do EVERYTHING together. They exercise together, they hangout at weekends together, they holiday together. You have to be 100% committed to the togetherness.”

Sound familiar?

“Every member has ‘their’ piece of equipment and ‘their’ space on the floor, exactly like you had ‘your’ seat at the family dinner table. God forbid that anyone else should occupy your place. Territorial doesn’t even cover it.”

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“The real end goal was to befriend the instructors to such an extent that they’d attend social events with you. One person invited the BodyPump instructor to her wedding, even though she barely knew her and had to sacrifice an invite for an old school friend to do so.”

Gym clothes: The things you need, and the things you definitely do not.

“There is a lot of aggression, even within the clique. There’s a very tiered structure. You always get one person who wants to stand the absolute closest to the front; if you get too near them, they’ll give you such an angry look that you actually think they may want to kill you.”

“The key to the clique is the intensity of emotion you have for your chosen sport. To be welcomed in, you have to love it soooo much that you think anyone who doesn’t want to do it 24/7, or talk about it 24/7, is a complete moron.”

“Some people in my old clique liked to do the moves before the instructor even had a chance to cue – just to show everyone else how well they knew the routine.”

“Cliques are a hotbed of sexual frustration and ‘proximity crushes’ – you know, those lustful feelings you get for a guy purely because you see him often. At least two or three clique members would be in direct competition to try to date the instructor. And things got messy. I bumped into one of the teachers when I was having a cigarette outside a bar and he walked past. We spoke for all of five minutes. A girl who liked him saw us, went home crying, and wouldn’t speak to me for a week. It’s exactly like being at school. No. It’s worse.”

Have you ever been part of a gym clique? What was it like? (Be honest...)

Whether you're in the clique or not, you can't deny the gym experience is enhanced by fun workout gear. Like these Running Duds shorts: