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There are lots of good-looking girls at my gym, and sometimes I’ll see them looking at me, or I’ll make eye contact with them, or they choose to work out close to me when there’s tons of space available. Previously I’ve been told, “Don’t talk to girls at the gym!” (I understand: I fucking hate when people I don’t know interrupt my workouts.) But what if the girl is possibly interested? How do I approach that so I’m not a) an asshole, and b) not ruining their workout because I’m a moron who thought she was actually interested in me?

Well, one answer here is “never.” The other is “carefully, and very selectively.”

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There are not many people, male or female, who want to get into a deep conversation in between squats and lunges. In theory, the gym is an ideal spot to pick up hard-bodied coeds; in practice, not so much. There are two classes of people there: those who begrudgingly go to the gym in order to maintain their dirtbag lifestyles, and those who live at the gym because they are Gym People. I suppose some patrons fall somewhere in the middle, but those people are harder to find, and none of them really want to talk to you, and most of the people in the other two categories don’t, either.

If a woman really wants to talk to you at some point during her workout, she will find a way. Pop on a sleeveless and let your pecs do the talking; let the ladies come to you. Women will approach if they feel so moved. And if not, they’ll keep raging on the elliptical with Drake’s latest in the headphones and Real Housewives reruns on the screen. You don’t want to interrupt that.

Never ever try to talk to someone while she’s on the treadmill or another machine, or, come to think of it, in the middle of doing anything active. It’s rude, and it’s not exactly ideal breeding grounds for a conversation you’re hoping will lead to later conversations and/or breeding. If you’re considering sidling up to a gal on the machine next to hers, don’t. It’s creepy. Besides, if you’re trying to have a profound conversation while you’re on a StairMaster, you’re probably not exerting yourself enough.

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Look, no one wants to talk to you while huffing and puffing on the treadmill. No one wants to talk to you in the middle of a Zumba class, either. (Although, if you’re the type of guy who’s comfortable in a Zumba class, call me.) Striking up conversation at a gym is sort of like striking up conversation at a bar, or the club: Find an appropriate window, and a means that seems natural and unforced. You could be hanging out by the weights, or you could both be waiting on a machine or in line for the water fountain. Find those natural pauses, or those few minutes of Gym Time when you’re not actually exerting yourselves. The opportunity will present itself naturally. If you’re trying too hard, it’s not going to go over well.

Also, never ever comment on a girl’s outfit or general appearance at the gym. To use a fitness term, that’s just bad form. In life, the only time you should comment on a woman’s appearance is to tell her she looks great; in the gym, you should not comment at all, because anything you’re going to say is going to sound skeevy. Whatever your intended approach, if you feel like it might be awkward at all, then just keep your mouth shut, preserve your dignity, and hit the showers.

Image by Sam Woolley.

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Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.