For Reid Shaffer, hitting the gym is about more than just physical exercise — it’s an excuse to flex his social muscles too. By design, the gym presents plenty of opportunities to break the ice, the 25-year-old says; ask a stranger to spot you on a bench press or inquire about another gym-goer’s gear. These conversation starters have served him well: Shaffer, the general manager of a landscaping company in Farmington Hills, Michigan, has made several friends via gym small talk.
But when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered gyms, among many other non-essential businesses, to close their doors last March, Shaffer began to feel anxious and without an outlet to fulfill his social needs. “It’s a lot of missed connections and interactions that you could’ve possibly had,” Shaffer says.