The new way to network: sweating at the gym
By AIMEE BLANCHETTE Scripps Howard News Service
The latest fitness trend, dubbed "sweatworking," lets professionals combine their exercise requirements with the business of the day.
Goodbye, happy hour. Hello, spin class.
Networking while exercising is replacing meeting for drinks for some fitness-minded professionals.
While luncheons, cocktail hours and charity events are mainstays of many in the business community, they come with a price. The schmoozing can pack on the pounds and professional relationships become convoluted after one-too-many martinis.
Some die-hards are addressing this dilemma by mixing networking with working out. The latest fitness trend, dubbed "sweatworking," lets professionals combine their exercise requirements with the business of the day.
"Sweatworking is the new golf," said Tom Manella, vice president of personal training for Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness, where gym members often invite clients to a spin class, then head to the cafe for a nutritional shake and more networking. "It seems like the new way to professionally connect."
There are benefits to entertaining clients at a spin class in lieu of happy hour: Business owners report increased productivity and creativity from their employees. And the health-conscious employees say that in the midst of all that sweating, huffing and puffing, they're building deeper, more meaningful relationships with each other.
"It's like an adult field trip," said Kelly Miyamoto, founder of The Firm in Minneapolis, a popular gym for business-oriented workouts. "You're getting people out of the office, engaged in an activity and building relationships. The cellphones and the email all disappear. ... When else do you find that in our culture now?"
At Coherent Solutions, a software-development business headquartered in Minneapolis, at least a dozen of the office's 30 employees gather twice a week for a run during the workday in preparation for the Tough Mudder, a 10- to 12-mile race with obstacle courses.
The company's CEO, Igor Epshteyn, is an exercise guru and stands behind the team's upcoming goal, even footing the bill for everyone to train at The Firm once a week under trainer Snype Myers.
Coherent's recruiter, Trina Thornton, likes the approach so much that she's started conducting portions of interviews outside of the office over walks or jogs around a lake. Whether potential clients agree to go for a run doesn't make or break the decision process, Thornton said, but "it speaks volumes if they want to."
A few months ago, Julie Gilbert Newrai, a busy entrepreneur with her own Minneapolis-based firm, passed on working with a potential partner when he backed out of a planned workout.
"It's like truth serum," Newrai said. "When you're in a tough situation and sweating and exhausted, do they pick it up? Do they have fun? Or do they look at you like they hate you? It gets to the heart of the matter -- how well you're going to work together -- much more than exchanging margaritas."
Sweatworking is reminiscent of the managing style of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, who preferred to conduct meetings over a walk outdoors instead of sitting at a conference table.
But for those looking to sweat a bit more, spinning is the most popular corporate workout. The exercise takes place on stationary bikes and accommodates all ages and fitness levels. Spinners start together and end together, and work at their own pace. Yoga, Pilates and small-group training are also popular.
A growing body of research shows that physical activity increases brain activity and creativity, so many companies believe sweatworking is good for their bottom line. Plus, from an economic standpoint it's a more sound decision. The cost of a spin class and a shake is far less than dinner and cocktails.
But how does one get past the weirdness of grunting, panting and sweating in front of colleagues?
"That can be a barrier," Miyamoto said, "But if you get out of your environment and onto a neutral playing field where everyone is in the same boat, engaged in an activity and following the lead of a trainer ... it eliminates the awkward exchange between two co-workers."
One of the obvious factors for feeling awkward while working out with a cubicle mate is seeing the person don a pair of short shorts and a revealing sport-bra top. When working out in a professional setting, the experts suggest choosing attire that's age-appropriate and tasteful. In other words, save the holey T-shirts for that weekend paint job.
Courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service