How to mix fitness with business
If you are reading this blog, chances are you’re a multi-tasker. Like me, you probably wear many hats, often at once: ambitious professional, mom, fitness enthusiast (or at least trying to be), and any number of other roles. If I can wear my “professional” and “fitness enthusiast” hats at the same time, so much the better.
You may have heard the term “sweatworking,” i.e., the marriage of networking and exercise. Recently, I tried sweatworking for the first time, at a conference where the organizer offered group runs, yoga, and bootcamp to participants. Here is what I learned.
Give it a try: Intimidated by the thought of potential clients seeing you in Spandex? Just jump right in. It’s the same principle as walking into any other networking event with strangers, only you and your potential contacts will be focused on the activity, minimizing the awkward lulls in conversation.
Dress for success: The old adage, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” doesn’t quite apply here, unless you really want to be a fitness instructor. But save the ripped tees and baggy shorts for your basement. If you have high-end fitness apparel, wear it, but a quick refresh from Target will do the trick. As with any networking event, you want to look like someone who has her stuff together.
Do what works for you: If you currently have trouble touching your toes, chances are it’s not a good idea to invite that potential new client to a yoga session. While you don’t have to be on the pro circuit, you should be able to hold your own in whatever activity you’ve chosen. That said, don’t worry if you’re not in top form. If it’s a group session with no advance info on the participants, the organizer will probably account for a wide range of experience. When in doubt, you can always call ahead and see what level you should have. On the other hand, you should probably leave any cut-throat tendencies at home. Even if you know for sure your fellow participants are up for a little friendly competition, “win at all costs” is not your best look.
No to new…maybe: The corollary to the last point is that this is probably not the time to try something new…unless your potential contact is a newbie with a sense of adventure, too. If you know that, by all means go for the rhythmic gymnastics class you’ve been meaning to try. Who knows? The camaraderie could lead to a productive business relationship.
Bring your cards, but don’t sell: If the purpose of the outing is business – even if it’s disguised in a tank top and shorts – don’t be afraid to talk shop. But remember, there is a reason you skipped out on that cocktail party in favor of a sweat session. Give your elevator pitch if you must, brainstorm about collaboration with the person on the next bike, but know when to move on. While your fellow sweatworkers are probably interested in your business, it’s just as likely they are interested in knowing whether you are a decent human being they could work with. As with most business interactions, the rule of thumb is to use your common sense.
No one size fits all: This experience has caused me to look at new and creative ways to engage with contacts. There is more than one way to “sweatwork.” I would certainly do a group class like this again. Maybe it’s the casual ease of workout clothing among a sea of suits or knowing we were all interested enough in fitness to wake up early and add yet another commitment to an already packed schedule. Whatever it was, I found that the connections were more genuine than those that attendees may otherwise have with each other at a large conference. But I also would consider skipping the cocktails for a hike or checking out a new class with an individual networking contact.
To me, sweatworking is a win-win. You’ll fit in a workout, and just might land a new contact. No awkward chatter required.