Sweatworking: work and fitness all at once.

Sweatworking: work and fitness all at once. Photo: Quentin Jones

Too busy to squeeze some fitness training into your life? How about adding some muscle multi-tasking or swapping liquid lunches for Lycra to join the latest networking craze sweeping London, New York and now our very own Melbourne and Sydney.

The phrase 'sweatworking' was coined in a New York Times article by Courtney Rubin, who observed an increasing number of business professionals skipping the traditional expensive dinner or boozy lunch and taking clients to the gym or for a jog around the block, followed by a healthy meal and a more informal chat about business.

But why? Well, at the risk of adding to my ever-growing list of corporate buzzwords, ‘sweatworking’ might just be the solution the corporate world is looking for. (I know, I know – I can already hear more buzzwords brewing from this blog – ‘spin-spin situation’, ‘let’s raise the (Olympic) bar’, ‘earn while you burn’ and can you believe I even sneaked the term ‘muscle multi-tasking’ into the first paragraph? Sorry about that.)

In my opinion, busy execs need to change their mindset when it comes to achieving a work life balance - which means it is time to stop creating excuses and begin building physical activity into their lives.

I was a personal trainer for most of my twenties so the notion of mixing business with fitness is second nature to me. I’ve always understood the benefits of combining fitness and business to help build relationships and grow a business.

To this day, I still believe it’s one of the best ways to interact with clients. Every Friday morning I have a corporate cycle squad in Centennial Park, and this has become the favourite part of my working week. Seriously.

But I’m not the only one enjoying the benefits of ‘sweatworking’.

Rob Tripodi, owner of the Corporate Fitness Club in Melbourne has noted a recent trend with his executive clients.

“More of my fitness club members are asking if they can invite a customer to a class and then take them for a healthy bite to eat afterwards. Some clients are going as far as having their PA schedule internal meetings at the gym so while smashing a spin bike they can chat about work-related issues.”

Former Australian Ironman surf lifesaving champion and successful entrepreneur Guy Leech, has been tapping into the notion of ‘sweatworking’ for years.

“Ever since I started my first fitness business, I’ve mixed business with health and fitness. More of my corporate clients are prioritising time to train with other like-minded people and I’m seeing more team building activities based on fitness, compared to the old strategy of getting everyone plastered in the pub”.

Interesting idea, right? So, last month, armed with a new way of persuading some of my unfit coaching clients to engage in more physical activity, I thought I’d put the notion of ‘sweatworking’ to the test.

Client: “But Andrew, I just don’t have the time to fit in regular exercise. I’m just too busy”.

Me: “Are you telling me that in the 168 hours you are given every week, you can’t fit in one or two hours of physical activity?”

Client: “Nope, none. When I factor in work, time with my family, catching up on emails every night and going to a couple of networking/industry events each week, there’s absolutely nothing left”.

Me: “Well, what about the idea of cancelling one of your weekly networking events (often code for a free piss up), getting off your backside and substituting this with a fitness activity?

"How about even getting a few of your clients/potential clients together and taking them for a kayak on the harbour, a bike ride early one morning or locking them in to a four-week yoga class? You can try building your relationships in a more creative way, other than over the traditional cocktails, party pies and hors d'oeuvres”.

Client: “Ok, maybe I can try something. But I’m going to need a few weeks to get it organised”.

Me: "How about at least starting with what Tim Wilding from CommInsure calls a ‘walk and talk’. Look at substituting one of the meetings you have with staff or clients most days of the week and rather than sitting down and guzzling coffee and cream cakes (his words, not mine), go for a walk, get some fresh air and a dose of sunshine and have the conversation while you move”.

While I didn’t get the immediate win I was looking for, I did receive a message last week from the very same coaching client, who is now squeezing in at least three ‘walk and talks’ each week.

 “Your stupid idea is costing me a fortune. I’ve already lost a belt size and if this keeps going I’ll need a new wardrobe”.

Well, better a new wardrobe than be encumbered by the myriad of unhealthy repercussions that a sedentary lifestyle can and will cost you.

So go on, get on your bike, kayak, running track or yoga mat and see if you too can blend business with fitness. Or at the very least, cancel the meeting in the stuffy boardroom, where you meet with the same people about the same things at the same time each week and lock in a 'walk and talk'.

What do you think - is ‘sweatworking’ just a passing fad? Or is it a solution to help busy people make money and manage their waist at the same time?