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'Sweatwork' your way to the top

Date

Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

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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?

15 comments so far

  • This is absurd. How can you think and talk rationally when you are huffing and puffing during the workout. On that point, why do they interview sports people who have just finished their race....they're huffing and puffing and can't even speak to answer questions.

    Commenter
    Just4Kix
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 28, 2012, 1:11PM
    • It's not just the walking & talking, it's also the time after the workout.

      I don't "sweat work" (WTF!) but I do walk every Saturday with a bunch of blokes. It's an hour & a half of serious fast-paced walking up Mt Cootha...and you can have a conversation while exercising.

      If you were riding a bike I'd agree with you but not all exercise leaves you speechless.

      Besides, we have a few beers after the walk and that's always good for a bit of male bonding.

      Commenter
      Joey
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 28, 2012, 2:04PM
    • When I was working 80 hour weeks every week for months at a major tech company, the weekly racquetball 1-on-1 meetings with my manager were pretty much the only chance for exercise that I had. AS optimal as a face to face sit-down? No. But I would not at all say it's ineffective for communication, even though racquetball can get fierce. A break during the day that was not entirely unproductive was likely a good thing for my performance for the week, since it was a rare chance to do something other than commute, work, eat and sleep. Most of her staff took her up on the offer of 1:1 meetings at the gym for the same reason. We sometimes also held staff meetings at the basketball court. (And no, I'm not a jock. To look at me, you'd think this would be the last thing I'd want to do. But I enjoyed it anyway.)

      Commenter
      Carole
      Date and time
      August 29, 2012, 9:55AM
  • What’s the public liability risk of all this?! Not talking about my concerns related to sports injuries, what about the trauma of seeing a client/supplier/colleague bending, sweating profusely & heaving away in spandex? That could be quite damaging.

    Commenter
    Pub-lunching Paul
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 28, 2012, 1:12PM
    • What a load of shite. Yet another scheme cooked up with a management-speak label so the corporate sheep can latch onto it. Are these people incapable of organising their own lives???

      Commenter
      aquaman
      Date and time
      August 28, 2012, 1:20PM
      • Well said Aquaman, more dumbed down buzz activities for a dumbed down society! Maybe someone should run a course in teaching these guys how to lateral think, but then if they have to be taught to lateral think, they're not ever going to amount to much anyway! P'haps just leave them where they are, follow the leader!
        The scary part is that these guys seem to be, ''incapable of organising their own lives'', and they are running busineses.

        Commenter
        Alex
        Date and time
        August 28, 2012, 1:46PM
        • A clearer indication of a dumbed down society is the way that the herd jump at any opportunity to have a dig at people who don't fit into their mould of how people should act, work and live. Corporate culture has conditioned those that work within it that your contribution boils down to hours worked and that meetings have to take place in your tie, in a formal environment with bad lighting and no natural source of air. It's not really about being incapable of managing your time but being able to be a bit more productive in your day. If someone has come up with a novel way of finding time to squeeze in a few extra hours of exercise a week and still get the work done then good on them.

          If I was asked to choose whether I wanted to work for someone who can't find time for a run or someone who refuses to acknowledge a good idea behind a wanky management phrase without turning to generalisations and the usual SMH blog mud-throwing I know who I would choose.

          Commenter
          Greg
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          August 28, 2012, 6:31PM
        • Well Greg each to his own employment criteria. I'd prefer to employ someone who chose not to ride the herd carousel and was prepared to step out of his box and manage his own life and lifestyle. Like 'berihibi' posted, ''if your life is too busy to have balance then you really should just change it." Get off the train!

          Commenter
          Alex
          Date and time
          August 29, 2012, 10:18AM
        • @ Greg, no it's more than just a wanky management phrase - it's an impractical idea. You cannot conduct business properly while doing exercise, simple as that. And I agree with Alex, if a prospective employee cannot all ready fit exercise (and wants to) into their life you have to question their organisation skills.

          And as with many management concepts, as Rocket Surgeao points out below, there is nothing new or novel about this, someone has just re-boxed the idea in wanky package to try to make money.

          Commenter
          aquaman
          Date and time
          August 29, 2012, 11:10AM
      • Look Look!!!! Internet whingers! Shock Horror!

        Commenter
        Deano
        Location
        Brissy
        Date and time
        August 28, 2012, 1:57PM

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