Some hybrids are unexpectedly delightful (the Cronut) while others are less inspired(bacon-flavored toothpaste). I was recently tasked with a challenge: to find out where sweatworking falls on the continuum of unconventional mergers.
Sweatworking, as its name suggests, is the combination of a physical activity — running, yoga, indoor cycling — with networking. The trend has been touted as a way to strengthen communication, overcome workplace obstacles and avoid the stilted pretenses of traditional networking events.
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Sweatworking can take many forms: Hotels or clubs may lead local business leaders on runs, or gyms and companies like SoulCycle and FlyWheel may host a handful of employees who want to bond before work over stationary bikes and breakfast.
Forget alcohol. Endorphins are the new social lubricant. Because sweatworking has gone full Tae-Bo in its trendiness, this intrepid (or not) reporter was game. I was drawn to the two-birds-with-one-stone aspect: At the very least, I could get in a run while technically working. Would it actually be easier to talk to people, or would we all socially floundering in the same schvitzy boat?
My sweatworking event of choice was a 5K run. Chris Heuisler, national RunWestin conceirge (the West Times Square sponsored the event) compared the trend to a modern day game of golf —you might keep your focus on the green, but a lot of schmoozing happens while riding around in the cart.
In short, I survived. Here’s what I learned.
You don’t need to be networking while working out
After a group stretch, we set off from the Westin on 43rd and 8th Avenue, running a few harrowing blocks while dodging tourists in the cesspool that is Times Square. The first person I spoke with was a lovely woman who does wholesale marketing for Joe’s Coffee. We didn’t need anything to break the ice — talking just felt natural as we kept the same stride. Though I can’t call it a legitimate career connection, we talked about Brooklyn, I and promised that if she got Joe’s Coffee into my local food co-op, I’d buy it.
It’s a good excuse to switch up your routine
After six years living in New York, I’m still pleasantly surprised when something makes the city feel brand new again — and switching up my running routine did just that. Counting the city blocks as we made our way from the 40s to the 20s and back was surprisingly satisfying. One common networking gripe is that if you don’t meet anyone, you’ve wasted your time. Even before got to back to the hotel bar, I felt accomplished — at the very least I got a workout in. Is it awful to say the best part of sweatworking so far was getting to spend time in my own head?
Being alone together is the best of both worlds
By the end, I felt my face turning tomato red. A momentary flash of insecurity hit, and then I noticed the guy in front of me. His shirt is drenched. I feel slightly better about myself. At a stoplight, I introduced myself to another runner who did social media analytics for large companies. Again, while I can’t call it a traditional connection, I learned about social analytics, which inspired me — I’m a journalist who tracks her posts — to be more tech savvy. Together, we huffed toward the finish line.
Ultimately, it’s less awkward than standing around drinking
One of my primary concerns about sweatworking was the sweat aspect. To my surprise, everyone seemed comfortable and cared less about their appearance than I anticipated. When the official networking began back at the hotel bar, staff passed out towels, fancy cocktails and superfood snacks — nuts, dried fruits, trendy-looking seeds of some sort.
I introduced myself to Alicja Wojczyk — I wanted to connect because I heard she hosted sweatworking events at FlyWheel, where she does PR. Wojczyk noted that consultants from Goldman Sachs and Citibank will often take a FlyWheel class together before work. For them, it’s not necessarily a chance to make new connections but to build on the ones they already have.
At the end of the event, Wojczyk and the woman from Joe’s Coffee were chatting it up. I’d like to think they were forging a connection between two seemingly unrelated industries — personally, I wouldn’t mind coffee after a morning cycling class.
My takeaway: Getting your heart rate up is a great pregame for networking. People seemed looser, more positive and more at ease. Though I’m not convinced that you’re going to make more connections than at a traditional networking event, you’ll probably have more fun.