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Sweatworking is the new networking

CREATED Apr 28, 2014

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Like many of us, IT consultant Julie Gilbert-Newrai has a jam-packed schedule, and trying to balance her workload, fitness routine and socializing with clients can be a challenge. So, instead of hitting happy hour several times a week, Julie hits the gym to do business.

"I invite people to come with me that I'm thinking about for critical positions in my company, as a partner, as an investor, as a potential employee," Gilbert-Newrai said.

It's called 'Sweatworking'--inviting clients or business associates to a fitness class is a trend that's catching on.

Fitness fanatic Sarah Siciliano sweatworks as often as three times a week. She said compared to traditional networking, which often involves eating and drinking, this is friendlier on the waistline.

"This a way to expend some calories and also I say, kill two birds with one stone," Siciliano said. "You know, it's get your workout in, network, meet people, connect, and all for the sake of business."

And Gilbert-Newrai points out it is also a great way to create a personal connection.

"It's like truth serum without having three martinis and spending $75 in a bar," she said. "You really get the core essence of who that person is when you're in that kind of intense environment. You understand what they're made of."

While sweatworking is often more popular among the younger business crowd, those in the fitness industry report the trend is growing.

"We have people of all ages, all shapes, and all sizes, and all backgrounds and demographics," said gym manager Doug Melroe.

Before you cancel your client dinner and head to the gym, there are a few things to keep in mind.

"When you're physically in a class you can't be carrying on a conversation constantly because you're trying to breathe and do what the instructor is telling you to do," Gilbert-Newrai said.

Networking expert Bonnie Ross-Parker points out that the traditional setting offers some basic benefits that sweatworking does not.

"I'm big on body language," she said. "Body language in that in that setting is very different than body language in an athletic environment."

If you do decide to invite someone sweatworking, experts suggest you tell them what to expect: Describe what the class is like, what to wear, and what to bring, like a towel and water. 

"Make sure that they know it's fun, and make it fun for them," Gilbert-Newrai said. "So don't put all of this like competitive pressure. Until you get into class of course."

Whether you hit the gym or not, experts suggest finding something in common with your clients, potential clients and co-workers to help build relationships that last.