Sweat Equity: The Gym Towel is the New Cocktail Napkin

By BuzzFeed Archives
Cover image for  article: Sweat Equity: The Gym Towel is the New Cocktail Napkin

As the Internet's finest purveyor of identity-based "I can relate to that!" content, BuzzFeed has gotten a lot of mileage out of the idiosyncrasies, oddities and annoyances of life at the gym.  There's "17 Things Everyone Has Secretly Done at the Gym," "Are Your Gym Manners Up to Snuff" and my personal favorite, "Which One of These People at The Gym Is the Literal Worst" (Travis, obvi).

But nowhere have our writers knocked the increasingly blurring lines between "workout" and "work."  Which is kinda surprising, right?  You'd think that in the world we live in now of $200-a-month gym memberships and classes that rival NFL training camps in intensity, most people wouldn't want clients or colleagues as neighbors on the treadmill.  Or to have to hear stuff like "we accept third-party tags" or "everyone in your vertical is doing it" while they're cranking out burpees.

But it turns out it's quite the opposite.  The days of the three-martini lunch or the 4:00 a.m. dinner check are fading into history.  More often, client entertainment and relationship building are happening in the ever-expanding of world of wellness and fitness.  In 2017, the yoga mat and the SoulCycle bike are quickly becoming the new altars of the deal.

I went straight to the source with some questions to confirm this hunch -- SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan.  Not surprisingly given the monster success of SoulCycle among young professionals, she had an extremely well-informed take on this trend, which she rather brilliantly calls "sweatworking."

What is "sweatworking?"

Melanie:  "Sweatworking" is the contemporary version of networking.  We know that people are time-starved and often need to make a choice between exercise and a client dinner.  Our hypothesis years ago was that both could be achieved.  Rather than sitting at a two-hour dinner, why not combine networking with exercise to make the most efficient use of time?  At SoulCycle, we've noticed all of the friendships and business relationships that have formed in our lobbies over the years.  SoulCycle is the ideal environment -- the workout is in the dark so you don't need to actually see your colleague, however once the ride is over, you have a great bright space to meet up together and connect.

When did you first notice this trend at SoulCycle?

Melanie:  When SoulCycle was first founded 11 years ago, we started encouraging our riders to meet their colleagues, clients and potential new business contacts for rides.  This kind of community building is how we market our brand -- and it caught on!  As SoulCycle classes take place in candlelit studios with great music and incredibly inspiring instructors, the energy that is created in the room builds a strong bond between riders.  We've made connections from marriages to business alliances to real estate sales -- it all happens at Soul.

What have you done to foster "sweatworking" at SoulCycle?

Melanie:  We've always believed that riding together creates long-lasting connections and stronger relationships with colleagues and clients.  Our corporate partnerships department works with companies across the country to book team rides, co-worker retreats, private rides and more.  At SoulCycle HQ, we take many of our meetings on the bike (from manager 1:1s to interviews) and love to grab a juice or coffee post-ride to continue the conversation.

Do you think digital technology has accelerated the "sweatworking" trend?

Melanie:  A number of factors have contributed to the popularity of sweatworking, and technology is certainly one of them.  SoulCycle offers riders the space and opportunity to disconnect for 45 minutes.  We're constantly plugged in and continuously on, so the chance to put our phones away and focus on ourselves is so valuable.  We hear from riders all the time that that they come for their body but stay for their mind.  If they can do it with coworkers and clients, it's even better.

I think there's a direct correlation between the exploding popularity of "sweatworking" and the advent of digital media.  Most digital sellers have grown up and come of age in their career alongside the explosion in lifestyle, wellness and fitness.  From ClassPass to Fitbit to wanting to look good for the 'Gram, modern fitness is oddly, in a way, a native behavior for digital sellers.

So, if you're interested in dipping your toe into the waters of "sweatworking," heed the advice of folks like Melanie and come on in -- the water is fine. And if you'd like to discuss further, I'd be happy to chat over wings and a bourbon at Old Town.

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