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A Calorie-Burning Business Meeting? Why Sweatworking Is the New Networking


I love meetings. Call me crazy, but I’m really into the face time, brainstorming, and an excuse to get up from my desk for a few minutes. But, it’s not lost on me that most people do not share this opinion. I get it. The conference room—even at a creative, fun place like Refinery29—isn’t exactly an inspiring space. Plus, you’ve got other stuff to do. “Most meetings are about meetings,” Lena Dunham wrote in a 2013 Vanity Fair piece. “And if you have too many meetings about meetings you will get a very flu-ish feeling.” When you couple that with this fancy study that shows just how unproductive meetings can be, it’s clear she’s onto something.

But there's something to be said about collaborative time with coworkers. In this age of alternative workspaces, why not have an alternative for meetings, too?

Enter “sweatworking"—the art of taking your meetings over a workout. Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest, swears by it and argues that working out is the one thing she keeps consistent in her busy schedule. “Having a meeting while getting in a workout is the easiest way for me to stay productive,” she said via email. “It ensures I'm taking care of myself even when my calendar becomes overwhelming.”

ClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia says she sees group workout meetings happen all the time. “Working out with colleagues is an engaging way to get out of the confines of the office and into an environment that fosters teamwork and camaraderie,” she told me in an email. “It's also just a great way to disconnect from always being 'plugged in' and find that mind-body connection that can energize you and help get the creative juices flowing.”

Intrigued, I decided to give it a try.

For two weeks, I tried to make every meeting I had—both with coworkers and with people at other companies—take place during a workout. I grabbed a month’s membership to ClassPass so I could try different studios all over the NYC. Then, I sent out an email to everyone I had scheduled meetings with during the first half of August to ask if we could take our meetings out of the conference room and make them more...well, sweaty.

August 6: Pure Barre

Meeting: Amanda*, reporter friend

Amanda and I struck up a friendship when we were both covering a work event in January. Since then, we typically meet up for lunch or breakfast. But, for the purpose of my sweatworking experiment, she was the perfect first companion. We were overdue for a meet-up, anyway.

She invited me to join her for a private Pure Barre class—just us two and the trainer. If you’ve never done Pure Barre before, it’s a total-body workout that uses a lot of small movements to get a deeper burn. In other words, it’s really hard and will make you question your will to live.

While Amanda and I didn’t exactly talk about story ideas or the journalism industry, we definitely got to a more personal level about our lives and jobs. We laughed about sex. We got real about reaching a point in your career when you have to assess whether you’re doing something to please others or to make yourself happy. These are things we may have eventually discussed over a beer, but in the class we were able to shed our egos and get completely vulnerable about it all. I would 100% do a meeting like this again.

August 11: Bike Ride

Meeting: Julia and Kirk, Refinery29 video team

Every Tuesday morning, Kirk, Julia, and I meet to work on scripts and plan shoots for our web series Five Phases. I asked them if they’d be willing to swap out our table-and-chairs setting for something more active. Kirk suggested riding bikes. So, we planned on renting Citibikes for a day. 

Except, Tuesday turned out to be a crazy rainy day. We said we’d reschedule for the following week, but it never happened. Sometimes people have so many other meetings it’s easier to just pop in a conference room and get it over with. [Read the full story on Refinery29.]


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