Exercising With Coworkers

Kurt Soller at Bloomberg Businessweek has drawn a line in the sand. He does not think you should exercise with your coworkers, and I applaud his bold stance:

There’s a reason business outings often come with booze. Socializing with co-workers and clients is already awkward. How could it possibly be a good idea to add in a public changing room, spandex, and the occasional grunt? “You spend all this time cultivating professional relationships, and then they see you at your most vulnerable,” says Ariel Moses, a communications executive, recalling a particularly difficult Bar Method class she took with two work contacts. “They’re not judgmental, at all, but I was judging myself more.”

At least once a month, an e-mail arrives from a business acquaintance who wants to “catch up” over the latest trendy fitness craze. I either ignore these requests or lie and say I’ve decided to quit exercise cold turkey. A drink? Fine. A workout? Not happening.

This reminds me of my last job’s short-lived romance with free office yoga.

When someone floated the idea at our company-wide meeting, I laughed out loud, thinking it was a joke (we were always weary of coming off too “corporate”) then quickly covered my mouth when I realized the idea was sincere. Maybe out of guilt, I came around to the idea and became a willing participant. After all, I do love yoga and I do love not-paying for things, plus I could never find yoga classes that fit my work schedule, so why wouldn’t I take advantage of the opportunity and show up to work at 9:30 instead of 10:30 — a struggle, admittedly but still later than most decent human beings anyway, right?

I borrowed a mat from the guest teacher and battled my way through wearing leggings and sweating in front of my coworkers by reminding myself over and over that no one was looking at me and that everyone was more concerned with themselves. This is probably true and a good life lesson but I never really came to believe it, especially when my boobs threatened to fall out of my sports bra during chaturanga. When class was moved from an abandoned basement to the common area off of the kitchen, things got dire. Non-yogi coworkers would trickle in around 10 a.m. and weave between our twists and bends to get to the coffeemaker, laughing nervously and holding onto their messenger bags like body shields.

The day our CEO joined class a little late and I found myself trying not to look over at him as we did our downward dogs was the same day I accidentally made upside-down eye contact with another boss of mine on his way to the fridge. He was in search of a Greek yogurt and I was doing a backbend, which made it really hard to do the necessary “isn’t this awkward” shrug-and-laugh. I decided then, hanging upside-down, praying no body parts were unduly exposed, that there are some things you do not need to do at the office, and bending over with your ass in the air while people you work for whisper-apologize for grinding coffee beans is one of them.

Photo: daverose529


14 Comments / Post A Comment

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

Amen. During my HR tour on day 1 of a previous job at a large office with its own gym, I saw a middle-aged coworker running on an elliptical in short shorts. I never re-entered the gym.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

…One of our associate directors keeps inviting me to attend her fave Zumba class.

I go to the same gym as a bunch of my coworkers (it’s around the corner from our office & we get an insane discount). I have gone to a class or two with work friends, but usually work out solo. I haven’t felt judged (at least, not more than I do around people I don’t know). The worst thing that’s happened is getting drawn into a few water-cooler conversations about the merits of various protein powders. For a full gym membership at $15/month, I’ll take it!

Allison (#4,509)

My work has a gym/fitness center type thing on an empty floor and maybe (probably) I’m a giant weirdo for doing this in winter, but I don’t turn on any extra lights when I’m using the elliptical etc. But in summer (and winter, but I’ll give when it’s dark out) when you come in and flip on all the lights while I’ve been running peacefully without flourescents, you’re immediately on my short list even if I don’t know your name.

Also I could do without getting dragged into gross diet talk unwillingly, but that’s probably a hazard of any gym.

loren smith (#2,300)

I run twice a week at lunch with a girl from another department. It helps that our office is super casual and the CEO and Chairman have both noticed and ask after us (don’t want to let my boss down!) but I don’t find it weird. We’re a pretty tight bunch though

OhMarie (#299)

A fancypants single-class studio opened on the ground floor of my old office building (Physique 57, very faddish, I don’t know if it’s still around)and in their first month they offered a huge discount to anyone else who worked in the building. A bunch of us decided to go together, but the marathon runner in the group went first and said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done. I have never been happier to bail on something.

Edit: I just googled it and it’s still in the same building but I laughed out loud at the cities they have: New York, Scarsdale, Hamptons, Beverly Hills, and Dubai. Jesus.

Meaghano (#529)

@OhMarie LOL Dubai

nzle (#291)

Emily and I have been going to the same yoga class on Mondays at lunch and I hope she doesn’t think it’s awkward because I don’t! I don’t think I would go with any of my other coworkers though. (Sorry other coworkers!)

Meaghano (#529)

@nzle Genuine work friendships get special dispensation.

jquick (#3,730)

Years ago during the Jane Fonda aerobics dance craze, the gym in the basement of our building had classes during the lunch hour. So, there are all these women in spandex and leotards “dancing”. That of course prompted men to come down with their lunch to watch. Real creepy. One guy came up to a friend of mine and told her she was very flexible. She didnt know who he was, but I did…he was a very high level guy. She liked this, and asked for a new job. This was at an oil company – very male centric, at the time.

sherlock (#3,599)

@jquick Yuck.

andnowlights (#2,902)

At my other job (in the same company but different location) we had Zumba classes that anyone could attend. No one from my department went but they could, and a lot of people from other departments brought their coworkers with them and it was a nice almost team-building exercise for some groups. When I lived in Lexington, I went to the gym with my boss ALL the time and it was fun (we’re still friends and actually ended up in a different city at the same time. She made me sign up for a 15k in February).

Ellie (#62)

I would NOT want to exercise with coworkers, but I really don’t like exercising with anyone, I’m a solo exerciser. I go to the gym of the university I work at and I definitely see colleagues at the gym quite frequently but that’s not bad at all. I think it’s nice to see people in different contexts from work, to remind that we have full lives and not just the work dimension.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

We have a gym in our basement that I use often in the early morning or after work and sometimes there is a coworker or two there, and it’s fine. For a while I was working out with one of the VPs of one of our affiliates and it was a little awkward since he would do things like one armed pull-ups and like crazy shit like that, as well as grunt and scream while working out. Then I would see him in the office in non-gym clothing runnin’ business and junk and be freaked out.

My work BFF invited me to her fancy pants gym for a week and that was fun to do classes and work out with her, since we are pretty much at the same level running and exercise (i lie, she is way more of a runner than I am). Our company does sponsor races and such and I’ve done most of them, and a couple of us in my work-friends group are doing a half marathon in April, so it’s nice because since we all see each other every day we can keep each other motivated.

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