This would be an example of what not to wear. Naked is not good but Hannibal Lecter couture is way worse.
Judging from advice columnists and The Apprentice, working with your coworkers is tricky enough (Who knew clipping your toenails in your cube is the modern-day equivalent of lancing your Black Plague boils over the community well?) but add a little skin, sweat and spandex to the formula and working out with them is a whole new social minefield. I’ll be honest, the last time I worked out with an official coworker (i.e. someone who is over 4 feet tall and doesn’t store Legos in his or her underpants) was over a decade ago. That “friendly” game of “basketball” pretty much ensured none of us would ever be friends nor play basketball again.
So when Reader Meghan brought up this question in the comments (like… a month ago? Sorry it’s taken me so long, girl!), my first thought was, “It’s awkward enough being nose-to-tail with the Gym Buddies and I already know their entire gynecological histories; I can’t imagine having to give a status report to that sweaty heinie.” But Meghan’s question is a great one because a) she’s a lawyer (or in law school, not sure) and lawyers always ask great questions and b) be it lunch-hour power walks or in-office yoga classes, lots of professionals are finding themselves in this situation. I’m definitely no expert but I came up with a few tips for navigating the gym with your coworkers and I hope you all will chime in and help Meghan out too!
1. Wear clothes. Tonight as I splashed in the kiddie pool at the Y with Jelly Bean, I contemplated the fact that the same (cuuuuute retro) swim dress that made me the most covered-up woman in the pool would make me look like a poorly-accessorized hooker at the grocery store. When it comes to modesty, context is everything and when in doubt cover it up. Yes you may be more comfortable running in just a sports bra and shorts but if you’re running on the treadmill next to the CEO, throw a t-shirt over the top. Full-coverage undies are a given.
2. Stay professional. Singing “Pour some sugar on me…” along with your iPod may inspire you to lift heavier but your coworkers probably don’t want to know about your deep love for 80’s hair bands. (Or maybe they do and will secretly videotape you and post it on Facebook?) This also includes no weird grunting when you lift, not spitting in the drinking fountain and never using a Shake Weight. Not that you’d do that stuff anyhow, right?
3. Keep business in the office. Down Dog is really not the position you want to be in when you ask for your next promotion. At the very least, make that pitch from Goddess Pose. Seriously though, most people are in the gym to workout not to talk shop so save the questions or commentary until afterward (and by after, I mean after you’re showered and dressed – nobody likes the naked locker room chatterer).
4. Resist the temptation to gossip. Office gossip is a Pandora’s box as it is but mix in exercise endorphins and the rumor mill can get going faster than the treadmill you’re jogging on. I have a theory that the less clothing you are wearing the more likely you are to spill your guts. (No? Just me?)
5. Have a sense of humor. I can tell you from personal experience that the gym has a high potential for embarrassment (my most current humiliation was bending over to pick up my sweat towel and running face first into the mirror that was right in front of me – I hit so hard I literally bounced my head off it). Between all the slapstick, the farting and moves either named after or resembling sex acts, the only way to get through it is to just laugh. This doesn’t mean you should make inappropriate jokes but if you do something dumb, a well-timed laugh and shoulder shrug go a long way in fixing it.
What do you guys think – should you workout with your coworkers? If so, how do you manage it? Do you have any ground rules?