If there’s one thing that’s worse than working, it’s working out.
Think you’re running in place at your job? It’s a lot better than running in place on a treadmill. Feel that impossible deadlines put you in a time crunch? It’s a lot better than doing 200 crunches every morning in your jam-jams.
Despite the pain and strain that invariably comes when you throw caution to the wind and actually lift your body off the couch, workers today are expected to spend a significant part of their free time in the gym, preparing to run ultra marathons in the Amazon, bike the Andes or swim the Hellespont.
These days, a promotion requires more than simply being mean; you have to be lean and mean. That’s why the most successful CEOs are pictured in their spandex skivvies, running marathons up and down the Himalayas.
This correlation of physical fitness and business success was not always with us.
In the good old days, Diamond Jim Brady and other titans of industry were pictured at Murray’s Roman Gardens, wolfing down lunches of 200 oysters and 10 pounds of rare roast beef, all washed down with a dozen flagons of nut brown ale. Back then, you showed you had a fat wallet by being fat.
Today, the business world’s obsession for fitness has gotten so severe that companies actually compete for talent by putting gyms in the workplace. Incredibly, this is considered a perk.
And it just may be a perk if you buy into our national obsession with fitness. For someone like you, whose idea of the ultimate perk would be an International House of Pancakes in the parking lot, a gym in the workplace only increases your chances of experiencing the worst fate any wage slave can imagine–seeing your managers and co-workers in the buff.
News reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty reported on this phenomenon in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Her article, “Naked Lunch: How to avoid seeing (too much of) co-workers at the gym” really opened my eyes to why you should close your eyes when going to the gym.
“Working out at the office gym can be like navigating a minefield,” Bascaramurty writes. “Grabbing 30 minutes of cardio during a lunch break could lead to uncomfortable work-related conversations with the boss on the next elliptical trainer, or seeing the head of accounting in her birthday suit.”
Yes, it’s not only the male of the species who discusses business with their business showing. I can’t say I know this first-hand, but, according to the article, administrative assistant Rachel King has a special problem with women from her department who blow dry their hair “stark naked, standing in front of a mirror.”
“I know you,” King reflects when witnessing this disturbing tableau, “so I don’t want to see that much of you wiggle.”
Of course, the discomfort increases geometrically when the naked interloper is your boss. You may forget your manager’s blab. The sight of your manager’s flab will be with you forever.
Fortunately, work-life author, Julie Jansen, offers four steps to follow to minimize discomfort in a nude encounter. “Say very little, look down, be polite and leave.”
(I might slip one more step between being polite and leaving–get dressed.)
More advice includes the admonishment to “change at opposite ends of the locker room.” I suggest you go further. Change at the opposite ends of the country. You risk getting arrested for indecent exposure if a policeman finds you changing clothes in the park, but it’s better than getting your 360-degree annual review with a 360-degree view of your manager’s naked butt.
Finally, Jansen reminds us that we are less likely to have a nude encounter if we “work out during off hours.” This is an idea I endorse. Lunch was never meant to be for exercising, anyway, unless you include high-intensity elbow bending at the Kat Kat Klub.
No matter how much you want to head for the hills when meeting a naked manager, you are encouraged to rinse off before you rush off.
“You don’t want to be that guy who stinks,” says Bascaramurty. I disagree. Some people may not gossip about the guy who stinks, but everyone will definitely give that guy a wide berth.
You may smell up your cubical, and probably your entire floor, but it’s a lot better than schmoozing in the shower with the management team while wearing nothing but a smile.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.