Balancing Act: Develop office rapport in the long run

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Want to network with the CEO of a public company or the president of a university? Start running.

Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean International, says his running workouts and passion for the sport build rapport with staffers at all levels.

Running just may be the 21st century version of golf. It's a chance to polish office relationships, impress the boss and "bond with colleagues outside the hierarchy," Mr. Goldstein says.

Across the country, companies are forming running clubs, co-workers are pairing up to train for marathons and businesses are sponsoring employee teams in charity events. It's hard to beat running as a low-cost-barrier-to-entry sport. All it takes is a pair of sneakers and comfortable clothes.

Often, the initial draw is workplace camaraderie. Corporate runs introduce newbies to the sport, often with companywide training programs to prepare for the 5-kilometer run. That's what hooked Ed Suarez-Rivero, a software manager at Motorola in Plantation, Fla., who now jogs with the running group at his company.

Mr. Suarez-Rivero says exercising with co-workers builds relationships and opens the door to more personal conversation than what would typically take place among desks. "You get really comfortable with people you sweat with. You joke around. If you're having a problem with your son, you might vent with them. It's different."

Laurie Huseby, president of TeamFootWorks, producer of the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run Series, says running used to be dominated by competitive athletes. Now it's popular with people who want to lose weight, run for a cause, meet new people, challenge themselves to reach a goal, improve energy levels or relieve stress.

"People have realized that even if you're not the most fit, you can enjoy running and better your health," Ms. Huseby says. Moreover, she says, the tent parties after a race are more fun than company holiday parties. "It's a much less intimidating environment to hang out with the CEO."

At a time when stress levels are high and working hours longer, busy professionals say running fits easily into their work-life balance.

Heather Geronemus, marketing director at Florida-based Ultimate Software, uses running as common ground with people she wants to meet for business. "It is the newest way to network."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC:


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