Usually you’d find professional colleagues mingling at Skybar’s happy hour or an After5 event. Networking typically requires your nicest work outfit, a pair of heels and a handful of business cards to trade. Well now it’s time to trade in your uncomfortable work shoes for a pair of sneakers: Join Networkingout for a high-energy networking and workout session with Run This Town Detroit.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Terrence Thompson, Shawn Blanchard and Armond Harris to get the inside scoop on fitness and networking in Detroit. In May 2012, these three amazing guys started an effort to strengthen the young professional community through Networkingout’s commitment to living healthier lifestyles. With Networkingout, they started Run This Town Detroit, a collaborative fitness program open to professionals and aspiring professionals of all fitness levels. Since its inception, the group has grown exponentially, from just 37 participants to 500 participants during warmer weather days on the riverfront. Here’s what Terrence, Shawn and Armond had to tell me about their innovative local exercise program.
*Join Networkingout for the Opening Day Run This Town on Saturday, April 19 at 10 AM in Milliken Park on the Riverfront!*
Q: How did you first come to be passionate about fitness?
Shawn: Terrence and I were actually a little overweight ourselves. We wanted to meet up for a run, and while doing so, we noticed no one was doing the same on the riverfront. After brunch we decided to organize a group. We invited Armond to come along with us. After, we invited lots of professional friends to come out with us and go for a run and do what we now call Networkingout.
Q: About how many are participating?
Terrence: We have an organic growth spurt during warmer weather months. During warmer weather months, we host up to 500 people every Tuesday and Saturday. During the winter, we host indoor circuit training at Cass Tech – about 150 every Tuesday and Saturday. When the weather warms up again, we tend to see the numbers balloon. We’d love to see 600–700 each session during summer 2014.
Q: Why tackle fitness in Detroit?
Armond: Well, for one, we are all native metro Detroiters. We realized the stakes were high as Detroit is currently facing high obesity rates. We wanted to tackle this issue by producing an environment to get fit, support one another and network. I also had a personal experience as my grandfather suffered from diabetes. We all have family members dealing with health-related issues that essentially could be combated or eliminated by daily activity.
Q: Why do you think people have a hard time living healthfully?
Terrence: Oftentimes for professional folks, our jobs can become really demanding and on top of that, we have to take care of our chores at home and our families. We tend to have a very difficult time balancing our professional lives and our healthy lifestyle journey. There’s also a necessity for having a support group around you when you’re trying to have a healthier lifestyle. Most people are unable to do it in isolation.
Q: Why did you start such a unique group?
Shawn: It was very organic. We wanted to get our professional friends together to pursue fitness activities. But we noticed that when you get this group together, they just start networking. When you create a forum for it, people acclimate to making networking just happen. It’s a rather beautiful thing. People have a hard time networking, and people have a hard time engaging in fitness. When you merge the two, you get a synergy that allows people to find it easier, comfortable and enjoyable.
Q: What does a session of Run This Town consist of?
Terrence: It starts with a built-in networking portion (about 20–30 minutes) and open stretch (we stretch as a group and during that time we introduce to the group at large who we just met). Then the running/jogging group runs a 5k throughout downtown from the riverfront. At this time, the power walkers run a mile along the riverfront to Joe Louis Arena. They then hit the stairs at the arena and get an intense workout on the stairs. Both groups then meet back up and form a tunnel encouraging runners to reach the end of the run. It really feels good having people standing on both sides clapping and cheering you on. After the run, there’s a strengthening and abs circuit on the riverfront. Then there’s the closing stretch and post-workout networking. Afterwards, we go out to eat, visit Eastern Market or go to another organized post-workout activity.
Q: How do you feel your events are breathing new life in the city?
Shawn: Detroit is often viewed as not having enough intellectual human capital. The city is actually attracting and retaining young professionals. In fact, it’s doing a pretty decent job. People need to know that other people like themselves exist out here. We want to give people an opportunity to engage with others like themselves and really enjoy living and playing out here with Networkingout.
Q: What’s next? Are you expanding? What new things are rolling out within the next few months?
Terrence: We’re looking to expand our footprint on the ground through our local chapter of Networkingout. It really is about promoting and living a balanced lifestyle. We’re actually located in other areas. We are currently operating a Chicago chapter of Run This Town. We’re also on U of M’s campus with “Run This Campus.” And we’re getting ready to launch in Kalamazoo on April 21. Run This Town captures how we operate, but the idea of Networkingout permeates people’s lives. In other locations, it can simply be over a game of tennis, flag football or golf. The idea is getting colleagues together to engage in a healthier lifestyle through organized activities. Lastly, we are aiming to launch a social networking platform. We’re aiming for Networkingout.com to be the health and wellness version of LinkedIn.
Ready to start networkingout? Join other professionals every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. and every Friday at 9:00 p.m. for networking, fitness and more! Learn more at Networkingout.com.