We are pleased to welcome Celine Tarrant to the Fitneff blog. Celine is the Founder and CEO of Smart Girls Sweat, a networking group for women in Toronto. Fitneff’s COO Laurel Walzak is speaking at Smart Girls Sweat’s Sweatworking event on Wednesday, December 2nd in Toronto. Here, Celine shares her insights into health & fitness, networking and why it’s okay to get strange looks in the office from time to time.
Please tell us about Smart Girls Sweat, and what drove you to start this organization.
Smart Girls Sweat is a "sweatworking" (working out + networking) group for professional women in the GTA looking to be inspired, meet like-minded people, grow their networks, and maintain an active lifestyle. We believe that professional success should never come at the expense of physical and mental well-being. Our goal is to contribute to the advancement of professional women by combining fitness and professional development to help busy women make the most of their time. We achieve this through events including group fitness classes, inspiring speakers, and networking sessions.
I’ve always been active in terms of networking and professional development, and I love attending events, meeting new people, and learning new skills. Between work, training, and an active social life, I found myself with less and less time to devote to my own development and networking. I wanted to create a unique forum where women could access excellent networking and development opportunities, while doing something good for their health at the same time.
Why is it important for women to network?
In this day and age, I think any motivated professional knows they need to be networking. There is tons of literature and research out there written by people far more knowledgeable than me – so I’ll speak anecdotally about my own experience.
I believe in networking for two major reasons that apply to both young and experienced professionals. Firstly, relationship-building skills are possibly the most important business skill to have. The way you interact with others and navigate group situations is critical, and networking events are great training grounds for keeping those skills sharp. Secondly, I have found that sometimes it’s very important just to be known. Whether you are at the beginning stages of your career, or already very well established, you want your name to be on the shortlist for every opportunity you pursue. The only way to make this happen is for the people making the shortlist to know who you are. Networking is a great way to meet people outside your usual circle.
Unfortunately, I still don’t think there are very many effective networking outlets for women. Typical networking formats just don’t work as well for women as they do for men. Most women feel extremely uncomfortable with the self-promotion and self-serving aspects of networking. My goal with SGS was to create an environment that was focused on development (both professional and wellness) that would open people up for natural conversation about a passion they all share. If they happen to swap business cards and talk shop – that’s an added bonus.
What advice can you share with women who might find Sweatworking outside their comfort zone?
It definitely takes a little courage to physically put yourself out there, but everyone will be in the same boat. Once it’s over you will have an instant conversation starter – no cheesy icebreaker needed.
The type of women who would even consider attending this kind of event likely share many hobbies and interests and will leave the event with new workout buddies, friends, and professional contacts!
What has been the greatest challenge starting your own business?
I was very surprised that my biggest challenge so far has turned out to be logistics! I work full-time, so it’s been challenging to schedule meetings and calls during the day when others are free. I pride myself on being very quick with email and returning calls at work, but I haven’t been able to be as responsive when it comes to Smart Girls Sweat. The irony is that I end up sacrificing gym time to work on SGS late into the night.
What is your own personal fitness philosophy?
Balance. I have gone ditch to ditch in my own health – from an extremely unhealthy lifestyle consisting of junk food and little physical activity to an equally unhealthy lifestyle involving restrictive diets and obsessive exercise.
I am finally starting to understand balance. I definitely push myself and work very hard when I’m training for something specific like a race. However, if I’m not working towards a certain goal, I just try to get in a few workouts a week, work on injury-prevention and mobility exercises, and incorporate activity into my daily life. I try to use fitness as a way to improve longevity, well-being, and mental acuity.
How do you incorporate wellness into your daily work life?
I have a standing desk, which has been extremely helpful, especially when training for races (when my hips and back don’t love sitting all day!). I try to stand for half the day at least. I’m also a huge advocate of doing stretching and mobility exercises during the day. I’ve had more than a few strange looks while stretching around the office, but it has made a big difference in my posture and prevents detrimental wear-and-tear on the body caused by sitting in front of a computer all day.
I am lucky to have a fantastic group of health-minded friends at work who are extremely supportive. Lunch conversation often revolves around fitness, sport, and nutrition. I have learned a ton from my lunch crew, and it definitely motivates me to eat well and stick to my fitness goals.
About Heather Liemanis:
Heather Lielmanis is the VP of Business Development at Fitneff Inc. Fitneff is dedicated to providing innovative products and solutions that help busy people make their productive time more active. Fitneff offers a full suite of walking desks, sit-stand desks and active accessories that allow you to incorporate movement into your work day.
About Smart Girls Sweat:
Smart Girls Sweat is a unique "sweatworking" (networking + working out) group. We believe that professional success should never come at the expense of physical and mental well-being. Our goal is to contribute to the advancement of professional women by combining fitness and professional development to help busy women make the most of their time. We achieve this through events including group fitness classes, inspiring speakers, and networking sessions. Our unique and challenging group workouts will help you work up a sweat while fostering more meaningful relationships, and our speakers and networking sessions will leave you feeling inspired and motivated.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I have chosen to profile Laurel Walzak, the female co-founder of Fitneff Inc. Laurel has been successful in so many areas of her career - first as a trailblazer in the sports business industry, then as an entrepreneur and most recently as an Assistant Professor of Sports Media at Ryerson University.
Laurel also spends a great deal of her time and energy outside the office in efforts to advance the careers of young women who are making their start. I asked Laurel some important questions about the role of women in business, and the role that she plays in advocating for other women in her life.