Exercising Options

CEOs go to lengths to squeeze in workouts while traveling.

November 1 2004 by Chief Executive


As chief executive of Mastercraft, the luxury powerboat builder based in Tennessee, John Dorton travels about 100 days a year, to boat shows and races near and far. Wherever the job takes him, Dorton, a self-avowed fitness buff, manages to squeeze in a workout. On a recent trip to the Amazon, of all places, he headed out for a run. “I didn’t realize,” he says, “that jaguars were watching my every move.”

While Dorton’s jog through the jungle (albeit on a paved road) may sound extreme, it’s hardly uncommon for CEOs to take pains to keep up their exercise regimens on the road. In fact, many say, it’s just as important, if not more so, to work out regularly while traveling than while staying at home. Exercise helps combat jet lag, reinvigorating you for a full day of meetings and site visits that begin mere hours after you touch down from an exhausting flight. It’s also the perfect way to work off the elaborate meals served at ceremonial dinners in, say, Asia or Europe, where it can be culturally insensitive to skip a course or two. (Dessert is another story: Many CEOs avoid it no matter what.)

Chief executives have become so exercise-conscious that some have started choosing hotels to stay in based on how well-equipped their gyms are, a trend that has raised the standard far above the old, musty exercise room in the basement (see sidebar, right). “I look for a hotel that has at least an adequate gym,” says Dorothy Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York. “In Florida, I stay at The Breakers in Palm Beach, which has facilities on site. I try to work out at three to four times a week; sometimes as much as six depending on my schedule. My favorite exercise is a spin class. I’ve also done Pilates classes on vacation in St. Martens.”

Staying Fit On the Road

To find a hotel offering top-notch fitness facilities, try Fit For Business. The company’s Web site offers reviews of hotels in cities around the world, covering details such as the quantity of cardio equipment, the best times for pick-up basketball and the length of the lap pool.

Unlike with other travel databases, hotels cannot pay to be endorsed by Fit For Business. Use of the online database is free. For a $60 membership fee, you receive various benefits, like discounts on spa treatments and complimentary use of athletic clubs that would otherwise charge a separate fee.

Below is a sampling of recommended hotels from www.fitforbusiness.com:

New York
Le Parker Meridien Hotel
118 West 57th Street
www.parkermeridien.com
Newly renovated 17,000-square-foot facility; strength-training center, racquetball, enclosed rooftop pool.

Los Angeles
Los Angeles Athletic Club Hotel
431 West 7th Street
www.laac.com
Full-service 80,000-square-foot
private athletic club; swimming,
basketball, squash, racquetball, handball, yoga.

Shanghai
Portman Ritz-Carlton
1376 Nanjing Xi Lu
www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/shanghai/
One of the largest health clubs in Shanghai, featuring a pool, complete gym, tennis, squash and racquetball courts.

Source: Fit For Business

Similarly, Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame quarterback who is CEO of The Staubach Company, a Dallas-based global real estate firm, makes a point of staying in the same place each time he visits a city for work. In New York, he prefers the University Club. “I’m somewhat picky about what equipment I use and I prefer equipment I’m familiar with,” says Staubach, 62. “I usually work out at 6 a.m. and have our meetings at around 8 a.m. Morning is best for most people, but later in the day is good if you can’t do a morning routine.”

Herman, a youthful-looking 50 years old, is so fitness-conscious that she’s hired personal trainers in multiple locations. “One for my New York apartment, one for my home on Long Island and the third for the office in the Hamptons,” she says.

Trying to get your workout in while traveling overseas can be more of an adventure. “If you’re in a Sofitel-type hotel in Europe, you can find good on-site equipment,” says Bill Gossman, CEO of Seattle-based Revenue Science, a company that provides behavioral targeting services that help Web advertisers determine their audiences. “I love the Hotel Montgomery in Brussels, but you’ll be on your own in terms of exercise.” And if you step out for a run in a foreign city, there’s always the risk of getting lost and showing up late to or missing that crucial meeting you flew across the world to attend. Tokyo, in particular, Gossman says, is a labyrinth that’s easy to get lost in.

There’s also the inconvenience of having to deal with sweaty workout clothes. Some CEOs say they hang them up over the shower rod and hope they dry before it’s time to pack up. If not, they toss their damp togs into a plastic laundry bag and wash them when they get home. A piece of advice: Wear Lycra instead of cotton, says Mastercraft’s Dorton. It dries faster.

What’s driving chief executives to hit the exercise room and the running trail with such ardor? In large part, it’s the stress relief that a hard workout provides. “I would even use the word therapeutic,” says Wally Parker, president of New York-based KeySpan Energy Delivery, who at age 55 is a svelte 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. “When I’m on the road and I have a meeting a few blocks away, I’ll walk there instead of taking a cab. In the past, I would sometimes bring shorts and sneakers when I traveled. Now, I always have them with me. Even if it’s just an overnight trip, I can squeeze in 45 minutes of exercise before breakfast.”

For serious athletes of any kind, corporate executives or not, once your body gets accustomed to daily workouts, it can be difficult physically as well as mentally to taper off. “Being an athlete in school, keeping fit was something I had to do,” says Dorton, 42, a competitive water skier in college. As an adult, he says, “I realized that I was susceptible to colds and the like when I stopped working out.”

So Dorton, who used to be the CEO of a company that sold equipment to gyms, went back to working out on a daily basis. His regimen includes a 30-minute aerobic workout, such as treadmill running or recumbent cycling, five days a week. He also does periodic anaerobic training, like wind sprints, to get in shape for ski races and other competitions. On top of that, he lifts weights twice a week.

Another theory as to why CEOs can be such fitness fanatics is that, almost without fail, they’re intense, highly motivated individuals who seldom shy away from a challenge. As coordinator of the adult fitness/ cardiac rehabilitation program at Ball State University, that’s what Leonard Kaminsky has found. “I would say that if someone has achieved a high level of success in the business world, that person would be driven to achieve at the highest level,” says Kaminsky. “It wouldn’t matter what the endeavor was.”

For Gossman, of Revenue Science, “The Impossible Dream” could be his theme song€¦quot;in particular, the line about climbing every mountain. After his weight ballooned from 230 to 300 pounds, Gossman, now 42, set out on an intense fitness campaign. He lost 90 pounds in seven months and planned to climb the 14,411-foot peak of Washington’s Mount Rainier earlier this year, where, he notes, six hikers had already been killed since the start of the year.

“The weekend I was scheduled to go up is when the second pair who were killed were being brought down,” he says. “I had to cancel my trip due to a business meeting I had in California. My wife was relieved I didn’t go up. I was disappointed.” Not every CEO has to climb a mountain, but it’s the rare one who chooses€¦quot;or can afford not€¦quot;to keep fit.

Corporate Muscle

At home or on the road, Bill Gossman, CEO of Revenue Science, sticks to the following workout schedule:

Monday
Strength training (upper body, abs); light cardio

Tuesday
Full cardio€¦quot;1 hour
(running, rowing, Versa Climber, etc.)

Wednesday
Strength training (lower body, abs);
light cardio

Thursday
Full cardio€¦quot;1 hour

Friday
Strength training (upper body€¦quot;different muscle groups from Monday’s workout)

Saturday and Sunday
Off

If training for marathon, Thursday, off; Sunday, long run (1.5 to 3 hours)