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Saturday, Oct 26, 2002

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Fitness — executive style

Sudha Menon


Mrs. Anu Aga, Chairperson, Thermax Limited, Pune

After the sudden death of her husband Rohinton Aga and the tragic demise of her son in an accident a few years back, Anu Aga, Chairperson of Thermax has been working relentlessly to put the company back on the fast track from where it had slipped over the last few years. Helping her in this task has been a regular health and fitness regimen.

An hour to herself is something she must have everyday, says Anu, who is a great believer in the goodness of yoga and meditation to rejuvenate the body and mind. Her fitness schedule is a mix of walking, cycling and yoga, says the woman who had a passion for aerobics before a back surgery performed a few years ago kept her away from high impact exercises.

A great believer in the power of pranayam and meditation, last month she enrolled for a programme at the Isha Foundation, Coimbatore, where she found that introspection and meditation cleanse the mind of negativity and rejuvenate the body.

"In India we have such a rich tradition of rejuvenating practices available to us it is a pity out executive don't avail of it to combat stress that has become part of the work place,'' says Anu, whose other area of expertise is human resource development.

Keeping the body in top shape, controlling one's diet and keeping weight under control are things everyone must work at, along with a dose of introspection and faith in one's inner self. She discovered her inner self after participating in a Vipassana course and says introspection works wonders for her during stressful or challenging situations. "It helps you find a deeper calm within you even if there is a storm raging all around you."

For her, healthful living also means being good to fellow human beings. A warm and loving relationship with her small family of daughter, son-in-law and her two grand children is one of the greatest support systems for Anu.

Along with her close friends they are the pillars of her strength. Spending time with her seven-year-old grandson Zahaan and three-year-old grand daughter Lea are sure stress busters for this proud grandmother. "The time I spend with them brings pure, unadulterated joy," she gushes.n

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Mr K. Ramachandran, CEO and Country Manager, Philips India

An hour's workout at the gym, at least four times a week, keeps K. Ramachandran, Managing Director of Philips India, on his toes through the week. And what further helps is a strict watch on his diet, even though he loves samosas and sweets. "I love idli and coconut chutney and eat it without an iota of guilt but have reduced the number of cups of coffee from 10 to three a day," says the man who also loves his daily dose of dal-chawal,,taken with a dash of ghee. These calories are burnt through the treadmill and cycling at the gym.

But the regimen takes a beating when he travels, which is often. "I would love to continue my fitness regimen even when I travel, but by the time you get back to the hotel room in the evening, the gym is closed and a hotel room is not the best of places to inspire a work out!"

Ramachandran has devised his own way to beat stress - by 'switching off' when he is heading home after the day's work. Colleagues are discouraged from calling him at home, unless they have a very good cause.

An annual must for him is to take at least one long vacation and two short vacations every year, along with his wife Anita. "In the last two years we have visited Colombo, Rome, Thekkady and Kumarakom." For him vacation in not hectic sight-seeing but just soaking in the atmosphere of the place and chilling out. On a day-to-day basis this head honcho has other ways of beating stress. His bed-side tables are piled with books and he loves to watch Western movies.

An annual medical check-up is a must, and in his organisation he has he has just kicked off in Mumbai a 'wellness clinic', where employees can get a free medical check-up. This facility will be made available in all the branch offices too.

"People never take their health seriously till they lose it and I want to avoid such a situation. I hope that our employees will avail of this facility," he says.

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Kalpathi S. Suresh, Chairman and CEO, SSI Ltd

Kalpathi S. Suresh of SSI is a typical successful CEO - motivated, focused, and possessed of an enormous fund of energy. So what is the secret of his stamina?

Running at least 21 km thrice a week. He competes in marathons and single-mindedly trains for them. He also weight-trains thrice a week. Swimming is one of the less strenuous exercises he likes to do. A fitness freak, he works out at least six days a week, with his typical day including 90 to 180 minutes of fitness schedules, combined with 10 to 12 hours of work at SSI. At 4.30 a.m. he is at a local university park, running with his personal trainer. Suresh started running while he was still in high school. Initially he ran about five km each session, but over the years he has built up the stamina to handle marathons. Particular about running 'correctly', he trains for marathons using scientific techniques at his disposal, resulting in 'safer' running. He sets his running goals with care. His strategy is to gradually build strength, while all the time extending his target, so he never reaches a comfort zone.

Running has given Suresh an enviable vitality and the ability to outlast others in work. He feels that his fitness goals have helped in shaping his attitude towards his work. "I developed persistence because of long distance running, built strength over the years, and have constantly extended my targets. Running helped me develop the stamina to work long hours".

Long distance running requires enormous mental stamina, he says, adding, " I become detached when I run, and I pace myself. Planning is critical to long distance running". But he takes care to 'set do-able targets', and feels that while running a marathon, the mind is as important, if not more, as the body.

The SSI Chairman approaches weight training with the same intensity as he does running, training for 90 minutes on alternate days, with his goal being muscle strength. Towards that aim he uses smaller weights and does a lot of sets to challenge each muscle group. He keeps mostly to a vegetarian diet and uses protein supplements. He believes that weight-training helps considerably in stress removal.

At SSI, Suresh advocates and encourages fitness practices, but regrets that he has had little success. A few of his employees do work out but most lack his passion for it. But he hasn't given up and his organisation is putting up a gym on its new premises, along with other facilities such as a swimming pool. n

Pushpa M.K.

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