Who Will Be Named Fittest Exec?
If IB’s annual Fittest Executive Challenge accomplishes anything, it demonstrates that former couch potato executives can transform their personal and professional lives. As we introduce you to our 2013 contestants, you will meet several extremely active people who once were sedentary, so when they talk about the many benefits of a fit lifestyle, they can draw from their before-and-after experiences.
Fortunately, their examples teach us much more than that. They teach how transformative even moderate amounts of exercise can be in driving business and professional performance. Health officials affiliated with Meriter Health Services in Madison advise wannabe fitness buffs to choose a form of exercise they can latch onto.
“When a person is starting an exercise program, they need to find an activity or type of exercise that they enjoy and that makes them feel good,” said Lisa Sanborn, lead exercise physiologist and Wellness Institute coordinator for Meriter Wisconsin Heart. “As well, it has to be something that fits into your daily schedule, that you are committed to, and have easy access to.”
According to Sanborn, it’s wise to have an exercise buddy who holds you accountable (and vice versa) and keeps you motivated. Several “Fittest” contestants do just that, but the key is to start out slow and gradually build your level of fitness. “You don’t have to run three miles every day to be healthy and active,” Sanborn noted. “A simple walking program is a great way to start, whether outside or on a treadmill. Start with what feels like a brisk walk and go for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five days per week. As that starts to feel easier to individuals, they should increase the time duration of the exercise program, then increase intensity.”
Even moderate exercise will lead to health benefits, including decreased risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, Sanborn contends. It also might lead to weight loss, weight maintenance, increased muscular strength and endurance, and improved energy levels and better sleep. “To see greater increases in weight loss,” Sanborn added, “the best method is to incorporate an exercise program with dietary changes.”
To put dietary changes into perspective, consider that one pound of fat is the equivalent of 3,500 calories. It’s recommended that an individual lose one to two pounds per week when dieting, and ideally that weight loss should be fat, not lean tissue or muscle. If one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, then you should try to make a 3,500-calorie difference in your energy intake and energy expenditure, Sanborn explained. “If you break that down, 3,500 calories divided by seven days per week equals a 500-calorie-per-day calorie deficit by adjusting your diet and exercise to get results.”
Dr. John Moses, cardiology division chief for Meriter Medical Group-Wisconsin Heart, said the quest for fitness is about living well, however individuals define that. “You can ask 100 people what they need to do to ‘be healthier,’ and all 100 will tell you to exercise more, eat right, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid harmful things like smoking. The real question is, why should you do those things? What is your motivation to change?
Answering that question requires a keen understanding of what brings joy, what’s important, and whether continuing to enjoy it – for as long as possible – is worth becoming fit. Chances are, it is.
“Life milestones like a new baby, a new grandchild, a new job, or a new opportunity are often natural times to re-evaluate our lives and define what we want to be,” Moses stated. “Discovering what brings meaning and purpose into your life is essential to develop the motivation for change.
“Once we have discovered our motivation, then change becomes a process that has a realistic chance of success.”
Panting for Looser Pants
Rachel Rasmussen: Competing for Most Improved Woman
Rachel Rasmussen, owner and CEO of Rescue Desk Virtual Assistant Services, has developed an amusingly militaristic title for her fitness game plan: “Operation It’s Stupid That My Pants Are Too Tight.” She’s honest enough to admit that and smart enough to do something about it – namely, a mix of treadmill, weight training, yoga and, as the weather warms, hiking in the woods.
Before adopting a more structured fitness regimen, Rasmussen enjoyed being active but liked exercise only when she didn’t realize she was exercising, such as when she played golf, worked in the yard, or played football with her nephew. But now that she’s part of the Fittest Executive Challenge, she has encountered a milder version of Jillian Michaels, a personal trainer whom she describes as a sweet, enthusiastic former kickboxer “with a Barbie-doll figure.”
Rasmussen believes that exercise and smarter eating will not only improve her figure, but also bring a surge of energy to operating a business and improve health measures such as blood pressure. That’s not all she envisions. “I’ll have the physical capacity to take on new challenges, perhaps run a 5K or 10K event one day,” she stated. “I’ll have another tool in the toolbox to deal with stress, and I’ll simply feel happier.”
The happiness could spread throughout Rescue Desk. Her employees have committed to doing the Fittest Executive Challenge along with her, and they have made several changes to improve the overall health of the workforce – taking walks during the lunch hour, taking turns bringing in healthy snacks, and holding each other accountable for reaching exercise goals.
At 37, Rasmussen has other personal objectives in mind. She and her fiancé, Ron Radunzel, will wed this fall, and starting a family will require a higher level of fitness. “Neither of us has children, and I recognize it may not be as easy for us to start a family as it would be if we were younger,” she acknowledged. “But if I can get my body as healthy as possible, it can only benefit us when we’re ready to start the next adventure in our lives!”
Motherhood is one thing, but Rasmussen has yet to take the adventurous step known as the pants test. “I haven’t been shopping for smaller pants yet – too scared! – but I can say that some clothes in my own closet that were a little snug a few months ago are definitely starting to fit a little better today!”
Waging Battle on the Bulge
Michael Barbouche: Competing for Most Improved Man
Michael Barbouche’s first attempt at describing his fitness regimen included two words placed in brackets: [Insert Laughter]. At 6 feet, 285 pounds, Barbouche knows his level of fitness is no laughing matter. The founder and CEO of Forward Health Group is running a healthy, growing business, but he’s blunt about the uphill personal climb he faces.
After a lengthy hiatus measured in both years and number of children (three), Barbouche is back in the fitness game, working with the crew at Pinnacle Health + Fitness to tackle what he considers an enormous challenge. Not one to shy away from self-criticism, he claims to have a trainer who has crafted a couple of different exercise programs to accommodate his “deferred maintenance,” and he’s working with a nutritionist to tackle the “intake problem.”
Although Pinnacle is in the basement of his office building – all he has to do is get on an elevator or take the stairs – “the problem remains time,” he lamented. “I’m still running this entrepreneurial obstacle course ... being swarmed by investment banks and VCs.”
In 2009, Barbouche got on their radar screen by starting a health care measurement company. The life of an entrepreneur, particularly in the emerging health information technology space, does not lend itself to dedicated exercise time. Factor in three children ages 6 to 11, and most of his spare time is spent shuttling to and from the local ski jump hill or ice arena.
Not only do venture capitalists and investment banks want a piece of his blossoming company, last October he agreed to be the national program partner for the American Cancer Society, the America Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. The agreement will require Forward Health to harvest data to help doctors and hospitals better track patients, move prevention to the forefront, and limit the onset of chronic diseases like diabetes.
Barbouche has been overweight for a long time. The irony, he notes, is that he could be giving himself diabetes, high blood pressure, and perhaps an assortment of health conditions. “Something is strangely amiss in this equation,” he admits.
His children need a successful dad, but they also need him around. His wife, an internal medicine physician, knows he’s got a tough road back to good health. Barbouche knows it’s time to “fix this.”
“I meet with leaders in the health care policy and research world. I talk to them about how to track chronic diseases like obesity and fix them. I haven’t fixed myself.”
Maintaining Her Stride
Angie Rieger: Competing for Fittest Woman Under 50
Angie Rieger maintains a busy life, and that’s outside of her job as a vice president of planning and inventory for Lands’ End. The 44-year-old executive not only has a work ethic, she has a fitness ethic, and enjoys a lot of benefits stemming from her fit lifestyle.
Better stress management is the main one, followed closely by building the stamina necessary to get her job done and keep pace with two active sons “who are often going different directions with their activities.” On the outside, she might strike some as the Energizer Bunny, but there is really no secret to her ability to remain high-octane. Simply put, it’s all about staying fit.
Rieger is primarily a runner. She’s completed 18 marathons, qualified four times for the famed Boston Marathon, and run an “ultramarathon and several 200-mile relays.” She does nearly all of her running outside, but belongs to Gold’s Gym for certain elements of her cross-training (weights, walking, biking, and yoga).
“I have been asked many times how I can have so much energy at the end of a day,” she said. “It’s because I am fit, and through my marathon training I have developed stamina for all aspects of my life.”
There are also some spinoff benefits that aid and abet fitness. Rieger believes that leading an active lifestyle helps her sleep better, no small consideration for someone balancing home and work with a strenuous exercise regimen. She considers the resulting rest and rejuvenation a key to maintaining her robust training.
As she approaches her 45th birthday, being fit enables her to come into the office with a fresh mind and clearly tackle the day’s issues. “I have stamina to push through long days, many of which are full of long meetings,” Rieger said. “Being fit and healthy allows me to be a better leader and employee.”
It doesn’t hurt to work for an online apparel and accessory retailer with a corporate health and wellness program and the facilities and personnel at its Dodgeville headquarters to help employees make fitness progress. The Lands’ End program features on-site screenings, a full fitness center, nutritionists, and personal trainers. In addition, the company has an on-site health clinic and professionals who will work with anyone on developing or enhancing their wellness goals.
“My work schedule doesn’t allow me to take advantage of the facilities as much as I would like,” Rieger noted, “but the motivation is there to stay healthy and fit.”
Giving Cancer the Runaround
Darren Fortney: Competing for Fittest Man Under 50
Ultra-endurance – it’s a term that illustrates who Darren Fortney is and what he does.
Fortney, a principal in the Short Elliott Hendrickson engineering firm, is proof that someone can transform a sedentary lifestyle into one of extreme fitness. As a 26-year cancer survivor who led a fairly inactive lifestyle for most of his life, Fortney made a significant life change approximately 10 years ago. By significant, he means going from lazy boy to marathon man.
Fortney now describes himself as a swimming, biking, cross-country skiing, and running ultra-endurance athlete, and why not? He’s competed in dozens of ultra-endurance races, including more than 10 regular marathons and four Ironman triathlons. Not only is he a four-time “Birkie” (cross-country skiing) finisher, he has also completed more than 15 ultramarathons of 50 to 100 or more miles and six ultra-swims of distances between six and 10 miles.
So far, he’s also competed twice in the Badwater, a 135-mile ultramarathon across Death Valley that is widely regarded as the world’s toughest footrace. To spread the good word, he’s also become a fitness evangelist of sorts, serving as a certified cycle and TRX (suspension training) instructor at the Princeton Club and teaching cycling classes at Harbor Athletic Club and Gold’s Gym.
Fortney, 45, now boasts a 6-foot 2-inch, 187-pound frame, hardly the physique of someone deeply immersed in the Occupy La-Z-Boy movement. “Being healthy helps to define me as a person, not necessarily through the actual races and events I compete in, but rather through the health benefits associated with the training and endurance needed to successfully compete at the level I do,” he explained. “I’m also fortunate to use my story and passion for health and fitness to train and inspire others.”
Fortney and his management colleagues also try to inspire the people they work with. Short Elliot Hendrickson has rolled out a corporate health initiative to its Minnesota employees with the hope of spreading it to other states where it does business, including Wisconsin. The company has seen increased levels of staff participation at out-of-office health and fitness events, including local running events and triathlons, and in regular trips to the gym.
Fortney also believes that personal fitness positively affects business and professional performance, and he’s preparing to run in his third Badwater Ultramarathon next month to do something else that fitness enables – raise money for Gilda’s Club of Madison.
Michelle Dolbeau Anich
Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.
Fitness regimen: Back on a routine where she works out with Fittest contestant Peggy Gunderson. Anytime Fitness, Tuesday through Friday; mix of cardio and weights, 45 minutes to an hour.
Comment: “I found that when I turned 40, I had an extreme loss of energy. When I exercise, it changes my day completely.”
Fitness regimen: Walks 45 minutes, three times a week before work; rowing class on Wednesday nights at Gold’s Gym; yoga class when her schedule allows.
Comment: “I’ve observed associates at our bank that are in fit condition, and they are more organized, energized, and seem more productive with tasks and timelines.”
Forward Health Group, Inc.
Fitness regimen: Starting slow with a blend of cardio, strength, and circuit training. Intensity of workouts must improve. Put Fitbit (wireless activity tracker) back in front pocket. Tracking caloric intake, by the morsel, via MyFitnessPal.
Comment: “I’ve been overweight for a long time. We’re long past this being a problem.”
Vice President-Sales & Marketing
Overture Center for the Arts
Fitness regimen: In the summer, bikes quite a bit, but very sedentary during the winter months. Walks the dogs every morning for half an hour. Daily meditation.
Comment: “Improved physical fitness will have a direct and positive influence on all elements of my life; being fit will improve the quality and quantity of my life.”
Strategic Brand Marketing
Fitness regimen: Had worked with a personal trainer twice a week; suspended that due to time commitments. Now does treadmill and weights every morning, depending on schedule. Considering a membership with Anytime Fitness and going each morning with a friend.
Comment: “I have a 2-year-old grandson who, like most 2-year-olds, is extremely active. I want to be able to go where he goes and do what he does without being the Meme (his word for grandma) that just sits.”
Cindy Lane Krenz
Cindy’s Custom Interiors, LLC
Fitness regimen: Sporadically works out for a few minutes on rare occasions. Inclined to go for walks in good weather. No fitness club.
Comment: “I need a lot of energy to run my business. Feeling my best all of the time would help my efficiency and capabilities.”
R. Philip Petrowski
Fitness regimen: Consistently inconsistent. Current lifestyle is very sedentary. New wife is into running, marathons, and triathlons.
Comment: “My lack of energy and level of health impairs that time that I spend with my spouse and her athletic family.”
Owner and CEO
Rescue Desk Virtual Assistant Services
Fitness regimen: Works out two to three times per week at the Sun Prairie YMCA (treadmill, weight training, core work); working one-on-one with a personal trainer; yoga and aerobics classes; home workouts (DVD, extra-long walks with dog).
Comment: “Being more fit would have a huge impact on my life. Even in just the past few months of regular exercise, I feel stronger, I have a little more energy, and I find I have the ability to focus better.”
Fitness regimen: Currently playing competitive racquetball twice a week at Prairie Athletic Club. During the summer, plays golf and participates in two to three 5K runs. Occasionally runs on a treadmill and outdoor track.
Comment: “Losing 20 to 25 pounds would be highly beneficial for me. I would like to increase my energy, which would lead to being a better leader at work, and parent and husband at home.”
Steve Gerard Winistorfer
CEO and President
Fitness regimen: Enjoys cycling when weather permits and walking most of the year. Still enjoys working out but now, at 53, finds it much more difficult to motivate himself to head for the gym (YMCA).
Comment: “My major concern is that I have little discipline regarding what I eat. I generally eat the right things but too much of the things I shouldn’t. A major issue for me is eating at night (I’m an emotional eater), and I know I have to do better at this as a role model for my kids.”
Women Under 50
Jessica Lynn Anderson
Fleet Feet Sports Madison
Fitness regimen: Fairly consistent regimen: TRX two to three mornings per week, and one BOSU class. Also runs two to four times per week (ranging from 30 minutes to 3.5 hours). Does occasional biking and swimming, if training for a sprint triathlon.
Comment: “It is great for my kids and my husband to see me as a mom, wife, business owner, and athlete. I have ongoing fitness goals for myself, so I make ‘me’ time and family time, which makes everyone happier at our house.”
Vice President-Planning & Inventory
Fitness regimen: Primarily a runner. For cross-training, mixes in weight training, walking, some biking, and yoga. Has completed 18 marathons, qualified four times for the Boston Marathon, and has completed an ultramarathon and several 200-mile relays.
Comment: “Leading an active lifestyle also helps me sleep better. Rest and rejuvenation is key in maintaining a training regimen.”
Town of Madison
Fitness regimen: Avid runner; runs three to five miles, three or four times per week as weather permits. Takes a boot camp-style power class two to three times per week; various yoga classes as schedule allows; works with elliptical machine and weights at home.
Comment: “I need exercise for mental stress relief. I feel that exercising regularly is an important part of having stronger relationships with friends and family.”
Summit Credit Union
Fitness regimen: Light-to-medium-intensity workout, four to five times per week with some cardio and weights. Also likes to walk. Member of Prairie Athletic Club.
Comment: “Great stress reliever, gives me a higher metabolism, gives me more energy, and I eat better the days I exercise. For some reason, I also feel like it’s helpful from a time-management perspective.”
Madison Family Dental Associates
Fitness regimen: Currently works out three to four times per week. Gets up at 4:45 a.m. and works entire body at boot camp with Dustin Maher (Supreme Health Club). Prior to boot camp, was running four to five times per week.
Comment: “I am energized following my morning workouts and ready to start my day. I feel being fit is a good example for my four children. We work hard on eating healthy and working out as a family.”
Men Under 50
Insurance Services Group
Fitness regimen: Has a fairly well-rounded workout regimen of swimming, biking, running, cross-training, and weightlifting. Is back into some half-marathons and shorter triathlons.
Comment: “When I prioritize working out, I am able to focus better, eat better, and generally be more productive even though I have devoted time to working out.”
Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.
Fitness regimen: Three to four hours of cycling; 40 to 50 miles of running; two miles of swimming; 45 minutes of TRX; 30 minutes (three times a week) of “mat work,” including comprehensive stretching, intense core, and 200 push-ups; one yoga class per week (60 to 90 minutes).
Comment: “Being healthy helps to define me as a person, not necessarily through the actual races/events I compete in, but rather through the health benefits associated with the training and endurance needed to successfully compete at the level I do.”
Red Card Media, LLC
Fitness regimen: Shorter, intense workouts. Never work out more than three to four days in a row, as recovery is essential. Member of the Monkey Bar Gym; workouts are focused on two to three days of strength-building (pull-ups and dips, bands for resistance) and one to two days of cardio work.
Comment: “When my daughters see me heading off to the gym, they often ask why I am going to work out, and my answer is always the same: ‘So I can keep up with you.’”
Ryan Brothers Ambulance
Fitness regimen: Daily workouts. Three days a week, one-hour total-body weight-training program. Four days, active cardio for 25 minutes. If it’s above 20 degrees, outside for a jog, biking, snowshoeing, or skiing. Inside: Stairmaster, bag work, jumping rope.
Comment: “I am disciplined about what I eat during the week and often pack my lunch. All our children know how to read packaging labels and what sugar, protein, and carbohydrates mean.”
Fitness regimen: Cycle two days a week, swim three days, lift weights two days, and run on weekends. Also play in a competitive volleyball league on Sundays, compete in multi-distance triathlons (summer), and take part in cycling events for nonprofits; currently training for Ironman.
Comment: “Fitness has offered me the chance to disconnect from the stresses in my work and personal life. It has been a great networking opportunity for my business. There is a certain comfort that people feel when around people of like mind.”
Women Over 50
Senior Director of Marketing & Healthy Living
YMCA of Dane County, Inc.
Fitness regimen: TRX (suspension training) workout using just her body weight. Rides a spin bike indoors during the cold weather and heads outside on a road bike in the warmer months. Takes power walks in state and county parks every weekend, year-round.
Comment: “Along with releasing endorphins, exercise can help us to relieve stress. There’s nothing like going for a walk or riding a bike after a long day at the office.”
Fitness regimen: As the owner of a personal training and group exercise studio, teaches 20 classes a week (foundation training, Nia, and Yamuna body rolling). On weekends, six- to eight-mile power walks with friends, or a run. Always learning new techniques; spends many hours training in new modalities.
Comment: “My business motto is ‘Defrost your mind. Discover your body.’ To me, that is the essence of being fit. It’s a way to let all the stress in your daily life – especially vital when running a business – drip off through your sweat, your breath, and your every pore.”
Dori Kim Hosek
Global Prosthetics, Inc.
Fitness regimen: Simple daily routine (no exceptions): At 6 a.m., at the gym for 25 minutes on a treadmill, plus a few floor exercises and weightlifting. Three times per week, competitive tennis on U.S. Tennis Association teams; occasional golf.
Comment: “Keeping it short and simple (efficient) is far better than creating the perfect hour-long workout with lots of bells and whistles.”
Mary Woolsey Schlaefer
President & CEO
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp.
Fitness regimen: A combination of exercise and healthy eating. Strength conditioning exercises, cross-training through various types of aerobic exercise: biking, running, skiing, and rowing. Participates in endurance events and gears training around preparing for them. Generally follows a four-day training cycle.
Comment: “Being active and fit is core to my enjoyment of life. Fitness enables me to be an adventurer and explorer. I’m able to backpack, mountain bike, and paddle to places of awesome beauty and solitude that would otherwise be unreachable.”
Men Over 50
Founder, Director, Shareholder
Hurley, Burish and Stanton
Fitness regimen: Works out five to six days per week. Workouts are a combination of work with a personal trainer, TRX training, weights, yoga, cycling (outdoors in summer), and core aerobic-type workouts.
Comment: “It [being fit] gives me more energy and focus. I’m able to get more done and stay on task longer.”
Graphite Apple Specialist
Fitness regimen: Currently does P90X2, a DVD-based fitness regimen; competitive barefoot water skier; officiates varsity-level high school basketball; has a dedicated home fitness center.
Comment: “Fitness reduces the stress of being the owner of a growing and fast-paced tech company. It sets an example for my employees to stay in shape.”
Senior Vice President-Branch Manager
NAI MLG Commercial
Fitness regimen: Works out at Be Fitness & Wellness four days per week – five days in summer – to get on the Glacial Drumlin Trail for a bike ride. Minimum two-hour workout: Weights, cardio/core/abdomen exercises, stretching work on exercise ball.
Comment: “Being fit is a lifelong commitment, or at least it should be, so it takes lots of determination, dedication, desire, and drive to make it a part of your everyday lifestyle.”
Vice President-Design Principal
Fitness regimen: Biking, kayaking, backpacking in the spring, summer, and fall; bike commuting to work and 25- to 30-mile bike rides during the weekends in the spring, summer, and fall; cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, ice skating in the winter; dancing year-round; Pilates.
Comment: “Whenever I commute by bike, I arrive at work charged up and energized and am able to work out the stresses of the workday on my ride home.”
Senior Business Development Manager
Fitness regimen: Paddle tennis, two to three times per week; stationary bike, three times per week; weight training, three times per week; membership at the Princeton Club.
Comment: “The economy has forced everyone to do a lot more with a lot less in recent years. Staying fit helps me navigate the physical and mental challenges that go hand-in-hand with this.”
4 Tips for Complete Fitness
Knowing how challenging it is to maintain a life of total fitness, Meriter Health Services offers four suggestions for sticking with it, especially if you’ve passed the half-century mark.
#1: Flex your muscles
Loss of flexibility is a natural effect of aging that can be counteracted through a program of daily stretching. The repetitive movements involved in practicing any sport for a long period of time result in muscular imbalances that get progressively more extreme.
This daily stretching requires targeted efforts to loosen and lengthen muscles that have become short and tight. Athletes should identify their short and tight muscles and devote special effort to lengthening them through stretching.
#2: Nourish thyself
Proper nutrition in older athletes may also protect the joints from age-related degeneration. Aging causes the joints to become less flexible and lose a range of motion. These limitations can compromise physical abilities. The following nutrients are of particular importance to older athletes:
• Vitamin C for collagen formation.
• Omega-3 oils (from nuts, seeds, oily fish, and wheat germ) for anti-
• Sulphur-containing amino acids (from some vegetables, poultry, fish, and dairy) for joint cartilage health.
• Antioxidants (selenium and vitamin E) for protection against the damaging free radicals that proliferate in the body with age.
#3: Take it easy
While all athletes need time off for recovery, as we age we find that the off days are as important as the training days. While older athletes may be able to continue to do the same tough workouts that they did in their younger years, they cannot do them as often.
Older athletes need to allow themselves more time to recover between their most demanding training sessions. The extra time may be given to outright rest, active recovery, or a combination of both.
#4: Train strong
The older you get, the more important strength training becomes. One of the more crippling effects of aging for athletes is the gradual loss of muscle mass and the loss of strength that results.
Typically, most of the muscle mass lost due to the aging process is classified as type II, or “fast-twitch” muscle fiber. Type II fibers contract faster and therefore give us our strength and power. In contrast, type I, or “slow-twitch” muscle fibers, are slow to contract and contribute to muscular endurance.
The loss of overall muscle mass and muscle strength causes joints to bear greater stress during exercise, rather than dissipating it to surrounding muscle tissue. This extra stress to the joints commonly leads to athletic injuries such as tendonitis, ligament sprains, and musculo-tendinous strains, and can also lead to arthritis.
Athletes in sports that don’t require tremendous strength, such as swimming, biking, and running, are particularly susceptible as they tend to try to get by without resistance training. The older you get, the more important it becomes to train for strength specifically, no matter which sports you participate in.
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