He’s pushing 54, going on 24. What strikes you about Ajay Bakaya, Executive Director of Sarovar Group of Hotels, is not so much his calm persona or his lean worked out body. It is, in fact, his glowing youthful skin which can put many a youngster to shame. The secret behind the glow is his passion towards ‘physical fitness’.
“I think I’m crazy,” Bakaya says with a smile. The craziness is his passionate devotion to elaborate, tough, disciplined fitness pursuits, which range from ‘chi running’ to ‘chakra meditation’ to eating according to the blood group.
Most chief executive officers (CEOs) have immense anxieties. Unless they make serious and deliberate attempts to tackle their stress level, the chances of burning out seem fast. So how do these overworked souls deal with hours and hours of work?
The activity chart of Bakaya looks something only to be seen in books. “I run three times a week. The gym trainer comes home once a week; I do yoga three times a week, tennis every Sunday, and chakra meditation regularly.” It is ‘chi running’ which he learnt from a book. “It’s based on Chinese principles. It is all about posture. Instead of power, you focus on gravity. Don’t lift your knees, instead lift the feet behind,” he says.
His food choices are guided by a strict diet regime. “I follow a blood group diet,” he says, designed by an American naturopath, Peter D’Adamo. So the day’s food consists of lots of fruits and juices, nuts and dry fruits, cereals and soya (no cow) milk, apart from the ordinary rice-dal-sabzi.
A great follower of yoga and meditation, Samantha Kochhar, Managing Director, Blossom Kochhar Group of Companies, has discovered a new passion for herself and that is ‘horse riding’ which she religiously does every morning. She says, “I tune myself to the horse and I want to run my race and help people run theirs in return.”
Samantha also follows a well -balanced diet. She goes for a wide variety of natural foods like whole grain cereals, fresh fruits, vegetables, dried peas, beans, brown rice which are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. “I avoid junk food, but indulge once in a while. I like to sip my green tea, warm water throughout the day to detox.”
‘Don’t eat until your body wants to’ is the fitness mantra of Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India Pvt. Ltd. “I believe in healthy eating and prefer to eat small portions,” he says. “For me, playing tennis and spending time with my children is a great way to de-stress. I also exercise regularly first thing in the morning. I ensure to go for regular brisk walks and hit the gym at least once a week.”
Well, walking or hitting a gym is not the only way to keep fit for some. They have found their solace in their own idioms, be it Laughing Club or Mythology Tenets; from channeling their inner rock star to pole dancing in the office.
Jeff O’Shea, CEO of IntelliTouch Communications, starts at least four of five days with a bike ride. As he says, “A bike ride clears out the cobwebs and allows me the relaxing solitude to focus on my work. Beyond that, I find that good music and lots of laughter can act like Teflon and keep the stress from sticking around.”
Likewise, Pankaj Munjal, Managing Director, Hero Motors, is a fitness freak. He manages time from his hectic schedule to cycle at least once in a week.
Interestingly, Robert Freedman, CEO of ORC Worldwide, spends two minutes every morning drawing on a napkin while he drinks his coffee. This meditative moment helps him clear his mind for the day.
Gaurav Goenka, Managing Director, Mirah Group, has found his ‘Stress Management Module’ at a very unique level. He believes, mental fitness is a pre-requisite to physical fitness. According to him, the mind has to be kept clutter free, stress-free and agile with positivity. So to achieve this, he incorporates the tenets of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna as his personal and professional life’s principles which he calls ‘management of stress’. He explains, “The Chakra in Vishnu’s hands stands for elimination of negativity; conch shell for announcement; lotus for rewards and recognition and mace (Gada) for discipline.” He adds, “Coupled with yoga and meditation, I have realised that it is my practice of these principles that actually acts as my ultimate fitness regime. It not only helps me clear my mind in day to day running of my company, it has also created an air of overall well-being which is bearing fruit of its own.”
Lastly, a pole dance in office! “We have a dance pole in our office. We put on a pair of heels and take a spin or two when we’re stressed. Most of the women utilise the pole to let loose when things get crazy,” says an enterprising lady CEO. Isn’t that exciting?