Health Care

Fit Execs

by Leslie Turk

"Too busy" is not an excuse for these professionals.

So you've got too much going on to work out right? Too busy building that résumé or expanding your business. Any extra time is for the kids.

Photo by Robin May

Michelle Crain
Age 50
VP Patient care Services/Chief Nursing Officer
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center

Michelle Crain used think that, too. She's certainly a hard working woman, overseeing almost 650 employees as Our Lady of Lourdes' vice president of Patient Care Services. That's about half of Lourdes' employees, by the way.

But in June something changed; in the past seven months she's lost three dress sizes. And she's not done yet.

Michelle now believes that there is nothing she can do that's more important for her success - in life and business - than to take care of her health.

Read more about her inspiring story and goals (hint: she wants to run a marathon) and how five other local execs manage their careers with a consistent health and fitness regimen below.

1. How long have you been into physical fitness and eating right?

Krueger: Hmmm, you mean without falling off the wagon? I have been more dedicated to physical fitness and eating right over the last four years.
Patel: I'd say since the last 10 years.
Crain: Seven months. In my 30s I was very active but stopped exercising. This past summer, I decided to make a change.
Mallia: I have been into physical fitness my whole life. However, I didn't start eating healthy until about 15 years ago.
Ortego: I've been physically active ever since I can remember. I have developed a more balanced diet over some time now.
Finley: I have been into fitness since college. I joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps in my junior year and was required to do regular physical fitness.

2. Was there ever a time in your life when you did not work out? If so, what motivated you to get back in shape?
Krueger: When I was pregnant. I was fat and completely disgusted with myself. Honestly, I saw a picture of myself and almost passed out.
Patel: In my teens through the 20s I never worked out other then playing sports like tennis and cricket. What motivated me to work out was seeing people who were much older than me in much better shape and I was getting a gut and didn't like the way I looked and, more importantly, the way I felt.

Photo by Robin May

Ajay K. Patel
Age 52
President Barnam Management
(McDonald's franchisee)

Crain: Prior to June, 2012, I used my work hours as an excuse to not exercise. In June, I was challenged to participate in the Warrior Dash held in Louisiana in October. That goal kept me focused on working out daily and eating for energy. I started getting up each morning and exercising before work so no excuses in the afternoon. Each week, I started feeling stronger and more confident, so I stuck with it. Just finishing the Warrior Dash was such a personal accomplishment for me.
Mallia: I didn't work out a lot in college. As soon as I got out of college, I started back up.
Ortego: I have always made at least a couple of days a week to do something physically challenging. After Hurricane Katrina, while at Tulane, I decided to challenge myself physically by running triathlons. After returning to Tulane the following semester, I joined the Tulane swim club only because the Tulane pool building was damaged and club members could use Loyola's pool.
Finley: No. Once you join the military, you are required to take a physical training test every year. I have taken one each year since I was 19 years old. I am glad that I take the PT because it keeps me on my toes. There is nothing more embarrassing than to have to give your weight and waist measurements.

3. What's your weekly workout routine?
Krueger: I try to workout at least three days per week. But since my schedule is very busy, and I have a 7-year-old son, I have to work out either before he wakes up (4:30 a.m.) or after he goes to bed (7:30 p.m.)
Patel: Forty-five minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of light weight training five days a week.
Crain: Right now, I am doing Power 90 and using an application called 5K runner. Prior to this, I did 10 weeks of Insanity.
Mallia: I try to attend Body Pump at Red's at least twice a week. I also go to City Club to work out. I ride a stationary bike at home and work on the computer at the same time. Multi-tasking at its best. I try to work out every day in some way.

Photo by Robin May

Jenny Krueger
Age 41
Executive Director Acadiana Symphony
Orchestra & Conservatory of Music

Ortego: I usually train for triathlons in "bricks" five-six days a week. A brick is two workouts right after each other of either swimming, biking or running. I alternate two of these three exercises per workout with weight lifting twice a week.
Finley: I used to work out every day - aerobics and weights. Now, with all of my travel and responsibilities, I just do not get to work out as much, so I have to be creative. I probably get two serious workouts in a week, but I try to do something, lighter workouts, at least four times a week. That can consist of eight-minute Tae Bo or walking for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Tell me about your diet and favorite health foods.
Krueger: Well it used to be not a diet at all. It was more like grab what you can and go. But I have recently found out that I am gluten and wheat intolerant. Since this revelation I have had to seriously rethink what I eat. It actually has been wonderful. I find that I am exploring parts of the menu that I never would have looked at in the past, and I'm enjoying all the flavors that clean food offers. Plus, my tummy is much happier now. Do chocolate and almonds count as health foods? No? Well then I would have to say hummus, or tuna. I do love gluten free chips, but that's not very healthy is it?
Patel: For breakfast Masala Chai with whole wheat Indian flatbread and fruit. I eat McDonald's Grilled Chicken Southwest salad almost every day for lunch. It's healthy and it fills me up. I'll snack on nuts midday. Dinner is either home cooked meal or eating out, mostly consisting of fish or chicken with veggies. On weekends I splurge a bit.
Crain: I love raw vegetables and fruit. I like to munch throughout the day.
Mallia: I do not eat any sugar or white breads or pasta. I also have a juicer I use daily.
Ortego: I usually balance between carbs and lots of protein. I like meat but I can also enjoy eating rice or pasta. I also like cheeses and nuts before or after meals, and I snack often on either an apple or a banana.
Finley: I eat what I want, in moderation. I try to watch my calories by using a fitness app, and I keep an eye on my portions. My favorites health foods are fruits and protein shakes.

Photo by Robin May

State Rep. Stephen J. Ortego
Age 28
Co-founder, Eco-Lafayette

5. What food is your biggest weakness? How often do you allow yourself to indulge?
Krueger: Really good chocolate. Hmmm, do I tell the truth or do I tell you what I should say? I'm going with the truth because that is how I roll. I indulge every day. Yep, sometimes twice a day. I'm a rebel like that.
Patel: A juicy ribeye and a Haagen Dazs vanilla milk chocolate bar - at least a couple of times a month.
Crain: Cheese nachos with jalapeno peppers. I try to limit to no more than one a week. I also like wine.
Mallia: Chips and margaritas at LaFonda. Once a week.
Ortego: I probably over indulge on coffee (with lots of sugar), often up to four times daily.
Finley: Desserts. I allow myself to splurge at least once a week. Sometimes it's more, but I don't shy away from them.

6. What food(s) would you never let cross your lips?
Krueger: Beets and Brussels sprouts. Bleh ... nope, won't ever eat those.
Patel: I stay away from starches, white flour and for the most part desserts.
Crain: I believe nothing is off limits in moderation; you just need to exercise. But, I'm not a fan of fried foods and wouldn't eat cracklins.
Mallia: White bread.
Ortego: There are not too many foods I do not eat. I just make sure to keep myself balanced and not too many sweets.
Finley: I never say never. Lafayette has the best food in the state if not the nation. Moderation is the key.

7. Balance is key to good health. So how do you balance work and fitness, and what else do you do stay emotionally and mentally healthy?
Krueger: Honestly, sometimes I'm not very balanced. But I love my job, I love being a mom, and I love the people that I work with and interact with everyday. Life (in my opinion) doesn't get much better than that. It keeps my head in a good place. The gym keeps everything else in good places. Or at least I hope it does.
Patel: I make exercise part of my daily routine, and many times I am on the phone while working out. It's not the ideal situation, but they both have to get done. I also schedule a weekly massage. Eating and sharing wine with friends and cooking on weekends are relaxing activities for me.
Crain: When I make time for exercise, I'm making an investment in me. I like to set goals to keep me motivated. My family and I are running in the Mardi Gras Color Run (a 5K) in February and the Foam Run (5K with obstacles) in March.
Mallia: I make an appointment to work out, just like a work appointment. I can't miss it. I also meditate daily for sanity.
Ortego: Being in the Legislature can be a constant challenge already, but balancing between designing eco-friendly buildings and the Legislature is definitely mentally challenging and draining. I have to force myself to work in gym time and down time, often reading alone to relax.
Finley: I am better at balancing now. When I first became the U.S. Attorney, I was working 12- to 18-hour days. There are still some of those days, but I am better tuned in with my body, and I slow down when necessary. It's not easy to turn off work, but one of the things that I do is turn off the phone and computer on Sundays, unless there is an emergency. It's my time to regroup and decompress.

Photo by Robin May

James S. Mallia
Age 48
President, Employee Benefits Division
Dwight Andrus Insurance

8. Explain your level of commitment to working out. Do you ever make excuses or are you easily distracted? Say a friend calls to meet for drinks after work and you were planning to work out. Would you go?
Krueger: I am easily distracted, but I want to be more committed. Does that count?
Patel: I would probably go with the friend at the time but will attempt to catch up later on my work out. The funny thing about working out regularly is that you just don't feel "right" if you don't.
Crain: It really is about balance. When I exercise in the morning, those afternoon distractions become less problematic. I can't focus on beating myself up if I miss a day of exercise - I just need to get back on track. I have blown off a workout to go on an impromptu outing with friends, but I usually find a way to get extra workout time in later in the week by adding 10 minutes to my regular time or running up and down the stairs at lunch.
Mallia: I would definitely go. Then I would work twice as hard the next day.
Ortego: It's hard for me to turn people down but only after working out. I miss a workout from time to time but never more than once a week.
Finley: I think that physical exercise is a must - for everyone, but especially for busy people. Everyone gets distracted. Friendships are also important, so I would likely meet my friends and make up the workout later.

9. Any new workouts (yoga, Pilates), camps or machines you've recently discovered?
Krueger: Unfortunately no. But there are some really great new fitness classes going on now. One of these days I'll get out there and try it.
Patel: My wife (Bindu) is a Yoga instructor, so she encourages me to practice; when I do it feels great, but it has not been part of my routine. Yet.
Crain: I just did 10 weeks of the Insanity workout. It wasn't fun but you do these fitness tests throughout the workout, and I always surprised myself with how much more I could do. I also love Zumba and I've heard of a water Zumba class that I'd like to try.
Mallia: I tried CrossFit. However, sadly, it was not my thing.
Ortego: I have discovered a lunge that is sometimes called the cha cha lunge. It's pretty intense too and requires a lot of balance.
Finley: Nothing new. I'm a novice of yoga. I hope to spend more time exploring its benefits this year.

10. Have you ever gone on a special trip for the specific purpose of some type of physical workout or event? Anything you'd like to do, run the Boston marathon, etc.?
Krueger: I am very competitive. If I enter a marathon I would enter to win. Since I probably couldn't make it more than 10 miles without needed medical assistance, I think it's best to just work out in Lafayette. However, I want to do a tough mudder, but I'm afraid that I would be standing on the sidelines crying like a little girl.
Patel: Bindu and I went to Cal a Vie Spa last year for a week and learned a great deal about portion control and how to eat healthy.
Crain: I have set a goal to run in the Crescent City Classic which is a 10 K. I would love to run a marathon and maybe even an Ironman.
Mallia: I plan to go to Dallas for the Warrior Dash this year. Any place I vacation must have a gym.
Ortego: I recently started to do the Ironman 5150 series (Olympic size triathlon), which are all across the world. I recently participated in Galveston and will be doing the New Orleans one this spring. I also usually travel to Eagle Rock Loop in Arkansas each fall to hike the 27-mile loop, sometimes as fast as in one day. I would love to compete in the national championship for the 5150 series in Iowa.
Finley: No. I can't find the time, but I think it's a great idea. I would love to complete the Ironman.

Photo by Robin May

Stephanie Finley
Age 40-ish
U.S. Attorney-Western District of Louisiana

11. What is your best health advice to fellow execs who want to get in shape?
Krueger: Just move more. It doesn't have to require special equipment or even a membership.

Patel: It's simple. Figure out a way to burn more calories than you take in. Find your routine and stick to it.
Crain: Make time for yourself; it clears your mind and makes you think differently.
Mallia: Work out at lunch when you don't have a business appointment. You feel better the rest of the day and you eat less.
Ortego: Make time in your schedule and set goals. I find participating in events is a great way to set a goal to work toward.
Finley: Make time for yourself. A healthy leader of any organization benefits not only the person at the top, but it also benefits the organization. We all want leaders who are fully engaged - mind, body and Spirit!

12. Do you have any specific goals for your health and wellness in 2013?
Patel: Maintain my weight around 140-142 pounds and drink good wine!
Crain: I want to continue on my current path and find new and interesting ways to challenge myself physically and mentally.
Mallia: Yes, a pretty aggressive one. I want to get to 5 percent body fat and bench 300. Wish me luck!