Health Care

Fit for Life

by Amanda Jean Harris

EACH YEAR ABIZ ROUNDS UP A FEW EXECUTIVES who know the key to avoiding the boss burnout: staying fit. What’s more, recent studies suggest that being visibly out of shape can undermine others’ perceptions of your leadership ability and job stamina.

EACH YEAR ABIZ ROUNDS UP A FEW EXECUTIVES who know the key to avoiding the boss burnout: staying fit. What’s more, recent studies suggest that being visibly out of shape can undermine others’ perceptions of your leadership ability and job stamina.

The following execs believe they have an obligation to stay both physically and mentally fit. And the only difference between them and you could simply be that they make time for it.

Financial Muscle

Steady, consistent workouts pay off.

Troy Cloutier is a busy man. At the helm of Midsouth Bank, serving as both bank president and the chief banking officer, Cloutier has a full plate in his career. His actual plate? He keeps it in check.

Despite his schedule, which can include travel and long days, Cloutier makes fitness a priority. While fads come and go, Cloutier sticks to basic methods for lasting results.

“I work out with weights two or three times a week, and I run three or four times a week between 2.5 and four miles and I swim twice a week,” he says.

Cloutier is often at the gym by 5:30 a.m. On the morning we talked he had been for a morning swim with plans to run later in the week as he traveled.

“I know if I’m traveling I’m not able to do weights, so I just run those days because I can’t swim at the hotel either. I try to do about 45 minutes to an hour a day with either weights, running or swimming,” he says. “It’s harder when I’m on the road to stay healthy. When I’m home or at the bank it’s much easier.”

When it comes to diet, Cloutier uses moderation and works to include more veggies and fruits rather than protein.

“I try one meal a day to not eat much protein. You can eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and not get as many calories. It’s harder on the road. I do make shakes and put anything you can think of in it — including kale,” he continues. “I’m not big on any kind of supplements.”

His commitment to work out was solidified when Cloutier was actually away from home.

“I moved to Houma and opened a bank, and I wasn’t busy all the time, and I started working out in the morning or running and started to enjoy it,” Cloutier says.

While the physical benefits are the essence of Cloutier’s commitment, he points toward other benefits as well.

“I find when I get up in the morning and go to the health club to start my day and I’m thinking about something, I find when exercising it’s easier to make decisions,” he says.

He says decisions become clear as he works out, the day progresses better when he starts it out at the gym, and the practice affords him the time to think of the day ahead.

“Also getting on the scales after the holidays or feeling clothes don’t fit … that keeps me motivated as well.”

Like Cloutier’s workout method, he says the approach to fitness is pretty simple — start slow.

“Switch it up every month and don’t start out and run four miles.

Starting slowly and switching it up and being consistent. It’s better to get there and stay 10 minutes than not go at all,” he says.

The Power of Willpower

Even a surgery couldn’t interrupt this bank exec on a mission.

Judy Briscoe can’t tell you why she made the phone call to be part of the Go Red Challenge. But 35 pounds later she can tell you it worked. The vice president and public relations officer at Home Bank joined nine other ladies in early 2015 for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Challenge at Personally Fit where she found fitness, truly, for the first time in her life.

“The lady at the gym said, ‘I need you to come at 5:30 a.m.,’ and I said, ‘I can come at 9 a.m.,’” Briscoe says.

Briscoe showed up at 5:30 a.m. She was accepted to the fitness program that tracked women’s progress and taught them a regiment for eating and working out. As days turned into months, Briscoe didn’t waver in her newfound effort to get fit. She worked out, she ate right and she saw steady progress. And then life happened.

“I had to have knee replacement surgery,” she says.

It was five months into her new way of life, and while the injury that led to her knee replacement was not to be blamed on her new time spent at the gym, it did keep her from getting back to the grind — per doctor’s orders.

“I called Dawn [Foreman, owner of Personally Fit], and I cried, and she said, ‘You know what to do.’ And I did,” Briscoe says. “I was afraid. It was scary knowing I couldn’t go to the gym.”

She would spend 15 weeks in physical therapy after the surgery, which was its own kind of workout. And as she waits to get back to the regular gym habits, she has learned the value of the other side of the coin in fitness more than ever — food.

“I had to really focus on my eating habits — especially with the holidays,” she says. “That took some effort because my thought process is that I lost 35 pounds, so I’m good. But, I still need to lose more. And I’m going to have to go back to the gym to do that. That’s the plan. I’ve been able to maintain just by eating. But maybe a year from now I’ll be where I want to be.”

Briscoe says getting where she wants with her health has proven to be an exercise in willpower and self control. She doesn’t allow certain foods in her home — bread and ice cream are at the top of that banned list. She plans meals. She packs snacks. She’s learned every place in the world has at least one salad on the menu (except for Cane’s, of course).

“I have the ability to control my willpower. I didn’t think I had the willpower that I have now. Emotionally it’s satisfying knowing I have the willpower to make the right choices, and it took this whole process to make me realize that. I had never tested it before,” she says. “It’s about being more in control and knowing how your body responds to the way you treat it and the way you feed it. I didn’t think it was that important, and it is.”

Briscoe has learned to not deprive herself of the foods she loves — like chocolate — but instead make them a rarity rather than a regular part of life. “If I’m at a restaurant and they are famous for a chocolate dessert, I’ll eat dinner like a salad and then dessert, and I won’t do it again for probably a month and it’s so enjoyable.”

She will eat a bite of chocolate cake at a luncheon instead of the slab. She eats breakfast every day and brings snacks to ensure she’s not famished by lunch time.

Her simple tips for planning ahead: Package snacks like nuts, hummus and celery, grapes, carrots, bell peppers in individual snack bags for the week and carry them with you to work or in the car. Prepare breakfast for the week — from fruit with Greek yogurt to a simple egg and veggie frittata that can be cut into portions then quickly heated in the morning. Eat only half your meal at a restaurant.

“It’s awareness,” she says. “So many things are just a habit. We go to the same places and order the same thing. I evaluated. What am I actually eating and how much of it am I eating? We were taught to eat the food on our plate, and portion sizes are huge at most restaurants.”

**Crossing Over

Rachelle Meaux finds inspiration in a gym with a competitive edge.

Rachelle Meaux has been in shape for years. A busy OB/ GYN, Meaux worked out at home. But it was her endeavor into an entirely new way of approaching fitness that found her in perhaps the best shape of her life — a place where she was willing to arrive at a gym in the wee hours of the morning and even compete (even if just for fun).

“The real attraction of CrossFit is that you never know what you’re going to do,” Meaux says.

She first dipped her toe into the CrossFit craze in September 2014 after years of staying fit at home.

“I couldn’t ever make class times at a gym, and I’ve never been one for using much equipment. It didn’t appeal to me,” Meaux says.

A friend’s husband, however, runs CrossFit Amis, so she decided to give it a try.

“People are friendly and encouraging. It’s ever-changing. It’s not doing the same thing over and over. Every individual gym or “box” you belong to is different. The one I belong to has athletes and then typical people like me that are active but not athletes. There’s a real camaraderie, and it’s not so much competitive,” she says.

Meaux not only loves the work out — enough that she’s waking early to fit it into her hectic schedule — she says she’s also seeing the benefits in more ways than one.

“You see what it does for your body, and it pays off. You put clothing on and you don’t have to worry about how things fit. You’re not going to go in the first month and say how good you look. And it depends on what you looked like in the beginning. You’ll notice the changes in your ability to do more day to day as well,” she says.

Whether it’s squatting to pick something up, having better balance or simply noticing how the day’s activities require less effort, Meaux says she feels stronger.

“As you age you tend to lose balance and core strength, and that comes into play when you do CrossFit,” she says.

Meaux says since she started the workout method, she’s heard more than once naysayers express concern about whether it’s a risky way to get fit. The doctor disagrees. She says CrossFit is no more a risk than other workout methods. The key, she says, is to know and trust your coach.

CrossFit was founded in 2000 with a focus on not just individual workouts but a competitive fitness sport approach. The workouts include elements of highintensity interval training, weightlifting, power lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics and strongman exercises, among others. In less than two decades, the method has boomed with more than 10,000 gyms affiliated with CrossFit and a new workout culture that promotes competition.

“I never thought I would compete,” Meaux says. “I wasn’t looking to prove anything or win anything. I was just going and finishing and that was all I needed to do.”