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August - 2008 - issue > Protocol@Work
Fitness Culture at Work
Sridhar Jayanthi
Friday, August 1, 2008
The topic of fitness is one of individual well-being as well as that of a work culture. It is typically not associated with a work place in most companies. The IT industry is ahead of the traditional corporations in this regard.

Fitness can be associated with that of body (physical), mind (mental), and spirit (spiritual). The western IT work culture focuses more on the physical fitness, while the Indian techies are ahead in the areas of mental and spiritual fitness. The two cultures are moving gradually towards each other, with more emphasis recently on meditation and yoga in the West, and likewise on physical fitness in India. However, the Indian focus on physical fitness is just getting started and is very limited to a few progressive companies. Going by my personal experiences, during one of my jobs in Boston I found that of the 180+ employees about a dozen finished the Boston Marathon. Lunch times were used for running, tennis, volleyball, and roller-blading by a significant section of the employees. The tennis tournament alone had over 30 players enrolled. On a weekly basis, we had volleyball and baseball matches with people waiting on the side to participate and cheer. However, I knew almost nobody with a focus on fitness of mind and spirit.

While, in my IT experience in India, I have found many more employees and industry peers focused on spiritual activities and many forms of meditation and kriya. We could always have more people involved, but it’s not a bad start. Wouldn’t it be great if we can combine that with physical fitness and have all-round healthy habits? The number of them involved in regular physical activity is woefully low. Unfortunately, the resulting impact on everyone’s personal and professional life is well known and significant. What can we do NOW about this?

First of all, it is never too late to take up physical fitness activities. For professionals who ‘are too busy to work out’ there are ways to make it happen with some discipline: Plan your work day – include exercise or running into your daily routine; Use lunch time to go to the gym if you have one nearby or identify a park to run; You can always eat lunch at your desk if you pack one; You can also workout on the way home; Watch for those unplanned time drains.
Identify your obstacles – find what’s stopping you from exercising and work on overcoming them; Talk to experts if you are not sure where to start; if you are not comfortable with physical activity, start with an easy routine and build it up; If you don’t like going to a gym or running, find a sport that excites you.
Sign up peer help – working out with a ‘buddy’ will help motivate you better; You will make less excuses if there’s someone waiting for you at the gym.

Set goals – if you are a goal-driven person and go about achieving them; When it comes to physical exercise, being too aggressive is not a good idea; If you want to run, start with a small run combined with a walk; As for routines that are safe for you, of course, there is plenty of advice online and from the doctors.
Adjust your working hours – most IT companies allow flexible hours which you should be able to use to your advantage, especially if you can put in a couple of hours once you get home and still meet your job requirements.

Since we started encouraging fitness at McAfee we have had over a dozen people finish half or full marathons, we have an active running club, started a hiking club, and won cricket tournaments. We have also recently decided to add a gym in our premises. A few well-publicized activities can make the fitness mood contagious. We need an Anil Ambani in every company leading from the front.

The author is Vice President of Engineering and Head of India Operations, McAfee Engineering Centre, India.

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