No excuses

Karl Insani distinctly remembers Ross Products’ 1993 sales awards ceremony.

The then-vice president of sales for the Columbus-based company was master of ceremonies at the San Diego event. Insani wasn’t feeling well that day, so he took a breather after rehearsals while his crew set things up.

He skipped dinner, then returned in his tuxedo ready to make the presentations.

“I went to the preparation area to go on stage, and I was just in a corner of the room by myself and slithered down to the ground,” Insani says. “That was it; and the next thing I knew there were people trying to carry me.”

Insani had suffered a heart attack and was taken to a nearby heart hospital before he was transferred home to Grant Medical Center to continue his recovery.

Insani had never had heart trouble before.

He’d also never had an exercise regimen.

It was no surprise, then, that less than a month into his rehabilitation program at Grant, he wasn’t making much progress.

“Of course I felt like I was the world’s biggest wimp and had not given any thought at all to going into a physical exercise program,” he says. But when a nurse recommended intensive one-on-one training, he agreed and began working with Mark Mayes, president of Fitness Resources Inc. of Columbus.

I didn’t know what was motivating me except I didn’t want to die,” Insani says.

Six weeks into the exercise program, he started to see definite improvement, he says.

“I started having more energy and saw that my appetite picked up, but I didn’t worry about it because I knew I was exercising,” he says.

A few short months later, he’d face another problem. He returned to his regular work routine, which included lots of travel — 60 percent of his time, in fact.

How would he keep up the three-times-per-week exercise training program that was bringing back his health?

“First of all, you make the commitment that you want to be able to live your life to the fullest,” says Insani, 52, who recently retired and does consulting work, “and if you want to do that, you’ve got to make exercise part of that. Doing it when you travel is just proving to yourself that you’re serious about this.”

Step by step

Insani, who admits he could not have been as successful at exercising if he did not have a personal trainer, says his travel would have been a definite obstacle had he not found ways to continue exercising on the road.

“I flew everywhere — all areas of the country, coast to coast,” he says.

Preparing a client to exercise while traveling is key to Mayes’ work.

“We’re basically trying to teach people how to exercise properly,” Mayes says. “Our whole goal is to educate the person so they can go off individually.”

Mayes and Insani offer the following advice to business executives who want to keep up an exercise program while traveling:

n “There are things you can take with you in the suitcase and you can work out in the room,” Mayes says.

One of Mayes’ clients, who often travels to Hong Kong, takes running shoes and exercises by doing laps up and down the stairs at his hotel. Dynabands, rubber tubing that allows the individual to work the upper body, are another possibility. There also are inflatable weights that can be packed and filled with water before use, Mayes says.

“You can do things in your room like using chairs and doing dips between the chairs to work the triceps or like doing types of pushups or types of squats,” he says.

  • Make arrangements to stay at hotels that have fitness rooms or that have agreements with local fitness centers for day rates.

    “I never found a hotel that wasn’t willing to drive me there in their van,” Insani says.

  • Schedule exercise into your daily travel routine.

    “Once you make the commitment you’re going to do it, it’s no more than saying, ‘I’ve got a 3 o’clock meeting,’” Insani says. “I’d say be flexible in your schedule; don’t say, ‘I have to work out at 6 in the morning.’”

    Insani was motivated knowing he’d return from trips to his regular training with Mayes.

    “He didn’t expect me to lose ground because I was out of town for 10 days,” Insani says. “He knew I was very goal-oriented, so he used that to help me.”

    Insani says he’d often exercise in the afternoon, and when he’d arrive to a dinner banquet where he’d have to make a speech, he’d hear people regretting they had spent the previous two hours in the bar or munching.

    “Quickly you see, by observing people you are with, you are feeling a lot better about yourself and what you’ve got to do, and it’s because you allowed your body to exercise rather than sitting there like mashed potatoes,” Insani says. “That would be one of the bigger motivators to do it while you’re on the road.”

  • Watch your eating, which is 50 percent of the fitness equation, Mayes says.

    This tip is one of the hardest for executives who travel, Mayes admits.

    “A lot of times they’re in a meeting and they’re served [a meal]. They don’t pick out what they want,” he says. “If you’re in a situation where you can’t pick stuff, I would say use moderation. You have to eat something. Try to pick whatever’s best. Then when you’re away from the meeting, try to get something healthier.”

  • Drink plenty of water.

    “Flying can dehydrate you anyway. That’s one of the reasons you have jet lag,” he says.

    The old adage of drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses of water is especially hard to fill while traveling, he says.

    “I tell clients to get a liter bottle and carry it with them,” he says, adding that executives could keep it in their hotel room. “At least that way you can physically see what you’re drinking. If you rely on drinking fountains or just drinking from glasses, you’ll typically not get enough.”

  • Find a fitness professional in the area where you are traveling. One place to do this is through the American Council on Exercise, Mayes says. Search geographically by state at the council’s Web site,, or call (800) 825-3636.

In the end, Insani says, the ability to exercise while traveling helped him continue his exercise regimen — and improve his health.

His doctor has stopped prescribing heart medications for him, and his annual stress tests are a breeze. He’s progressed from a limit of three minutes on an exercise bike or treadmill to an hour. He can do 200 sit-ups nonstop, where previously he was proud if he could muster five. Mayes says Insani can lift weights that would be difficult for men 20 to 30 years his junior.

“I try to dwell on the fact that the energy has picked up greatly,” Insani says. “I’m pleased with my body image. I’m toned. I don’t feel like a weakling. I don’t get colds and flus like I used to. Your self-confidence builds up when you have a good image of yourself.”

Mayes credits Insani’s success to his gung-ho attitude, but he says any exercise program, especially for an executive who travels often, can be successful with a bit of dedication.

“Nothing’s easy,” he says. “They’re going to have to take some time to plan this out. I don’t think it takes a lot of planning, but it does take some.”

Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is a reporter for SBN.