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CEOs so fit to work (After you, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg!)

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 02, 2022 5:00 am Updated Oct 02, 2022 8:50 am

Have you seen Jeff Bezos recently? I don’t mean personally, but photos of the “transformed” Amazon multi-billionaire who is now so buff. I also noticed Mark Zuckerberg has been pretty fit, and has been posting (on Instagram, of course) his martial arts training sessions, to water skiing and surfing. Other famous CEOs or top businessmen have been showing off their chiseled physiques as well. In a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, “Yachts and Watches? The Real CEO Flex is Washboard Abs,” writer Ellen Gamerman mentioned that “Jeff Bezos’s arms are ripped. Ari Emanuel has a six-pack, and Strauss Zelnick is in skin-tight purple spandex. Elon Musk says he needed to get in shape.” Ari Emanuel is the CEO of media and entertainment agency Endeavor, while Strauss Zelnick is the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, a video game company. As for Musk, everyone knows who he is. I call this new “species” of muscled executives billionaire beefcakes with brains.

We have not been left behind locally, though. There are a few fit CEOs and top businessmen who have well-toned bodies and actively attend to their health and fitness, alongside their successful enterprises. It’s a good look: disciplined, in-control, a well-balanced leader. I asked these busy executives their motivations and views on fitness, and what physical activities keep them in their prime.

DONNIE TANTOCO: ‘Being fit goes beyond the physical. You also have to be strong spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.’

"It is during running that my thoughts flow and I am at my most creative, most spiritual, and most entrepreneurial. My best ideas flow forth, my priorities and direction clearest, solutions to hardest problems and my prayers are most powerful, and gratitude is strongest.” In essence, this is how being active makes Donnie Tantoco feel.

As far as I remember, the president of RCC and CEO of Royal Duty Free Shops has always been in good shape. It comes with hard work, for sure. “I followed my Lolo’s and father’s routine of exercising every day. My Lolo, as you know, exercised regularly and continuously until the pandemic. I started running daily at 17, and I have only started to slow down, doing the equivalent of 10k per day, seven days a week.”

Donnie Tantoco, president of Rustan Commercial Corporation and CEO of Royal Duty Free Shops, started his active lifestyle when he was in high school, where he hung out with athletes. Photo from PeopleAsia

There were times, though, where he felt that he was on the heavy side and not very fit, and other periods where he was relatively lean. So he removed certain foods from his diet that he loved, but were making him sick. The result was a consistently lean body. Donnie’s active mindset started in his teens. “I lived in a dormitory of super athletes during my last year of high school in Italy and first year of college in Connecticut. Even if I was not in their league, the jocks adopted me and let me work out with them. I was not a wrestler but I did the wrestling workout. I was also the only guy who attended aerobics class. I enjoyed it so much that I kept doing it even if my guy friends thought I was weird. I couldn’t keep up with the male long-distance runners, so I trained with an amazing female cross-country runner. I was not an athlete, and yet I enjoyed being with them. I loved the way they think, their passion, how for them their body is an instrument.”

Donnie Tantoco with his equally fit son Christian: The CEO and president believes in being physically, spiritually, and mentally fit.

Donnie’s exercise routine includes: mixed cardio, running, moderate-intensity dance classes, and light weights. Plus, he skips rope. And yet, he says, “I don’t think I am as healthy as I need to be. I need to be a lot better in managing energy and stress. The unintended consequence of having so many food allergies is that I have a very strong heart, and I am physically lean. I love the benefits of feeling light on my feet, not having knee problems, and just being able to do what I love. I think if I stay light, I have a chance of having a very active lifestyle for the next 10 to 15 years.” Being fit goes beyond the physical with Donnie. “I think it’s part of being whole with yourself so that you can be whole for your work, your family, and your community. You get 50 points for showing up, and 40 points for bringing your healthiest, most purposeful, most self-giving self every day.”

The purpose of his routine is to be strong physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. He adds that, as a family man, head of a business organization, and a member of society, “I won’t be able to add value, contribute, help the team, care for my family, if I am not physically, spiritually and mentally fit. I have a granddaughter who moves around a lot. I need a stronger core and more flexibility to get up from the ground, and move as fast as she does. I have another granddaughter on the way. And my fitness goal is to be able to be an active grandfather.” Fundamentally, being fit and healthy is self-care for him. “The point of self-care is to be whole with yourself, so you can be whole for others and your calling.”

LEO PO: ‘Scuba diving helps my mind de-stress and relax. Having a robust physique provides me with the energy I need to function at a high level.’

Leo Po has rekindled his love for scuba diving. The top business executive says, “It helps keep me on the move. More importantly, it helps my mind de-stress and relax.” He goes scuba diving as often as he can and practices deep breathing and high-intensity circuit training to save time. “I have kept in fairly good shape over the years. Diet, or what and how I eat, has been a key factor in maintaining my physique. Primarily, I eat well and I eat right. I have shifted to a more plant-based diet. Especially since we are now producing plant-based food, under the UnMeat brand.”

Leo Po of Century Pacific Group has switched to a plant-based diet, which the company offers under the UnMeat brand.

Since Leo has always been fitness-conscious, I asked him what got him started on this journey. “I was always a fan of the ’80s action stars and was inspired by them to get and stay fit.” Having a healthy and robust physique absolutely helps him in his role as the treasurer and executive director of the Century Pacific Group. “It makes me feel good and provides me with the energy that I need to function at a high level.” A bit of exercise helps Leo get his heart and blood pumping. Beyond that, “It gives me the capacity and capability of facing challenges that I may face. Also, health is wealth!”

“I was always a fan of the ’80s action stars and was inspired by them to get and stay fit.”

STEVEN TAN: ‘Exercise gives me clarity of mind and a quickness to my step. Did I mention that clothes look good on you if you have a fit physique? I work in retail, after all.’

Steven Tan starts his day by running. An early riser, he says, “I like the feel of the crisp air and morning sun on my face. I also have a personal fitness trainer who pops in for rounds of strength training and boxing. And when I am traveling for work, I make sure to put in an hour on the treadmill.” The president of SM Supermalls has always been interested in fitness, which is evident when you first meet him. He does running, spinning, strength training, and, most recently, boxing. His personal trainer helps to keep him consistent and motivated.

Steven Tan has recently gotten into boxing. He also runs, does spinning, and strength training.

Being fit actually helps him with his hectic schedule. “I am used to this busy pace and find that being fit actually allows/empowers me to thrive in it. From the get-go, I was determined to adopt a healthy, fit lifestyle. The hardest thing is eating healthy, because I attend a lot of work events, socials, and meetings over lunch and dinner. So much temptation, ha-ha. Apart from that, everything is easy. I don’t have any vices and slot my exercise routine like I would schedule meetings, which is every morning at 7 a.m.”

Steven Tan, president of SM Supermalls, Shopping Center Management Corporation, says that being fit “empowers him to thrive” in his busy lifestyle.

His focus on fitness is essential to his business life, and life per se. I asked Steven how having a healthy physique makes him feel. “I feel young, vibrant, and ready for anything and everything. Exercise gives me clarity of mind, a quickness to my step, energy to seize the day. And did I mention that clothes look good on you if you have a fit physique? I work in retail, after all.”