How To Balance Marathon Training With A Busy Work Life

Not many can successfully manage to balance a busy work life with training for a marathon, but it's all in a day's work for these two professionals.

learn more about Vaibhav Joshi

By Vaibhav Joshi


You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

So you want to check "Completed a marathon' off your bucket list but can't imagine how to do it without your work life taking a serious hit?

Two business professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are successfully managing both these feats.

Nikhil Arora, managing director at GoDaddy India, is a seasoned veteran of more than 25 half, full and ultra marathons. His impressive running resume includes completing world's longest running relay, called Hood to Coast—a 199-mile overnight team relay race. He is gearing up to take part in his 10th Airtel Delhi Half Marathon later this month.

Chiau Haw Choon, Group Managing Director of Chin Hin Group Berhad Malaysia, is another regular on the marathon circuit, having successfully completed 9 full marathons and many other races. His most recent adventure is even more impressive—a grueling climb to the Base Camp of Mount Everest. He is currently training for Ironman in 2019.

Both men let us in on their fitness secrets, offering invaluable advice to those interested in taking part in their first ever marathon, or just looking to make healthier lifestyle changes without letting their work life fall behind.

You Don't Have To Choose Between Work And Fitness

"Fitness and training are an essential part of my day. Even if it's a busy day and I have just 30 minutes to exercise, I'll take it because it's still better than not working out at all," says Nikhil. "I usually start my day quite early, at 4:45 am. I begin with an hour of cardio—either running, cycling or swimming alternating over weekdays. I follow that up with an hour of strength training late in the evening." Weekends means raise the intensity of these workouts rather than taking it easy. "I tend to put in about three to four hours, usually early in the morning, for long runs. I do these on the weekends because then you have more time to recover," says Nikhil.

Nikhil in action

Chiau has a similar dedication to maintaining his fitness levels. "I work out 5-6 times a week from cardio, weights to cycling and swimming. I eat healthily and stay fit mentally too," he explains.

On The Road

Does your job involve a lot of travel? That's still not an excuse. "With a job that involves traveling for 15 days in a month, I have to get creative to adhere to my fitness regimen. Some of the big international airports have decent gym facilities, and I usually plan a workout there if I have a long layover," says Nikhil.

An enthusiastic runner, Nikhil always looks for opportunities to get his exercise in no matter where in the world he is. "My running shoes and basic TRX equipment travel with me so I don't miss out on my early morning workouts. I also look up various running groups in the cities that I travel to and connect with them in advance. This helps me get motivated to run and beat the jet lag," he says.

Why Go Through All The Trouble?

Having already exerted yourself physically and mentally in the office, wouldn't exercise take a further toll on your health that will cause a drop in your performance at work? You might think so, but the opposite seems to be true. According to a research paper published on the Social Science Research Network in September 2014, bosses who run marathons regularly are not just in great shape, their companies perform better too.

Chiau agrees with the view that staying fit enhances work performance. "Definitely, I believe that business performance is highly dependent on our energy. Staying fit and strong leads to higher energy which allows me to be more alert and focussed and have the stamina to achieve more," he says on the subject.

Chiau demonstrating his fitness mantra. Image credits:

Plan Your Fitness Journey Methodically

If completing a marathon is your objective, you need to build your fitness and stamina levels gradually over a course of 12-16 weeks, advises Nikhil. "For this, regular running should be supplemented by activities such as yoga to help improve flexibility. On the mental front, it requires the strength to push through physical challenges and roadblocks," he adds.

Some of Nikhil's personal must-dos before a marathon are:

  • A weekly schedule consisting of 2-3 short distance runs, one cross-training session, one tempo run or hill workout and a long run.

  • A minimum of two strength-training sessions per week targeted at the lower body and core to strengthen the bones, ligaments and muscles for an injury-free run. This is also important to prevent early burnout.

  • A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. The right foods during training provide essential nutrients, electrolytes and energy both for runs and recovery. A good practice in this regard is to consume complex carbohydrates before your run and simple carbohydrates after it.

A Successful Work-Life Balance

If you want to get the best of both worlds, you need to devote enough time to each pursuit. "I plan and organise my schedule in advance," says Chiau. "This ensures that I spend my time and energy effectively across all the important aspects of my life from business, family, faith, fitness, friends, financial, personal growth to community work." During his time off, he enjoys spending time with my family, especially his children. "Seeing the world through their eyes has opened up my world to new possibilities and inspiration," he says.

Make Memories

"I keep track of experiences and not times," says Nikhil, having completed running races across Asia, Europe, and North America. "My most memorable one was the London Marathon which I ran five days after the Boston Marathon bombing and it was a great emotional one. I've also completed four triathlons, including two back-to-back Ironman 70.3 events," he reminisces.

Vaibhav Joshi

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Asia-Pacific

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