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The Globe and Mail

Competitive drive: not just for the boardroom

Mark Aboud often works out with a masters swim team in Toronto. The executive broke several Canadian masters records when he turned 40.

Peter Power

As president and managing director of SAP, Mark Aboud, 53, is always catching the next wave of innovation and technology. To manage the stress of running one of the world's leading providers of business software, he regularly hits the water. Now he's looking for an edge to improve his swimming economy and leave the competition in his wake.

My goal

"To keep healthy for the long-term and be able to provide for my family, have energy to meet demands of a high-pressure job, and keep stress under control."

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My workout

"I'm in the pool at 6 a.m. for an hour three times a week at the Granite Club, where I also do spinning. I run on Sundays."

My lifestyle

"I get to my desk at 8. I'm there until 7 at night, and then often travel."

When away from home, "I go online to find a location, so I can drop into master-swim workouts. I've done that at the University of British Columbia and Dalhousie. I swam in Montreal, Calgary, and in the U.S., with Stanford and Harvard's masters, so that I get workouts in."

"In my late 30s, I became very interested in diet and well-educated in nutrition.

My philosophy: Be aware of what you're eating. I follow a diet of moderation in all things. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, I eat low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. And when I'm travelling, I like to have something handy, such as trail mix or rice cakes, and often bring my own stuff with me to skip airplane food."

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My motivation

"The benefits of exercise allow me to enjoy life more at work and to be more energetic with my family. Being a role model for my two university-aged kids - both children are on the swim team - is the key to helping them make fitness a part of their lifestyle."

"Competitions motivate me to workout harder and develop skills to win. When I turned 40, I broke several Canadian masters records in 50, 100 and 200-metre freestyle, along with relays. Since then, I broke Canadian and Ontario relay records, and have changed to 200- and 400-metre individual medley."

My workout anthem

"I haven't got into listening to music with an underwater MP3 player, but I listen to old songs and new songs on my iPod when I run."

My challenge

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"Keeping the balance between work, family, and regular

exercise. What I discovered

is, you have to adapt your schedule, and then you get

balance. But it takes thoughtful organization because there are only so many hours in a day."

The critique

At home, Mr. Aboud follows a routine he is clearly comfortable with, says Celine Saroyan, fitness director at Verity in Toronto. He could benefit the most from fresh workout tips to take on his road trips.

Carb up post-workout meal

Ms. Saroyan agrees with Mr. Aboud's choice of nutrient-dense foods, but says his post-workout meal should be tweaked to give him an advantage. "For women, the ratio of carbs to protein is 1 to 1, but for men, the ratio is 2 to 1, to adequately replenish glycogen stores and speed recovery after exercise. Carbs deliver energy and shuttle protein to Mark's muscles for protein synthesis."

Lift weight for speed

Many swimmers think strength training will make their bodies weigh more and slow them down, says Ms. Saroyan, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. But an endurance training scheme - which requires muscles to fire quickly - would boost Mr. Aboud's strength and improve his pace without adding bulk. She advises a 20-minute routine, best performed early in a workout, before swimming or spinning, when muscles are fresh. "I recommend high reps alternating a mix of upper- and lower-body exercises in one session - for instance overhead dumbbell shoulder presses followed by squats."

Mr. Aboud should reduce the rest time in between sets to boost his cardio and feel the rush he wants, she adds.

When travelling, he should pack a heavy-resistance band, which will address his strength training needs anywhere, any time, Ms. Saroyan says. She also advises he boost his motivation to keep fit when on the road by making upper-body drills competitive. "Mark can challenge himself by completing a routine of 25 push-ups and 25 chin-ups in 60 seconds."

Stretch for muscle power

Travelling also provides Mr. Aboud the opportunity to stretch out of his comfort zone, says Ms. Saroyan, who holds a bachelor degree in kinesiology. "Mark should do a yoga class - something out of his typical routine that works different muscles. It'll add a component of fitness that's lacking and he'll get more from swimming and spinning, because if muscles don't lengthen, they can't contract or extend fully." The result: Mr. Aboud will get more power out of his muscles, which should help make him swim faster.

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