The way to flying fitness

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2011, 12:00am


George Clooney, eat your heart out and say hello to Sergio Mello, the Italian entrepreneur who'd give your Up in the Air character a run for his money - or should we say, a run for his mileage.

Mello, a native of Turin, has been based in Hong Kong since 2008, when he founded Satisfly. The company sells airlines software that finds ideal seating partners for passengers.

He travels extensively to meet airlines and speak at conferences across the globe.

'In terms of flown mileage, we may compete,' says Mello, referring to Clooney's film character Ryan Bingham, 'but I definitely care more about friends and family.'

He rarely flies without meeting up with friends wherever he goes - even if it's just 24-hour turnaround trip to Sydney.

Travel, he says, keeps his attention deficit disorder under control. 'Ironically, a stable and repetitive daily life stresses me more than a constant run to catch flights,' he says. The downside, however, is frequent neck pains and having limited time to train for triathlons. Mello took up that sport recently. He was inspired by a pair of bad knees that didn't agree with all the skiing or running he had been doing.

Having had knee surgery as a teenager, he picked up swimming and cycling for active recovery and therapy. His triathlete friends encouraged him to 'connect the dots', and in August he did his first sprint triathlon.

Next weekend, he will be doing his first half-Ironman triathlon (swimming for 1.9 kilometres, cycling for 90.1 and running for 21.1) in Taiwan.

How do you keep fit on the road?

Eat well. It may be difficult when wining and dining customers or reuniting with old friends, but it's the most important thing. Long flights mess up digestion, so it's always imperative to stay light.

On the training side, it's hard to find decently long hotel pools. So I usually run in the morning. I hit the treadmill if the circumstances make an outdoor jog impossible.

I've got a bicycle in Italy, so I can train on Turin's hills, as well.

I happen to be there quite frequently, whenever business brings me to Europe.

Which is your favourite city to run?

Sydney - the coastal trail from Bondi to Coogee Beach is a symphony of climbs over the cliffs and stunning ocean views - breathtaking, literally.

However, I also have a passion for bringing my longboard skateboard with me to Taipei and Singapore. I love cruising the empty streets at night. It frees my mind.

Business travel can take its toll on health, and frequent travellers are more likely to be obese, studies show. How do you stay healthy?

Flying time is detrimental to health if countermeasures are not taken.

I strictly avoid sleeping pills and other similar drugs. Instead, I focus on eliminating carbs and alcohol before and during flights.

I usually eat a light meal before and try to survive on fruit platters in-flight. Not all airlines provide this choice, unfortunately, and it's often a psychological wrestle with my sweet tooth.I also stretch at any occasion before, during and after the flight, at the cost of looking goofy in front of hundreds of people lining up at an immigration queue. If you had a choice, whom would you sit next to on a flight?

On the left, I'd like to have a like-minded person, someone I can share hobbies or work experience with. On the right, it would be great to have a complementary profile. There's always something new to learn about the world.

Have you sat next to anyone interesting lately on a plane?

During a flight from London to Milan, I once met a business lawyer. His colleague fell asleep, so we had a pleasant conversation. We were interested in each other's businesses and clicked right away. He eventually introduced me to a few venture capitalists.

What don't we know about flying?

The atmosphere at cruise altitude contains almost no water particles, so the air flowing in the cabin is very dry, about 30 per cent humidity. And guess where that little humidity comes from. Human breath - yuck.

That's why it's imperative to drink lots of water and avoid coffee, tea and alcohol while flying. Dehydration symptoms, like headaches, really don't mesh with jet lag.