Anthony Nappi

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 November, 2014, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 November, 2014, 4:49pm

Spending more than a third of the year on the road has led Anthony Nappi to develop two strict criteria when booking a hotel: whether it has a gym, and whether it's open at 5am.

Nappi's routine has stayed the same for the past 26 years: wake at 4.30am, gym by 5am for a 90-minute weightlifting and cardio session, work by 7.30am. This stays the same whether he's in Hong Kong, London, New York or Tokyo.

"It's a great start to the day and a great stress reliever. It's the only time of the day when no one is pressuring me; I relax and go at my own pace," says Nappi, 55. "There's usually nobody there except me and the security guard."

Nappi is chief administrative officer at Citi group, Asia Pacific, responsible for the company's overall support functions. A New Yorker, he's lived in Hong Kong for more than 13 years.

Previously a night owl, he developed his routine when his first daughter was born. "I came home from work and started putting on my gym gear when my wife said, 'Where are you going? It's your turn to take care of the baby so if you want to go to the gym, you better find a different time to do it'," he says.

He traces his militaristic fitness discipline to being an overweight child.

"I clearly remember one day thinking I had had enough. I changed my diet and lost nearly 40 pounds [18kg]," he says. Nappi has kept the weight off ever since.

"Being physically fit, having stature and presence is an important part of leadership. Not just physical fitness, but psychologically and emotionally fitness."

Don't you ever want to roll over and press snooze?

Getting up early is not a burden. When you really like something, it's not hard work. I work 11 to 12 hours a day, plus a few hours on the weekend, so lifting weights and working up a sweat gives me an opportunity to decompress. After a while, you just find a rhythm. These days, I don't even need an alarm.

How do you maintain such a positive approach 26 years down the track?

I'm a big believer in not going to extremes. I know people who count calories, or go on shake diets, but a month later they're back to old habits and overcompensating for the deprivation. It's best to do everything in moderation.

Ever had a personal trainer?

Never. I'm an old school kind of guy and I don't like fad exercises. When I'm coming out of the gym, I'm looking as if I've worked out. If I'm not sweating that's not a workout. No pain no gain, that's my motto.

Do you exercise on your own or with someone else?

I prefer it on my own - I like to move quite fast. I'll average 100 sets an hour and like to turn my weight-lifting sessions into an aerobic type set. It got me in trouble once - I was bench-pressing in my garage and got the bar stuck on my chest. That said, my wife likes to join me on weekends. It's a great way to spend time together.

How do you define exercise?

Exercise can take many different forms - you can run, you can go to the gym, you can play sports, or you can just walk. It doesn't have to be as formal as getting up for 5 o'clock in the morning. It's important to have something that helps you release stress physically and improve your cardiovascular systems. Find something you enjoy. If you do that, you will have no trouble sticking to it.

How long until corporate gym sessions replace dinners?

I don't know whether that will ever materialise; I think work dinners are entrenched. But there's been a big change in the corporate world today - health clubs are more popular and I think education around health and fitness is greater. Come to think of it, the vast majority of our management team in Asia have some kind of regime or play a sport. For example, our CEO Stephen Bird is very keen on soccer.

Do you find any obstacles to working out?

Sometimes there are physical impediments - recently I suffered a hernia, and I've had to adjust my regimen since to lighter weight, more repetitions. But most of the time it's a problem in your mind, and making time for it. It's so easy to make excuses, to wait to have more time, but it's about actually carving out the time for yourself. For me, that just happens to be at 5am.