Sundeep Chugh: Running has helped me get more focused
Sundeep Chugh looks amused when he describes himself as a fat kid growing up in Hyderabad. Dressed in jeans and white T-shirt on a Thursday morning at work, he looks big and tall, but there is no sign of fat. “My father sent me out to run every day since the age of 9 because I was overweight. I used to run the perimeter of a temple next to our home for 20-30 minutes,” the 45-year-old recalls. “I have been running almost every day since then.”
A Delhi university commerce graduate, and a qualified chartered accountant, Chugh worked in diverse sectors before joining the retail and fashion-wear industry. He was with LG Electronics for more than a decade before joining adidas and eventually moved to Benetton six years ago. He was promoted as the managing director and chief executive officer, Benetton India, 18 months ago. Though he has been a runner for as long as he can remember, distance running is something he took up when he joined adidas in 2008. He ran his first half marathon in Delhi on a colleague’s bib, but has since then run several 10km runs and two more half marathons under his own name. The father of two, who says running is part of his system, often tries running off mild illnesses such as fever, cold and headaches before popping pills. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How does running affect your performance at work?
Running is strongly ingrained in my DNA now; it really sets the tone of my day. It inevitably leaves me feeling positive, energized, stimulated, charged and balanced for the day and challenges that lie ahead of me.
How do you balance your training and work?
I have a highly disciplined daily routine. I kick-start my day with a run. It only takes 1 hour, but it motivates me to excel for the next 23 hours. I believe it’s all about dedication and conviction—if you have those in place, nothing is hard to achieve.
How does leading by example as a fit leader influence your team?
While leading and inspiring my team in terms of delivering the best in terms of work lies on the one hand, it truly makes me happy to be able to motivate them in some way to turn fitness into a priority. It is an activity which elevates both mental and physical health for the organization as a whole.
Any leadership lessons that you find in distance running?
Running in a defined time limit contributes to making you more focused to achieve business targets within the budgeted resources available. If running is your passion, it gives you belief and teaches you patience. Any task can be achieved when you have belief, passion and patience. I also find that in chasing targets, whether while running or working, determination and perseverance are key.
Has running changed the way you work and network?
Running has contributed tremendously in developing a more positive outlook on life situations, dealing with stress more optimally, better mental health, and greater energy. It has helped me inculcate a spirit of “conquership” and, most importantly, the sense of satisfaction of working towards healthier living.
Who are your running/training buddies?
I am mainly a solo runner and do most of my daily runs alone. It is on the weekends, when I go for the longer runs (13km and more), that I join up with my friends from my residential society in Gurgaon (Gurugram), one of whom is an entrepreneur, and the other an information technology professional.
Describe your training regimen.
I am up by 5am every day and the first thing I do is go for a run. I run seven days a week. On weekdays, I run for an hour within my residential complex and on the weekends I go for longer runs with some of my running buddies. I enjoy running so much, I don’t feel the need to listen to music while running. I immerse myself completely in the activity.
Your toughest race.
My first half marathon was at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2008. I had just joined adidas and there were a lot of people from that organization going for the race, which was going to happen just a few weeks later. I knew I could run 10km easily because I had been doing similar distances for many years. But this was double that. So, with very little training I went out and ran. I was the fastest among all my colleagues that year and that really announced my arrival at my new workplace.
What do you do after a race or a long run?
I devour my mother’s aloo paratha along with the jaggery tea that my wife makes.
Running With The Boss is a series where CEOs, MDs and senior executives talk about leadership lessons, management mantras, the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running.