HOW EXECS GET FIT Many senior managers are becoming as serious about athletics and diet as they are about their work, and for good reason. While exercise used to be a weekly swing around the golf course, a daily regimen is now more common among the fittest. And it shows.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – ON weekday mornings, Lawrence Perlman rises at 5:30 to run three to seven miles along the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. Most days he then lifts weights for half an hour before heading to the corner office at Control Data. Three times a week CEO Perlman, 52, also plays a few intense games of squash. On winter weekends he slips on cross-country skis to glide across snow-covered slopes. Rollerblading, a new craze sweeping the country, is the chief executive's latest athletic diversion. If that's not enough to make you cringe with envy, you desk potato, know too that nonsmoker Perlman shuns fatty foods and sugar, loading up instead on vegetables, fruit, and grains. His payoff: low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and a body that tips the scale at 145, just three pounds heavier than it was 30 years ago when he entered Harvard law school. Says Perlman: ''The idea for me is not to isolate diet and exercise. I pull it all together for a comprehensive approach to life.'' For all his apparently indefatigable dedication to fitness, Perlman doesn't stand out among his golf-playing peers as he once would have. He is just one of a growing, if still small, number of top executives who pursue a healthy lifestyle with evangelistic fervor. Some, like polo-playing dealmaker Michael Tarnopol (left), pursue sports that bespeak high corporate status. Others, such as Perlman, ride skates or bikes, or play basketball. A purposeful, even driven bunch, these men and women seem to get the same mental kick from physical fitness routines that they do from racking up terrific numbers for the company or making new deals. Somehow, too, most manage to fit family, social, and community obligations into their busy schedules. Winthrop Smith Jr., a senior executive at Merrill Lynch, is a devoted family man, works for several philanthropic causes, and cycles long distances with his wife on weekends. Barbara Cherry, Midwest regional attorney for AT&T, takes her husband along to her body-building gym at least once a week. The devotees of fitness featured on the following pages recoil at the term ''health nut'' and cast a wary eye at doctors, but they would never settle for a couple of half-hour sessions every week at the company gym or be caught dead with a Big Mac. They revel in being taut and toned, and in practicing good nutrition. Many espouse cross-training, a technique incorporating different sports to achieve cardiovascular fitness, good muscle tone, and flexibility. When Perlman lifts weights, for example, he builds the muscles of his upper body, which will help retard muscle atrophy when he reaches his golden years. Rollerblading, done with a sleek new breed of skate with wheels down the middle rather than side by side, works lower-body muscles. Running keeps Perlman's cardiovascular system in shape. Dr. Steve Blair of the Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas notes approvingly, ''If we start a balanced fitness program early in life, we'll be flexible enough to carry out our daily activities with no problems when we get older.'' Executives like Perlman are an exception to the trend among the general population. Despite all that 1980s talk about fitness, Americans remain a surprisingly flaccid lot. True, they plunked down $25 billion last year for such things as athletic shoes, health club fees, and in-home exercise contraptions. But much of the merchandise apparently sits on a closet shelf. Says Dr. Blair: ''The bad news is only 10% of the adult population is following the Surgeon General's recommendation for 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week.'' He estimates that between 30 million and 50 million U.S. adults do nothing more strenuous than put away the occasional pint of superpremium ice cream. Just what does motivate the most dedicated among corporate executives to get off their duffs and join the daily battle to keep in shape? ''The peer pressure to stay fit in upper management is much higher than in the general population,'' says Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, who is researching corporate health programs at the University of California at San Francisco. ''When a corporation spends so much money to train a senior manager, it wants that person to be alive and functional.'' Well, maybe. But peer pressure is not the reason the fitness buffs on these pages cite for eating right and working out. ''I do it because I like it, not because I have to,'' says Arthur Levitt Jr., the former head of the American Stock Exchange who is now running the New York City-based publishing company Levitt Media. ''It helps me to think better, and it certainly helps my disposition.'' Levitt, 59, is almost religious about staying in shape. When he's on the East Coast, he visits the gym three days a week at 7 A.M. for an hour. There he lifts weights, works the Nautilus circuit, and climbs the Stairmaster. Twice a week he plays tennis, and once a week, golf. On weekends he swims and climbs mountains. Levitt has climbed all over the world, including the 46 mountains in New York State over 4,000 feet. Says he: ''The activities I enjoy most, like mountain climbing, are solitary, almost cerebral, which allows me to think clearly and act more decisively.'' It is no wonder, then, that Levitt has set up an office in Sante Fe, New Mexico, with a sweeping landscape of rolling hills and mountains. Here, he walks three miles every day, does an all-day climb once a week, and rides his purebred sorrel quarterhorse twice a week. Doctors say Levitt, whose father was also a fitness buff, is probably not overdoing it since he has been in shape most of his life. ''There are so many individual differences that there are virtually no rules about how much is too much,'' says Dr. Edward Bernacki, vice president and medical director at Tenneco. IT SEEMS to help if you start on the routine early in life. Win Smith, 41, whose title at Merrill Lynch is senior vice president, has been a fitness enthusiast since childhood. While attending New York City's Buckley grammar school in the late 1950s, he and the other students played sports for two hours every day, from baseball to soccer. ''We even had a great recess program where we did broad jumping, ran sprints, and climbed rope,'' he remembers fondly. At 11, Smith starting riding horses, and he competed on the show-horse circuit for eight years. When he got an MBA from Wharton in 1974, Smith sold his mount and took up biking. He made a 2,500-mile cross-country bike odyssey with his wife. Then, a few years later, he hung up his wheels and started jogging. Characteristically, he became serious about the sport, participating in a number of marathons. He quit a year ago. ''My knees were getting a little older, so I started biking again,'' says Smith. Riding his Trek 1,000 bike, Smith logs about 15 miles a day, mainly through scenic backwoods or along a narrow peninsula called Tod's Point near his home in Greenwich, Connecticut. ''Any activity like bicycling that works the larger muscle groups rhythmically for at least 15 minutes is excellent cardiovascular exercise,'' says Dr. Pelletier. In the winter, to keep his muscles toned, Smith works the Nautilus circuit at a gym twice a week. For a change of scenery Smith recently took a four-day biking trip through Moab, Utah, with his wife and Thomas Carroll, a senior partner at KPMG Peat Marwick. One day, amid sweeping vistas of aspen trees, desert, and sandstone range, they pumped their wheels at an altitude of 10,600 feet through the La Sal mountains. The three were quickly converted to mountain biking, another new fitness rage. Says Smith: ''I'll soon take my whole family.'' LIKE HIS FRIEND Smith, Carroll, 49, has been active all his life, playing three sports in high school and intramural basketball at Notre Dame before becoming a serious runner and cyclist. ''I feel terrible when I don't exercise,'' says Carroll, who is also fanatical about his diet. He avoids meat and mainly eats fruit, vegetables, and seafood. He includes grain in his diet and eats pasta occasionally. He allows himself one cup of coffee a day. After cycling 12 miles around New York City's Central Park (two laps) each morning at 6, Carroll often sits down to a breakfast consisting of half a cantaloupe, two slices of granola toast, his cup of black coffee, and a vitamin pill. At lunch he usually eats a large garden or fruit salad. Says Carroll: ''I like going to one of my clubs where the menus are geared to people trying to eat healthy.'' When he leaves the office, he takes a four- mile evening run along East River Drive, followed by 49 push-ups -- one for each of his years -- on the terrace of his Sutton Place apartment. ''My neighbors must think I'm crazy,'' he muses. Somehow he finds the strength to eat dinner, usually fish and salad. He never snacks between meals. ''I don't know why I don't weigh 125,'' quips Carroll, who has come to grips with the slowdown in metabolism that comes with age. At six feet, he is a muscularly slim 175 pounds, about the same as 25 years ago when he ate more. One reason Carroll keeps such a strict diet is the fear of heart disease. Even with blood pressure and cholesterol on the low side, he is concerned nonetheless: His mother died of a heart attack, albeit at age 73. He, like many successful executives, is all too familiar with stories about peers struck down in their prime. Experts warn that it can be dangerous to begin a vigorous exercise program after years of sloth. A sudden change in how you live, including embarking on an exercise program, should be closely supervised by a doctor, they say. ''It is crucial to have a stress test done by a doctor,'' says Tenneco's Dr. Bernacki. James Ketelsen, chief executive of Tenneco, is a textbook case of an executive who got a scare and in response embraced fitness. Eleven years ago he underwent double bypass heart surgery. The cause: severe angina due to a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet. After the surgery Ketelsen got religion and completely changed his diet, eliminating eggs, butter, salt, sugar, sauces, and red meat. He started running three miles a day. Now his Air Jordans are always packed when he travels around the world on business. Ketelson's 6-foot 3-inch frame is 15 pounds lighter than before, but his greatest reward is an apparently complete recovery from heart problems. Says Dr. Bernacki: ''The average person who has bypass surgery usually gets a significant amount of reblockage in the arteries after ten years. That hasn't happened to him. His heart is in great shape.'' SOME executives admit that vanity plays a major role in their commitment to fitness. Barbara Cherry, the attorney at AT&T, unabashedly says that one reason she works out is to continue to look attractive as she grows older. That's why she took up body building two years ago. ''Body building is the best sport for maintaining your physique,'' she asserts. Doctors agree. Says Dr. Bernacki: ''She will be able to maintain muscle bulk and reduce muscle atrophy as she ages.'' Cherry, 36, can bench-press 135 pounds and hoist 250 from a squat, but she doesn't think of herself as a weight lifter. The weights are simply a means of shaping the body. In body building contests, participants are judged on symmetry and muscularity of the physique. Cherry is no stranger to competition, having been a competitive equestrian while simultaneously working on a law degree and an economics degree at Harvard. Needless to say, discipline and dedication are not in short supply here. Cherry trains six days a week. Using what she calls a ''3-1 split routine,'' she works out three days and rests one day. Says Cherry: ''I made the commitment to schedule time to do it; otherwise, it is too easy to put it off.'' She varies her workout, each day concentrating on a different part of the body to keep from overworking muscles. One day, for example, she may work on the hamstrings and quadriceps, on shoulders and triceps the next. Her sessions always end with a cardiovascular workout on the Stairmaster or stationary bicycle, which helps to burn off fat. Her dedication paid off fast: In 1989, just one year after she began body building, Cherry won two contests. At 5 foot 8 and 135 pounds, Cherry captured the North Central Illinois heavyweight championship for women over 125 pounds. A few weeks later she won a higher- level regional competition. She is now training for national-level competitions. Her co-workers at AT&T are supportive, she says: They cheer her on at competitions and solicit diet tips. Pumping iron has also pumped up her endurance. Says Cherry: ''When I hit a demand period at work and put in a lot of hours, I can handle it better. And I never get sleepy in the afternoons anymore.'' You may have seen Michael ''Mickey'' Tarnopol in a Revlon ad with the rest of his ''most unforgettable'' polo team. As senior managing director for mergers and acquisitions at Bear Stearns, Tarnopol, 54, helps people like Revlon's Ron Perelman build their empires. Tarnopol brings that same competitive drive to his matches on the polo field. ''It's fast and rough,'' says Tarnopol. ''None of the professional polo players let up on me, nor do I let up on them.'' In just nine years he has risen from polo bystander to captain of several winning teams. In deriding it as a rich man's sport, some critics contend that in polo the horse does most of the sweating, while the rider merely mugs for the crowd. Not so, says Dr. Pelletier: ''Polo is definitely aerobic. When riding and balancing, you're breathing hard and using upper-body and leg strength. It is a demanding physical activity.'' During the winter Tarnopol commutes on weekends to Palm Beach, where his team, sponsored by Revlon, keeps a tight game schedule. Tarnopol's 26 Argentine-bred polo ponies are kept on the grounds of the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Their owner currently is ranked at two goals; a few of the professionals on his team are near the top polo ranking of ten goals. When he is playing, Tarnopol keeps his 6-foot 3-inch frame right at 200 pounds. ''I just don't eat anything I like,'' he says. He doesn't drink either, but is reluctant to give up cigars. On weekdays during the season, Tarnopol works out at a health club near his Manhattan office, or at his Greenwich, Connecticut, home, which is equipped with a gym. There he shapes up on his Stairmaster, aerobic cycle, and treadmill. During the summer Tarnopol plays several nights a week at the Greenwich Polo Club, not far from his home. Other days he lifts weights or works out on his exercise machines. TRUE executive fitness buffs don't let travel interfere with their regimes. They order low-fat meals on planes, book hotels with gyms, and pack their running shoes, even if jogging isn't their favorite activity. Michael Tesch, director of creative services for the New York City advertising firm Ally & Gargano, takes his basketball wherever he goes. ''I'm just a basketball rat,'' he says. ''It relieves the anger and the stress.'' Tesch, 52, seeks out urban areas, where he says he finds the best basketball players. In New York City he plays at the outdoor court on Avenue of the Americas at West Fourth Street, near his West Village apartment. Like a veritable United Nations, the court is filled day and night with a mix of Village chic, the unemployed and homeless, and past and present high school and college basketball stars. ''I'm small, but I'm tough,'' boasts the 5-foot- 7 Tesch, who also gets a charge from punching boxing bags to Bob Marley music. When Tesch is on the road in the U.S., he usually heads straight for a local high school. ''The basketball players there will take me to their neighborhoods, where I can find some good games.'' When he is farther away from home, his strategy changes. ''On the Bahamian island of Eleuthera I drove around, saw some kids playing, and I jumped out and played with them,'' he says. Tesch picked up another group of teenagers while shooting a Pan Am commercial in a tiny village in Ivory Coast. ''I just love to hit the hoop and see whether this old man still has an eye,'' he says. Experts say basketball is a great sport for shaping up. Observes Peter Miller, director of the Hilton Head Health Institute in South Carolina: ''It's hard to think of one sport that is a better all-around activity. If it is played at a good level of speed and performance, it works the upper and lower body, and it is good aerobically.'' Even in executive ranks, disbelievers who hang on to their thick steaks, thicker waistlines, and slothful habits often poke fun at fitness. ''All those health nuts who don't drink or eat red meat are living unnaturally,'' says George Reichhelm, who heads the Wall Street stock and options trading firm Reichhelm & Schwarz. Boasts Reichhelm: ''I eat everything, even pork. My wife is a gourmet cook, and I drink Dewar's White Label. No, I don't go to the doctor regularly; they scare the hell out of me. I last saw the doctor three years ago, and luckily I came out clean.'' Reichhelm, a disarmingly warm wisecracker, did cave in and kick one bad habit: tobacco. After smoking 42 years, he quit last January. ''I woke up one morning and couldn't breathe,'' says the 55-year-old executive. An avid sailor who has won a boatload of racing championships, Reichhelm, who lives right on the Saugatuck Bay in Westport, Connecticut, sails about three nights a week and on weekends. He explains what it used to be like on his boat: ''Everyone on my crew smoked. As soon as we were down wind, when everything was calm, we would all light up.'' Following the captain's lead, the entire crew of Reichhelm's boat, Shucks, has sworn off cigarettes. Now when Shucks leaves the dock, it's loaded with gum and candy. MOST experts aver that sailing does not do much for fitness. Says Dr. Pelletier, a sailor: ''It is great for the soul, but I don't know of any sail changes that take 15 minutes. The body needs that much time of sustained activity to shift into aerobic metabolism.'' Reichhelm, who usually keeps his hand on the tiller, acknowledges that sailing is more mental exercise than physical. He also admits to gaining 22 pounds since he stopped smoking, although an unsuspecting outsider would never know. At 6 feet, he is still rather lean and paunchless, which may have helped him to ignore pleas from friends and family to get fit. Time and gravity will not treat most executives so kindly. But while even the most high-powered corporate job entails no heavy lifting, the fittest execs clearly seem to find the load all that much easier to bear.