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Businessman's Workday Is a Workout Day, Too

FITTING IN FITNESS: This is one of an occasional series on various forms of personal exercise.

November 10, 1987|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Frank DiGennaro stepped up to a deltoid weight-training machine and placed the weight-stack selector pin at 240 pounds.

Dressed in blue running shorts, a white T-shirt and worn Puma training shoes, he sat down on the bench, concentrated, wrapped his arms around the bars and lifted. He moved the weight-stack pin to 380 pounds, repeated the exercise, and then moved the pin to 400 pounds.

But the muscular, 46-year-old sales-marketing executive had met his match. "Not today," he said, as he tried unsuccessfully to lift the weight stack, then shook his head as he walked away. Undaunted, he began a 10-minute session of rugged calisthenics designed to firm his already taut abdominal muscles.

Indoor Mini-Triathlon

For the unathletically inclined, the weight-training session alone would probably have been exercise enough for one day. But for DiGennaro, a lifelong fitness enthusiast, the weight training and abdominal work were simply the finale of a session at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in which he had also sweated through an indoor mini-triathlon--swimming a quarter mile, riding 10 miles on a stationary bike and running three miles around the indoor track.

Watching DiGennaro, Kirk Santighian, an exercise physiologist, verbalized the obvious: "He's an animal."

Monday through Friday, DiGennaro arrives at the downtown club about 5 p.m. and works out for two hours or more. The routine is relatively static: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he does mini-triathlons and weight training. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he weight-trains, rides the bike 10 miles and plays basketball. Occasionally, he'll drop in on the aerobic exercise class. On Saturdays he plays two softball games.

"Sundays I try to kick back," said DiGennaro, who has four children and one grandson. Difficult, sometimes, for a man who's recently scaled down his fitness regimen.

"I used to work out three times a day," DiGennaro said. "I'd do an hour of calisthenics when I got up, an hour of exercise at lunchtime and another two hours at night."

But about three years ago, business responsibilities increased, forcing him to cut down his workout time. As West Coast regional manager for Continental Commodities, a cooking-oil manufacturer in Vernon, DiGennaro regularly logs 50-hour weeks, with frequent business trips. (Fitness on the go is easy, DiGennaro claims. He simply picks hotels with in-house or nearby facilities, or, when all else fails, does calisthenics in the room, a practice that sometimes has driven hotel neighbors to complain.)

When he takes over Dec. 1 as president of Genova Foods, a produce business in Orange, he expects his work week to lengthen considerably. And already he's scheming how to fit in fitness.

"To maintain my schedule," he said, "I'll have to get up at 5 a.m." He's also installing a weight set and stationary bike in his Glendale home to use when it's impossible to get to a club for his workout.

His wife, Barbara, who now does aerobic exercise and weight training, wasn't always sympathetic to Frank's workout schedule, he said. "It used to be a source of irritation to my wife," he said, "until she took up exercise about five years ago."

DiGennaro's urge to be active seems inherent. He played high school football and ran track. From 1960 to 1965 he played semipro football with the Eagle Rock Athletic Club and, later, with the pro Continental League. From age 20 to 44 he played competitive rugby. He participates in four or five triathlons a year.

Conceding that he's addicted to physical fitness, DiGennaro is quick to add that he's no fan of health food.

'I Love to Eat'

"I love to eat," he said, sounding more enthusiastic than apologetic as he took a break after a recent workout session. "I eat lots of pasta, steaks--I know they're bad for me--and hamburgers."

It doesn't seem to hurt. At his last physical examination his doctor had nothing but good news, said DiGennaro, who stands a little taller than 6 feet and weighs about 195.

"He said I was in super shape," DiGennaro beamed, "equivalent to a very fit 19-year-old." At last count, DiGennaro said, his resting pulse rate was 52 (considered excellent by exercise physiologists).

Does DiGennaro ever think of dropping out of fitness? No. Physical workouts neutralize the emotional ups and downs of life, he said, help him overcome anxiety and keep him sharp on the job. But some days, succumbing to inertia, he takes a sauna instead of exercising.

"But then, I feel guilty and make it up the following day," he said.

Fitting in Fitness FRANK DiGENNARO

Age: 46

Occupation: Sales-marketing executive.

Regimen: 3 weight-training sessions, 2 mini-triathlons, 3 10-mile bike rides, 3 basketball games, weekend softball games. Occasional aerobic exercise class.

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