Puneet Dhawan leads a fitter and healthier lifestyle even while managing his work
While inspiring others can be as difficult as inspiring yourself for that one more step, Puneet Dhawan believes in the power of continuous learning and inspiration. Even though work engulfed him like any of us, he was not the one to accept the challenges of work life balance and bounced back with a healthier and fitter body. We had a talk with him to find out more on this:
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hailing from New Delhi, India, I am a technical manager at a leading telecom company in the Middle East. With professional experience of over 20 years’ in the Information and Communications Technology industry where I have led teams to successfully deliver information technology solutions for clients in the US, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand in the field of Telecommunication, eGovernment initiatives, Hi-tech manufacturing & retail space.
I am also a fitness enthusiast with a keen interest in bodybuilding, biohacking for increased life span and promoter of lifestyle changes for general wellbeing.
2. You have previously worked in firms like Ness Global Services (Singapore) and Hewlett-Packard, what made you shift to Saudi and how has your journey been till now?
Moving to Saudi was a result of curiosity to explore emerging markets, utilize long gained experience for leadership roles and further enhance global exposure. With no-regrets, it has been a rewarding journey both professionally and personally. Working for clients like Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and Saudi telecom company provided exposure to multimillion-dollar technology industry projects and at the same time provided opportunity to learn about Arabian culture, customs and demystified certain myths built in my mind through news and media.
3. How you are maintaining leadership qualities to lead the team for the past 20 years? What are these qualities that you think are essential in any leader?
A time-tested way of maintaining leadership qualities is to never stop learning. This places you ahead of others and provides opportunities to lead from the front. Another mechanism that has worked well is by delegating tasks to subordinates. This has provided dual benefits of gaining enough time to learn new skills and acceptance as a designated leader.
Some of the vital abilities for any leader should depict are empowerment of colleagues, Problem resolution instead of punishments, let’s go attitude, “We” instead of “I”, show how it is actually done and giving credit when due. This mindset fosters collaboration, creates trust, builds respect and is a key to success for any leader.
4. Apart from professional interests you also like keeping healthy and fit, when did this start?
While the grass looks greener, adapting to the corporate culture of Saudi based corporates turned out to be quite challenging. Organizations at that time were homegrown with limited adoption of globally acceptable work practices and customer orientation. With a very laid-back and unorganized lifestyle, my career ambitions and health deteriorated from bad to worse. Poor sleeping patterns, lack of physical activity and unhealthy food choices led to high cholesterol, borderline diabetes, and multiple lumbar disc herniations. At the age of 28 I was put on pills for blood pressure and cholesterol reduction.
Being a sports enthusiast from childhood, it was hard for me to accept this plight. In my heart, I knew that my poor lifestyle and lack of enough effort to control my environment are the reasons to blame for my deteriorated health. One fine day, I felt massive pain that radiated from my lower back to the left leg that left me bedridden for almost two weeks. Diagnostics revealed L1 and L2 disc herniations with recommendation of spinal surgery to improve my mobilization. I was not willing to take the risk associated with spine-related surgery. With my back against the wall, I was left with no choice but to improve my lower back muscular strength. I took membership of a gym near my office and started a strict muscle strengthening and conditioning program with hopes of making some recovery. Over the weeks of intense training, my lower back strengthened and I could feel subtle improvement in my pain as well. This created optimism that I can get back to normal life without any medicines and surgical procedure. After almost 3 months of rigorous training, my pain had almost disappeared and I felt much better both physically and mentally.
5. What measures do you take to keep yourself fit? What is your fitness regime?
By being persistent one gets something but by being consistent, we keep it with us. Getting into shape is one thing but being in shape consistently is a different game altogether. It needs a lot of mental resolve and self-discipline to change one’s lifestyle, incorporate regular physical activity, constantly check calorie intake while ensuring optimum nutrition. Be it food, training or controlling the environment, one has to give 100% and make conscious efforts and decisions.
I adopt various measures to maintain my fitness. Regular early morning workout or a jog is a staple. In addition, I portion control my meals which ensures that my calorie intake is within required limits. Additionally, I make wise food choices such as eating whole grain food instead of processed ready to eat meals hence avoiding sudden insulin spike and fat storage. At times I do indulge in occasional cheat meals but mostly my day to day meals are a blend of low glycaemic carbs, good quality protein, and healthy fats.
My usual fitness regime consists of 1 hour of weight lifting followed by 20-30 minutes of treadmill run. At the age of 40, the body’s ability to repair slows down so a day of rest on weekend helps me to recuperate and break the monotony associated with regular training schedules.
My body type is a combination of mesomorph and endomorph, known for slow metabolism and tendency to accumulate fat around the waist. Fasted high intensity cardio for a couple of days in a week, has helped me boost my metabolism and improve cardio conditioning.
6. In a time when profession can take over people’s lives, how do you keep a balance?
Being in the information technology industry, Long working hours accompanied with enormous deadline pressures and stress is a norm. In the race of earning a decent livelihood and support our family, We
forget that we earn a living to live well, not to kill ourselves with stress. I strongly believe that only a healthy body can enjoy any kinds of wealth and therefore we have to strike a right balance between the two .Being efficient at work so as not to carry work to home, setting up right priorities, planning time with family and friends, stick to fixed working hours, empower team members and play to my strengths are some of the principals that have helped me keeping a right work-life balance.
7. Who and what motivates you when it comes to fitness?
Staying motivated is half the battle won when it comes to staying fit. As I have mentioned before, consistency and mental strength is the key to having a healthy and fit body. Even though I follow new generation founding fathers of fitness to learn new techniques, tips, and tricks; I firmly believe that motivation comes within. A mentor, partner or accomplished fitness athlete does help to come out of your lows but cannot force you to get out of your comfort zone and acquire healthy living habits. It’s about how desperately and sincerely you want to see new you and what all you are willing to do for it. There are days when you are less motivated but realization of all the time lost and associated health issues should be provocative enough to never give up.
8. Any advice for the one who will take you as an inspiration.
It has been roller coaster ride for me. I have been maintaining decent fitness over the last several years. However, there was always a desire to go the extra mile, which often left me wondering if I could look like these fitness models you see around, especially at the age of 40. Is it possible to achieve this naturally in the age where people are quick to resort to “shortcuts” to achieve such body.
At the same time, I happened to come across another fellow corporate professional, Mr. Amit Marwah with similar goal & the corresponding doubts that come along. I think this was a game changer for both of us. What followed was a series of discussions, research and a constant trial & error to see what works for us and what doesn’t. We analysed our nutrition macros, counted calories and made several workout plans, checked on each other’s progress often, adopted a strict diet, challenged and pushed each other to remain active throughout the day.
As a piece of advice, I would say that fitness can be improved at any age. Medical issues like diabetes and atherosclerosis due to high cholesterol is reversible and you can feel youthful once again even in midlife. One just needs to set an eye on the goal and commit yourself to it. Don’t be afraid of asking for help and there is no reason to live in fear of failure. It’s your life and you need to take charge of it. Don’t let anyone tell you that your goal and vision is not its worth. When people can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you that you cannot do it as well. You want something, go get it.
Surround yourself with the right people, friends & colleagues. Always remember that You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.