Geoff Ballotti on Staying Fit Over 50, Winning at Life, and Knowing When to Call It Quits

Geoff Ballotti
Courtesy of The Wyndham Hotel Group

Geoff Ballotti is responsible for one of the largest hotel groups in the country, and is one of the hardest working men in America.

Still, he hasn’t lost sight of his priorities. He understands the value of family, stress management, and health. We spoke with Ballotti to learn his secrets for winning at life.

Men’s Fitness: When did you realize what you wanted to do with your life?

Geoff Ballotti: I was a waiter at Hotel Le Meridien Boston, and had a setback on the job—a job I desperately needed. The general manager, Bernard Lambert, picked me up, dusted me off, and told me it was going to be all right. He was so kind, caring, compassionate, and motivating. That’s the first time I remember saying, “That’s the job I want one day.” There’s never been a better job than having a great hotel to run with a great group of associates to wake up to every day.

What is “success” to you?

My father passed away at 54 of a heart attack, and busloads of folks came to the funeral to say goodbye because he’d made a difference to them. He’d dedicated his life to helping others through the nonprofit world. It’s the people we help, the lives we’re able to improve along the way, that matter more than anything.

Wyndham is huge—it includes 18 brands—and is No.1 in its class. You and your team must work 24 hours a day.

Actually, I encourage the team not to do that. We all work hard—sometimes too hard. None of us should view our jobs as more important than our health and our family. That’s why I always say they should get home, make time to have lives outside of this building.

For the third straight year, Wyndham’s been named the most ethical company by the Ethisphere Institute; it’s also considered one of the greenest and most diverse. How important is that to you?

Great CEOs and great companies define success not in terms of money, but corporate social responsibility—being able to influence and make a difference.

How do you manage stress?

Other folks might turn to food or alcohol, but the research is clear: When it comes to relieving stress at the end of the day, exercise is best.

What’s your favorite workout?

I use the most kick-ass piece of equipment, a VersaClimber. In five minutes my hair’s as wet as it is in the shower.

No weights?

I’ve never really been a big weightlifter. But when I was 51—I’m 56 now—a doctor told me that, from an osteoporosis standpoint, I should get a kettlebell. I’d never heard of it, but now I don’t think there’s a piece of equipment that’s more holistic.

How about when you’re on the road?

I always have a jump rope, and I use the 12 Minute Athlete app, although I do about 16 minutes. [The $2.99 app offers various 12-minute HIIT routines.]

What’s your homelife like?

For 10 years I’ve lived in a gorgeous, gorgeous bucolic New Jersey town. We live on a horse farm, and my wife rescues horses. But I’m allergic to and scared to death of horses. And I don’t really like the smell of them. Still, I’m living on a horse farm with 35 horses—I spend every free moment I can on my mountain bike.

Ballotti’s top 3 ways to win at life

  1. Maintain strong relationships. Don’t worry about wealth, IQ, or social status. Healthy relationships are the most important factor in achieving lasting happiness, according to an ongoing, nearly 80-year-old Harvard University study on human development.
  2. Take a breather. Counter work-related stress with deep breathing—aka mindful meditation—which helps calm your brain and muscles, and promotes more restful sleep, studies in JAMA and the Journal of Health Psychology have found.
  3. Pump more iron. Adding weight-bearing and plyometric exercises to your regimen—not relying solely on bodyweight moves—can increase bone formation and density, says a recent study from the University of Missouri.

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