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SVN’s Derek Lobo: I had a heart attack, but you don’t have to

Derek Lobo, the CEO of SVN Canada, is a go-getter. So much so, his doctor predicted he’d have a h...

IMAGE: SVN's Derek Lobo, left, works out with John Faratro of SVN Montreal at a convention in New Mexico. (Image courtesy SVN Rock Advisors Ltd.)

SVN’s Derek Lobo, left, works out with John Faratro of SVN Montreal at a convention in New Mexico. (Image courtesy SVN Rock Advisors Ltd.)

Derek Lobo, the CEO of SVN Canada, is a go-getter. So much so, his doctor predicted he’d have a heart attack. After it happened, “I went back and apologized to her,” said Lobo.

The 60-year-old Burlington, Ont., resident is a driven, vibrant, self-described “real estate guy.” But, he’s now using his health scare as a wake-up call to encourage other men to exercise and make incremental changes in their daily lives to avoid what he went through.

At the time, Lobo was 56 and making a presentation in his office when a client got a “front row seat” to his health scare: “Everyone asks, ‘did you close the deal?’ Yeah, I did.”

Lobo, who has three daughters and six grandchildren, says he was still sending business e-mails and his wife didn’t find out until about 9 o’clock that night. No one was surprised by the news.

He was sent to Hamilton General Hospital where a stent was inserted. Then, his recovery began.

A friend gave him the book Younger Next Year, telling him to “make this your other Bible.” Lobo began reading it en route to a European cruise, where he’d planned on doing “plenty of eating.” It changed his perspective.

The first day on board — before even unpacking — he told his wife he was going to exercise. While heading home, Lobo says he found space in a German airport to do jumping jacks and push-ups. Something clicked and habit formation was underway.

Videos chronicle his experiences

A TedTalk by Mel Robbins, which highlights the five-second rule (in Lobo’s case, for getting out of bed in the morning) also helped. Back at home, Lobo began setting his alarm for 5:30 a.m. to head downstairs for a basement workout.

Now he’s talking publicly with family, friends and business colleagues about the lifestyle decisions which led to his health scare. Lobo has even created a series of two- to three-minute videos about his experiences and posted them to YouTube.

1. The beginning –
2. What worked –
3. What didn’t work –
4. What’s next –

In person and in the videos, he offers three tips to make a positive change in your life: wake up early, even if it’s 3:30 a.m., to squeeze in a workout before your flight or workday; buy equipment and hire a personal trainer who can come to you if necessary because it’s worth the investment; create a routine that works for you and “just follow it.”

Lobo is now 35 pounds lighter and has been making incremental changes to his lifestyle. It took about six months to start seeing real results and he’s setting more targets for himself along the way.

His first short-term goal was to get out of bed within five seconds of turning off his alarm clock each morning. Then, he set a day-to-day goal to work out — and did so for 390 days until an injury forced him to take some time to recuperate.

Sedentary lifestyle a cultural trait

Lobo says he doesn’t consider himself athletic — he prefers watching debates — but has incorporated movement into his daily routine.

“I’m in better shape than I was at 50 (or possibly even 40),” said Lobo. “The body is an amazing thing. It can recover.”

While taking cardiac rehabilitation in Oakville, he noticed roughly half the guys in his group were of East Indian descent. Sedentary lifestyles are the norm in South Asian culture, as is deep-fried spinach, or pakoras — that’s “the nature of our diet,” said Lobo.

Consequently, “my taste for vegetables, raw, is not that great.” He realized it was easier for him to exercise than drastically change his diet, so he kept moving.

“By extension, I ate better,” he said, reducing the sugar and “bad carbs” in his diet. Eventually, “I stopped stopping at Tim Hortons every morning for a donut.”

His lifestyle changes have had a domino effect on his family. Once he began gaining muscle and losing fat, his wife changed her habits, followed by his brothers-in-law.

“I got a little evangelical about it,” Lobo said.

Don’t leave home without – your gym bag

His daily movement routine includes lifting weights three times a week. Quality time with family now includes rock-climbing walls with his son-in-law and skiing with his six-year-old granddaughter, activities he never would have entertained five years ago.

“I was that guy with four bags of chips,” Lobo said, adding he still indulges and hasn’t given up his baguettes and prosciutto.

Leaving town also involves a new routine: “Now I always travel with my gym equipment, even if it’s for one day.”

Lobo said shared interest in fitness helps him bond with many of clients — the opposite of what he believed prior to his own lifestyle changes. “A lot of guys who have a heart attack don’t talk about it,” believing it’s bad for business, he said.

“At the end of the day, nobody should care more about yourself than you,” said Lobo, who said he has a responsibility to his family and friends to stay healthy, and to keep the company running. “I have a lot more energy now, too.

“What could be a more worthy goal than living a quality life?”

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