For four months of the year tax accountants hunker down in a race against the clock but rarely leave their cubicles during the pursuit. In the run up to April 15, it's not uncommon for exercise and a healthy diet to become compromised amid the grueling demands and stress of tax season. But for some accounting pros, like Bruce Daigh (pictured to the left with wife Nancy Daigh at the 2008 Pan Mass Challenge with Brent McCreesh, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of 2), a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, staying active and maintaining a well-balanced diet are key to powering through the difficult period.
"If I don't exercise I find I just don't deal as well with stress which is inherent around my job and involves a lot of intensity and passion," says Daigh. As the metro regional tax partner that covers New York City, parts of Connecticut and Puerto Rico, Daigh is currently responsible for 1,100 employees and 125 partners and oversees approximately 25% of the firm's U.S. tax practice.
Below is an inside look at the workout and diet regiment that help Daigh tackle the stress that comes with the job.
All About Energy
"I wrap my life around how to drive energy," he says. And 54-year-old Daigh gets a big jolt of energy from his workout regiment, something that became increasingly neglected when the demands of Daigh's job as the former national tax services leader for PwC required him to spend most of his time on the road.
As the miles added up, his busy travel itinerary started to take its effects. "I found I didn't have the energy like I used to have and was carrying around some extra weight," says Daigh. "The combination of all those elements -- the jet lag and lack of sleep -- it really wears on you."
But as a former college running back and mountain biking enthusiast Daigh thought he was still generally healthy enough. Then he got a "wake up" call that stopped him in his tracks. Shortly after his 50th birthday, Daigh found out his peripatetic work life had taken a toll on his arteries, clogging the pathway to his heart. A heart scan, a test that can identify heart diseases in its early stages, revealed a "fair amount of cloggage" in one of Daigh's main arteries. His cholesterol level had also soared to "well in excess of 200." While the discovery didn't call for invasive surgery, it compelled Daigh to significantly alter his lifestyle immediately.
He shunned all high-cholesterol leaning foods and his workout routine got a rigorous upgrade. He joined a cycling club and now works out about four days a week. At least two nights a week, Daigh can be found exercising along to strength training and cardio DVDs at 10 p.m. He also tries to include one to two early morning bike rides during the week, and spends the bulk of his free time on weekends on 40-mile rides.
Daigh's workout routine is centered around his passion for cycling, an interest born from a mountain biking hobby that developed when he was still living in California.
Despite a packed work schedule, Daigh tries to squeeze in at least four workouts a week. "My minimum threshold is to do something at least every other day."
Up to two times a week, he rises when it's still dark out to get on his bike in time for a 5:45 a.m. ride with members of his exercise club, Target Training, a Westport, Conn.-based gym that specializes in training professional and amateur athletes for triathlons. He then either goes on hour-long rides on the hilly roads that loop around his home in Connecticut or on an indoor simulation bike at the club. Some mornings he may swap out a ride for a strength training class or pilates.
Two additional days a week, at approximately 10 p.m., Daigh works out at home for an hour along to the P90X exercise DVDs, a workout series that is comprised of a mix of strength training exercises. He alternates between the upper- and lower-body routines. The upper-body portion concentrates on building muscle through a medley of push ups, pull ups and weight lifting. The lower body workout is more cardio-driven and combines core-strengthening and yoga moves with kicks and punches.
Given the challenges of making time for workouts as often as he'd like, Daigh tries to make up for it by turning work into a workout. He opts to take the stairs in lieu of the elevator, for example. He says he's "definitely showed up to a couple of meetings out of breath" -- like the time he climbed 17 floors to an appointment. When he is required to travel for work, he tracks down the sports clubs closest to his hotel that offer spinning classes.
No matter how busy he is, Daigh has a standing appointment with his bike every weekend. "I religiously make sure those two workouts get done every weekend," he says. Saturday and Sunday mornings are spent on 40-mile bike rides, which can last from three to four hours.
The camaraderie among the Target club's cyclers and the time he gets to spend with his wife Nancy, who is also an avid biker, are also what draw Daigh to the sport. "It's a very collegial group that I go out with and it's about sharing bonds with the people you ride with."
Daigh participates in at least one major bike race each year. The past two years, he has completed the two-day 200-mile Pan Mass Challenge, a race based around the Boston, Mass. area that raises funds for cancer research.
Cost and Gear
Daigh's annual membership to Target Training is $2,500. He estimates that he has spent at least $5,000 on his bike and wheels. He rides a Cervelo R3s1 bike, "it's the same bike that won the Tour De France which I have no business riding," he explains before adding, "I'm trying to get every edge I can." The bike frame cost $4,000 and other bike components were $1,800. Daigh switches between two sets of wheels. Aerodynamics makes each pair more suitable for either flatter areas or hill riding. A set of climbing wheels cost $700 and he spent $1,800 on a set of carbon fiber wheels. He estimates that he's owned about four bikes over the last eight to 10 years. Daigh notes that though cycling can get as expensive "to the extent you can afford the luxury, there are some reasonable entry points. You can buy a very nice bike for $2,000 to $2,500." On Amazon, a package of four P90X workout DVDs sell for $69.85 and a more extensive 12-DVD set costs $139.80.
Once lowering his cholesterol became a top priority, red meat and dairy products were suddenly off limits. "When I think back to my 40s I was not as sensitive to cholesterol," says Daigh. "I was eating lots of red meat at the time and because of national duties I was traveling 70% to 80% of the time, so you find yourself sacrificing exercise and a healthy diet." With the help of adopting a "very regimented diet," his cholesterol level has since dropped to 125 from over 200 four years ago.
His meals now consists of "a tremendous amount of seafood" and an abundance of vegetables. When he does allow himself on the rare occasion to eat red meats, he'll order the gamier variety like buffalo or venison.
Breakfast: Daigh's own concoction of a health smoothie, a blend of blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, nonfat Greek yogurt, orange juice and a dash of protein powder.
Lunch at the office: Typically a "small piece of salmon with a balance of some greens and protein. I try not to have a heavy lunch."
Dinner: Because of his commute from Manhattan to his home in Connecticut, dinner is usually simple fare. Against eating dinner after 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. -- about the times he arrives home the nights he doesn't have work obligations -- Daigh grabs something light like a fish entrée and a side of spinach or salad from the market within Grand Central Terminal, a train depot for commuter lines in Manhattan. "This doesn't exactly sound like the life of luxury but many times dinner will consist of grabbing something on the run while taking the train home."
Business lunches and dinners: Daigh can have up to three business meals a week, which can be a little tricky. But Daigh doesn't shy away from taking a couple of minutes to "alter the menu" to ensure his meal is free of butter or cream. He always asks the restaurant how a menu item is cooked, then request that the dish be cooked in olive oil in place of butter, substitute the starch portion for a double helping of vegetables -- steamed or sautéed in olive oil, and if he does have any dessert he cleanses his palette with sorbet or fruit.
Write to Yoree Koh