STILL buff at 52, Century Pacific Food general manager Greg Banzon hasn’t changed clothes size since his bachelor days. Running competitively since he was 12 years old, he has maintained this discipline for 40 years.
“There hasn’t been a week that I don’t run at least 10 kilometers,” says the triathlete.
He was a gold medalist in the then National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a star of the De La Salle track-and-field team and a member of the Philippine Collegiate team.
Ten years ago, he was one of the early adaptors to triathlons. Running was taking a toll on his knees, and a triathlete suggested that he augment it with swimming and biking for overall body conditioning.
“Back then, these were small events in Alabang and Batangas. We’d ride in our SUVs, bring bikes and go,” he recalls.
He has since been joining local triathlons. His most challenging event was the full Iron Man 2011 on Jeju Island, Korea.
“It was a 3.8-km swim; a 180-km bike ride, which was like traveling from Magallanes [Makati] to the foot of Baguio; then you run a full marathon with a distance equal to running from Pangasinan to Tarlac. They’re all packed in 17 hours,” he narrates.
“The bike and run courses were hilly,” he recounts. “The last 4-km run was an uphill climb. It’s extreme, but once you’ve been trained, it’s not as hard as it seems.”
He has also joined international marathons in New York and Singapore, both of which require intense preparation. When Banzon is aiming for the podium, he works out with former champion and national team coach George Vilog.
Although his training averages 20 hours a week, he underscores the importance of work-life balance. “You still have to put in a full day at work, interact with family, do press events and product launches,” he notes. Banzon has everything organized in his planner.
“I get as much done in the morning,” he points out. “I’m up at 4:45 a.m., get out of the house by 5 a.m and finish by 6:45 a.m. I do three runs a week, three rides a week and two to three swims a week at the country club. Our village has a 12-km trail for biking and running… After dinner, I do a 30-minute workout when I’m preparing for a big race.”
Every month, Banzon, who also handles Century Pacific’s international branding, is out on trips to supervise the overseas businesses. Still, he packs his goggles and running attire.
He has kept a trim 31-inch waistline (which gets smaller as a competition nears). He attributes this to his diet.
“I go in cycles. I take a break from November to January; then until October, it’s discipline time,” he says.
Girding for Century Tuna’s Iron Man in Subic Bay on March 6, Banzon is cutting back on carbohydrates, as low as 60 grams or a fraction of a cup of rice a day. “I need to be light for the race,” he says.
He tells his kids that “even if you won’t compete, exercise has to be part of the lifestyle. I’ve embedded that in everything that I do. It’s not a chore. It helps me to clear my mind. When I train, I am mentally prepared for the day.”
Banzon’s successful integration of sports and work adds credibility to Century Tuna’s campaign. For so long, the brand’s marketing was driven by taste, nutrition and quality.
To boost the brand, it involved consumer experiences, with a contest on the best physique called Century Tuna Superbods; an online diet and exercise program; and an abs book. The campaign capitalized on tuna’s latent Omega-3 fatty acid (DHA), touted as a natural belly trimmer.
“We launched the concept of being healthy and sexy to communicate in a powerful way, through the Century Tuna Superbods. It’s now one of our strongest equities as a brand,” says Banzon. “Instead of pushing through advertising, we created advocates who teach people to be slimmer and sexier. There are testimonials on personal transformation.”
He cites a 200-lb woman who spent hundreds of thousands of pesos on a weight loss program. Although she dropped to 180 lbs., she couldn’t get off her plateau. She then bought the Century Tuna Abs Book, a graphic journal with exercise charts, diets and recipes, and lost 30 lbs more. All it cost was P250.
Danseur at heart
Unknown to many, Banzon had a successful stint with Ballet Philippines (BP). He and his brothers, who were also athletes, were inspired by a lecture that espoused how cross training with ballet improved sports performance.
Studies have shown that ballet dancers show greater power in muscular endurance, strength (particularly in the hips and legs) and flexibility. A ballet class is comparable to high-intensity interval training.
Banzon and his siblings Raul and Rene took free ballet lessons in their sister’s school, in exchange for partnering the girls. It turned out that they were natural performers.
During the memorial race for his cousin, Conrado Banzon, an experienced runner who died in a marathon, the three brothers signed up. “My other brother was prepared, Rene and I weren’t because we were dancing,” recalls Greg.
“The big names in sports were there. When they took off their sweat suits, they were so tanned while we were so pale.”
He and Rene thought they would lag behind. On reaching the finish line, the crowd cheered. It turned out that they placed second and third in the race. “And all we did was ballet. Sports and dance make a good combination,” he notes.
While dancing in BP, Banzon still managed to climb the corporate ladders in such companies as Citibank and Bayer. He would get off work at 5 p.m., join the junior company class at 6 p.m., and rehearse until 11 p.m.
The next day, he would get up early to run before heading off for work. “I was ripped then,” he says.
When he got married in 1989, dance took a backseat after an eight-year stint with BP.
As they say, a dancer will always be a dancer. Banzon hopes to find time to come up with a video that will go viral. “I’ve got to take some classes first so I can prove that 52-year-old men can still dance,” he says.