Marriott's CEO Arne Sorenson: Own the Morning — Rise and Run

"For Global Running Day, I thought I would share some thoughts on why exercise — and particularly running — can be game-changing for your outlook, health and productivity," writes Sorenson.

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(Originally published on LinkedIn)

I run most days—especially when I'm traveling. That's me above with associates from the New York Marriott Marquis and the Westin Times Square who come together weekly for a wellness run.

I was in New York on Monday and jumped at the chance to join them. We logged four miles, got to see the skyline from a pier on the Hudson River, shared a few laughs about the challenges of city running and were back to the hotel—all by 7:00 am.

Arne Sorenson

For me, running is one of the best ways to beat jet lag, and when you run outside, it has the added benefit of giving you an up-close look at the city you are visiting (which for business travelers is key, since it may be the only time you get to see the sites of a new destination).

I've written about my enthusiasm for sleep, but for Global Running Day, I thought I would share some thoughts on why exercise—and particularly running—can be game-changing for your outlook, health and productivity.

Here are some of my running tips.

Earlier the Better. Waking up early is a distinct advantage. National RunWestin Concierge, Chris Heuisler, whose job is to travel the world and bring to life Westin's running program for our guests, is a big believer in running early in the day: "I have never met a guest who wakes up early to run and regrets it."

It's often the first and best opportunity to take control of the day ahead. According to a recently released global study, 40% of respondents feel they are most in control of their wellness routines between 4:00–10:00 am and 25% specifically cited 4:00–6:00 am as their optimal window. This is certainly true for me. There's nothing like an early morning run to increase my energy and engagement throughout the day and minimize the effect of a time zone change.

Don't Go It Alone. While I often run alone and enjoy the thinking time that it affords, I also appreciate that running is not usually a self-discovered, love-at-first-stride phenomenon. It generally takes some encouragement, whether it's your first mile or your first marathon. As with many endeavors, particularly those disruptive to habitual behavior, calling in a little reinforcement can make a big difference.

I learned this first-hand while biking in the mountains of Spain, and I saw it in action this week with the comradery and spirit of the wellness run team in Times Square. It's not just about the accountability of showing up for a group run—although that's a powerful motivator for people—it's in sharing the commitment to something as a group and all the energy and positive reinforcement that comes from that.

Eliminate Excuses. Rain or shine, at home or on the road, it's important to be consistent about putting wellbeing first. There will always be reasons not to hit the treadmill, pound the pavement or hop on the bike. What's concerning is 65% of travelers indicate they tend to exercise less when they're on the road. I get it—which is why taking to the streets or a treadmill to run is a great way to stay on track, even when you are on the road.

Westin's pioneering gear lending program is a terrific example of taking the friction out of exercising while traveling. On any given day, as many as 10% of guests borrow fitness gear for a small fee. And now in select US cities, through apartnership with Peloton, you can even request Peloton bikes in your room, allowing regular cyclists to stick to their regimens and providing a novel experience for a whole new group of potential enthusiasts.

In the spirit of Global Running Day, I asked some of Marriott's busiest executives and avid athletes about their running routines and how they fit it into their schedules. Here's some of what they shared:


What keeps you running? I run to stay fit and because I love to be outdoors and spend time with friends. I have run with the same group of neighborhood friends for 20 years.

What's the biggest benefit? I sit still longer, think more clearly, and eat and sleep better on days that I run. Often my biggest "aha moments" are during a morning run.

How do you fit it in? I run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 5:30 am and Saturdays at 7:00 am. When I'm on travel, I map a route to see competitor hotels in whatever city I'm in. As a morning person, it's always first thing for me.


When did you start running? In grade school. I was very active in soccer and we always did lots of running drills. My soccer days ended after high school, but running stuck.

Why do you run? To keep in shape, burn off some stress, and explore the great outdoors. I love to run the trail into Washington, DC and by the monuments. DC is a beautiful running city and it helps that it's pretty flat!

What's your running routine? When the weather is decent, I run outside. When the weather is bad, I'll opt for our basement treadmill. When I'm traveling, it's whatever works. Admittedly, I've been known to hit 24/7 hotel fitness centers at some pretty odd hours.


When and why did you start running? I started running Cross Country in high school. I stopped after high school and didn't really run again until I met my wife who was a big runner. I needed to pick it up again to keep up with her.

What is your running routine and how do you fit it into your busy schedule? I run about three times a week for about 4-5 miles. I try to swim, bike, or lift weights on the other days. I typically do it right after work while the kids are finishing up their activities. We all try to convene for dinner. My wife gets the morning slot so I take the evening.

What would you to say to someone on the fence about running? I'd say give it a shot, but don't put any pressure on yourself to go fast or far. Look at it as a great way to escape whatever you want an escape from, take in a new perspective, or just explore. Running is so simple. You don't really need much equipment. Just open the door and go.


How intense is Ironman training? Once I commit to an event date, the training is a bit obsessive. It has to be. I'll generally train for 16-20 hours per week with 2-3 swims and bike rides and 2-3 long runs. Some days require two-sport training.

How does being a triathlete affect your personal and professional life? It's a part of what matters most to me—family, faith, sports and work excellence.

What keeps you going? I try to do something extraordinary every year, whether it's running straight up a mountain or on a legendary trail. Setting specific goals and meeting them is highly motivating. Plus, when it comes to anything athletic, I admit I do it in part to beat my older brother.

Whichever exercise is right for you—whether it's walking, running, cycling, swimming or one of countless other exercises—it's your decision whether you get up or rise up. That one simple decision makes all of the difference, no matter where you are in the world. Here's to rising up, owning the morning and hitting our collective stride.

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