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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Shell Energy Services CEO Makes Fitness a Priority at Work and Home ( 2 Dec 04


December 2, 2004


Editor's Note: What's Your Workout? is an Online Journal column that looks at busy businesspeople's fitness routines. Here, we talk with Steven Murray about transitioning from extreme workouts to family-focused exercise habits, and how he encourages fitness in the workplace.




Steven Murray is president and CEO of Houston-based Shell Energy Services Co., an affiliate of Shell Oil Co. The 44-year-old is married and has two sons ages six and three-and-a-half, and another child on the way. Mr. Murray lives and works in Houston.




As a child growing up in Scotland, Mr. Murray only had a mild interest in sports. "If you didn't play soccer, you weren't regarded as a sportsman," he recalls. But in his mid twenties, when he joined the Officer Training Corps at Edinburgh University for the British Army, fitness became part of his life. As an army captain, he was in peak shape, running his one-and-only five-minute mile. "My lungs were coming out of my chest," he recalls.


While five-minute-mile days may be a thing of the past, his commitment to fitness has stuck, both in his personal life and in his work.


Mr. Murray windsurfs, skis and hikes (he's climbed Mt. Ranier in Washington and Machu Picchu in Peru). He also took up paragliding while working for Shell in London.


His eclectic "extreme" activities provide an incentive to stay in shape. As he put on years, Mr. Murray says, he realized that dragging himself out of bed to work out was harder and harder. Training for a goal motivated him. "If you're going on a trip with friends and are trying to hit a certain pace, you don't want to hold the group back," he says.


Before he was married, Mr. Murray would work out five to six times a week for at least an hour. Now that's down to three or four times. "And that's during a good week," he adds. On weekdays, he's up at 5:30 a.m. and is either working out or having breakfast with his kids before he heads to the office, a six-mile drive, by 7:30 a.m. He tries to make it home by 6:30 p.m. and get to bed by 10 p.m.


Morning workouts alternate between running and swimming. Mr. Murray has had the same running partner for eight years, and they run six to eight miles, twice a week. He swims twice a week at a local high school in a U.S. Masters Swimming program. Sessions last one-and-a-half hours and include various drills for stamina and speed.


How do you balance fitness with work and family, especially during the holiday season? E-mail your suggestions, and thoughts on the column, to


He belongs to the Downtown Club in Houston, a gym with locations near his home and office. He attends circuit-training classes that include exercises such as press-ups, sit ups, rowing and running up stairs. "The competitive element keeps me going," he says of the classes.


But "with a pregnant wife and two small children you can't always manage to get to the gym," admits Mr. Murray. So he purchased a Precor elliptical trainer and Concept 2 rower about three months ago. He also tries to include his children in his workouts. When his eldest son was younger, he'd run with him in a jogging stroller to the park, play for a while, and then run back. Now his son bikes while Mr. Murray runs.






Monday: swimming in the morning


Tuesday: running


Wednesday: evening gym session


Thursday: running


Friday: swimming in the morning


Weekend: combination of running, swimming, gym or working out at home 


Mr. Murray estimates he spends $1,600 a year on fitness, which includes $80 a month for his gym membership (a corporate rate) and $600 a year for the swimming program. The elliptical machine cost $2,000 and the rower $850. He replaces his shoes every six to nine months. He also avoids cotton and instead wears quicker-dry synthetic fiber shorts. When traveling, he always packs a lightweight waterproof top.




"I find I can concentrate better and I don't get as tired at the end of the day if I'm fit and healthy," says Mr. Murray. "I also don't have to care as much about my diet as I should."




"My interest in fitness has made me look at ways of improving the health of people at Shell ," says Mr. Murray. "I'm a boss that wants everyone to be fit." Mr. Murray supports Shell 's "Be Well at Shell " fitness program, allowing program events to be run on company time and encouraging others to participate.


The program is based around a medical, nutritional, fitness and lifestyle database via the Web for all Shell employees. Shell 's medical department measures participants' blood pressure, body mass, cholesterol and other factors. It also helps employees set personal fitness goals and gauges their success. After six to nine months they assess all of the factors again. Participating employees pay $20.


As part of the program, Mr. Murray's office shuts early once per quarter for yoga or Pilates; the idea is that people will continue on their own. Staffers from the Downtown Club give nutritional talks at the company. Mr. Murray also encourages Shell employees to suggest ideas for programs and activities. 


People who meet their goals stand to gain more than good health. During the first year the program was conducted, "winning" participants received $150. The second year, the program was run as a team event with prizes of $500 to $1,000 per staff member on the winning teams.


"Thirty-three percent of the staff went in with high blood pressure, and 11% still had high blood pressure at the end," says Mr. Murray. "Healthier people are happier people and ultimately this will have some financial impact on the company I think."


Write to Jen Murphy at

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