The Trailblazers: Strauss Zelnick

During a typical workday Strauss Zelnick steers private equity firm ZMC, is a director at Education Networks of America and serves as CEO of video game developer Take-Two Interactive. For many the pressures of those positions would make finding time to train difficult, but for Zelnick it made hitting the gym all the more imperative. “There was a lot going on at work,” he says. “I realized that if I was going to stay sharp I needed to take getting into the gym seriously.” Zelnick’s rededication started with three scheduled days with a trainer, but has since evolved into next-level full-week regimen, complete with two-a-days and sunrise sessions. In fact, before the morning emails start flowing in and the phone starts to ring Zelnick has likely already engaged in some high intensity interval training. The result is a vigorous businessman who is not only on top of his game, but looks the part. Zelnick shared the principles that have helped him keep his edge with Playbook.

Set the priorities

I have been going to the gym for my entire life, but it was always the first thing that I cancelled when I had too much on the schedule. There was a point that I hit where I realized that it was just as important to how I functioned as anything else, so I had to treat it as such. That was the biggest change for me, making sure I didn’t treat it like my lowest priority. I don’t care what other business came along; I wasn’t going to compromise on my fitness anymore. The biggest sacrifice to make that happen was time and sleep, so I have to make sure I hit bed in time to allow me to get that head start.

Strength in numbers

I started a workout group for people that wanted to bond and push each other through fitness, called The Program. It is an early morning session, that starts at 6 A.M. and we go to a number of different boutique gyms. Once a week we all go to Trooper Fitness, and workout with a trainer named Flex, doing mostly high intensity interval training. That is what I have been most excited about these days. I have to travel a lot, so sometimes I miss a meet. If I do I make sure to make it up, usually a morning session with a friend.

Diversify your plans

I used to just hit the gym with a trainer, but once I got up to the six days a week schedule I decided to add other elements to my overall training to make it more interesting. I added a cycling trip that I would do once a week with a group, and if I missed that I would go to spin class. From there it just escalated. I would just explore something new went I felt the itch. I tried yoga and boxing to improve my movement. During the winter moves I make a point to get out on the slopes for skiing. Of course running when I had the opportunity or was traveling. When it comes to recovery I end with a little foam-rolling. I make time for massages, or hitting the sauna and steam. 

Reap the benefits

Staying fit is good for business. It is good for leadership. That is all in addition to the obvious physical and health benefits I am in vastly better shape than I ever was in my 30s. During the day I feel incredible. There is very little that being fit won’t improve in your life.