Meet America’s fittest CEO, Strauss Zelnick

You have been called “America’s fittest CEO” by several national media brands. When did you first discover the importance of being fit as a way of life?

I was really skinny until my early 20s.  While I ran and lifted weights occasionally, I didn’t take it very seriously and I never saw any results.  So exercise didn’t mean much to me. It was only when I realized it was possible to be both skinny AND have a belly that I decided to start working out.  I took it slowly at first—doing calisthenics a few days a week—and slowly worked up to a regular routine of exercise three to four days a week.  I only turned up the heat and began engaging in more sports (cycling, squash, yoga, running) and more weight training in my early 40s.  And by the time I was 45, exercise of all types had become my go-to hobby and form of relaxation. 

Many people would say I just don’t have the time to devote to such a committed fitness regimen.  You have an extremely busy work life as the owner of several companies. You have been the President and CEO of BMG Entertainment and President and COO of 20th Century Fox.  In addition, you have a busy family life, as you and your wife have 3 kids.  With such a demanding schedule you have managed to create an enviable approach to health and fitness.  How do you do it?

It’s a uniquely American fantasy that you can have it all. You can’t: you have to choose.  I believe you can focus on three or four priorities at a time. Mine are: family and friends; work; fitness; and mentoring, coaching and charitable engagement.  That means other things I like to do have to take a back seat to my priorities.  I don’t think my wife would accuse me of having an overly balanced life and there are times when I can’t even meet all four of my priorities in the way that I’d like.  I do the best I can.  I also treat exercise with the importance and respect I ascribe to a work meeting or personal engagement.  I don’t cancel unless I absolutely must. 

A few years ago, you wrote a book,  Becoming Ageless:  The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever.  What compelled you to write the book and tell us if one of the secrets is more important vs. the other three? 

It depends on your own goals.  The secret to success — in any part of life —is knowing what you want, which is to say what constitutes success for you.  The four priorities outlined in the book are:  staying healthy by going to a doctor and doing what he or she says;  getting regular exercise;  eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight; having some sort of spiritual connection and a community that enriches your life and supports you.  That doesn’t seem like too much to me, so I focus on all four. 

What other sources do you use to give you guidance on a healthy, fit lifestyle?  Blogs? Trainers? What’s your support group to keep you motivated?

I train with The Program,  a diverse group of motivated friends one to three times a week.  That’s fun and keeps us all on track.  I have a great trainer, Flex Cabral and previously trained with Andy Speer and Eric Rakofsky.  I read books on health and fitness  (while avoiding quick fixes and wacky advice); and I regularly peruse Muscle and Fitness, T Nation and Bodybuilding.com online. 

In ROAR, we talk about owning your age.  You just turned 65. How do you think about staying fit and healthy as you live into your 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?

My birthday is in June and I aim to be fitter every year than I was the prior year. That’s my birthday present to myself.  So far I’ve been able to achieve that goal and I don’t intend to stop trying any time soon.