Mike Zavodsky Is Working (from Home) to be the NBA’s Fittest Executive

Since moving the team from Auburn Hills back to downtown Detroit in 2017, the Pistons have begun the process of restoring the organization’s brand and culture.

Just as important as righting the trajectory of the franchise was reconnecting with and increasing its footprint in the city. The Pistons have created several initiatives to aid in that mission, such as investing $2.5 million to help construct, renovate, and refurbish 60 basketball courts in parks throughout the city. The Pistons have also partnered with Shopify to launch SHOP313, giving local entrepreneurs and small business owners free assets and resources to help promote their brands using the Pistons advertising inventory.

At the forefront of those initiatives and several others in the works is Pistons Sports and Entertainment Chief Business Officer Mike Zavodsky. Before taking the role in the summer of 2020, he led the commercial sales, marketing, and PR arm for Roc Nation and spent 14 years with BSE Global, overseeing sales and marketing for the company’s teams and properties.

Along with his business expertise, Zavodsky might be able to lay a claim to the best home gym in the NBA by an executive. Top-grade rubber gym matting lines the floor as cardio machines, free weights, and all his essential equipment rests comfortably atop. As an early riser, his gets his day started with strength training at 4:30 a.m. and ends with cardio before he retires for the night. It’s a routine now he’s been on for several years now and has helped him sustain energy throughout the day.

We spoke to Zavodsky about the origins of his routine, what his two-a-days consist of, and the benefit of being able to have what he needs at his disposal.

Courtesy of Mike Zavodsky

When you see most home gyms, some may have some free weights laying around and there’s a few pieces of equipment. You never have to leave the house for a great workout. Why was it important for you to make sure you had all you needed?

It was probably about five or six years ago when things started accelerating from a career standpoint for me. I noticed I had less energy and a lot of it had to do with my diet and workouts. So I made a complete shift from that point and made it a focus of mine. I work out in the morning, with strength training and cardio at night when I get home. As much as it is physical, it’s also mental. The morning session gets me set up for the day and the cardio in the evening allows me to unwind. The equipment that I picked was very much specific around that.

What would you say is your favorite piece of equipment?

My flat bench. I’m a big fan of chest day.

Mike Zavodsky barbell bench station in his home gym
Courtesy of Mike Zavodsky

How did you get into working out at the crack of dawn?

I always got up pretty early. I interned for the Nets when I was a junior in college. My boss at the time asked me to meet him in the office at 5:30. I asked him whether he meant am or pm He said morning because he wanted to go over some stuff — and this was my first day. I go into the office, we met, and I was so tired after that day. I sent him a message asking how he did this every day. He told he started every day with a workout and that powered him through the day. From that point on, getting up early became the norm. As I got a little bit older, the energy level I had become different because I continued to wake up early. The change really came in adding in the change in diet and the cardio on the back half of the day.

Most of your jobs have come with a lot of travel and that usually means a lot of eating take out. When you noticed your energy suffering, what changes did you make to what you were eating?

I don’t want to use the word regimented because that sounds crazy, but it is. I cut out drinking a lot of sugary beverages and really focused on drinking more water and organic products. From a food standpoint, I eat a pretty protein-heavy diet. Every morning, I start off with a protein shake. It’s protein powder, PBfit and fruit. Throughout the day, I eat every couple of hours in small increments and its pretty healthy stuff, like fruit and a Quest bar. Dinner is a larger meal but it’s always protein heavy and light carbs.

What’s your current regimen look like?

I alternate my workouts every three days. One day is chest, which includes the flat bench, incline bench, and decline bench. I have a flye machine that I use also. I’ll mix up heavy weights and then light weights for reps. I also add in a variety of ab exercises on this day. I have some kettle bells that I use for different things including the abs and I have a crunch machine. Cardio for this day is the treadmill in the evening.

For arms, I have a curling machine that also does triceps flexes. I have a pulldown cable and a dumbbell rack I use for curls and overheads on arm day. The curl bar I use more for reps, and I’ll do that at the end of a workout. I’ll do some raises on the flat bench for triceps as well. Cardio will be the elliptical.

I’ll do back and shoulders together. I use the shoulder press to start, then I’ll some pulldowns for lats. After that I’ll hit the seated row machine, then I’ll do some free weights for overhead presses. I mix in abs on that day as well. I’ll do rowing at night on these days.

Did you put this program together yourself?

Before I really got into it, I belonged to a gym when I lived in New Jersey. I would talk to some of the trainers there and the different people I would see all the time there working out and ask them what their routine was. I took that and pieced together what worked best for me.

How big of a luxury was this to have during the pandemic?

I’m privileged and blessed to be able to have the opportunity to have this at my house. It was a great escape for me. Getting back to the energy and mental aspect of it, It was a great way to channel some energy into something beneficial.

What would be you advice to someone who really wants to commit to themselves but life gets in the way?

I think it has to become a lifestyle. For me, I travel a lot also. In 2021, I think I only missed three days of going to the gym. If it becomes a part of your life and your everyday routine — even if I’m traveling to another city, I still do the same thing. Make it a part of your every day routine and it won’t feel like anything else than what you normally do.

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