I’m a Competitor: Burton Goldfield

Burton Goldfield manages to fit running and exercise into his life as a CEO. Photo: Sarah Maren Photographers

This business professional, who was named the most admired CEO of 2010 by one publication, is not your everyday runner.

In large companies, it can be a challenge for the top brass to connect with all of their employees. Especially when you lead a team of 2,100, like Burton Goldfield, 59, the president and CEO of California-based TriNet, which provides human resource services to small and midsize businesses.

Yet Goldfield, who says running has always been part of his life, sees fitness as an essential piece of his productivity and a way to connect with his team. At a previous job, he gave up his fancy executive corner office and created a fully equipped gym for employees. The gym became an invaluable place for Goldfield to meet everyone in the office. That could explain why the San Francisco Business Times named him the most admired CEO in 2010.

How do you integrate fitness into the workplace?

At TriNet, I wanted to combine fitness and charitable giving. Everyone on the staff has been given a fitness tracker. Each month we divide into teams based upon our charities of choice. Whichever team averages the most steps at the end of the month wins a $5,000 donation to their charity from TriNet.

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Why do you run and exercise?

I have energy to burn. It’s more about calming my mind, keeping me focused and making me feel good than the physical outcome of the workouts. I like to go hard enough so I get beyond thinking about work and get to the point where all I can think about is what I’m doing with my workout, which usually consists of running, biking or weights. If I don’t exercise, I don’t feel like I’ve brought my best for the day.

Do you race?

I do. So far I’ve done a 10K in Philadelphia, and the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon with a team of business associates, friends and significant others. We had a perfect team. Everyone was on the same page with goals. We supported each other and had fun. I don’t race to be competitive in my sport, I do it to have fun.

Do you have a go-to running shoe?

New Balance shoes—I have 23 pairs. I cycle through them until they are eventually retired to a shelf in the garage. Yes, I save them all. I never want to part with a pair! I used to run in the New Balance 2001s, a leather shoe from way back. I couldn’t find them in my hometown of Philadelphia so I finally called (this was before the Internet) Road Runner Sports in San Diego. Now I run in the New Balance 2040. When I get a new pair I write the purchase date directly on the shoes so I know when they need to be put on the shelf.

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More about Burton

On Treadmills
I find them offensive. But my wife likes them.

Rave Run
Running through Copenhagen at sunrise in the middle of winter was like being in a fairyland. The crisp air, old buildings and solitude—I felt like I could run forever.

Favorite Gear
My TomTom with HRT instantly tells me what the day is going to be like. Heart rate is an incredible indicator of overall wellbeing.

Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. I’m a big fan of caffeine and exercise. I take my coffee—preferably a dark roast Sumatra—black. I like it made with a press pot.

When do you Exercise?
In the morning. I’m usually up at 4:50 a.m., have coffee at 5:00 and am at the gym by 5:10.

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