Fit for office: Candidates in best shape ever
Mitt Romney runs three miles every morning.
Paul Ryan is a loyal user of the intense fitness regimens P90X and Insanity.
Barack Obama is committed to hitting the gym — the basketball court, in particular — as many times as he can during the week.
And Joe Biden lifts weights.
The quartet appears to make up the most workout-obsessed Republican and Democratic tickets in U.S. history. So to put it bluntly, this year’s physically fit presidential and vice presidential candidates look nothing like America.
Romney, 65, recently was asked about how he stays in shape by CBS’ Gayle King on “This Morning.”
“I notice you didn’t mention that P90X workout,” said King, referring to the DVD set of intense 60-minute workouts led by fitness guru Tony Horton. “So, is that something that’s on your game plan, too? What are you doing to stay in shape?”
“You know, I have never tried that,” said Romney. “I might have (Ryan) show me how to do it someday. You know, I get on the elliptical or the treadmill or stationary bike about 40 minutes and that’s about it for me. But that workout of his — he’s in pretty darn good shape.”
Candidates bantering about their fitness levels? We’ve come a long way since the Johnson/Humphrey ticket in 1964.
“I hate to put it this way, but sex sells and people want to look at good-looking things and good-looking people,” said personal trainer Jake Westhoff.
In a curious juxtaposition, while America’s waistline expands the candidates gunning for the White House have never looked better. Although we’ve seen trim, athletically minded tickets before (most recently, John Kerry and John Edwards), few have exhibited such a commitment to physical fitness as this year’s crop.
In short, it’s flat stomachs, across the board.
“You look at Paul Ryan and he’s a fitness fanatic,” said Margo Carper, a personal trainer based in Washington whose clients have included Madeleine Albright and Ben Bradlee. “There’s absolutely no belly there. Mitt Romney is about as trim and in shape as a 65-year-old gets. Obama is running up and down the court with the likes of LeBron and Kobe. And have you seen Biden chase around kids on the White House lawn with a water gun? When’s the last time you saw a guy almost 70 with that much spring in his step?”
But in a world where image is everything, ego often plays a role as well in motivating guys and gals to hit the gym.
“They know the health benefits, the strength benefit, but, honestly, there’s a vanity part of it as well,” said Richard Salke, a trainer whose resume includes stints as a physiology instructor at the University of Maryland and developer of training regimens for the Secret Service.“With politicians, I think the mentality is, you’re projecting an image of looking good, that you are good, that you are strong, that you have what it takes to be a leader. I think that’s part of it.”
Salke added, “I think we’re done seeing a sloppy guy with his belly spilling over his pants. I don’t think we’re ever going to see that again. ... There aren’t any Ted Kennedy-types who really let themselves get out of shape in the latter part of their careers. Image is important, how they project, how they look to their constituents, how they’re viewed by the public in a particular forum.”
Patrick Gavin is a reporter for Politico. The Post and Courier and Politico are sharing content for the 2012 presidential campaign cycle.