This 2009, if Barack Obama can… Yes We Can

Among all the superlatives that people attach beside the name of the incoming US President—“the first among 44,” “the new JFK,” “the savior of U.S.A. after the debacle named W.”—there is one more attribute that fits best on these back pages: “Exercise-in-Chief.”

Yes. Because while staring at Barack Obama’s scrawny look on CNN might give you the impression that, underneath that cover, he’s fragile and feeble—think again. He’s not.

Superman? Is he? Is there an “S” hidden underneath that dark suit? Ha-ha. It’s New Year’s Day—not April Fool’s Day—so I won’t lie to you in saying that he’s Will Smith-muscular.

That’s Obama, not Will Smith, in Hawaii last week

But this I’ll write: Based on fitness levels, he’ll beat you and me. Consider that for 48 days without miss until Christmas, while he debated John McCain, flew from Florida to New Mexico, declaimed speech after interview after oration—Obama never missed one activity each day: Exercise.

“He does it every day like clockwork,” said Marty Nesbitt, one of Obama’s closest friends. “He doesn’t think of it as something he has to do—it’s his time for himself, a chance for him to reflect. It’s his break. He feels better and more revved up after he gets in his workout.”

In an excellent Washington Post article published last Dec. 25, “As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases,” written by Eli Saslow, I add: “’That’s one of the first things you learn working for him: You better make sure he gets his workout,’ said Jim Cauley, who managed Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. ‘If there isn’t any time, he’s not going to feel his best that day. If he only gets 30 or 40 minutes, he’s still not really happy. You have to make time for him to exercise, at least an hour or so. You block it out and put it on the schedule, because that’s what makes him happy.’”

That’s incredible. A man so busy—maybe the busiest on this planet—ensuring that he sweats for 90 minutes every 24 hours, seven out of seven days. To me, a self-confessed fitness fanatic, that’s fascinating.

Obama plays basketball—and he’ll soon build a full-court at the world’s most popular home. He swings at golf. Bowls. (Well, the last time he did, at a campaign stop, he shot 37. Our very own Mic-Mic Miranda can beat that with three straight strikes!) But his most steady form of perspiration? The gym.

Writes Eli Saslow: “Obama, 47, devotes half of his workout to weight lifting and the other half to a cardiovascular rotation that includes a stationary bicycle, elliptical machine and treadmill. Between his warm-up and cool down, he sometimes moves through a dozen different exercises in an hour. “’It’s something he takes seriously, and that’s why he’s in great shape,’ said Alexi Giannoulias, a friend of Obama’s and a former professional basketball player. ‘When people picture him running or whatever, they might think he’s just going through the motions. But he goes hard. He’s fit. He could convince you he’s half his age.’”

Remember his victory speech at Grant Park? Celebrating into the morning’s darkest hours, by 9 a.m. the next day he’s exercising. Just hours before flying for his 12-day vacation? He slips his Asics sneakers and runs. The next morning in Hawaii, his first agenda? To soak in sweat.

This “Obama exercise-lifestyle” wasn’t inborn. It began when he was 22 and a student at Columbia University who, in his book, ‘Dreams From My Father,’ was a casual drug user and underachiever. That is, until he shifted to R & R: reading and running 5 kms. daily.

“Physical fitness yielded mental fitness, Obama decided, and the two concepts have been married in his mind ever since,” added Saslow.

“It’s always been a priority in his daily routine,” said Christopher Lu, a marathon runner who was recently named to his Cabinet. “I think it’s an example of how disciplined he is. It’s one of the things that really keeps him balanced.”

Now, let’s pause. Does all this matter to you and me? It does. Think about it. We all own the same 1,440 minutes each day. And my hope is that none of us will ever use that most common of alibis for not sweating-out: I have no time.

If you do…. Think Barack.

Happy New Year! My wish is for your better health—so better exercise—this 2009.

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