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A Washington Gym Combines Politics and Exercise

  • Brian Allen

Through debates, speeches, conventions, and television and radio commercials, American presidential candidates spend countless hours and dollars proving they are fit for office. One gym in the Washington area is putting a different spin on the term “fit for office,” by combining presidential politics with exercise and workouts - to help people cope with the long, grueling campaign season.

Not many people can say they have punched the president. But at the Washington Sports Club in Alexandria, Virginia, participants get their shot at Barack Obama - and his rival Mitt Romney.

It’s just one exercise in a new class that combines exercise with politics. Instructor Aimee Richardson says the class is helping people in the nation’s capital deal with the stress of the long election season.

“This is Washington, D.C. People are all politics. When you take a topic that people are passionate about, and you put it in a setting where you can really kick some butt ((beat someone up)), that combination can be really empowering for people. I think people are working harder because of the theme of the class," said Richardson.

Katie Rodriguez, another instructor at the gym and a participant in the class, agrees.

“It’s really fun to get all of that political theme out of my living room, out of my computer, and into doing some physical activity and doing something about it. It felt great. It was really hard!" said Rodriguez.

Inside the gym, “balancing the budget” means something completely different than it does on Capitol Hill. “Running for Office” is very literal. The term “swing states” actually involves swinging a kettle bell. And whether you’re hoping for Michelle Obama’s arms or Paul Ryan’s abs, bi-partisanship is important when you’re “Crossing Party Lines” after a push-up or sit-up.

Sarah Heckenberg, who works at a non-profit organization in the Washington area, says the combination of politics and exercise keeps her going.

“I like it because it’s hard to stay motivated when you exercise, and anytime you can add a theme when you exercise, I think that’s very helpful," said Heckenberg.

Just as on Election Day, participants will have to make an important choice: Obama or Romney. But here, just for one day, they can make that choice as many times as they want.

“I did notice I was attacking one candidate instead of the other, and Aimee had to remind me to use both of my arms and give me a certain number of punches on each side," said Rodriguez.

“When you start boxing, people are hesitant, you encourage them to get into it, and they can get pretty ugly. They can get pretty mean with those hits," said Richardson.

This Washington Sports Club only has one more Fit for Office class before Election Day, and before things go back to politics as usual in Washington.