Bush exercises six days a week. Most of the time it’s running—outside, if he can manage it; inside, on a treadmill, if he can’t. On Camp David weekends, he runs a tough three-mile course in the morning before going on a two-mile walk with his wife afterward. If he doesn’t run, he uses an elliptical trainer, stretches, and lifts weights. The White House outdoor track is short and the Secret Service’s security worries keep him off the nearby Mall. Not being able to do longer outdoor runs at the White House is “one of the saddest things about the presidency,” he’s said. Running, Bush explains, relieves stress, helps him sleep, breaks up his day, and recharges his batteries. Most of all, “it keeps me disciplined,” proclaimed Bush, who said he expects the same of his aides.
Bush is no slouch on the course, and it’s transformed him into remarkable shape for a man in his mid-50s. His times range from 6:45 to 7:15 minutes for a mile. Following the September 11 attacks, he ran even harder, his times came down, and his weight dropped slightly. As Bush himself notes about his running, “I guess that’s part of the stress relief I get from it.”
According to Bush’s doctors, his body fat had shrunken from 19.94 percent in 2000 to 14.5 percent in 2002. His resting pulse is an astoundingly low 44 beats a minute.
Like the Kennedy administration’s physical fitness craze, Bush’s devotion to exercise spread to many members of his staff. Former presidential counselor Karen Hughes upped her fruit intake and took up yoga. Adviser Mary Matalin went regularly to the White House gym to “pump a few Arnies”—bicep curls and tricep presses, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger—and then, as she put it, some “glute something” exercises (presumably for the gluteus maximus).
James Wilkinson, deputy communications director, quietly asked Domino’s how many pizzas he had ordered. The answer: 96 in five months. He stopped the pizza, cranked up the running, and lost 17 pounds.
For Bush, exercise is more than just a strategy to maintain fitness. It is part of his sense of internal discipline. He believes it keeps him sharp and focused. By insisting on a tough physical regimen, he develops a disciplined approach to decision-making as well.