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Image is everything in American politics.
With a relentless 24 hour news cycle and an Internet full of bloggers ready to jump on every gaffe or goofy photo op, we look to our leaders to represent not only our intellectual and civic ideals, but our physical ideals as well.
Why do you think so many pro athletes get into politics? Glory earned on the playing field seems to naturally translate when it comes to the bruising arena in Washington and every state house. In this list of the Fittest Men in American Politics, you'll find many elected officials who crossed over from sports, along with gym rats, triathletes, pundits, a foreign dignitary, and, yes, three men vying for the most powerful position in the land. You may not agree with all of their politics, but their dedication to personal health and fitness is something we can all admire.
1. Scott Brown
You don't want to mess with Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. After all, the man is a colonel in the Army National Guard, where he's served for 32 years. And, while he was in law school, Brown was fit enough to win a contest in Cosmopolitan magazine and appear in the pages in some unclothed but safe-for-work photos. He stays in cover model shape by regularly competing (and doing quite well, we should add) in triathlons and duathlons.
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2. Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney may have taken on a younger running mate obsessed with training in Paul Ryan—but the 64-year old former Massachusetts governor is no slouch in the fitness department himself. (Nor is he a slouch when it comes to style. Follow this style tips, inspired by Romney, to Look Like a Leader.) An avid jogger, Romney has said he runs at least 3 miles a day and reportedly hits the elliptical machine for 30 to 40 minutes at hotel gyms while on the road. He loves peanut butter and honey sandwiches (getting protein and antioxidants without resorting to higher cholesterol lunch options), and counts skiing among his hobbies—after all, he was President and CEO of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. All this may belie his rigid demeanor, but Romney insists he’s nothing if not flexible when it comes to health. He recently confessed that Ryan isn’t just his VP pick—but a personal trainer as well. “I might have him show me how to do [P90X] someday,” he said. “I’ve never tried that.”
3. Cory Booker
Long before he became the mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker was a Division I collegiate athlete, played tight end while an undergrad at Stanford University, and was selected to the All-Pac 10 Academic Team. As mayor, he started the innovative “Cory Booker Challenge,” which uses a Facebook app to reward points to Newark residents every time they exercise. Beyond that, Booker (a vegetarian) has become almost a folk hero in Democratic circles as an advocate for inner city youth and liberal ideals. The guy is also tough as nails—he's been known to accompany police during late night patrols in the most dangerous sections of Newark and was once a target of an assassination attempt by a local Bloods gang.
4. Adam Kinzinger
Adam Kinzinger is a rising star in Washington—TIME listed the 34 year-old U.S. Representative from Illinois in their "40 Under 40 list" and The Hill described him as the “Tom Cruise of Congress.” But the latter accolade wasn’t for any chair-jumping, Scientology antics. Kinzinger (who stays in shape through weightlifting and running) is a real-life Top Gun—an Air Force pilot who has done three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. (Learn how you, too, can Build Military Muscle.) But his most heroic physical act may have happened domestically. In 2006, he confronted a man who had cut a woman’s throat with a knife on a Milwaukee street, wrestled the attacker to the ground, and held him there until help arrived (the woman survived). “It was the worst and craziest night of my life,” Kinzinger later said.
5. Adrian Fenty
It takes a strong mind and body to hold office in Washington, DC. Luckily, former mayor Adrian Fenty—a dedicated cyclist and triathlete—has both in abundance. The 41 year-old son of two avid runners who own a DC-area sporting goods store, Fenty has competed in multiple sports since high school, but only started training for triathlons in his mid-30s. It didn’t take him long to become a pro, finishing 16th in a field of 2000 at the inaugural Washington DC triathlon in 2010. Off the track, he lapped the field as well, spending $7 million in his first 20 months in office for road and trail improvements and initiating the SmartBike DC program. After losing out to Democrat Vincent Gray in the 2011 mayoral election, Fenty turned to consulting work, but there are rumors he may run again—in a sense, he never stopped running in the first place.
6. David Petraeus
You don’t get to be a four-star general and without pushing your body to the absolute max. For the 58 year-old David Petraeus (current director of the CIA), that means getting up at dawn and going on a five-mile run, then following up with 20 pull-ups and 100 pushups. But that’s just basic training. "When we bring a new guy in, I take him out for a run," Petraeus told Runner’s World in 2007. "I'll go out hard, then ramp it up around five miles to try to waste him. I want to know how he'll react and respond to the challenge, what his strength of character is." This is coming from a guy who was a soccer and skiing star at West Point and once ran a marathon in 2:50:53. So you know those new CIA recruits have a long road ahead. Hope they can keep up—this old-timer has plenty of leg left in him.
7. Barack Obama
No matter how you feel about his policies, there’s one thing you can’t deny about Barack Obama: the man is in great shape for someone who’s endured four grueling years of a recession, multiple wars, and an increasingly hostile environment in Washington. His secret is the same as always: Play basketball, eat right, and make it to the gym regularly. Back when Men’s Health interviewed the then-senator in the fall of 2008, he was trying to get in a 45 minute, 6-day a week workout (“I’ll lift one day and do cardio the next”). He also shared 6 Lessons That Shaped President Obama's Life. Now, with his presidential duties and a rigorous campaign schedule, it’s more difficult for him to find time to work out. But he still hits the b-ball court often, hooping it up with the likes of NBA stars past and present (Michael Jordan recently joined him for the “Obama Classic” fundraiser in NYC).
8. Aaron Schock
Last year, Men’s Health declared Aaron Schock America’s Fittest Congressman (Check out The Secret Behind Schock's Rock-Hard Abs). And for good reason: The now 31-year-old U.S. Congressman from Illinois is the youngest member of the House of Representatives and has dedicated himself to a life advocating for our nation’s health, regardless of party politics (the Republican praised Michelle Obama for her Let’s Move campaign that addresses childhood obesity). He also launched the Fit for Summer, Fit for Life challenge with the help of Men’s Health—even while taking some flak from pundits for appearing on our cover displaying his toned abs. Could they have just been jealous? We’re looking at you, Wolf Blitzer.
9. Paul Ryan
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan wants to cut Washington excess—literally. The P90X devotee once led a fitness class on Capitol Hill and boasts that he only has 6 to 8 percent body fat, thanks to his strict diet and exercise regimen. OK, sure, he may have fudged his marathon time a little (he said he ran one in under 3 hours, when it was closer to 4). But for the Wisconsin Congressman, being in shape isn’t just for political theater—it’s personal. After his father died from heart failure at the age of 55, Ryan dedicated himself to staying in shape to avoid the same fate and even worked as a personal trainer. Now that he’s in the national spotlight, the electorate has taken notice of his sleek physique. In the 12 hours after Mitt Romney announced him as his running mate, “shirtless” was one of the top 2 search terms associated with “Paul Ryan.” Learn The Truth About Paul Ryan's Workout to get ripped like America's fittest politician.