2020 candidates keep fitness on track while on the trail
© Getty Images, The Hill photo illustration

They're running miles while running for office — for many of the 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls, an exercise regimen doesn't stop on the campaign trail.

On Monday, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (Hawaii) tweeted a video of herself sweating it out to a high-intensity interval training routine.

"We're doing a bench workout," the Democratic presidential candidate said to the camera as it cut to her doing intense sets of reverse crunches, forward lunges and jumping jacks. At the end of the clip, with Oh the Larceny's "Real Good Feeling" blasting, Gabbard is seen slapping someone a high-five.

"Twenty-five exercises using the bench. No excuses. Start your week right!" Gabbard, 38, writes.

ADVERTISEMENT

She's not the only 2020 candidate who's burning calories beyond shaking hands and kissing babies.

Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hires top aides for Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights Democrats debate Biden effort to expand map against Trump MORE — like Gabbard, a combat veteran — runs at least twice a week, a spokesman tells ITK. The 37-year-old South Bend, Ind., mayor ran six miles last week, according to Chris Meagher, his national press secretary.

"If there's a gym he'll lift weights at the hotel, and he loves when he has the chance to swim laps," Meagher says. "He always says he has more energy when he starts the day with a good workout."

In an election where health care is one of the top issues, being seen burning calories isn't just for the 30-somethings hoping to occupy the Oval Office.

"A regular exercise routine can be an example of modeling behavior," Rita Kirk, a professor of political communication at Southern Methodist University, tells ITK. "After all, if a presidential candidate has time for exercise, so do we all."

Last month, a video of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary Military madness in the age of COVID-19 MORE (I-Vt.) at bat, throwing pitches and running bases during a softball game at Iowa's Field of Dreams quickly went viral. Jane Sanders told People magazine in 2016 that her now-78-year-old husband also has a unique way of logging some physical activity: He chops his own firewood.

Joe BidenJoe BidenTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Joe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary MORE's brother, Frank Biden, has quipped that he serves as the former vice president’s "workout adviser in chief."

“I make sure he stays in shape, as good a shape as he’s in now, while he’s on the trail," Frank Biden told the Palm Beach Post in April of his 76-year-old brother, who's faced questions about his age as he runs for president. "He’s watched his health very closely. He’s in terrific shape. That’s one of my avocations. I speak to him every day and make sure he’s taking care of himself."

Biden's campaign didn't get back to ITK about if or how he's working on his fitness during his 2020 run.

On the Fourth of July, Biden responded to a heckler in Iowa calling him “sleepy Joe” by asking the man to join him as he jogged along a parade route.

"Campaign schedules are grueling," says Kirk, who serves as director of the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. "The demand starts early in the morning to hit the breakfast circuits and continues until the last event of the day, leaving little time for personal reflection or self-care. Regular exercise is a 'time out' for self-care."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE has cited his love of golf — and the gift of gab — when asked about how he stays healthy.

The then-GOP presidential candidate told People in 2015, "I never thought about it, but speaking is almost a form of exercise."

"Last night I was in Knoxville for 12,000 people. When you are speaking to 12,000 great people, you don’t feel like eating," said Trump, 73. 

The president mocked the appearance of a participant at a rally last month who he mistook for a heckler, telling the crowd, "That guy's got a serious weight problem! Go home. Start exercising."

"Got a bigger problem than I do," Trump said at the time.

Capri Cafaro, a former Ohio state senator who teaches at American University's Department of Public Administration and Policy, says being seen as active, particularly for younger candidates, could help shred any image of not being able to keep up with the rigorous job of commander in chief.

For presidential candidates such as Gabbard and Buttigieg, Cafaro says, sharing their workouts seems to be "a strategic move rooted in an authentic routine."

"Both candidates are also young, their physical fitness helps highlight their age in juxtaposition to other older candidates, and it also makes them relatable to many Americans who lead active lifestyles or aspire to do so,” Cafaro says.

In 2018, former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.), another 2020 presidential contender, posted a photo of a giant set of barbells that awaited him for his dead lift workout.

"Got to be strong to beat Trump," he wrote.