Celebrity Fit Club – SCOTUS Edition with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan

March 20th, 2013

The Washington Post has this awesome profile of Bryant Johnson, who is the personal trainer for RBG and EK at SCOTUS. FTW.

Personal trainer Bryant Johnson watches his tiny client pump her body up and down on a green yoga mat, spotting her with his hands at her waist in case she falls. As “PBS NewsHour” blares in the background, Johnson counts down the first of two sets of 10 push-ups.

“Way to go, Justice,” cheers the man building the biceps of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By day, Johnson is a records manager in the clerk’s office of the District’s federal court, curating obscure files and trying to avoid paper cuts. In the evening, he drives up the hill — Capitol Hill — to do squats with Ginsburg or take punches from her colleague, Justice Elena Kagan, in the Supreme Court’s ground-floor gym.

Here is their workout:

Johnson meets Ginsburg in the justices-only gym (there is another for clerks and other employees). Both of them wear sweats and sneakers. Their hour-long sessions start slowly with a warm-up on the elliptical machine. They move through stretching and weight training and balancing exercises with a rubber fitness ball.

When it’s time for push-ups, Johnson stands guard over Ginsburg, bending down with hands poised to catch her in case her arms give out. “Think of the paperwork I’d have to fill out if something happened to you,” he likes to say.

Guess how many pushups Ruth can do? I bet more than you. 20! The woman can do 20 pushups at the age of 80.

Ginsburg and Johnson are an unlikely pair, the world-class lawyer and her physical powerhouse of a trainer. He stands an inch shy of 6 feet, weighs 206 pounds and can pump out 84 push-ups in two minutes. She’s just over 5 feet and just over 100 pounds — and she has passed her own milestone on the green mat.

“When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz,” Ginsburg said in an interview. “Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”

And those are old-fashioned, knees-off-the-ground push-ups, her trainer proudly points out.

All of you haters saying she should retire need to chilax. Though I do find the Auschwitz comment slightly unsettling.

Ginsburg began using a personal trainer in 1999, after she was treated for colon cancer and her husband, Martin, who died in 2010, insisted that she hire someone to help her regain her strength. By the justice’s account, she was in bad shape after surgery and radiation.

“I never thought I’d be able to do any of this,” said Ginsburg, who turned 80 on Friday and has survived a second bout with cancer since she began training all those years ago, this time in her pancreas. “I attribute my well-being to our meetings twice a week. It’s essential.”

Johnson has also helped EK lose some weight.

And Kagan has lost weight since she joined the bench in 2010, through a combination of boxing sessions with Johnson and diet.

Kagan, who has been quite health-conscious, is responsible for installing a frozen-yogurt machine in the SCOTUS cafeteria.