With a schedule as hectic as President Obama's it must be hard to stick to a training regimen without help -- but why does he insist on having his old trainer fly out from Chicago to D.C. regularly when Obama and his wife exhort the rest of us to drive less? And in a recession? According to Ashley Parker at the New York Times, Obama's fitness czar Cornell McClellan comes out to D.C. every week:
Mr. McClellan grew up practicing martial arts, eventually earning a black belt, and as a college student realized that he had a knack for working with people. He owns Naturally Fit, a personal training and wellness center in Chicago, and now spends part of his week in Washington at Mr. Obama’s request.
“It was an easy sell for me, because I thought of it as kind of a duty, to serve the president,” said Mr. McClellan, who works out with the first couple, often in the early morning, at the gym in the White House residence. Mr. and Mrs. Obama both try to exercise for at least an hour every day, and Mr. McClellan says he usually sees them two to four times a week, depending on their schedules.
David Axelrod says he lost 25 pounds under McClellan's watch, but that comes at a steep cost for those as environmentally minded as the Obamas: 50,000 lbs of carbon emissions. That's how much carbon emissions are involved in McClellan's flying back and forth every week for a year (according to TerraPass.com).
Couldn't they have just hired someone in D.C. to take over the training? The Yellow Pages provides over 56 entries under "Personal Fitness Trainers" alone, most of whom would have been able to reach the White House by bike.
Doing so would have at least been consistent with Obama's statements about the need to reduce emissions. Last July, Obama announced that he wanted federal workers to cut down on business travel and commuting by car in order to reduce emissions produced by the federal government:
The White House was announcing Tuesday that the government will aim to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources like employee driving by 13 percent in 2020, compared with 2008 levels.
Even First Lady Michelle Obama's support for locally produced food is steeped in environmental concerns. From MotherEarthnews:
Local food is also better for the planet. It supports a healthy, clean environment that benefits wildlife and the land. Growing local, seasonal food preserves genetic diversity and reduces our reliance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Buying local contributes to the community economy and protects our food supply for the future.
The Nation also notes the importance of lower emissions to the Obamas' "buy local" campaign:
Agriculture's large greenhouse footprint is due mainly to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels to grow and transport food to market, as well as the increasing popularity of the meat-rich American diet. Meat production accounts for 18 percent of global emissions, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, in part because livestock emit large amounts of methane, an exceptionally potent greenhouse gas.
Even if Obama were to put his money where his mouth is and purchase offsets for McClellan's Chicago-to-D.C. commute, the message is pretty clear: If you're an average federal employee or your everyday taxpayer, stop driving and be careful of your carbon footprint. If you're in the White House and you want some toned arms and a firm buttocks, fly your trainer out from Chicago every week.
Follow J.P. Freire on Twitter: @JPFreire.