On February 1, voters will caucus all across Iowa’s 99 counties and have the first impact on what has been a heated presidential primary for both major parties. By November, we will have a new President elect. All of this political business made me reflect on the fact that our presidents are people, just like their constituents. They have had hobbies and regular activities that have kept them calm during the most stressful moments in office. I personally love the outdoors, so I thought it would be fitting to open primary season not just with a vote, but with some facts about some of our most fit and outdoorsy presidents
No list would be complete without including our 26th president. TR lived by his maxim “get action”, and in the face of adversity and disappointment would often turn to nature to calm his nerves and reset his will. After his mother and first wife died on the same day— Valentine’s Day no less— his grief drove him to seek solace in the majesty of the great plains. He wound up constructing a new cabin called Elkhorn Ranch Cabin, and still stands on the land of the park that bears his name.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
All that outdoors enthusiasm stayed in the family! Like his cousin Theodore, Franklin made took special care to appreciate the outdoors whenever possible. When work in Washington kept him away from his large family for weeks at a time, he regularly visited his second home on Campobello Island. Several wealthy Canadians and Americans have had estates on the small Canadian Island, but FDR didn’t settle for a life of leisure. His time there was full of activities such as sailing, fishing, and hunting.
Though he never served a full term, Gerald Ford stepped in after scandal reigned during the final days of the Nixon presidency. Sure, he was a politician who made it to the highest office in the land, but he was also football player. A really, really good football player. He was one of the brightest spots on the University of Michigan’s football team, where he played long snapper, center, and linebacker. The tenacious defensive player earned him offers from two NFL teams: the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. He respectfully declined, choosing instead to take a coaching position at Yale while he attended law school.
Before serving as president, Reagan was the 33rd Governor of California. After his term ended, he and his wife purchased Rancho de Cielo, a magnificent estate in Santa Barbara. The ranch itself is quite removed— it is located at the top of the Santa Ynez Mountain Range. It proved to be a great place to raise horses, boasting a stable that housed several, including an Arabian Horse named El Alamein.
George W. Bush
Dubya may not have been our most popular president—but this post isn’t about politics or popularity. It’s about activity, and number 43 certainly deserves a place on this list. He’s an avid runner, and is our only president to run a marathon. More specifically, Bush ran the Houston marathon with a respectable time under four hours. He also connected with the Republican Reagan Ranching roots when he acquired the Prairie Chapel Ranch in the late 1990s. During his presidency, it was nicknamed “the Western White House” because he hosted so many foreign heads of state under its roots.
Michelle Obama has been a huge advocate of healthy living for the youth, but POTUS has fitness ingrained into his regimen. Six days a week, he makes time for 45 minutes in the gym. All of this activity doesn’t even include basketball! He loves the sport, and sometimes will play pick-up games with members of his staff.