From midday basketball games to the Let’s Move initiative, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were all about exercise during their eight years in the White House. And that hasn’t changed in their first year returning to life as civilians, says their longtime trainer.
Cornell McClellan has worked with Obamas for more than 20 years, and says their dedication to fitness continues to be strong post-White House. The only difference? “I think they smile more,” he tells PEOPLE.
McClellan, who is based in Chicago and moved to D.C. during the Obama administration to train the family — along with any other staff members Barack could persuade — says the former first couple truly love working out.
“I enjoy training them more than anything, because they’re people who feel like I feel about fitness and the importance of it,” says McClellan, who is hosting a workout at Fitness Snob Studio in D.C. on Feb. 19. “It’s great to work with people who have that mindset. So my task as their trainer is to find ways to make it tough on them. When they say, ‘Are you crazy?’ I know I’m doing my job.”
The main difference now is that the Obamas have more free time to be active. Michelle in particular loves that it’s easier to attend group workout classes.
“She’s been able to do some of the classes that weren’t as convenient when they were in office,” McClellan says. “She can do sociable things and get outside. She loves SoulCycle.”
And as much as Michelle talks about fitness, Barack is equally enthusiastic about it, according to McClellan.
“He works out as much, if not more, as her,” he says. “He really believes in it. One of the things we say when people complain that they don’t have time to work out is, ‘The President of the United States works out every day! You’ve got to find another excuse.’ “
While McClellan tailors his workouts with the Obamas to their particular interests, he likes to vary their routines.
“With [Michelle] and President Obama, we mix it up a lot,” he says. “We do things with weights, with kettlebells, with bands and tubes and TRXs to keep the body guessing.”
But when they come to McClellan to get moving, a few topics go unmentioned.
“We generally don’t talk about what’s going on with the new administration,” McClellan says, laughing. “But one of the things I used to love to do with the President is making sure we had time to box. And the First Lady will do it, too. For people with high-stress jobs, boxing really works for them. To be able to punch some things.”