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P90X Comes to Washington

Is Canada getting ready to endorse Romney-Ryan? No–but it’s safe to say that our northern neighbor has endorsed the Republican vice-presidential candidate’s abs.

Early this morning, the courtyard of the the Canadian embassy in Washington, was the setting for the kind of event that in any other season would have been just a generic bit of national self-promotion: An exercise class by a prominent workout pioneer, part of a initiative aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles. In addition to embassy staffers, an official from the District of Columbia’s public school system was there to pick up several dozen complementary fitness videos.

What set the event apart, though, was the workout guru in question: Tony Horton, the creator of the P90X program, which has been credited with giving Ryan the honor of being the fittest candidate on a major presidential ticket in recent memory.

Among the crowd sweating along with Horton’s routine was Canadian Major General Nicolas Matern, the defense attaché. Matern sprinted in place, squatted, lunged, and later—after catching his breath—described how tough P90X is. “I thought until this morning that I was in half-decent shape,” he said.  

Canadian officialdom, meanwhile, was more tight-lipped about the exercise’s recent association with right-wing politics. A spokesman for the embassy, Chris Plunkett, said the event had nothing to do with Paul Ryan. The embassy, he said, had simply invited Horton to lead a workout session for staffers and friends as a way to promote healthy living in the D.C. community.

During the hour-long session, Horton didn’t bring up his most famous adherent either. He stuck to exhorting the exercisers to push themselves harder: “Make 29 the prettiest crunch you’ve ever seen in your life…Aging is for people who don’t know better.” Was that a secret reference to the fight over Medicare funding? Alas, probably not.

Afterwards, I caught up with some of the students. But as most of them were attached to a foreign diplomatic mission, no one was really willing to talk Ryan and U.S. politics. “I don’t want to make that connection,” Gord Barnes, a staffer at the embassy said when I asked him if Ryan’s famously svelte physique had inspired him to come out for a P90X session.

Horton, though, was willing to discuss his most famous student once the event was over. He said he has worked with Ryan in the gym on a number of occasions. He said Ryan would have been “front and center” in the Canadian crowd. All the same, he was modest about his role in the Congressman’s appearance.“I don’t want to take full credit for his abs,” said Horton, who himself is American and hopes his program continues to be enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans alike. And, apparently, by Canadians.