Fitness Fit for a First Lady

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Mom in chief, that's the title Michelle Obama has given herself as America's next first lady. And who's gonna argue with no-nonsense Michelle as she steps up to take her place in history? All over the world, women and girls of color will be looking to her, not as some out of reach ideal, but as their real-life role model. She's already been under constant scrutiny. Throughout the campaign, people have dished to death every article of clothing that she's ever worn. Now the media is scrambling to unearth every detail of her daily life—including how, after two kids, she keeps her fantastic figure. Well, it's not the result of some miracle pill or fad diet. Credit her toned physique to hard work and a commitment to staying in shape.

At 5-foot-11, Glamazon Michelle lists working out as a favorite hobby, and she takes her fitness very seriously. After the birth of her daughters, she was determined to lose her post-baby weight and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to run on the treadmill for a predawn workout. And we've all seen the candid photos of Barack playing basketball. Barack revealed in an interview that one of his wife's lesser-known talents is hula hooping, and she's been filmed by news crews hoopin' it up with Sasha and Malia. Michelle makes it a point to set a healthy example for the girls, and she's made fitness a family affair. She's the No. 1 booster of Team Obama and has held outdoor jump-rope clinics for her daughter's ballet class and stays on the run chauffeuring the girls to soccer, tennis, dance and swim classes.

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So how will a busy mom of two who clearly puts family first still have time for fitness once she adds being first lady to her daily to-do list? She'll make it work. Even during the grueling, incessantly long campaign, when it was impossible to meet regularly with a trainer, she said she found time to hit the gym at least once a week to squeeze in a workout. Expect her to keep looking fabulous.

Okay, so you're not Michelle Obama. You don't have your mother living with you to help with the kids, you don't have staffers to help run your errands, and your money is tight. And now Michelle is making you feel simultaneously great and horrible about yourself. "Wow! A black first lady!" "Damn, why can't I look that good?!"

Not to worry. Here's a workout that's do-able, whether you're first lady of the country or first lady of your own home.

*Jump rope. It's fast and cheap. The only investment is a $5 plastic speed rope and a space big enough to turn the rope and jump, preferably not directly over your downstairs neighbor's head—or in the Oval Office. Do 10 one-minute intervals, with 30-second rests in between.

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The payoff—a very efficient cardiovascular routine.

*Mat Pilates. It's good for all body types, anyone who doesn't want to shrink as they age. The investment is minimal. You'll need a mat and a pilates ring, and you can buy or rent a pilates matwork DVD. Mat Pilates requires very little space. Just pop your disc in twice a week for a 30-minute workout.

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The payoff—excellent core strength and better posture, particularly if you're tall like Michelle. Tall folks often slouch—not that we're saying Michelle's a sloucher—and pilates will help keep your spine straight.

*Walk, already! Anyone can do it, and no equipment is required. Find an excuse to walk, like taking a pre- or post-dinner stroll. And make a rule to walk all errands under 10 blocks. This is a bit harder, of course, if you have Secret Service detail trailing your every step. But hey, walking around the White House grounds works fine.

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The payoff—cardiovascular fitness, and by leaving your gas guzzler at home—or your motorcade, as the case may be—the more money you'll have in your pocket.

*Sign up as a coach or referee. It's good for sports enthusiasts and weekend warriors. Expect an initial time commitment for any necessary training, but by joining your kid's sports team or league, you get a huge payoff. For Michelle, there would also be the extra time needed to fend off all the other parents jockeying to be BFFBFs (black first family best friends). But there's nothing like chasing kids down a field, or batting, kicking and running after balls, to whip you into shape. And by participating in their team sports, you're a visible, hands-on example of an active parent, and you also get to spend more healthy fun time with your kids.

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If Michelle can do it, so can you. You don't have to be first lady to look and feel fabulous.

Alicia Villarosa is a regular contributor to The Root.

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