How Long Do I Have To Be In Downward Dog Before I Can Check Twitter? A Campaign Reporter’s Workout Diary

How Long Do I Have To Be In Downward Dog Before I Can Check Twitter? A Campaign Reporter’s Workout Diary

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Reporter Amy Chozick, in a selfie, on the Metaformer.

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Amy Chozick for The New York Times

Times Insider shares insights into how we work at The New York Times. In this piece, Amy Chozick, a Times political reporter covering Hillary Clinton, reveals how she found news and Power Life Yoga on the campaign trail.

I’ve never missed Des Moines more than I did a few weeks ago when, briefly back in New York, I found myself in a trendy workout class called S.L.T. — for Strengthen Lengthen Tone — next to Karlie Kloss, the supermodel and Victoria’s Secret angel.

After months on the road covering Hillary Clinton for The Times, eating Panera Bread or whatever was provided on the campaign bus, I had a lot of strengthening, lengthening and toning to do. And I had never felt so badly about the tolls campaign travel can take as I did in when I saw Ms. Kloss sprawled out in plank position next to me.

As I stumbled awkwardly through lunges and mountain climbers on a Pilates-inspired torture device — that includes pulleys and resistance springs, and is called a “megaformer” — the 6-feet-1-inch inch blonde glided between positions with the grace of a gazelle. I thought about the yoga studio I had gone to ahead of the Iowa caucuses where the girls were pretty and a healthy size 6 in their Lululemons.

A year into the Democratic primary and I had worked out all over the country: I took a barre class taught by a state representative in an attic in Manchester, N.H., a spin class in Madison, Wis., five minutes from where Mrs. Clinton later assailed the Republican vision for the Supreme Court, boxing lessons at the Wynn in Las Vegas with my friend and competitor, Politico’s Annie Karni. (The instructor, a former fighter named Brady who clearly doesn’t know many journalists, was shocked at our willingness to punch each other.)

But only in New York did I find myself next to the type of woman who, for the rest of the country exists only in the pages of Vogue and on Instagram where, incidentally, Ms. Kloss has 4.6 million followers. She put the whole S.L.T. experience on Snapchat, which luckily disappeared or I could have been immortalized as the sweaty reporter stumbling through the routine behind Taylor Swift’s best friend.

Eight years ago, my reporting on Clinton and Obama’s 2008 campaigns for The Wall Street Journal took such a brutal toll on my waistline, I had to “enlist” at a boot camp run by Iraq War veterans after Election Day to get in shape for my wedding. This involved climbing flights of stairs while former Marines yelled obscenities at me, scaling a 6-foot wall repeatedly, and doing something called a “bear crawl” around an obstacle course that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

This time I was determined to do things differently and to exercise whenever I could while on the road covering the Clinton campaign. But the sight of a sad gym at a Holiday Inn Express in Davenport, Iowa, (or anywhere else) doesn’t exactly motivate me. I need a group class.

So, in the weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses, I found refuge in Power Life Yoga, a sunny studio five minutes from the Marriott in Des Moines where the political universe descends every four years and where the Times politics team had decamped.

Yoga typically gives me anxiety. I wonder how long I have to stay in downward dog before I can check Twitter. But Pure Life had a “power sculpt” class that took place in a heated room (a nice touch in Iowa in January) that incorporated heavy weights and Beyoncé.

In my first class the instructor asked us to say hello to our neighbors and to share a memory of our favorite childhood toy. Having lived in New York for 15 years, I found this an odd, slightly irritating, request. But I soon realized the incredible healing power of thinking about Foofur, a straggly blue stuffed dog my grandmother bought me when I was 8, rather than the latest poll numbers.

The Des Moines girls seemed perennially perky (despite the gloomy winter) and lifted my spirits even on the most stressful days. They knew I was using a first-week-free (yes, free!) promotion and wouldn’t be back after the February 1 caucuses, but they bothered to learn my name anyway and always said “hello.” (A nice change from the scowls I often encountered at Soul Cycle in New York.)

When I brought my friend and colleague Jeremy Peters, the instructor saw on his release that it was his birthday. After we took a sweaty, tropical-themed cardio-barre class that felt like something you’d do on a Royal Caribbean cruise right before the all-you-can-eat breakfast, everyone burst out in “Happy Birthday, Jeremy.”

I don’t get to spend as much time in one place as I did in Iowa, now that the campaign drops in and out of multiple cities, even states, in a single day. But squeezing in a class when possible always clears my head, even if it requires a $40 cab ride to a Pilates studio in the Las Vegas suburbs, which Annie and I did before a Democratic debate. (The women worked out in false lashes, had dark tans and could have been on an episode of “Real Housewives.” We loved them.)

The workouts don’t always, well, work out. Deadlines and breaking news often mean I have to cancel. (I’ll never get my $30.66 back from Flywheel in Seattle.) And sometimes what sounds like a good idea (a surf-simulation class in St. Louis) turns out to not be worth the time and effort.

I say all of this well aware that no amount of indoor cycling or holding the plank position can counter the unhealthy lifestyle of a campaign reporter, which involves little sleep, complete lack of dietary control and a constant need to navigate crowds and security forces. (I would like to personally apologize to the Secret Service agents who have to search through my sweaty gym clothes on a regular basis. You’re not going to find anything in there.)

But even the fitness classes that aren’t perfect (like the yoga-inspired class in Derry, N.H., when the instructor fell asleep, or the spin class in Charleston, S.C., when a grapefruit-scented candle almost burned the studio down) give me a different perspective on a place and remind me that there’s a big country with all types of women out there … and most of us don’t have legs like Karlie’s.

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