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Marketing fitness with the President and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Had an autograph collector seen the fog lift from the dew-covered White House south lawn that early morning, he might have had good reason to believe he was still dreaming.

Yes, that is Mary Lou Retton, the Olympic goldmedal gymnast. Standing next to Arthur Ashe are Sam Snead and Jane Blalock. There are Bruce Jenner, Scott Hamilton, and Dorothy Hamill with Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Pam Shriver, Ernie Banks, and Brooks Robinson. And over there are Eric Dickerson ... Jack LaLanne ... Peter Vidmar ... Carl Lewis ... weatherman Willard Scott ... Louis Sullivan, secretary of Health and Human Services, our nation's top health and fitness man ... people from the military ....from elementary schools from Special Olympics senior citizen centers ... and more

Hey! What goes on here?

No one better to ask than the man with the bulging biceps who has called together this army of athletes and camp followers, with the blessing of President George Bush, whose grass it is they are trampling. But getting to the man won't be easy.

The crowd surrounding Arnold Schwarzenegger, tapped by the sportsminded President to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is standing elbow-to-elbow. We hear him say that this is the first (the first annual, he stresses) Great American Workout, aimed at raising the consciousness of all Americans on the importance of good health through physical fitness. He is, in fact, challenging all couch potatoes to desert the divan and take up the banner "Fitness for the 190S."

"Fitness is fun, and fitness is for everyone," Arnold is saying. "We vant you all to pump up, to lose those extra inches, to get fit, and to begin right now! "

As we walk around to the 15 stations assembled on the south lawn of the White House, where the professional athletes and Olympic champions are waiting to show off the different sports and activities that the assure us will put the fun in fitness, we have time to consider what manner of man is this whom President Bush has entrusted with the physical fitness of flabby America. Who is this man who has among his priorities getting daily physical education classes back in schools and providing our young people with an alternative to drug and alcohol abuse? The man who wants the kids after school to turn off the Nintendo and turn on to squats?

Arnold Schwarzenegger remembers his early boyhood workouts in Graz, Austria, where he first began flexing his muscles. His father would make him do sit-ups and push-ups many mornings before mealtime. "This is the way to make sure you have earned your breakfast," the elder Schwarzenegger, a policeman who knew the value of staying physically fit, would explain.

Today, 30 years later, 42-year-old Arnold is himself a father. Last December, his beautiful and poised wife, the newscaster Maria Shriver, gave birth to an adorable pink-cheeked baby girl named Katherine Eunice, thus adding to the many reasons the new fitness chairman has eagerly espoused the benefits of earning one's breakfast.

"As a kid involved in sports, you learn a lot of things you are not aware of at the time," he says. "But later on you recognize them as discipline, how to deal with failure, camaraderie, and especially the value of having a goal, keeping the vision in front of you at all times, and going after it."

Seems like serious talk for the genial gentleman whose flashing smile is dispelling the fog from the White House lawn this morning. But then, this 200plus-pound hunk is not your ordinary iron pumper. Bright and ambitious, he has a success story that millions of once-impoverished immigrants to our golden door" have envisioned.

In 1968, this star-struck youth came to America determined to flex his 250pound, 6'2" frame to the top of the bodybuilding profession. Spending a third of each day pumping iron paid off in a 57-inch chest, 22-inch biceps, and 28-inch thighs. These dimensions, in turn, paid off in seven Mr. Olympia and five Mr. Universe titles as the world's best bodybuilder.

It didn't take long before the screams from many admiring females reached Hollywood. The result was a series of box-office bonanzas (grossing nearly $1 billion in the 80s) that include Pumping Iron, Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Commando, Predator, Red Heat, and Twins. He is said to have been paid $10 million for starring in Total Recall, plus 15 percent of the receipts. With the veteran Paul Verhoeven directing, Total Recall promises to be a blockbuster this summer. It's not hard to figure out that Arnold really doesn't have to be a successful author and real-estate tycoon too, but he is.

All this time his personal life flourished. The once ultra-eligible bachelor settled down, polished his English, became a U.S. citizen, and married a member of the Kennedy clan. Now, in accepting the chairmanship of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Schwarzenegger is endeavoring to repay his adopted land, and he even lobbied hard for the opportunity.

Why take it on? "It's in my blood," he says. "Now is the time to make an impact."

To fellow members on the President's council, Schwarzenegger has emphasized that fitness, like any good product, must be marketed. And he has come up with peppy slogans worthy of a Madison Avenue advertising exec: "It's Hip to Be Fit" and "Read My Hips: No More Fat."

The Great American Workout on the south lawn was Arnold's idea. He went to President Bush, who thought it was a great way to launch the fitness campaign. "Go for it," he told Arnold. Many doubted that it could be done, and naysayers among staffers suggested multitudes of obstacles. But Arnold never doubted that he could triumph and do so fast enough to make his deadline. Now, in his first big fitness sales pitch to the public, and with the President of the United States on the platform next to him, it was a PR man's fondest dream.

"You know, Arnold's stronger than I thought he was," the President told the crowd on the White House lawn. "He bench-pressed the federal budget. I told my grandson, Sam LeB]ond, who is visiting us this weekend: 'If he can do that, why can't you pick up your socks?'

"I hope this doesn't get me in trouble with another vegetable," the President said, "but today we are declaring war on couch potatoes.... All of us have a stake in making exercise a part of America's fitness. And fitness a part of America every day. Whatever your age, sex, or physical condition, the Great American Workout can enhance the quality of life and the longevity of each American."

The President and Mrs. Bush then made the rounds of the 15 workout stations manned (and womanned) by champions of the various sports represented, including horseshoe pitching, at which President Bush is known to be of Olympic quality. He gave a special salute to the "heroes here representing the Special Olympics ... the disabled. Their strength and determination inspires us all," he said. President Bush means business about backing Arnold Schwarzenegger and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS). A week earlier we heard of his intentions loud and clear at a roundtable meeting of editors at the White House. Ten editors of national magazines had been invited to meet in the Roosevelt room for an opportunity to ask the President some questions. No other media were invited. Leading off was John Mack Carter, editor of Good Housekeeping, who asked the President what could be done to alleviate the rapidly escalating cost of health insurance premiums and other healthcare costs for families and the nation. Believing as we do at The Saturday Evening Post that fitness could decrease the need for much medical attention, we seized the opportunity to follow up on John Mack Carter's query. Our question to the President was: "With exercise and diet now known to prevent many of the costly degenerative diseases, could you tell us about your plans for getting our citizens fit? (We hoped the assembled editors would have this opportunity to hear all about his Arnold Schwarzenegger plans, and the President's answer didn't disappoint us.) He responded: "Well, we're just beginning this new emphasis on fitness as part of this administration. And I want to do my part by getting out and exercising." (The assembled editors laughed uproariously-George Bush's droll wit, timing, and ability to poke fun at himself for having been criticized about spending too much time pursuing sports made the statement seem very funny when he proposed it.) He continued with enthusiasm: "I have been very impressed with the seriousness of our council on fitness and of its chairman, Arnold Schwarzenegger. People thought getting Arnold in there, we were going for some muscle-building big shot. He is the least-biggest shot of any guy I have met. He is determined to set a good example. And he is." In the President's all-out effort to get the nation fit, we wondered if his interest could even go so far as the establishment of a U.S. Fitness Academy. The plans for such an academy had been envisioned early in the Reagan administration and went so far as the selection of a site and a cornerstone ceremony at the designated area in Indianapolis. But after a large press conference and cornerstone celebration with Senator Lugar, the supporters and PCPFS members were dismayed to learn that Californians had decided to move the U.S. Fitness Academy to Orange County instead. Subsequently, the Californians' building effort failed.

The Lilly Endowment, an early supporter of the Fitness Academy, disappointed at this strange turn of events, strongly encouraged the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to join with them in completing the original plans. And so they did. The Hoosiers named their new national academy-a splendid, gleaming center for fitness, nutrition research, and education-the National Institute of Fitness and Sport. The Post believes its adopted city of Indianapolis, acclaimed by many as the amateur-sports capital of the nation, would be an ideal location for the "official" U.S. Fitness Academy.

So we asked the President, "Are there any plans afloat for a U.S. Fitness Academy for the training of future fitness leaders?"

His answer was most encouraging: "Many think that the nation's fitness can help avoid some of the calamitous health problems we've had. I don't know about an academy, but I will be waiting to see what the group recommends on this. However, I think you're going to see a much more vigorous endorsement of fitness by the administration, and a lot of it will be shaped by the President's Council.

"We've had a lot of councils," the President pointed out, "and not all of them do anything. But I think this one has a real role. I think the people involved in it want it to be serious, and I think it will be. I really, honestly believe it can help. I was appalled at my own ignorance when I found how little requirement there is in our school systems for physical fitness, for [physical] education, for calisthenics. We're competitive about that. So I think we can do better. We can't dictate to the schools what the curriculum is going to be. But if this group is properly spotlighted, does their work the way I think they will, then I would take up the cause from here."

One way Schwarzenegger will be supporting the President's confidence in the council will be by visiting elementary schools to give kids the thrill of sweating with Conan himself.

He's a Pied Piper for fitness! With kids he creates a stampede. Our Post photographer reported that even Arnold was overwhelmed at the throngs of youngsters who clamored for a chance to meet him at the Fairfax High School in Virginia. The picture on page 42 was taken at Polk Elementary School after his presence created a similar stir with the youngsters.

"We must get physical fitness classes back in schools," Schwarzenegger emphasizes. "A lot of state educational leaders mismanage their budgets. Then in order to come out ahead, they cut certain programs where they feel the least amount of resistance. They know the children don't vote, so the h- with them, right? They cut out the physical education program. The parents are not participating many times, so they don't know that physical education is gone all of a sudden.

"Parents can't go off to work and leave the responsibility solely to the schools. They have to turn off the TV, communicate, be out there with them. Participate. We must provide our young people with an alternative to drug and alcohol abuses.

"Physical fitness has a permanent impact," he tells the kids today. "With drugs there is only temporary joy .... There are no shortcuts. There is only mileage."

Schwarzenegger says that senior citizens' fitness problems rival those of the young people. The in-between group, however, is doing pretty well. He points out that in the past 15 to 20 years, there have been many times more gymnasiums available for adults than there were in the early 70s. There are also some 50,000 to 60,000 health clubs.

"My concern is therefore much more in the direction of the youth and the senior citizens," he says. "We must let the senior citizens know it is not over when they retire. That this is really the time to pick out a goal and lay out a schedule. A time for them to say, O.K., we've got to go out every day and walk three miles, or walk steps and stairs and get the heart rate up to a certain level to stay young and to stay fit.' "

Not that Schwarzenegger is ranking President Bush among the senior citizens, but the star praises the President's outlook on fitness, noting Bush is a jogger, fisherman, and athlete. "He's 100 percent behind physical fitness," fitness chairman says, "and he's in tremendous shape himself. I worked out with him once in the White House, and he really made me sweat."

Schwarzenegger's intention as council chairman is to convey his love of fitness through discipline to all Americans, youngsters, oldsters, and in betweens alike. He points to Indianapolis as an example of one city that positively changed its image after it became known as the amateur sports capital of America.

"Sports give us fitness, endurance, and all those things that make us feel more secure when we are physically well-equipped," he says. "Winning championships brings confidence with every victory."

What Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to win now are the ears and hearts of his countrymen so that he can spread the gospel of physical fitness. There is little doubt he'll succeed in his goal during the Bush administration. He isn't used to losing, and he doesn't want to begin now with the lives of America's children in his hands. The stakes are too high. A
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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good; SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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