As the 44th president of the United States, a day in the life of Barack Obama can involve everything from receiving classified briefings from his staff to strategising global affairs with other world leaders.
But his morning routine is pretty simple — and generally the same every single day.
He alternates between strength and cardio training, WebMD reports.
Love also told Business Insider that Obama hardly ever drinks coffee in the morning. Instead, the president opts for water, orange juice, or green tea.
When I decided to experiment with Obama’s morning routine, I thought it would be pretty easy. I’d already taken on Jack Dorsey‘s and Arianna Huffington‘s morning rituals, both of which involved morning workouts.
But it was harder than I expected — particularly without coffee.
At first, I considered only sleeping five hours per night, like Obama.
However, my biggest takeaway from following Huffington's routine was how much I need a good night's rest. Plus, I don't generally have four or five hours of potentially world-altering work to tackle at night.
But I wanted to challenge myself, so I committed to the following:
• Exercise every morning for 45 minutes
• Stop drinking coffee
• Minimze time spent on small decisions about clothing and meals
(In 2012, Obama told Vanity Fair, 'I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.')
Sunday night, I picked out five dresses and went grocery shopping with the intention of eating the same meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week.
I love my cup of coffee as soon as I get out of bed. Variety in food and outfits are some of my favourite little pleasures in life. It was going to be an interesting week.
Morning: I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and instinctively meditated, forgetting that this wasn't part of Obama's routine.
The president usually rises at 7 a.m., so I was an hour and a half early. However, I don't have a home gym or a private chef, and my commute to work is a 15-minute subway ride as opposed to a 10-minute walk down the hall. In order to complete his routine and get to work on time, I had to get an earlier start.
I started my day by prepping breakfast and lunch: granola with fruit and a tuna lentil salad with hummus and sriracha. All the vegetable chopping took a while. Being healthy is time consuming!
After preparing breakfast and lunch, I jogged to the gym at 6:45 a.m.
At the gym, I did a 15-minute circuit of kettlebell workouts with no breaks in between. Something about the lack of breaks tired me out.
I jogged home and ate the breakfast I'd prepared, accompanied by green tea. It's pretty nice not to have to think about what I'm going to eat or wear in the morning.
Workday: My morning was productive, but thoughts of coffee soon interrupted me. At 12:10 p.m., I gave up and made myself some. I really crave the comfort of coffee when I'm putting the finishing touches on an article.
How does one run the most powerful country in the world on less than eight hours of sleep without the assistance of caffeine?
Evening: I braved stormy conditions on my way home that evening. During my commute, I started thinking about greasy Chinese food and decided to eat that instead of the meal I had planned to eat for dinner every day.
That evening, I caught up on the news and life admin between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., before reading for 30 minutes (which Obama apparently sometimes does, according to a 2009 interview with Newsweek.) I was asleep by 11 p.m.
Morning: I set my alarm at 6 a.m., since I went to bed later than usual. When I woke up, I hit snooze until 6:30 a.m. Probably not a very presidential thing to do.
Instead of having a mental argument with myself about whether I should exercise, I put on my workout clothes and I was out the door for a 45-minute run along the East River.
Since I skipped my morning meditation, I came back from my run slightly grumpy (despite the goodness of all those endorphins).
When I got home, I prepped lunch while eating my breakfast. I could smell the coffee brewing, and the caffeine addict part of me thought that maybe I should just skip this whole no-coffee part of the experiment. But I stayed strong and sipped green tea with my granola.
Workday: Craving coffee, I went to the kitchen at 11:30 a.m. to make myself a cup of cinnamon apple spice tea. I felt sleepy for about 10 minutes and began to seriously wonder if I would be able to handle this 'no coffee' thing.
At 3 p.m., my craving for caffeine returned, and I had two articles to tackle in two hours. I needed coffee! I debated whether I should drink it or not. As a compromise, I made English breakfast tea.
I started getting a funny feeling in my head, which left me worried about my dependence on coffee. At 4:00 p.m., I was nearly falling asleep at my desk for 10 minutes, which made me think that I shouldn't skip coffee the following day. But at 4:30 p.m., thankfully, my energy returned.
Evening: I made it through a whole workday without coffee! On my walk to an outdoor fitness class, I noticed that my head was hurting a little. Could I be that addicted to caffeine? The temperature was in the low 90s, so I told myself that the headache was dehydration.
I didn't get home until about 9 p.m. due to train delays. After dinner, I tackled some small life-admin stuff and read longform articles until 10:30 p.m. I started planning for the next day, but I was too tired to even write my to-do list, so I fell asleep.
Morning: I set my alarm at 6:30 a.m., because I knew I was getting lunch at work that day. I ended up waking up at 6:10 a.m. without my alarm, but spent 15 minutes looking for the workout clothes I'd laid out the night before.
Turns out they fell behind the sofa. I bet the president doesn't waste 15 minutes of his day looking for missing clothes.
Wednesday was strength day. I looked at the Tough Mudder 3-month training schedule I've been following: 5 rounds of 100-meter sprints, 15 pull ups, and 20 jump squats.
It doesn't sound like a lot, but ask anyone with anything less than an extremely strong upper body -- a pull-up is a recipe for all-over pain. But I told myself that if the president of the United States can get up to work out six days a week with the weight of the country (and much of the world) on his shoulders, I have no excuse.
I completed the circuit with some expected soreness, which I tried to soothe with a cold shower (I don't know where that logic came from). On my commute to work, I walked a little slower than usual.
Workday: I lasted until 11:30 a.m. before I consumed my first cup of coffee for the day. My justification was that I'd finished a draft of an article, and tea just wasn't going to cut it as a reward and concentration fuel. Props to Obama for being able to run the country without caffeine, but I think I'll keep it as part of my day.
I was productive, but I noticed that I was missing the intense focus and concentration Arianna Huffington's routine provided. It may have been my sleep quality (I'm back to devouring online articles before bedtime), the fact that I hadn't meditated since Monday, or the pizza I had for lunch.
Evening: I went to a free screening of 'The Big Short,' and ended up grabbing dinner out. This whole eating the same meals every day is not going well. I didn't get home until 11:30 p.m. and only fell asleep an hour later.
I was afraid for the next day. Sleep deprivation and exercise do not mix well for me.
Morning: I woke up at 6 a.m., desperately wanting to skip exercise. But then I reminded myself that the president wakes up every morning on the same amount of sleep that I'd just gotten. So I put on my running shoes and power-walked for 45 minutes.
Workday: Every time I come to work sleep deprived, I always wish I'd said no to going out. My Wednesday night hadn't even been crazy -- just sitting on the grass watching Anthony Bourdain explain collateralized debt obligations in the context of old fish.
The lack of sleep meant that a day without coffee wouldn't be possible, so I made a trip to the coffee machine at 10 a.m, and then again at 3 p.m. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to type a coherent sentence.
Evening: Cooking dinner seemed like a big task. But I did it anyway, and I'm glad I made the effort to eat healthy. My body was protesting after a day of burgers and pizza.
I wonder if Obama's frequent workouts actually cancel out his lack of sleep -- I can't imagine functioning on his schedule.
Morning: I woke up to rain outside my window. I wasn't keen to get soaked on my way to the gym, but I was determined to exercise on my last day of the experiment. President Obama just turned 55, and I'm only 27. Bailing because of rain is not acceptable.
So I went on YouTube and typed in '45 minutes difficult power yoga' and ended up with a workout that exhausted my abs and arms.
Workday: I was productive, and I managed to last the whole day without coffee. That's not to say that I didn't think about it several times, but the 'Friday focus' feeling made it a little easier. This time, I didn't get a headache.
Evening: I didn't complete any personal tasks or read about world affairs. Plus, I got take-out instead of the meal I was supposed to eat.
Friday evenings have always been my sacred lazy days, where I give myself permission to do and eat whatever I want as a reward for the end of the week. My Saturday mornings, after all, usually consist of catching up on the week's news for a few hours before moving on to personal tasks I didn't get to during the week.
As for my utter failure in eliminating eating-related decisions, I think that's just something I need to keep working on.
What I learned
Starting the day with a 45-minute workout is challenging, but left me feeling like I accomplished something before the day started
Although I did morning workouts during my time experimenting with Arianna Huffington's and Jack Dorsey's morning routines, I did them after doing 20 to 30 minutes of meditation.
I found it a lot harder to wake up and exercise first thing. The first few strides of my run always felt like 'shock therapy' -- I hadn't quite woken up yet, but my brain was telling my body to move quickly. However, I felt like I had accomplished something really difficult first thing in the morning, and that often set the tone for the rest of the day.
I also learned that 45 minutes of weight-training, if done with little rest, is extremely tiring (but motivating)
I'd only recently started incorporating heavy weight training into my fitness routine. Every time I start my workout, it's painful. But there is something about lifting heavy weights that makes you think: Bring it on, I can take it!
For me, I noticed that starting my day with this 'I can take anything on' mentality made me more willing to start difficult tasks early in the day.
I'm puzzled by where Obama gets his energy
Obama probably only gets five to six hours of sleep every night out of necessity. Before starting this routine, I thought that maybe exercising would eventually make up for any tiredness from lack of sleep.
After just experiencing his schedule for one night, this turned out not to be the case. I struggled to get myself to go for a 45-minute run when I'd only had five hours of shut-eye.
I also had a hard time waking up properly without my morning coffee, which Obama reportedly does not drink on a regular basis. Maybe his energy comes from stress and responsibility.
Eliminating decision fatigue was harder than I expected
Even when I took steps to reduce the number of decisions I had to make, such as what I was going to wear and eat, I still found myself thinking about it. I noticed this particularly on days when I really didn't feel like chopping vegetables in the morning or really craved something other than the boring stir-fry I was planning to make.
Laying out my clothes for the week proved to be quite helpful, though, and did save me the time and effort of rummaging through my closet in the morning.
It's important to practice willpower on a continuing basis
I wondered what Obama does on days when he feels like he just can't face the weight of the world -- I assume that even the president of the United States isn't immune from human tendencies.
Obama's former campaign manager told WebMD that Obama probably saw his workout as his 'alone time.' Perhaps that time to recharge gives him the willpower to tackle whatever world-changing issues he has to deal with that day.
This experiment reaffirmed the importance of constantly training my mental muscle. Willpower is not something that you achieve and never have to work on again. Mental toughness needs to be nurtured constantly.
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