When TIME named Paul Ryan a runner-up in the 2011 Person of the Year issue, many were familiar with his proposed budget, but few knew that the Wisconsin Congressman stayed fit with the now best-selling P90X workout plan. (Ryan’s father and grandfather both died of a heart attack.) In fact, it was Ryan’s fitness regime — and Herculean strength on all things fiscal — that inspired this workout-themed sitting for Person of the Year. One of these portraits, photographed by Gregg Segal, appears in the Oct. 22, 2012, issue.
Tony Horton, the stand-up comedian turned P90X creator, says the rigorous workout has been boosted from both sides of the aisle. “I think Paul Ryan’s been very good for P90X, as much or more so as Michelle Obama,” he says. “I’ve worked with the First Lady and her Let’s Move campaign. Some of the Secret Service came up to me and said, ‘Hey man, we’re really loving the P90X.’ I’m well aware that they’re using it in the White House.”
According to Horton, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get fit. Ryan likes to use weights, but they aren’t a necessity. “You need the human body, Mother Earth and Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity,” Horton says.
TIME asked Horton to suggest a get-fit regimen that could be implemented alongside the presidential campaign but still leave time for careful consideration of the issues. He recommended an upper-body exercise, a cardiovascular interval exercise, a core exercise and a leg exercise. (For further details — and diagrams! — check the Oct. 22 issue.)
Confusing the electorate is unwise, but according to Horton, confusing the muscles is a plus. This involves changing the routine often so muscles don’t get accustomed to any one exercise. To get the full benefit of this regimen, you’ve got to make like the party and diversify. “Do a different push-up every time,” suggests Horton. “Add kenpo karate or jumping jacks or whatever on that second move. On the crunches, modify your position to engage the abs or core directly. You can do squats with your feet wide, your feet narrow. It’s a workout that might also give you a bounce. As few as two rounds of that will release norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin.”
Perfect for when the poll numbers aren’t going your way.
Segal is a Los Angeles–based photographer. See more of his work here.
Luscombe is an editor-at-large at TIME.