A fitness regimen fit for a king (King Ralph, that is)

- April 5th, 2013

On this day that the late Ralph Klein is memorialized in Calgary, I recall interviewing him seven years about his fitness regimen.

Many Albertans may not know this, but the down-to-earth premier was an avid runner before he fell ill.

We met one day in the spring of 2006 in his expansive office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, where he candidly told me how he liked to run every day for 40 minutes on a treadmill.

King Ralph, however, openly admitted that his diet was “not particularly good.”

It was the most honest interview I’ve ever had with a politician. His straightforward style was refreshing. And I came away with a new appreciation for the man known simply as “Ralph.”

Here’s my piece that ran on Thursday, June 1, 2006 in the Edmonton Sun:

ES_1996_Ralph_Klein

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has been at work daily on the treadmill for 20 years, staving off his portly 1986 figure.

RUN, RALPH, RUN! 

PREMIER MAINTAINS A DAILY WORKOUT

Ralph Klein admits there’s plenty of room for improvement in his diet.

But when it comes to exercising regularly, he claims to run circles around most Albertans.

For the past two decades, King Ralph says, he has been running an average of five kilometres a day.

“I stick to the treadmill. That way you don’t get lost,” Alberta’s likable premier jokes during an interview with the Sun. “I’ve always said a treadmill is a great machine for politicians because you run like hell and you get nowhere.”

Klein, 63, says he began his running regimen back in 1986, while he was mayor of Calgary.

At the time, the five-foot-eight Klein let his weight balloon to a personal high of somewhere between 230 and 240 pounds.

DISGUSTED WITH WEIGHT

“I was just grossly overweight,” he recalls with a look of disgust etched on his face.

The current leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives blames his mayoral expanse on all the public engagements and dinner invitations he accepted in those days.

“I honestly thought that I had to eat wherever I went. And drink, too,” he explains. “Sometimes I had two or three dinners a night.”

Realizing he had to do something to help curb his rapid weight gain, Klein turned to the treadmill. Early on, he struggled to run a single mile.

“It probably took me six months before I was up to three miles,” he says.

These days, Klein — who says he now weighs closer to 185 pounds — gets up to a speed of 5.1 m.p.h., completing his daily run in just under 40 minutes.

Daily run?

“Every day,” he nods. “I’ve missed maybe three days in 20 years.”

To avoid missing workouts, Klein makes sure he’s never far from a treadmill. He’s got one in his office and one in his Calgary home. There are two treadmills in the provincial legislative building’s basement gym and plenty more at both Calgary health clubs he frequents.

“And I make sure that every hotel that I visit if I’m travelling has a treadmill,” he adds.

Premier since 1992, Klein makes running a priority, demanding his handlers fit it into his busy schedule.

“If it’s not in my schedule, I ask, ‘Where’s my workout?’ ” he says, admitting he prefers to run late in the morning.

“The ideal time for me is about 11 o’clock. If it’s too early in the morning, I say, ‘Well, you have to change something because I don’t work out very early in the morning.”

When the legislature is in session, Klein likes to run at noon. By the time he hits the showers, the former TV and radio reporter is feeling good.

“People ask, ‘How’s your workout?’ And I say, they’re all good once they’re finished,” he laughs. “If nothing else, it eases your conscience. You know you’ve done it.”

Growing up, Klein played baseball, football and a little bit of hockey. And with the influence of his father — a professional fighter, he dabbled in boxing.

For a time he also lifted weights but gave that up years ago.

“I just don’t have the stamina. Nor do I have the time to do a weight program,” he says. “I would have to cut down on my running. I think the cardio at my age is probably better than the weights.”

Then there’s his diet.

“My diet, it’s not particularly good,” Klein says, admitting to having a penchant for hamburgers, pizza and Chinese food.

SKIPS BREAKFAST

The premier, who expects to step down by the end of the year once his party chooses a successor, also confessed to skipping breakfast and downing up to seven cups of java a day.

“I drink lots of coffee. I should probably cut down on it, drink more water, but it’s liquid,” adds Klein, between sips of coffee.

The man who in the past admitted to having an alcohol problem says he “very seldom” drinks these days.

But he still smokes occasionally.

“I sneak the odd one, but not nearly as much as I used to,” he says.

Despite his dietary shortcomings and occasional vices, Klein promises to continue running on the treadmill long after the sun sets on his political career.

“The hardest thing is to start,” he advises. “But you have to keep your mind on how good it feels when you’re finished.”

* * *

Thanks, Ralph.

* * *

Here are a few more pics — gleaned from Sun Media archives — of Klein working up a sweat through the years …

kleinkick

Klein bike

Ralph_Klein_tricycle

Klein_Pool

Klein_Pool2

* * *

Website: http://www.edmontonsun.com/author/cary-castagna

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keeping-Fit-with-Cary-Castagna/106367266730

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CaryIsKeepingFit#g/u

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/cary-castagna/

Categories: Fitness

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available