LIKE THE REST of us, the future maybe first second gentleman of the United States is counting the days until November 3rd, when the fate of the country will be decided and Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, can either return to his home gym in California or check out the cardio equipment in the West Wing. Emhoff, who recently turned 56, is, like the vice presidential candidate herself, something of a gym rat. An entertainment lawyer by trade—though he’s taken a leave of absence during the campaign—Emhoff resembles a younger Randy Quaid. Happily, he has aged more like a Dennis. The former competitive tennis player, divorced father of two and campaign surrogate has been hitting the trail—such as one can during COVID—with Harris since she became part of the Democratic ticket in August. But, he says, he’s never been in better shape, thanks to a strict fitness routine and what he calls, his “Dougie snacks.” “Every day is the same. Stay focused. Stay disciplined. Stick to your routine,” he says, of the keys to his seemingly endless energy. So despite the grind, Emhoff bursts with energy, about Harris, about Biden, about the future, and of course, about snacks.
Hey Doug, how is it going?
Good. You can do anything for [several] days.
The campaign trail is notoriously bad for bodies: endless events, constant travel, little sleep, terrible food. How do you keep your young man’s form and stay healthy?
Thank you for that compliment.
It’s called buttering up your source.
Before we got onto the ticket, I came out to Washington D.C. from Los Angeles where I am based for what I thought was a long weekend. This was March 12th. Kamala was here doing Senate work. They had just passed the first COVID relief bill. That Monday is when everything shut down, my office, her Senate office, everything. I got stuck here and basically have been here since. We live in an apartment building in DC. There’s a gym but they shut the gym down. We had nothing in our apartment. So I quickly got Kamala one of these 5,000 piece bikes which I painstakingly assembled. She was very proud of me for that.
You mean a Peleton bike?
No. It was one of these things online, an urban apartment dwellers stationary bike. It was good but it took a while to put together. Stationary. Old school. Retro. But it worked but it has a lot of tension on it. At least we have something for cardio in the apartment. So she uses that.
Is Kamala as serious as you are about working out?
Yes. She works out every morning, Now I’ll just tell you a funny story. Kamala usually likes to do weights when she does cardio. In the beginning we didn’t have any weights in D.C. Of course everyone was trying to order weights online in March and I couldn’t find them anywhere. So I filled two bottles of water, a couple pounds each. They were her weights. She’d be watching the news, getting ready for her day, lifting a pair of weights made of water bottles and biking on a bike I put together.
What’s your routine?
As for me, I love to cross-train. I was an athlete. When I was in Los Angeles, I loved doing the Santa Monica stairs.
Wait, what was your sport?
My main sport was tennis and baseball but I’ve played everything, you name it. Even as an adult, I played lawyer league sports for a long time, I’m very competitive. I got into law for justice but also to satisfy my need for competition.
OK, back to your COVID fitness routine.
I was like, ‘Oh man, I don’t want to be on that stationary bike.” I went online and I got a yoga mat, I was like, “Why don’t I just do yoga?” Then I realized there was an internal staircase in our building, it’s about ten flights, so I started running that. It was old school. I’d do flow yoga for thirty minutes then run the stairs. At first I could do one time up and down. By the end, I could do six or seven times. I was drenched. Also, I love doing planks. I incorporated them and I still do planks every morning. I’ll do one minute a time, rest for 30-45 seconds. I’m up to four. It doesn’t sound like a lot. But by the end I’m shaking. That said, for a 55 year old dude, I got into reasonably good shape.
Was working out something that drew you guys together?
It quickly became something we knew we had in common. I don’t know if we talked about that on our first date but if came up when we started spending time together. I realized I had to up my game. In those days, I was working. I was a single-dad. I had the kids half the time. So it was intense, trying to keep it all together. When I met her, Kamala worked out every day. She still does. It doesn’t matter if she has a meeting, she just gets up early. Every morning Kamala Harris works out, by hook or by crook. And it’s not like I can sit around and eat a bowl of cereal while she works out. It got me into the same groove she’s in. I’m in way better shape now than I was ten years ago.
Already I’m overcome from stress and anxiety about this election. As we know stress is terrible for your health. How are you both dealing with both the personal and existential stress?
Well, if it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone. It’s very natural. How I’m dealing with it? 1.) Staying healthy. 2.) Eating well. 3.) Working out. 4.) Having Kamala to talk to because we’re going through it together. We have each other to talk to, plus we’re able to talk to Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. They’re going through it too and they’re such awesome people, normal and warm. You know, we’ll talk to them.
But, as you said, I have this amazing honor to be part of it so I take my health really seriously. I have an obligation to this campaign to not get sick. I’m taking extra good care of myself. I’m trying to sleep more, really watch my diet, hydrate, all the things that you need to do when you’re on a plane every day. It’s like blocking and tackling. What a surprise? Drink more water. Eat better. Work out. Sleep more and you feel better and you can manage your stress better.
Kamala has run multiple campaigns so this isn’t your first rodeo. Have you found it harder or easier to be slightly less mobile due to COVID?
What’s easier is that there are almost no distractions. You can stay in a routine, which is good. In terms of food, it can be hard on a campaign trail. Because of COVID, you can’t just eat anywhere. You are eating in a safe environment. I travel with team Dougie snacks: turkey jerky. We’ve got Clif bars, pistachio nuts, our water and almonds.
You’re like a squirrel.
This way I don’t crash, even if I don’t get a chance to eat a meal before an event, I’m just nibbling on that stuff.
That's a lot different than Big Macs and Diet Cokes.
Believe me, I’m not [eating that]. I’m 56 and I want to do a good job.
I saw that picture of you with the head of your Secret Service detail climbing the stairs in Salt Lake City. Do you discuss your workouts with them before you take off? Are they stoked that you are so active or are they like, ‘Uh, not this guy again.”
It’s hard to say. Kamala and I like to talk walks, six, seven mile walks. Now when I see stairs, I run up them. When we took our first walk with the security detail, we went over to one of the schools and there is a big flight of stairs and I just took off. Let’s just say the next time they weren’t wearing their work shoes. They were wearing their sneakers. By the time we were in Salt Lake, where that picture was taken, and climbing up those Capitol stairs, they knew we were taking those stairs. We did it five or six times. I gotta say they do an amazing job .
The last question, have you checked out the White House fitness facilities? What are you looking forward to?
I haven’t. There’s no drape measuring here. I’m focused on the task at hand. I’m gonna stick on a good routine, no matter what.