I Spent a Week Trying Vladimir Putin's Grueling Exercise Routine
You only get out what you Putin.
Photo by Olly Day
I'm not going to sugar-coat it: I'm lazy. I'm lazy, and I'm greedy, and no diets ever work on me because I'm too lazy and greedy to either exercise or stop eating. Trust me, I've tried: I've stumbled through all the workouts you could hurl a dumbbell at and tried every miracle, no-fuss, "just liquify a cabbage and drink half a pint of that every 40 minutes, then spend the next 20 minutes skinning grapes with your teeth, seriously it's super simple" diet thrust at me by countless women's weeklies.
At least, I thought I had, until I came across a video that had the potential to change my life. It was Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president and prime minister, working out together—lifting weights, spotting each other, eating steak for breakfast, and generally being alpha as all living fuck.
Since the video montage made its way across the world, Putin's exercise regime has become something of a phenomenon. A fitspiration Instagram page—"Putinspiration"—was set up in his honor, and a number of men's interest magazines ran stories on everything from the effectiveness of Putin's weight-lifting regimen to the ludicrously expensive gear he wears while he's at it.
Read over on VICE Sports: Vladimir Putin's Workout Routine Is Shit
Having tried my share of peppy, upbeat workout videos over the years with little to no success, I thought I'd give the Putin routine a go for a week. I was ready for a completely joyless experience, full of hard work and blank facial expressions. No music. No atmosphere. Just hardcore intensive body workouts and meat.
As my pesky tits prevent me from being topless in public, I couldn't go shirtless like Putin has in the past. Instead, I had to opt for the casual white-T-shirt-tucked-into-gray-joggers look he models in his workout video.
As far as I can tell from that clip, the "Putin routine" is basically just expressionlessly doing weights for a long time. So that's what I did, until the veins on my forehead were visible and I could hear my heartbeat loudly in my ears.
Once home, as per the video, I ate steak. At first I left the thick line of gristle that meandered through it, but then decided to have a go on that too, because I figured it's one of the things Putin might do: Rule Russia for longer than Yeltsin, enact grossly homophobic policies, not leave any food to waste.
The half-masticated meat lay lodged in my throat for a good couple of hours.
After hitting the gym, I took the morning off work to go horse riding, because there are all those photos of Putin on horseback online, so I guessed that might be one of the ways he gets his cardio done. Walking into the stables, I felt a little out of place. It was not the sort of place you go wearing joggers; it was the sort of place you go if you can afford to get your dog weekly manicures.
The horse-riding part itself was all right; great on the thighs, terrible on the genitals. I did briefly wonder how Putin deals with that, but quickly remembered he's made his name being hard as nails (and, obviously, leading a country that covers about an eighth of the world's land surface), so presumably doesn't have a lot of time to worry about bruised testicles.
Again, for dinner, a steak.
On Wednesday evening I took the bus to a judo class, another pastime Putin famously enjoys. On the way there I grabbed some pistachio ice cream—a Putin favorite, apparently—which made a nice change from the cheap, dry steaks I'd been subsisting on.
I was greeted at the class by Sensei Dave. He was a stern man who was somehow loud and quiet all at once. I was paired with his number two, the only other adult in an under-ten judo class. I'd watched "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin" (yep) on the bus, so I was mentally prepared, but felt physically sick; I'd eaten so much pistachio ice cream that even changing into my Putin clothes had given me a stitch.
"Should I tuck in my shirt?" I wheezed. "No," barked Dave, quietly somehow. I had to give it to him: He didn't fuck around. I respected Sensei Dave's wishes more than I respected anyone's anything ever, because he scared the shit out of me. He had muscles in his neck that I didn't know existed in humans.
Then the throw-down began. The ice cream churned in my stomach, and it was rising fast. I was panicking. Was there any way I could vomit over a bunch of school kids and come out of the situation looking like the victim? Probably not. Luckily, the class was soon over, and it was time to leave.
Seeing the muscles bulging from Sensei Dave's arms and neck, I could see why Putin was so into judo. It makes you swole and it's probably pretty helpful if Hollande or Obama get feisty at a UN General Assembly.
Thursday morning, like every other morning since Monday, I was back in the gym for some more arm torture. Again, I went at it for as long as I could before my arms gave out, and I slunk off home to eat more breakfast steak.
At this point, the steak was perhaps the hardest thing about the whole experience. I was doing Putin on a budget, which meant a lot of pretty grim meat, so that wasn't a great start. Also, I remember reading somewhere that eating too much red meat doesn't do wonders for you if you're averse to developing stomach cancer. Desperately searching for an alternative, I read on a very unofficial Vlad fan page that he has a penchant for toothfish.
Watch on MUNCHIES: Huang's World – Moscow
Googling toothfish, I wasn't sure whether or not it was actually legal to eat. My local fishmonger didn't know either, and certainly didn't have any for sale, even after I'd repeated it louder and slower for him, like a British tourist trying to settle an argument in an Italian Europcar office.
Back to the steak it was.
Friday, otherwise known as "leg day" (for people who allocate days to their various body parts). But not for me. Because, again, it was arm day. Arm day the fifth. My biceps hating me five times over. A quintuple hit to my 'ceps. And I was fucking sick of it. Sick. Of. It.
My arms were no longer functioning as arms in my everyday life. At one point on Friday afternoon I struggled to lift a pen in a meeting and everyone saw.
My breath escaped me as soon as I dove into Hampstead Heath pond, and I didn't fully get it back until I'd completely thawed out on the grass half an hour later. There was only one other woman in there, swimming serenely through the murky water and making me look like a whiny little bitch. She swam over and said, cheerily, "Hey, we're wearing the same costume!" But I couldn't respond, because I was mostly just thrashing my arms around and gasping.
As has been established by the framed photograph currently hanging next to my bed, Putin's favorite stroke is the butterfly. It is, after all, the most challenging—and therefore the most alpha—of all the strokes. It's also the worst thing to attempt when you're in a freezing lake and your arms don't work because you've intentionally worn them down to lifeless, pointless twigs.
When you are this weak, there is no way to make it look like you're not drowning. There are only a certain amount of reassuring smiles you can give a lifeguard before he just forces you to get out because you're making his job really stressful.
I noted that, in the exercise video, Putin gives Dmitry Medvedev an encouraging pat on the back. So for my last day of arms (probably ever) I walked around the weights section like a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen, trying to pat some sweaty men.
"Good job!" I called out. No one acknowledged me.
The week was full of highs and lows, but mostly lows. Putin's workout is an unrelenting and unrewarding one; my biceps only grew 2 millimeters over seven days, which is pathetic. And, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure that growth was even muscle. It makes more sense that it was extra fat from all the steak and ice cream I'd been eating. Incidentally, the sheer amount of creamy/greasy food I was shoveling into my mouth each day also meant my weight didn't change. So I swam in a freezing lake for nothing.
Sometimes you just have to accept that your physique is not made for certain activities. For instance, it's been a whole week of arms, and I still can't do a push-up. If this article makes its way to a body-building forum, I will no doubt be inundated with kegel tips and people being weirdly aggressive about how I was doing the weights wrong, but I don't care, because I'm over all that forever.
Follow Pascale Day on Twitter.