Bryant Johnson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer of 21 years, honored the late Supreme Court justice on Friday, September 25, in an odd fashion. He performed three push-ups in front of her casket in the US Capitol. Ginsburg died last Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She became the first woman and Jewish person in history to lie in state in the building. C-Span shared a video of the incident, writing, “Bryant Johnson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer, does push-ups as Justice Ginsburg lies in state in the U.S. Capitol.”
The 55-year-old personal trainer, wearing a face mask and clutching the order of service for the ceremony, walked to the casket which was placed on the Lincoln catafalque alongside a portrait of Ginsburg and two wreaths in the colors of the American flag in the National Statuary Hall. As he arrived before her casket, Johnson dropped and did three push-ups.
Johnson was a Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserves, and served as Ginsburg’s personal trainer since 1999 after she underwent surgery for colorectal cancer. In 2017, when Ginsburg was asked who the most important person in her life was, she responded, “My personal trainer.” Johnson reportedly not only served as physical trainer to Ginsburg, but also for associate justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
According to a 2017 Politico profile of Ginsburg and her fitness regimen, Johnson, who grew up in Virginia, played football in high school, enlisted in the military in 1983, and began working in the clerk’s office in 1986. Johnson was certified as a personal trainer in 1997, after which, rather than open his own gym, he trained judges, deputy US marshals, and other court personnel at the facility inside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse. In 1999, after she recovered from colon cancer, Ginsburg began working with him at the urging of her late husband, Martin D. Ginsburg. At the time, Ginsburg said that she “looked like a survivor of Auschwitz”.
Ginsburg reportedly worked out with Johnson twice a week for about an hour per session. The workouts started around 7 pm at a gym inside the Supreme Court, and she reportedly listened to PBS NewsHour while she exercised.
She continued to train with Johnson this year amid the pandemic and as she underwent chemotherapy to treat a recurrence of cancer. “She’s a machine,” Johnson said of Ginsburg in an interview with CNN last year. Ginsburg told USA Today in 2013, “Even though I tend to get consumed by my work and won’t let it go — that’s why I work long hours into the night — when it’s time to be with Bryant, everything stops and I go down to the gym.”
Johnson has written a book called ‘The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong … and You Can Too’, detailing Ginsburg’s fitness routine. Her workout, as per Johnson, consisted of: a five-minute warmup on an elliptical machine, three sets of 10 to 13 reps, working out on the machine bench press, normally at 70 pounds, one-legged squats (10 times for each leg), 10 pushups, planking (30 seconds of a standard plank and 30 seconds on each side), arm and shoulder exercises with 12-pound dumbbells, and more.