WASHINGTON (CN) - Ruth Bader Ginsburg has called her personal trainer one of the most important people in her life. For trainer Bryant Johnson, whose new book devoted to the 84-year-old Supreme Court justice comes out Tuesday, the feeling is mutual.
When their twice-weekly workouts began in 1999, Ginsburg had just been treated for colorectal cancer. Standing just over 5 feet in height, Ginsburg has since battled pancreatic cancer and undergone heart surgery, but it was the 2016 presidential election that put her fitness in the spotlight.
Johnson, 53, recalled the requests he has fielded in the last year to keep Ginsburg healthy through 2020.
"My thought was 'why four years?’” said Johnson, who moonlights as a trainer in addition to his longtime job as a records manager at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “Can't I keep her alive longer than four,” Johnson continued in an interview at his office in the courthouse. “Does it have to stop after four years?”
For Johnson, the focus is quality of life, not how much weight the 100-lb. Ginsburg can lift.
"It's about making sure she feels good enough to stay on the Supreme Court bench,” Johnson writes in "The RBG Workout,” which hits bookshelves Tuesday.
Usually clad in a black sweatshirt that says “Super Diva!,” Ginsburg works out with several weight machines and also performs one-legged squats, push-ups and, quite industriously, the side plank.
"They're hard for her," said Johnson. A master trainer for the military, Johnson noted that he is continually impressed by the tenacity with which Ginsburg approaches her workouts.
"Whatever you put her up against she just goes at it," he said. "It's, 'OK let's do it, let's try it.' What else could you ask for in a client?"
Indeed, Johnson said he cannot recall any time Brooklyn-born Ginsburg shot down an item on the workout.
Though she sometimes surprises herself, Johnson said she shouldn’t be.
"I am not surprised because I know what she can do," he said.
While Ginsburg is watching “PBS Newshour” during their workout, Johnson said he keeps his eyes on the justice as they move through the routine.
"If she's rubbing her legs that means she felt that one," Johnson said.
Johnson was born in Newark, New Jersey, but grew up in Warsaw, Virginia, moving to Washington, D.C., after high school and then enlisting with the Army special forces in 1983 as a paratrooper.
Still in the reserves, Johnson got certified for personal training in 1996 while already working at the U.S. District Court, where he had been in various capacities for the last decade.
Johnson grew his client base from the courthouse, with clerk employee Tawana Davis first on his roster, followed soon after by Elizabeth Paret, the circuit executive for the D.C. Circuit.
"She became my unofficial PR person," Johnson said of Paret. "Because she enjoyed it, she loved it. And she just started telling people."
U.S. District Judges Thomas Hogan and Gladys Kessler signed up for training next.
Justice Ginsburg has credited Kessler with leading her to Johnson. In the forward of “The RBG Workout,” she writes that her late husband, Martin, had insisted she get a trainer to rebuild her strength after beating cancer.