Suraj Patel, Running For NYC Congress, Is Recruiting Voters Through Workout Classes
- Suraj Patel, 34, is running for New York City Congress with an unconventional campaign strategy
- Patel holds campaign events at exercise studios in the hope of encouraging more young people to vote
- He's so far hosted workouts at Flywheel and Mile High Run Club, among others
They say running for office takes blood, sweat and tears. Suraj Patel’s political campaign is definitely leaning on the sweaty side.
The 34-year-old is running for Congress in New York City, and part of his strategy is to get more people to vote. One way he’s doing that? Sweating it out with potential voters in group exercise classes, then talking to them afterward about his campaign.
"Young people don’t vote in the same numbers as older people, and part of that is because the way most politicians engage with people is from a bygone era," Patel told Menshealth.com. "I wanted to figure out a way to infuse politics into the day-to-day lives of people. A lot of young people congregate around workout classes."
Which is why Patel set up special events with group exercise studios around New York City. So far, he's held events at spin studio Flywheel, treadmill studio Mile High Run Club, and a yoga studio. The first hour or so is completely devoted to the workout, no politics included. Afterward, although sweaty and a bit out of breath, Patel makes a small speech, answers questions, and lingers with participants.
"We did one event where I did a little speech before the class," Patel said, "but I actually like talking after the workout. The endorphins and energy you get from it adds to the excitement and keeps me focused."
Patel says the classes are a two-for-one for him. Besides having the opportunity to engage with people that perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise considered voting, he’s able to weave in the aspect of wellness and how it applies to his policies, as well.
"A lot of young people are looking for balance and purpose in every aspect of their lives," Patel said. "Through events like these, we’re able to promote wellness and balance as we talk about healthcare reform."
Really, they’re more of a three-in-one for Patel; he’s able to get a solid workout in while campaigning — something he says is becoming more challenging as election day approaches.
An avid runner, Patel says it can be tempting to skip workouts on days in favor of getting more face time with potential voters, but has so far always found time to carve an hour out of his day to get a workout in. (President Trump could take a leaf out of his book.)
"You really have to practice what you preach," Patel says. "A big part of staging this kind of movement is having the positive energy to get through it, which exercise provides. Cutting an hour out of each day is valuable time, but I think in the end, not taking that personal time is detrimental to the overall energy of the campaign."
Patel, who is running as a Democrat, is approaching election day on June 26. While he's still got plenty of sweating left to do, he thinks his unorthodox approach is working. "This classes have been a huge hit," he said. "Most of the people who showed up probably wouldn't have considered voting in this election before. We've gotten some of our best volunteers through these events. I think it's working."