Since back in the summer, the Cute Engineer and I have been working our way through the Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis — noir detective novels set in the Rome of Vespasian, with a keen eye for historical accuracy and an arch satirical tone. I picked these up years ago but put them down at about the sixth installment; Davis is now up to about twenty. I did always enjoy narrator Falco’s references to his gymnasium and his ruthless trainer Glaucus, who employs a heavy-handed Cilician masseur.
We have reached an episode featuring Glaucus’ son, an aspiring Olympic competitor with a tireless training regimen.
“Is Young Glaucus going to compete at the Games?” Cornelius asked me. He did not ask Young Glaucus, because Young Glaucus never said much. At the moment he was carrying out an exercise where he crouched on all fours, slowly raising and holding his opposite arms and legs; it would have been straightforward, had he not been supporting one of our larger baggage packs on his huge shoulders at the time. As his sinews flexed and trembled, I felt myself wince.
It sounded delicious. As soon as I could get the Engineer into the gym with me I got down quadrupedally on the floor matting and, to grasp the form, had him set a twenty-five pound plate on my back while I extended alternate arms and legs. The move made refined demands of that cerebellar pivot that maintains one’s center of gravity, while promising considerable honing of the triceps and hip flexors. Even more serendipitously, the effort pointed up an unsuspected evil spirit lurking in my left hamstring, when for weeks I have been trying to exterminate a pain that I thought originated in the adductor group a quarter turn inward.
I felt an enormous urge to contact Ms. Davis somehow and ask what other Olympic calisthenics she could recommend, but it seemed politer to finish the novel first, and the time zones were all wrong besides.
I think I’ll try a forty-five pound wheel next time, if I can get anyone in the morning posse to deposit it on me.