She was doing alternating bicep dumbbell curls in much better form than usual for the bimbini who venture into the back of the gym, good enough that I forgave her the T-shirt reading “College Republican Women’s Club” (I think it was a pretty old T-shirt). I was actually on the verge of complimenting her, but then, how much of a compliment is “You’re not as big a duffer as most of the women who come back here”?
Then she startled me by remarking on my warmup. I do this thing where I punch to alternating sides with a seven or ten pound dumbbell in each hand, thirty or forty as an icebreaker. (T-shirt worn by Crossfit orthopedist-fodder: “Your workout is my warmup.”) Four or five more things come after this before I am ready to chuck serious weight, but I am always thrilled to share. I showed her how powering the weight straight out works the delt and levering it back taxes the bicep. Before I was done, she had picked up the baby weights (smart move on a new exercise) and was trying it out.
She had the drab complexion of someone who doesn’t suck in much oxygen and a paunch that was less about total weight than heinous, body-illiterate posture, but she had latched onto something. The strict-form curls. The curiosity.
I forgave her her College Republican trespasses and coached her on the punching thing. Flex knees. Freeze hips. Twist at the waist as you punch; feel your abs.
Give her enough time and she may even soften her political stance. Said Aquinas, “the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor”. The passion to exceed physical limits argues a divinity of sorts, so in that spirit she was my neighbor.
Aquinas, by the way, was said to be “colossally fat” and have suffered from dropsy. I could have helped him out there. Not everyone is expected to be chiseled or gorgeous but we all have the right to be strong enough for our circumstances and avoid ill health. I would be intrigued to discover what philosophy or theology might arise from the marriage of relentless intellect with corpore sano.