Robust or Bust

According to the New Testament the apostle Paul survived three shipwrecks at sea, so no wonder he wrote that “physical training is of some value”-- the guy did a lot of unplanned long-distance swimming.

I joined a gym last year. It’s called Retro Fitness. The gym’s right next to a synagogue, so maybe a better name would’ve been Muscle Tov!, but I’m no marketing expert. According to the dictionary, “retro” means “of the style of an earlier time”— which makes sense because after six months I still look like my “Before” picture.

Anyway, I signed up and got the tour from a trainer named Bruno. He showed me all the machines and explained that each one focuses on challenging specific parts of the body. I’ve never been good at remembering the Latin names for all the muscle groups, but I think the first day I worked on my mea culpa and my carpe diem. They’re still kind of sore.

My dad has always been a fitness proponent. He was an all-star football player in high school and skated for Oxford University’s hockey team. In the ‘70s he caught the jogging craze, each morning slipping out of the house at the crack of dawn and returning just as my brother and I were waking up for school. He often made us breakfast in the blender-- a horrible concoction of fruits and vegetables that we had to gulp down before heading for the bus. “Puts hair on your chest,” he’d say. “Puts vomit on mine,” my brother would reply.

Nonetheless, we both credit our father with inspiring us to be runners to this day. Sometimes we’re motivated to run by imagining Dad chasing after us with a glass of pulpy brown juice. I almost qualified for the Olympic sprint team that way.

My father goes to a gym every afternoon. I join him when I go to visit, and I marvel at his routine. He’s still in great shape in his 80s, curling dumbbells, doing sit-ups on an exercise ball and hoisting disc weights up and down stairs. He ends each workout with a 15-minute sweat in the sauna. “Pushes the toxins out,” he explains. I’m not sure what that means but if Mom’s been putting arsenic in Dad’s food I guess he’s caught on to her.

I try to start off each day with a run. It’s a good time to pray too. I’ll often begin by thanking God for a healthy mind, a healthy heart, devastating good looks, and so on. Invariably I do this until I collide with a parking meter or a lamp post and am reminded that while running I shouldn’t pray with my eyes closed. One time I knocked down four people at a bus stop, like bowling pins. I think a couple of them were praying too because they shouted out the Lord’s name as we all got up off the sidewalk.

Jesus must’ve been very fit. He was a carpenter in a time before power tools, so I’d imagine that over a couple of decades in the trade, he became quite buff. The Buddha should have taken tips from him and gone into carpentry. Instead that dude looks like he spent way too much time at the local Zen & Jerry’s, if you ask me.

Our bodies are gifts from God and, to the best of our abilities, we ought to take care of them with the same devotion a classic car enthusiast would care for a Model-T, or a Wall Street banker would care for the public interest (ahem). In the final analysis, as someone once said, “I ain’t much, but I’m all I’ve got.” So make the most of what you’ve got. Don’t let that body fall apart. Lose those pounds. Gain that strength. Commit yourself to dying some day in perfect health!

See you at the gym! (But not today… after yesterday’s workout, my non sequitur is killing me).

Cuyler Black