Somewhat of a late bloomer, I didn’t learn how to ride my bike or swim until I was seven, whereas my older brother Matt swam his first race at the age of four. Even so, I started swimming double workouts when I was in Junior High School—an hour or so in the pool before school and up to two hours after, plus Saturdays. Part of our afternoon workouts was spent doing seemingly endless stretches, calisthenics and weights. That’s when I learned I had something called muscle.
In college the exhausting regime continued, though workouts increased to four hours a day, with an hour of weights and exercises. Slender, cut, sweating bodies performed hundreds of sit ups, push ups and leg lifts under our coach’s watchful direction. Eventually I was able to lift ten pounds more than my weight for a few repetitions on the Universal Gym. My muscle mushroomed.
After college I played water polo on a mens' team, a sport my brother Scott taught me when I was twelve. The big lanky guys, the burly ones and the stocky ones, all outsmarted me, outscored me, out defend me. But I was one of the fastest—often chosen to sprint for the ball at the start of the half, and I maneuvered in a way many of my teammates couldn’t—a jet ski flitting around a bunch of barges and tugs. Those big wonderful hunks took me under their wings and taught me how to put real muscle behind my shots.
Then I moved to San Francisco eventually landing my dream job at Levi Strauss, and after an eighteen-month hiatus from swimming, I started frequenting a nearby outdoor pool during lunch. The pointed Transamerica pyramid practically cast its shadow onto me as I swam sun-drenched laps in the cool clear water, some swaying, majestic palm trees as my companions. Soon my colleagues endearingly started calling me Christy Pipes because of my large, steely biceps. I guess my muscles had memory.
I don’t get into the pool much these days, though I haven’t forgotten how, nor do I perform calisthenics—not really. But I have had Calvin to thank for my strong, albeit aging, body, so my buddies can still call me Christy Pipes, and a couple of them still do.
|photo by Michael Kolster|