It’s Thursday at noon in Dillon Gym, and the Stephens Fitness Center sweats with the heat of Princeton’s faculty and staff. There’s American Studies professor Bill Gleason on the exercise bike, reading about celebrities in his purple t-shirt and exercise shorts. Lifting free weights is Paul Moreno of the Politics Department. Later today, the versatile English professor Jeff Nunokawa may be reading Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on the Stairmaster. Let’s sit down with some of them and see how they stay in such good shape.
When one student was asked to think of professors with noteworthy muscles, he simply responded, “Nunokawa, man. Nunokawa.” Who is this legendary fin de siecle scholar underneath the tight t-shirt? Turns out this Hawaiian-born Japanese man of steel is the master of the Stairmaster. His hour of high-stepping is “quite efficient,” as it allows him “the opportunity to read duller works in my field,” as well as “difficult but brilliant” writings. Surprisingly, he never did sports in high school or college—“I couldn’t bear the prospect of losing,” he said. In general he prefers the indoors for exercising; he does jog in New York City, but the pollution makes him reconsider. His diet includes “anything in front of me,” especially fried foods, but he says that in general he does not eat much. So why does he exercise? Exercising is therapeutic, he says, thereby “saving a fortune in prescriptions.” The anxiety he builds up during the day evaporates in the gym. As for students exercising beside their professors, Nunokawa has no fears. “Whatever judgments they’ve made about us they’ve made quite apart from the gym,” he says.
After he gets off the weight machine and heads for water, we stop Paul Moreno, a visiting professor in the Madison Program in the Politics Department. He doesn’t teach, but his shoulders are commendable for their heft. What’s his secret? Apparently he alternates between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. He plays squash, uses the weight room, does the nautilus machine, and runs outside.
Now let’s hop on the exercise bike next to Bill Gleason. He says he usually does the stationary bike, lifts an assortment of weights, and plays racquetball. “Sometimes it’s a little awkward to see students here,” he says. “I try to avoid peak student hours.” What does this expert in American history and literature have to say about exercise historically? Surprise—he’s written a book called The Leisure Ethic: Work and Play in American Literature, 1840-1940 (Stanford University Press, 1999) that tells all. In the 1840s German immigrants brought ideals of gymnastic education to America, which launched the first fitness clubs and started a longstanding interest in fitness, he says. The public started spending money on playgrounds, and public schools institutionalized sports teams and gym classes in the late 19th century. About one hundred years ago there was a serious exercise and bodybuilding movement, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, he says.
We think waking up at 11 was sort of early, but while we were sleeping, History professor Sheldon Garon wasn’t. He tries to get about 40 minutes of exercise daily starting at 7:30 or 7:45. During most of the year he buffs up by kayaking on Lake Carnegie with his personal kayak, biking outdoors, or playing tennis, varying the routine. When the temperature drops, Dillon calls, but he calls his activities there “mult-tasking” rather than “working out.” On the exercise bike he reads the New York Times, and he looks to incorporate the international news into his lectures and research. As for diet, Professor Garon has the luxury of a high metabolism, so he always rewards himself with a muffin or scone after exercising. He avoids fatty foods but loves carbs.
English professor Robert Tignor ruptured two Achilles tendons and had meniscus damage, so he stopped playing tennis and squash. Fortunately these setbacks did not rob him of the desire and need for cardiovascular exercise at Dillon. After a good stretch he moves on to the Stairmaster, does some lifting, some Stairmaster action, and a “vigorous workout” on the stationary bike. What keeps him motivated? He writes: “I am intrigued by the machines that provide all kinds of calculations, and love feel that I am burning off calories. So, I make a beeline for those bike and stair master machines that are the easiest to use and show the greatest amount of calorie burning. I realize that this is cheating, but it keeps my spirits high.” He also rides his bike to and from the office when the weather is tolerable, and occasionally goes for a 20-mile bike ride with friends.
We have no evidence Deputy Registrar Robert Bromfield is the “gangsta” the Triangle Show celebrates, but he does know how to stay in shape. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and some Saturdays, he’s in Dillon strength training for 45 minutes—upper and lower body—and doing cardio for 30 minutes. He also does an hour of calisthenics each morning except Sunday. At 5’7” and 125 lbs he says he’s “not interested in gaining bulk, just tying to keep lean and trim.” This vegetarian does his best to get his balanced diet with proteins, carbs, and fiber, but he maintains a mission to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. His general advice for the prospective buff: “I would
caution common sense, and to listen to one’s body. After all, diet and
exercise should be about creating balance and harmony in mind, body, and spirit.”
German Professor Jamie Rankin said “aloha” to the gym last year while training for a marathon in Hawaii. He and three ‘05ers did long runs on the weekend and shorter runs during the week in preparation for their glorious December run in Honolulu, where Rankin did his postdoctoral study. The students’ training routes included the towpath, a road towards New Brunswick, and out Elm Rd. Right now he’s training with two seniors to do the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. When not training for these 26.2-mile runs, he goes to the gym 2-3 times a week for some lifting. “I enjoy keeping physically fit as much as possible, and I’m enjoying spending time getting to know the students,” he said.
Other Beauties in the Ivy Tower
Though no one has corroborated their presence in the gym, some professors may be considered buff nonetheless. Bo Honoré, chair of the Department of Economics, has been described as “a giant.” One student said that he “could be an armored knight in the Middle Ages.” Jason Lyall, assistant professor in Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School, was called “dreamy” by a male student in the department. D. Graham Bernett, professor of the History of Science, is on leave this semester, but he seems to have a following of fans gawking over his build. And who doesn’t swoon when Politics professor Maurizio Viroli pedals by on his heroic bike in a blue suit? Did Machiavelli bike too?
Where are the buff women?
We know Princeton has them, but the two most notorious—Engineering School Dean and marathon-runner Maria Klawe, and English professor and maven of “dirty words” Sophie Gee—were unable to be reached in time for this publication. If you know of others who frequent the gym or run in marathons, e-mail Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org.