Thanks to her fiery dissents from the bench and that she is without question her own woman, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a cultural icon, “the notorious RBG”, who has become an inspiration to young and old, especially women. But I suspect more that a few men admire her too.
Among her fans it is well known that the 84-year-old successfully beat back colon cancer in 1999. My recently-found sense of connection with Justice Ginsburg is that in 2009, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and although her tumor did not require the extensive Whipple procedure I underwent, part of her pancreas, like mine, was removed.
And she's still here nearly eight years later.
To regain her “strength and well-being” following the 1999 surgery, Ginsburg began regular workouts in the Supreme Court gym with a personal trainer, Bryant Johnson. As soon as she could following the pancreatic cancer surgery in 2009, she resumed her exercise routine with Johnson.
”At a pace I could manage [after the first cancer surgery], Bryant restored my energy as I worked my way back to good health," says Ginsburg.
“Ten years later, in 2009, another challenge confronted me. The diagnosis pancreatic cancer. Surgery once again and follow-up treatment, leaving me in a frail condition.
“As soon as I could, I resumed workouts with Bryant. Step by step, Bryant restored my energy, adding planks as well and push-ups to my regimen.”
That quotation is from Justice Ginsburg's foreward to Bryant Johnson's just-published exercise book, The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong and You Can Too!. As soon as I saw a preview a couple of months ago, I pre-ordered it and it arrived on Tuesday.
It's a how-to book of RBG's regular hour-long routine with Johnson including drawings and explanations so you can do it too - at a gym or the same exercises adapted for home. Here are a few of the drawings from the book as posted by ABC News:
What surprises and pleases me is how many of the individual RBG exercises are already in my own routine which I just returned to doing two weeks ago after my surgery recovery.
One difference is that RBG does real pushups while I do “girlie” ones on my knees instead of toes. The book convinced me that over time I can do that too and I started yesterday – not wildly successfully. I couldn't even lift myself up from the first pushup so I'll stick with my girlie version while I keep trying to do the real ones – one at a time if that's what it takes.
As Bryant Johnson explains in his introduction to the book, when Justice Ginsburg began working with him in 1999,
”...she couldn't have done the workout that is now her regular routine, but she was determined as all get-out, and we started building her regimen from scratch.
“Justice Ginsburg receives bone density scans every other year,” he continues. “After some years of twice-weekly workouts, her bone density began to increase. The result of this test became my report card for whether the exercises we did were effective or not.
“My efforts were confirmed by a majority decision when her doctor delivered this verdict: 'I'm not sure what you're doing, but keep doing it. It's working.'”
Here's a video from USAToday of Johnson showing some of RBG's workout at the gym.
Not every old person can do Justice Ginsburg's workout routine or even mine. We age at different rates, we get gobsmacked by unexpected diseases and conditions or, as was true for me five years ago when I began a home routine, we are just terribly out of shape.
Bryant Johnson's book is arranged to make it easy to choose the exercises you can do to begin with and then move on to harder ones as you build up your strength.
This routine was devised by a professional trainer especially for a certain old women but as he points out, it's good for any of us - men too. If you want to try it on your own, do talk with your physician first.