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Justice Ginsburg on Working Out: 'When I Started, I Looked Like a Survivor of Auschwitz'

“Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”

10:48 AM, Mar 20, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about her work outs in an interview with the Washington Post. “When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz,” she tells the paper. “Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”

The paper reports, "Ginsburg began using a personal trainer in 1999, after she was treated for colon cancer and her husband, Martin, who died in 2010, insisted that she hire someone to help her regain her strength. By the justice’s account, she was in bad shape after surgery and radiation."

“I never thought I’d be able to do any of this,” said Ginsburg, who turned 80 on Friday and has survived a second bout with cancer since she began training all those years ago, this time in her pancreas. “I attribute my well-being to our meetings twice a week. It’s essential.”

The article is on Bryant Johnson, the personal trainer of the Supreme Court.

Johnson drives to the Supreme Court in his white Hummer, which he parks underneath the courthouse after flashing the security badge he was issued with Ginsburg’s name and his picture on it. He punches an access code to enter a ground-floor marble hallway that leads to the gym. After their workouts, his tradition is to escort Ginsburg back to her chambers before leaving the building.

Johnson meets Ginsburg in the justices-only gym (there is another for clerks and other employees). Both of them wear sweats and sneakers. Their hour-long sessions start slowly with a warm-up on the elliptical machine. They move through stretching and weight training and balancing exercises with a rubber fitness ball.

When it’s time for push-ups, Johnson stands guard over Ginsburg, bending down with hands poised to catch her in case her arms give out. “Think of the paperwork I’d have to fill out if something happened to you,” he likes to say.

Johnson was a little nervous about his sessions at the Supreme Court. But the easy rapport he’s developed, particularly with strong female judges, is perhaps natural for someone who was raised largely by his mother, a deaf grandmother and many aunts — women, he says, “who don’t take no mess.”

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