Getting Schooled in the Gym: ACal
Isaac Escovedo, Reporter
Every issue I follow a teacher’s exercise routine while asking them probing uncomfortable questions about their life.
I thought Andrew Callender was kidding when he told me to bring a muscle shirt to school, but when I arrived in the high school weight room, he reclined stretching in sleeveless glory. Callender moved to the bench, and as he started pumping iron, I started pumping him for information.
Callender grew up in Tacoma, quitting sports in middle school and focusing on schoolwork throughout his time at Stadium High School. Watching him bench, you would never guess that he had quit out of laziness. He effortlessly lifted his way up to 185 without much need for a spotter. ACal wasn’t lifting the bar up, he was pushing the world down. After high school, Callender attended Seattle Pacific University, but — much to his regret — never spent much time in other countries.
“There’s something about traveling that I wish I had realized earlier. I wish I studied abroad in college. I wish I had just gotten out of America,” he said as we finished bench press and moved over to flies. Flies – a lifting exercise that involves laying down and lift one’s arms from an outstretched position to meet over one’s head – are notorious for being dangerous for your chest muscles and difficult with anything more than low weights, but Callender picked up a pair of 30-pound dumbbells with no hesitation and went to work. He comes across as a man who has — after extensive trial and error — built a life that he is happy with.
“I think a lot of it is I have a balanced life,” he told me after we crushed the flies. “Like just the basic things you learn when you’re a kid, like sleep, eat well, exercise. If you just do those even as an adult, it has huge effects on you. I don’t think I have done a good job of that in the past few years, but now in the last year I’m gradually getting less sad.”
With flies out of the way, we moved on to the ubiquitous bicep curl, though curling while making eye contact with my math teacher is not a twist I’ve ever needed or necessarily wanted. As we curled, Callender grew philosophical, reflecting about the nature of life while shredding steel to grow our guns. “I don’t think there’s one magic job for anyone out there. Just like there’s not one magic person or partner.”
Our workout continued with Callender sharing experiences from his life while we alternated pullup sets. His form was good and so were his stories. As we exercised, I learned he spent a year at EMT school, and ran his first half marathon by accident after signing up for a five-kilometer and running an extra ten miles on the wrong course. We finished the workout with a pushup pyramid. As we pushed, Callender left me with a piece of advice I might just hold onto for the rest of my life.
“Life is a sine curve,” Callender said. “Accept that and embrace that and don’t try to straighten it out. You’re going to be a lot happier. Like, you’re inevitably going to have ups and downs in your life, so stop trying to make your life linear or constantly at a high — it’s just gonna make you really fall lower and lower and lower … How do you increase your overall baseline? Good eating, good exercise, relationships, routines, and working out.”
I went into this bizarre interview-exercise combination expecting to hear more of the same about a teacher I have been taught by for years. Discovering the individual behind the professional mask was a surprisingly jarring experience. Teachers are not robots. This one loves guitar, flew to Thailand on a whim, and does pretty good pullups.