By all accounts, 1976 was the year of the body. Working out became as popular as making out. Across the country, citizens of both sexes embarked on the quest to get in shape or, if they were there already, to keep in shape. Pumping Iron, a book about weight lifters, became a best seller. The movie Stay Hungry made Arnold Schwarzenegger's name a household word (well, almost). Our gatefold girl for March wonders why it took so long. Nicki Thomas has been taking care of her body for years. (You can see that for yourself.) Three days a week, and sometimes on weekends, too, you'll find her working out at a Chicago-area health club. On her free days, she trucks on down to the local Y to work out on the gymnastics equipment - rings, uneven bars, etc. The exercises keep her in shape for the gymnastics and the gymnastics keep her in shape for the exercises. Or something like that. How did Nicki get interested in exercise? She was never a 90-pound weakling. "I just have this thing about fat people. Your body is a gift and it's criminal to let it go to waste, to treat it with indifference. Every pound of extra weight is a buffer between you and the world. It cuts down your feeling and makes you harder to find. Like driving a car that's out of tune, living in a body that's out of shape wastes energy." The only break in Nicki's training schedule came last summer, during the Montreal Olympics. Like everyone else, she was in front of her television set, absorbing every second of the gymnastics events. "Nadia was perfect. Precision is breath-taking, no matter what the sport. Anything that is done well becomes erotic and very sexy. But it's for her own benefit. Nadia could do her routine in a room all by herself and God would give her a ten." Nicki keeps busy: She plays guitar and violin with the same enthusiasm with which she pursues more physical activities. "I like to get lost in playing. The rhythm is almost hypnotic. You become what you're doing. I try to do things that teach me about myself. I like to make progress. People should have at least one thing in life that lets them measure their progress." Nicki is willing to undertake anything on the spur of the moment: She recently began to draw - out of curiosity to see if she knew enough about a friend to get a portrait right. "I had never drawn before, but I could see what I was doing that was accurate and what I was doing that wasn't. I kept at it until I got it right, and now I'm hooked." Her latest activity actually began on a dare. "One of my friends happens to be a police officer. He's always kidding me about how much I notice about people. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me, do I know enough about my friends to be able to go down to a precinct station and describe one of them to a police artist well enough for him to be arrested?" An interesting idea. What was the crime her friend committed for which he should get arrested? "How about cheating at pool? My boyfriend and I gamble on everything. We'll go bowling and then play to see who pays for the shoes, who pays for the games. But I have to watch him every second. When we play pool, he'll say, 'Take this shot, take this shot.' Of course, it will be an impossible shot and, if I miss, it will leave him in a position where he can clean the table. Sometimes, though, I'll start laughing and then make the shot, just to see what he'll do." That's what friends are for, right?
It's obvious that Miss Thomas is in her prime. Everything she does, she does extremely well. We would give her a ten for just standing in a room alone. And so, no doubt, would you.
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