"There's nothing uglier than a woman who shows off," says Dalia Valle. She still simmers as she recalls one obnoxious Miami News reporter who walked into her gym on a weekday afternoon several years ago. The Olympics were on, and Valle had brought in a TV to watch them. Valle is an Olympics fanatic, attending as a spectator whenever possible.
"Watching soap operas?" the man asked patronizingly.
Valle resisted the temptation to toss out the guy bodily. "Do you work out?" he badgered. "Show me your routine." She showed him. "You like to show off, huh?" he responded after seeing her go through part of her workout.
So let it be said right here, right now: Nothing in this article is meant to be construed as an example of Dalia Valle showing off or trying to call attention to herself. If it comes out that way, it's a mistake. But Valle is truly an amazing physical specimen. At the age of 79, she still can lug around the heavy weights. She even holds back a few exercises -- she refers to them as killer-dillers -- that she performs only when the gym is empty, for fear her members would hurt themselves attempting to emulate her. Part of her abdominal routine, for example, consists of standing on her head (in the playpen) and doing leg raises -- lowering her legs until they're at a 90-degree angle with the rest of her body, and then extending them again. Don't try that at home.
You have to remember that Valle has been working out for longer than many people have been alive. And yet she has, well, curves. Valle may be stronger than most women one-third her age, but the buffed-and-cut look as popularized by contemporary female bodybuilders such as Linda Murray never has appealed to her. "I'm not against that," she notes diplomatically. "It's just that I wouldn't want to look the way they do."
To this day Valle swears by the common-sense approach to better health. She has little patience for fad diets or fat phobia, dismissing macrobiotics as "fairy tales!" and warning that "people without enough cholesterol end up looking like dried prunes. There are so many fallacies, like the idea that grapefruit can dissolve fat. Vitamins E, A, and K are all fat-soluble. If you don't have enough cholesterol, you're gonna suffer from malnutrition. You can hurt your kidneys."
Valle's traditional, big-picture view of nutrition applies on a larger scale to life itself. As her eclectic reading tastes and original paintings attest, she doesn't just talk about the importance of a well-rounded existence, she lives it. "I hate to go to bed at night," she admits while giving a visitor a tour of her gym, "and I hate to get up." She passes the heavy bag on her way to a side room where she stores an Igloo cooler full of ice water. Almost reflexively she slugs the bag and keeps on walking.