Inside the Body Ecology Shop on Eve Street, trainees high-step to a peppy gospel rhythm. Their eyes are fixed on a dynamo in rose sweats, Claudia Bady Williams.
What the trainees lack in vigor, they make up in focusing on Mrs. Williams as she lifts one knee and then the other to her chest. This is Mrs. Williams' third class for the evening, but the beat hasn't slowed.
"Sometimes, by the 7 o'clock class, I go, `Lord, you know my energy's going down. I need a little boost there,"' said Mrs. Williams, who is nearly 50. "And God will restore my energy." That's how she knows God's using her -- eyes, hands and feet, she said.
She offers group classes and personal training weekday evenings at the 3-year-old business.
There are no mirrors in the exercise room because half the time people just look at themselves, she said. Instead First Corinthians 10:31 is painted in large script across one wall: "Whatsoever you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do it for the glory of God."
"God is in this place," said Mrs. Williams.
At the front of the workout room is a painting of a cross and Bible mounted on an easel. One night the Holy Spirit inspired her to sketch it, she said. However, Mrs. Williams, who minored in art in college, had another artist, Wanta Davenport, do the painting of the sketch.
The theme of the untitled painting is God's undying love for people, she said. "I feel funny when I don't have it at the house," she said. "But it is really meant for the Body Ecology Shop."
She will distribute printed reproductions through Augusta Christian Bookstore on Broad Street.
The exercise sessions are never over until Mrs. Williams and her students gather for prayer. "Claudia not only wants to help your physical being but your spiritual being," said Barbara Holland, a student. "It is the holistic approach -- body, mind and soul."
"How many health spas can you go to where they never have any arguing? It's more loving, and that says a lot," said Mrs. Williams. "That's why I know when we go into our prayer circles and say, `Father God, I've got a situation here ...' -- Don't you know God is going to hear our prayer when we've been honoring him?"
In 1998, Mrs. Williams is going to hone in on nutrition for the soul, she said. "I can't change anybody, and I don't try to change anybody," she said. "But I can tell them about God. When they are going through trials and tribulations, they just won't run to the refrigerator constantly, they won't go pick up a cigarette or drink." Instead, people will learn to depend on God's word in Scripture, she said.
Overweight and out-of-shape people may really be starving for the Bible, she said. "It has nothing to do with weight loss."
Exercise has been part of Mrs. Williams' life about as long as she can remember. "I was into weight-training when I was a baby," she said. In first grade, she would hang bricks with holes in them on her daddy's belt and wear it around the house. He thought she was crazy, she said.
"All I knew was it just felt good. I was no bigger than that," she said. "And I would get on the floor and I'd go `oooo ex-er-cise!' My daddy would say `Martha,' -- that was my mother's name -- `is she OK?"'
She attributes her liking for physical exertion to her father, the Rev. Henry B. Bady, who is known as the walking minister, she said. The Rev. Bady is pastor of Cumming Grove Baptist Church.
She's also married to a pastor, the Rev. Gerald Williams, youth minister at Servants of God Baptist Church.
She worked as a personal trainer at local spas and trained for several competitions, although she never competed. "I always felt sort of funny showing my body," she said.
The Lord knew that she was into fitness, though, she said. "What a mighty God! He took worldly conditioning and turned it into spiritual conditioning."
"This life is beautiful. I can't wait for daybreak," she said.
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