By People Staff
April 17, 1978 12:00 PM

Time was when Truman Capote exercised little more than his elbow, and that to lift nothing heavier than a succession of vodkas and orange juice. His body bulged; his health deteriorated. Then last winter, after a surfeit of worldly indulgences, he became alarmed. Feeling himself on the brink of collapse, the famous writer dried himself out at Smithers Alcoholism Rehabilitation Unit in New York and swore off liquor. The only bubbles that pass his lips now are contained in Perrier.

Capote has also embarked on a furious battle to rejuvenate himself at a health spa a few blocks from his United Nations Plaza apartment. “I always feel really high when I come home from the gym,” he says, “and I never get tired.” After a light lunch of endive salad and an omelette at one of his favorite French restaurants, Capote wheezes through a 90-minute workout five days a week. “I mostly go when no one is around,” he explains. “That way, I’m not bothered by people noticing me. Of course, if that sort of thing really bothered me, I would have been dead when I was 21.”

Capote, 53, no longer resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy. He has trimmed off 30 pounds—from 165 to 135—while running in place, dangling from the high bar and thrashing at the rowing machine. His favorite exercise is one of his own invention, combining knee bends and belly dancing with the agitated arm waving of a furious Vishnu. “I do it for 10 minutes a day,” says the 5’3″ author. “It uses every single muscle.” He adds a note of caution: “Once you stop exercising for even two weeks, everything slackens up.”

After the PT, sighs Capote, nothing beats a soak in the whirlpool bath or any massage that isn’t Japanese. (“They walk all over you with their feet. I don’t know how people take the pain.”) As for jogging, the merest suggestion brings a tiny shudder. “That,” he announces coldly, “is cornball.”