'The Fitness Book' – unfit for purposePosted on: 17 February 2012 by Alexander Hay
This new 'female-friendly' exercise book demonstrates everything that is wrong with sex and class in today's society
As Barbara Kruger's famous image put it, Your Body Is A Battleground, and she wasn't referring to the men in the room. While some males are beginning to catch up in the bodily self-loathing stakes, women still lead the pack, with whole industries (fashion, media, medicine...) all dedicated to making them feel as miserable as possible.
The worst of it is that some of the self-hating messages are at least rooted in sound advice. Yes, we all should eat healthier and yes - rather obviously - exercise is good for you. But really, if you can't be arsed to do any sit-ups and you like cream cakes, it shouldn't be the end of the world. You've got to like yourself regardless.
No such glimmers of light enter the equation with Dorling Kindersley's new female-focussed exercise tome, 'The Fitness Book'. To begin with, it's a useful book. There are over 200 exercises, primarily cardio and bodyweight-based, plus some light weights. There are tips on testing your health and setting up a healthy diet, and the package is in that regard pretty comprehensive.
On the other hand, the book is very, very vague about working out your own exercise program and just recommends pre-determined reps and sets without any tailoring to each exerciser's individual strengths and weaknesses. It's very easy to get lost or flounder once the book's initial programmes have run their course.
I'm reminded, by contrast, of Martin Cohen's 'The Marine Corps 3X Fitness Program', published back in 1986, which explained in concise, exacting detail what to do and how to keep challenging yourself.
Though the other main difference between Cohen's effort and 'The Fitness Book' is that the former was unisex in tone, even arguing that men and women should follow similar exercise programmes. The latter, meanwhile, isn't just about women, but also puts them in a neat box where the obsessions of the modern female can run amok without any outside views intruding.
And here is where the major problem with 'The Fitness Book' arises. One section which seeks to sooth fears that all this exercise might give a girl - GASP!!! - muscles rather lets the catty comment out of the bag. Successful women aren't supposed to look strong. This dates back to when rich, puny women paid big, poor muscular broads to do the mangling for them. It is a modern feminity that relies on looking like you've never had to carry your own shopping.
More despair surfaces when the book, in all seriousness, features exercise programmes like "The Skinny Jeans workout", "The Little Black Dress workout" and "The Bride-to-Be workout". It's not about getting fit but fitting into a pre-existing ideal, staying in the good books of the rest of the sisterhood so they won't say bad things about you. Even the way those exercises that really do develop your muscles (reach for the smelling salts!) are euphemised as 'Sculpting' suggests a rather regressive agenda.
Meanwhile, the book's many close-up photographs of taut, thin women would pass as titillating if aimed at men, but they seem more intended half to tantalise and half to shame any woman who hasn't got the body of a model who spends half the day posing in front of cameras and the other half in the gym.
Instead, 'The Body Book' offers not self-improvement but a desperate need to be like everyone else - which rather defeats the point of being fit in the first place...
You can purchase this book from all good bookshops priced £12.99. Alternatively you can purchase it from Amazon for £9.74.
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