*Allys is a friend of mine who is kind of a badass in her own right although she’ll never really admit it. She is also a very kind person who shares the memes, cakes, and sarcasm when you desperately need it. She was kind enough to provide this review of my book and I think she hits the nail on the head.
In Fitness Without Fear, Sara contextualizes exercise as something that everyone can and should do, in a way that doesn’t require specialized equipment, apoplectic trainers, or a do-or-die mentality.
I wish I had Fitness Without Fear 20 or so years ago, when I was overweight, sedentary, really tired, and not really sure what to do about any of it. I’m glad I have it now because even after decades of getting my money’s worth out of my gym memberships, Sara offers valuable insights and guidance for focusing on why movement is so important, and why everyone can do it.
Social media (and television commercials and even ads in magazines, if anyone reads those anymore) is rife with promises of quick and easy fixes for perfectly sculpted and enviable bodies. And who hasn’t seen those eternally recycled memes and rants proselytizing “no pain, no gain” and “strong is the new skinny” that feature sweaty, brooding Beautiful People? And all of these messages are inflected with a hyper-competitive nature about winning and being the best and crushing competition and turning heads. This noise makes it super easy for the casual observer to just give up on the idea of exercising to be . . . healthier and mobile.
If you know in your heart you can’t face grueling workouts, why would you start? If you suspect you can’t crush your competition (or if you realize one week into that hard core training program that your “competition” may not even hear you crumble to the ground, gasping for air, behind them), it’s easy to see all exercise as “competition” and avoid it entirely. If you try that 4-week miracle Ab Reconstructor program and end up with nothing more than a strained neck and not a hint of an ab muscle anywhere, or if your local gym hasn’t reopened after the pandemic, or if you wouldn’t dare set foot in that gym anyway because where the heck would you start with those weights and machines and grunting bro meatheads, then you should probably just breathe for a minute and read Sara’s book.
Fitness Without Fear does a spectacular job reframing why exercise is valuable and does it in gentle encouraging ways: Sara will tell you about figure competitions and marathon running and strength sports. But that’s not the point or the focus of her book. Sara will convince you that—more fundamentally—exercise is necessary not to look good in a bikini, but so you can have good (safe) posture while bringing in the groceries, or go hiking in a park on the weekend, or take your kids to Disney World.
In other words, exercise will allow you to do everyday stuff, and feel better doing it. Sara has read the scientific journals so that you don’t have to—you can track down her citations if you want, but you can also just follow Sara’s calming and affirmative direction: don’t run a marathon if you don’t want to, but pay attention to the benefits of getting up and just walking. It’s okay to start slow, as long as you start. Sara reminds you about posture, gives you some concrete advice about constructing a simple training log, and offers up multiple exercises and stretches you can do at home to build endurance and strength with very little equipment.
After Sara lays the foundation, she gives you additional tools: how to build a simple workout, how to develop a goal and a plan to reach that goal, and how to stay motivated. Even though I’ve been keeping a training log for years, and am pretty fearless (now, anyway) when it comes to trying new exercises, she still has great tips to help me refine my training log, attend to my posture, and incorporate some additional core exercises. Fitness Without Fear has convinced me that when I don’t feel like going to the gym, or when I’m feeling extraordinarily lazy, I don’t need to adopt an all-or-nothing approach, and in fact, taking a walk will do me a world of good.
Sara’s book is the kickstart you need to start to exercise in a productive, safe, healthy way that leaves you feeling stronger and better about yourself. You can be healthier and fit with Sara’s basic tenets and stop there, or you can build on that posture, strength, and endurance if you do want to run a marathon, toss a caber, or just crush your neighbor in a game of one-on-one basketball (admit it: he’s got it coming).