Jul 252016

How did treadmills and weight machines become the gold standard of fitness? Why have some of us turned our backs on the mirrors and gleaming devices of the traditional gym? What is the appeal of the stripped-down, functional approach to fitness that ís currently on the rise? In this captivating narrative, Daniel Kunitz sets out on a journey through history to answer these questions and more.

Lift cover

I was asked to read and review the book LIFT by Daniel Kunitz. The book sounded really interesting to me because I was curious about the changing culture of fitness.

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I remember growing up in the 1980s, my mom was really into jazzercise and aerobics. She was even a teacher for a long time. I used to go to the classes with her (not to participate but to go to the daycare) and I’d watch all these moms doing step aerobics in their leotards with their big hair and your typical 80’s music. 🙂 I think a lot of my readers probably remember that time!

The author goes through the history of exercise–Roman times, event ancient Chinese history. He also discussed his own transformation through exercise.

One morning the author was sick and hungover after a rough night of partying when he had a realization. “It dawned on me that the state of your body isn’t something you either choose to care about or leave be, for your body never just is–it is always either decaying or getting stronger. Not choosing is still a choice. [pg 7]”

Daniel Kunitz AP

The 70’s happened and “people began to shake off the smoking-drinking-drugging hangover of the previous era in unprecedented numbers by joining in the new fad for jogging. Twenty years later I did the same. Of course, by that time some things had changed. The terminology, for: what was once a mellow jog became running. [pg 8]”

The author then realized that smoking and running didn’t really go well together and he quit smoking.

“Running is monostructural: it improves your endurance but not your strength, balance, explosiveness, or flexibility. It might make you skinny, but it won’t produce muscles. [pg 10]”

I found that interesting and very true. In my own experience I was very much a cardio-junkie. I ran, I did the elliptical, I biked, I swam and did the stairmaster. I LOATHED weight lifting. It was slow, it was boring, I didn’t see the calorie burn I saw while doing cardio. Then I started getting injuries and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working.

“Over time, as I noticed that even those who showed up each day to the gym didn’t make any visible improvements. I had to wonder if this was due to their perfunctory attitudes or the cause of them. [pg 12]”

How true is that statement?? It is very true for me! Being a gym rat I see the same people at the gym when I go and they all look pretty much the same. There is one guy that I saw on a regular basis and then I took a break from the gym a few weeks before my baby was born, then about 6 weeks off postpartum–I came back to the gym and saw that guy and did a double take. He was HUGE. His muscles had quadrupled! I was shocked. I don’t know what he did but he is the only one that comes to mind that made a very real difference in his body.

It’s easy to go to the gym and get into ruts and do the same thing every time, and your body doesn’t change or improve. The author talks a lot about the “new” crossfit phenomenon and the concept of FUNCTIONAL fitness–which I wholeheartedly agree is the better way to work out.

“I’d never seen anybody make a bicep-curling motion outside of the gym. [pg 13]”

Re-thinking the way we do fitness, the way we lift weights is making changes. I learned that going to the Warrior Room. I became SO much stronger MUCH faster doing functional things like flipping tires, carrying sandbags, swinging kettlebells, etc, than I EVER did lifting weights at the gym.

“So why did weight machines continue to flourish in gyms? Aside from the gleam of technological novelty, they offer the untaught user a way to lift. Properly training with free weights requires some skill, while the Olympic lifts–the snatch and clean and jerk–are highly technical, demanding extensive, long-term coaching to master. It wasn’t until quite recently, with CrossFit, that significant numbers of people came to grasp the importance of skill-based work. [pg 248]”

I admit, I often use the weight machines at gym. When I first started getting into weight lifting I did the machines because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the skill set yet. Then having some training sessions with a personal trainer and eventually joining The Warrior Room, I learned those skills and got better at free weights and realized it was more FUN using kettlebells and free weights. No wonder I thought weight lifting was boring–sitting in a machine and going through the motions IS boring!

“By removing skill, machines essentially turn strength training into a low intensity activity: you might look better by using them but you’re not challenging who you are today to become a better version tomorrow. [pg 248]”

I never thought of the weight machines like that, but it makes perfect sense to me. You sure don’t get your heart pumping sitting in a weight machine and passively pushing, not like you do with dramatic movements like kettlebell swings!

“But what’s the point? To what end do we train and eat right and get enough sleep and learn new physical techniques and then relax by watching other people doing these things? [pg 39]”

It was really interesting reading about the history of exercise and weight lifting.

“Weightlifting refers specifically to the sport of shifting loads from the ground to overhead. Although it was included in the first Olympics in 1896 as a field event, it was excluded from the 1900, 1908, and 1912 games. It returned as its own event at the 1920 Olympics and over the course of that decade evolved into something like the sport we know today. Weightlifting was codified in 1928 as three lifts: the snatch (pulling the bar in a single motion from the ground to overheard), the clean and press, and the clean and jerk (cleaning means hoisting the bar to the shoulders, where the athlete can either press it overheard or jerk it, using the leg to provide momentum). [pg 163]”

This book is perfect for the reader that likes history and is interested in reading about the evolution of fitness. It was fascinating reading about the different trends and how things changed–and how ideas and values changed.

I personally would have liked more personal anecdotes from the author’s journey from unhealthy to fit, because what he did share was interesting and I could relate to a lot of it. The book felt more history-heavy than personal. I think there could have been more of a balance between the two. If you’d like to read this book, check it out here:

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Happy reading!

Mar 082016

I wanted to get this post out because it might be awhile before I get around to posting it — or reading books!! Who knows. 🙂 Here are my past book reviews:  Book Reviews. And now for some recent reads I wanted to recommend:

1 ) The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I was looking for a fast read, something kind of “mindless” and fluffy and saw good reviews of this book so I gave it a try. It’s a better than average chick-lit book. It takes place in the South — there’s socialites and old money and then a skeleton is found under a peach tree on the grounds of a majestic old house that’s being remodeled into a fancy inn.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. I felt like the “mystery” wasn’t the main focus of the story like it sounded from the description but it was still a pleasant, fun read. The “magical” aspect wasn’t necessary at all in my opinion. But if you’re looking for a nice, romantic chick-lit type of book this is a good one.


2 ) My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

A charming story about 7 year old Elsa. Her 77 year old crazy grandmother is basically her best friend and fills her head with stories of adventure and make-believe kingdoms. Then her grandma dies and leaves Elsa a bunch of letters and asks her to deliver these letters to people. It’s another adventure and Elsa takes it on secretly, deceiving her parents in order to deliver these apology letters.

This book was not as good as “A Man Called Ove“–which I LOVED–but it was still charming in its own way. This author does cranky and crazy old people well. You just love them. The two flaws in this book — I wish the grandma hadn’t died so early on in the story because she was awesome. And the make-believe kingdom/fairytale stuff went on a little too long for my tastes. But the actual story about Elsa and all the people in her world, made up for that. The ending was really excellent, too.


3 ) Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

I LOVE this book so much! It was such a good read. It was a definite “feel good” book just in general. It was really well written and not dry or boring like a biography can sometimes be. The way it was written was interesting and fast-paced and kept you engrossed.

Reading about Ruth Bader-Ginsberg was refreshing, inspiring and just awesome. What an amazing person. Her drive and independence started young. Her mother’s advice: “Always be independent.” And she was. She broke down barriers on so many fronts, but especially for women’s rights.

“Every time she thought she could just do her work, RBG was reminded again that she didn’t belong there. ‘You felt in class as if all eyes were on you and that if you didn’t perform well, you would be failing not only for yourself, but for all women.’ Some professors held Ladies’ Day, when they would call only on women, with humiliating questions.”

“RBG firmly believed that for women to be equal, men had to be free.”

She comes across as a thoughtful, progressive, decisive person who wants equality for all, not just women. But the amazing things she did for women? Impressive.

“This wonderful woman whose statue I have in my chambers, Eleanor Roosevelt, said ‘ Anger, resentment, envy. These are emotions that just sap your energy. They’re not productive and don’t get you anyplace, so get over it.'”

“I think that men and women, shoulder to shoulder, will work together to make this a better world. Just as I don’t think that men are the superior sex, neither do I think women are. I think that it is great that we are beginning to use the talents of all of the people, in all walks of life, and that we no longer have the closed doors we once had.”

The book was about her life, going to college and law school, breaking down barriers and becoming the first tenured female professor at Columbia, co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before joining the Supreme Court.

The book was also about her marriage to Marty, a tax attorney who loved cooking and taking care of Ruth. They were together for 60 years before he died and you could really tell that they absolutely adored, respected and loved each other. It was so sweet.

“RBG’s use of the phrase life partner was a marriage in which the woman didn’t lose herself and her autonomy, in which two humans shared their lives and goals on equal footing.”

“Marty would tell her that if she went to bed, in the morning everything would be clearer. ‘He was right,’ RBG said after Marty’s death. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m in a maze, then go to sleep thinking about the way out, and when I wake up in the morning, I see the path. But now there’s no one telling me it’s time to quit.”

The entire book was awe-inspiring and humbling. It was humorous and serious, interesting and informative. It included some analysis of some of her decisions in court. It showed the softer side of her life, her close friendship with Scalia, and even included the fitness routine she does with her personal trainer. This teeny tiny woman that is a firecracker in all aspects of life has a trainer helping her do one-legged squats! It was such a joy to read this book and I cannot recommend it enough!



4 ) Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This was a really interesting book, not all that uplifting though. It’s been on my to read list for awhile and finally read it. It was a memoir about the author’s life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe with her parents and sister. But it was more about her marriage and the end of her marriage. So like I said, kind of dark, but still a good read.

Her parents were hilarious and one of the highlights of the book, for me. Her dad was funny and often had insightful comments to share:

“The problem with most people, is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live. [pg 9]”

How true is that statement?? And then her mother, who was bipolar, made this comment about the author’s epic long birth of her first child:

“About once every three hours, Mum looked at her watch and said, ‘This has been a biblically long pregnancy, Bobo. Why don’t you drink some Epsom salts and hop up and down?’ [pg 149]”

The author met her husband, Charlie, in Africa. He was an American who was living there as a river guide. They met and fell in love, got married (where the author came down with Malaria on her wedding day) and they lived in Africa together for a few years and had a baby together. Then they moved to the States.

“Motherhood – the way too many of us do it alone now – without an exaltation of female relatives, without a heft of knowing matrons to buoy us up, is unnatural. [pg 156]”

That quote made me a little sad. She was comparing the difference between giving birth to their first child while still in Africa and having the support of other women in the village, to their second child after they were in America.

Things were not great in America. Work was scarce for both of them and I think the author both missed her parents and the African life she had grown up in. She never really felt like she adjusted to living in Wyoming, where her husband was from. This is where the book turned into more about the decline of her marriage to Charlie. She compared her own marriage to that of her parents:

“Together they had lost three children, a war, a few farms, and for awhile my mother had seriously lost her mind. And yet they incorporated these losses into their marriage along with what they had gained, assigning very little in the way of either blame or praise almost anywhere. They put no more weight on despair than they did on joy. The way they did love was also the way they did tragedy, as if it was all an inevitable part of the gift of being alive. [pg 74]”

“Ours had contracted into a grocery list relationship – finances, children, housekeeping. We concentrated on logistics, cautiously withholding, careful of what we said to one another in case it was used against us later. And instead of disclosing our souls, we recounted complaints and kept score of the ways in which we had irritated one another or let each other down. After that we had nothing left to say. [pg 81]”

They were married nearly 20 years and had three kids, and things weren’t always bad. She wrote about the good times, too. But as their careers started to improve and things got a little better for them, it seemed like they were growing apart quickly. One time Charlie went back to Africa for a little while for work as a guide again and he called her with this story:

“‘I was almost eaten by a lion last night,’ he said. I said, ‘Oh.’ ‘Two of them. I was stalked. They followed me into camp.’…and perhaps there was more to the story than that, but none of it seemed to matter then because the fact of Charlie having been stalked by lions changed nothing. He sounded no more alive, or grateful, or excited for having been nearly dead. And his inability to get hurt by animals had long ago ceased to impress me. [pg 209]”

As a reader, that was pretty much the turning point in my eyes. I read that and the lack of emotion from both parties said to me: this relationship is doomed/over.

Despite the book being about the end of her marriage, it wasn’t entirely depressing or negative. There was enough positivity in it and enough interesting anecdotal stories about Africa that I didn’t feel bummed out reading the book and I found it really, really fascinating. So don’t let the theme of divorce turn you off from reading this memoir!


5 ) Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

Same author that wrote “Under Your Skin” — which I LOVED and was really, really good. In comparison this one was not as strong, but still worth a read. The concept is creepy and the villain of the story is super creepy as it all unfolds. It makes your skin crawl.

The story is about Lizzie, a widow who is starting to wonder if maybe her husband isn’t really dead. As you read you feel sorry for her and the tragedy of losing her husband…until things start to come out and you slowly realize it wasn’t the love affair/tragedy you think it is.  You really like the main character as you read it and it kind of keeps you guessing until the very end.

A lot of books these days compare themselves to “Gone Girl” and this is the first one like that that actually did feel reminiscent of Gone Girl.


6 ) Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. Reading the summary it sounded like an upper-middle class married mom from Chicago rescues a homeless teen from the streets who has an infant that is clearly suffering from an illness and malnutrition. Of course, the girl and baby are not what they seem… But the book is so much more about that.

Heidi brings Willow and baby Ruby home to her posh condo in Chicago, where her 12 year old daughter Zoe and husband Chris are, saying that they are going to stay with them for just one night. It turns into a lot longer and each chapter is told from either Chris, Heidi or Willow, and the REAL story unfolds. Little by little you realize there is more to the story–both Heidi’s and Willow’s stories–and by the end you are both shocked and saddened once the story is told. It was an excellent story, very well-written, and kind of haunting!


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