Of course, a few of the exercises look familiar to anybody who’s weight-trained -- after all, there are only so many different ways you can move the human body. There are also a few too many cutesy names (the "Triceps Can-Can"?) for my taste, perhaps in an effort to transform conventional moves into something more appealing. But hey, you’ve got to put some kind of a name on the exercises, and Physique 57 does a good job of bringing dance- and barre-style workouts, heavy on the pliés, squats and stretching, straight to you.
I also like the recipes and straightforward eating advice you’ll find in the back of the book. Try the salmon salad; it’s fabulous -- and as an Alaskan that cans her own wild salmon, I can tell you they’re right about leaving the bones in!
As appropriately punishing as the workouts themselves are, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the way the authors depict other fitness programs, and exercise in general, really bothers me. Physique 57 is different enough, in a good way, to draw scads of celebrity praise (I wouldn’t know anything about being a celebrity, of course, but I’d imagine that when you can do pretty much anything you want, novelty is a big draw). It also has all the components it needs to be effective; the workouts really should be allowed to stand on their own merit. And yet yellow sticky notes protrude from between the pages of my book, marking passages that made me wonder.
My first "What the heck?" sticky note highlights this sentence: "Creating lean body mass is actually harder than you’d think." It might seem unfair to take so much exception to a single sentence, but fitness is really pretty simple. Untangling how your lifestyle choices (exercise, diet, sleep, hydration and so on) affect your body can be an enormous struggle -- but once you understand the cause and effect and take responsibility for it in your own life, the actual mechanics just aren’t that complicated.
My eyebrows went up another notch a couple of sentences later: "Lifting weights again and again not only is boring but can also stress your joints and lead to injury over time." Not if you’re doing it right!
Flip forward to page 8: "... running, while terrific for your cardiovascular system, just doesn’t burn a lot of calories ..." The American Council on Exercise begs to differ -- ACE estimates that even the lightest individual burns well over 10 calories per minute while running. It’s as if the authors felt the need to impugn other exercises’ validity to make room for their own program.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the Physique 57 workouts (and recipes) a try. Go for it -- you might just get hooked, and even if you don’t, they’ll be an interesting stop on the exercise trail.
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