A journalist blends reportage and personal narrative to explore the history of women's exercise culture—from jogging and Jazzercise to Jane Fonda—and how women have parlayed physical strength into other forms of power.
... fact-packed but bouncy ... Friedman also reacquaints readers, charmingly, with the 'leotite,' a modest but accommodating one-piece garment made partly of wool and sold at Montgomery Ward; and Gilda Marx’s 'Flexatard,' issued in multiple colors and fortified with Lycra ... Friedman obviously had fun paging through old ads...and the sometimes astonishingly retrograde magazine layouts overseen by serial dieters ... Most enjoyable is when Friedman shines light on less hallowed figures ... Having YouTube by your side will complement your reading of this book, in which paradigms are forever shifting and prose, covering so much ground, can sometimes over-contort ... the author carefully tracks elitism and racism, noting how social media has helped level the playing field for leaders such as Jessamyn Stanley, a Black yoga instructor and body positivity advocate with a devoted following ... In 2004, for n+1, Mark Greif wrote a lacerating condemnation of modern gyms ... In her own very different style, Friedman offers updates and bracing correctives.
The factoids boggle the mind, but Friedman goes further, providing a rich story for each fitness trend she examines, from jogging to Jazzercise, bodybuilding to yoga and beyond ... Friedman shares just enough of her own experience to grant the book a defined point of view: that of a woman approaching middle age, seeking strength and release in movement. Her research is thorough, and her storytelling is as energetic as the exercises she describes. Let’s Get Physical is full of stories that humanize an industry that sometimes seems to prioritize perfection over people.
... reading Let’s Get Physical, I found myself craving the unthinkable: a room filled with other people, a Tina Turner CD, and a really exhausting workout ... Friedman’s book...persuasively encapsulates the relatively recent history of women’s fitness and the wide-reaching impact its trailblazers had ... Let’s Get Physical is clear-eyed about assessing the flaws in the fitness movement—its mixed messaging, its propagation of toxic ideals, its longtime exclusion of differently abled women, plus-size women, and particularly women of color ... Friedman also understands the different dimensions of power, and how incidentally one kind can lead to another.