________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.


No Gym Required: Unleash Your Inner Rock Star.

Jennifer Cohen with Suzanne Boyd.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2009.
197 pp., pbk., $21.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-110-0.

Subject Headings:
Physical fitness. Nutrition.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.





YOU. Yes, I am writing this book for YOU, the woman who looks at herself in the mirror and is not satisfied with her body. Instead, she compares herself negatively to the Elle MacPhersons of the world. The Giselle types, who are long and lean, say, 10 feet 6 inches tall, with bodies so seemingly perfect that they appear to be genetic mutations of the most beautiful kind. I am writing this for you, the woman who looks at the covers of those celebrity weeklies while in the supermarket checkout line and wonders why she isn’t as thin as this or that “it” girl. You know, those feeble-figured celebs du jour who look 2 pounds soaking wet, each more emaciated than the last. Their “it” look is most likely due to substance abuse with a side order of starvation. And I am writing this book for you, the woman who has marveled at the miraculous transformations of celebrities who go from flab to fab, the ones who lose 30 pounds in 10 days and claims to have done it through a balanced diet and exercise, and is crushed that she is unable to achieve similar results.

     Working in the entertainment industry and living in Los Angeles has given Jennifer Cohen “a bird’s-eye view of the unhealthy and self-destructive extremes that the starlets and bona-fide stars would go to in order to achieve the faux fitness that sells.” Cohen is featured on the cover of the book, as well as in many black and white photos demonstrating various exercises, and while she is fit and toned, she is certainly no “skinny-minnie.” She has curves (as well as beautifully-defined muscles). Her goal is to assist you, the reader, in developing “rock star” confidence through health and fitness.

     Cohen begins the book with an overview of current theory on body type, body mass index, and body fat percentages. The goal is to make the reader aware of the type of body that she has (the book is definitely aimed at a female readership) and to make that body shape, a better one. A substantial chapter on nutrition follows (containing a whole page of pull quotes from various stars and models, describing the diet pressures they have faced in their lives); the terms “natural” and “organic” are explained, the role of fat (the good, the not-so-good, and the downright evil fats), the glycemic index, what to eat when you need to “cheat,” and a list of ultra-healthy menu choices which a person might not have considered. However, it must be said that it is much easier to eat all these wonderful fruits and vegetables when you live in California, as does the author; produce undergoes a definite decline in quality when it has to make a several day journey to Canada from the southern United States or Mexico. Towards the end of the book, a comprehensive 14-day menu plan is included. The nutrition chapter is followed by Jennifer’s 14-day Boot Camp, a fitness plan combining stretches and “power moves,” all of which can be done at home, with minimal investment in exercise equipment (a fitness ball, fitness bands, some free weights). Truly, no gym is required if you are motivated enough to exercise at home. And, if you are fortunate enough to live in a temperate climate, you can take your exercise outdoors (unfortunately, this is not possible in Winnipeg, MB, during much of the year). Finally, Jennifer provides a chapter which gives insight into a day in her life, and how she keeps her own plans on track (as well as what to do when she gets off track). And, to keep the reader motivated to follow through with her own plan to find her inner rock star, several pages of “Rock Star Personal Trainer Work Sheets” are included to assist in tracking personal progress.

     So, what makes this different from all the other diet and fitness books out there in the marketplace? In keeping with the “rock star” concept, Cohen provides “playlists” of music (i.e. lists of songs by various current pop artists) to download onto your personal player, to listen to while working out, and to pump up the volume of one’s exercise output. For those of us who find music a motivator while working out, this is definitely a plus. At times, the “rock star” concept seemed a bit stretched, but the author is aware of the power of popular culture as a source of role models, and rock stars are noticed. Combining nutrition and exercise content in one book is certainly not a new concept, but No Gym Required does so in a very reader-friendly fashion. And in the current economic climate, the idea that “no gym [is] required” in order to get fit definitely will sell. Still, the motivation to say “no” to potato chips, and “yes” to Plank exercises has to come from within. Cohen’s mantra is “Believe it, Achieve it!” and she obviously has done both. There is no quick fix for getting fit, but Jennifer Cohen’s front cover portrait will definitely motivate some readers to find out how to unleash that inner rocker.

     No Gym Required is most likely to appeal to female students, age 15 and up, and it might be a useful supplement for phys. ed. curricular needs.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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