What I read on my summer vacation | fitness book reviews

Disclaimer: Ulysses Press sent me a free copy of Special Forces Fitness Training to review here. No other compensation was provided, and as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are all mine.

Way back at the beginning of the summer I shared my summer fitness reading list. The fitness books that I planned on reading over the holidays. Books that might introduce me to new exercises and ideas to share with my clients and readers.


I didn’t manage to get through them all.

Alas, the overwhelming urge to re-read the entire Outlander series before the television show debuted got in my way (I managed to get through 4 of the 8 books; well, 5 really, as I read the final book before I started my do-over…).

In my defence, reading about Jamie and Claire’s exploits did make me think a lot about exercise (or at least the strong, lean, muscular body that a “born and bred” Highlander must have given all of the horse-back riding and sword-fighting and caber-tossing and other forms of ‘physical exertion’ they perform…) 😉

But I digress…

Never one to beat myself up for what I didn’t accomplish, I’m sharing my thoughts about the titles that I did manage to finish reading; two are from my original list of five, the third is a bonus.

What I read on my summer vacation: fitness book reviews

1. Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age by Vonda Wright.

Of all the books I unearthed when researching the pitch for my own book on fitness after 40, this one seemed the most promising. Fitness After 40 is written by a female, over-40, orthaepedic surgeon with a specialization in sports medicine and a proven track record with over-40 athletes. Her approach focuses primarily on four components of fitness; flexibility, cardiovascular training, resistance training and equilibrium or balance training. While I found the sections on flexibility and balance training to be universally applicable (and I found several new exercises to share with my clients), the recommendations for resistance training were more ‘gentle’ in nature than those I give even my beginner clients.

Although the book states that it’s written for individuals of all fitness levels, I couldn’t help but feel that much of the book was aimed at ‘elite’ or ‘masters’ athletes. Individuals who have trained hard for years, often at the national level, and required rehabilitation for exercise-related injuries. While a focus on injury prevention is wise when it comes to training middle-aged and older adults, it seems a bit off-putting if one’s goals are to simply increase activity levels in the general population.

Recommendation: Unless you’re an over-40 elite or masters athlete who needs specific information about continuing with your training, borrow this one from the library.

2. Special Forces Fitness Training: Gym-free Workouts to Build Muscle and Get in Elite Shape by Augusta Dejuan Hathaway.

Members of the military’s most elite units need to be in incredible shape. Often times, though, they don’t have access to full service gyms, thereby requiring a strength and conditioning program that relies on minimal equipment and body weight exercises. In Special Forces Fitness Training you’ll find 30 such programs, including whole body workouts (‘King of the Jungle’), workouts that target the upper body (‘Get a Grip’), core workouts (creatively named ‘Core Workout I, II and III) and cardio workouts. They can be performed in isolation, or combined, depending on the time you have available for exercise and your fitness level.

While most of the programs offer direction for multiple levels (Levels 1, 2 and 3), a few differentiate the workload and duration by sex. A minor criticism (and perhaps one that simply reflects different performance standards in the military for men and women), but slightly off-putting when one notes that the recommendation for reps/sets/duration of many exercises is dramatically different for men and women. I have many women clients who are capable of doing the “men’s” workouts… #justsayin

With illustrations for every exercise (including those described in the warmup and stretch sections of the book), Special Forces Fitness Training makes a great resource book for the moderately-fit to advanced exerciser (regardless of whether they’re in the military or not). In particular, for those who work out at home and have limited access to equipment.

Recommendation: If you’re a group fitness or personal trainer looking for bootcamp-style training ideas, buy yourself a copy. It’s great value for the price point.

3. Lose It Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by James Fell.

Let me start by saying ‘I love James Fell’. He has the very rare ability to read, digest and transform the results of scientific studies for the non-scientific reader all while being witty, self-deprecating, irreverent and ENTERTAINING. He’s not a fan of ‘pseudo-science’, celebrity trainers or magic fixes. In an industry plagued by fear-mongering and false promises, he’s brave enough to admit that weight loss is a long, slow process and that most who try, will ultimately fail. That being said, his approach is sound and easily accessible to anyone who truly wants to improve their health and is willing to do the ‘mindset’ work required to get there. Interested in understanding how brain chemistry, human evolution, cognitive behavioural change therapy and the food industry all conspire to make weight loss hard? This is the book for you.

Recommendation: If you’re tired of dieting, like knowing how your body and brain work and are ready to make a longterm investment in your health, download a copy right now.

Have you read any of the books I reviewed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Any titles I should add to my fall fitness reading list?



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  1. I am listening to salt sugar fat right now …it’s a great book

    • Tami, I’ve heard more than a few people say that this book shocked (and scared) them. Is this what you’re finding too?

  2. I borrowed Salt Sugar Fat and The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald from the library. I liked Matt’s book enough to write a blog post about it. It’s geared towards runners preparing for a race.
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted…Your Race Recaps! 9/5My Profile

  3. I haven’t really read any books on Fitness (other than the more medically oriented literature on nutrition and exercise). I used to get various magazines, but the information became so familiar I decided not to renew them. These books sound interesting. Thanks for the summary. I like James Fell’s approach. Nice to see an expert who doesn’t cater to fads or gimmicks.

  4. Tami Carpentiere says:

    Yes I am listening to the book and sometimes I hit pause to think about the craziness

    I think it might be worth owning the book

    Thank god I know not to buy those nasty lunchables but I work at an elementary school and the processed food in lunch boxes is terrible

  5. No books to be read by me this summer, because I read SOOOO MUCH for school, I just couldn’t read anything more! But school is OVER NOW – so perhaps I will get back into reading this fall 🙂
    GiGi Eats recently posted…In-N-Out of My KitchenMy Profile

  6. I don’t read books about fitness except for Joe Friel’s books on tri training-which do cover nutrition also and tell you how to replace important nutrients while doing mega swim/rides/runs. He’s a genius in this field.

    • Sounds interesting. And sounds like you’re reading exactly what you need to be for YOUR interests and fitness level!

  7. P.S. I was just at a tri yesterday where a 76 year old competed (female) and several men in the 70-79 age group. I bet they don’t read any “fitness after 40” books…they just get out there and DO their swims/cycling/runs!

    • Cheryl, you are certainly blessed to have such a great perspective about fitness and belong to a group of like-minded people. Surely, though, you have noticed that you and your friends (and me and my friends) are in the minority. With obesity rates at well over 50% and only 20% of the adult population getting the minimum requirement for physical fitness, don’t you think that we’re in a position to motivate and encourage by sharing resources and not minimizing the tools others need?

      As I move forward on my book project, I’d love to hear your POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING comments about the topic. That’s the best way to help others find what you’ve got!

  8. I’m a bit confused about the first book: you say the exercises are gentler than you give beginners, but you feel it’s aimed at masters/elite athletes dealing with injuries?

    How do you feel this differentiates between levels and injury recovery? That is, how can it be both gentler and for elite athletes?
    Deb Roby recently posted…Hybrid LifeMy Profile

    • Deb, good point. I fear that I wasn’t clear in my explanation. The athletes the author refers to as ‘elite’ or ‘masters’ are typically endurance runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes. They come to her because they’re recovering from sports-related injuries, in particular, leg and ankle tendonitis, knee pain, low back pain and shoulder pain. The exercise program described in the book includes many exercises that I would label ‘rehab’ or ‘prefab’; external and internal shoulder rotation with a band, inner thigh leg lifts, unweighted straight leg raises, ankle inversion and eversion movements, side planks and dead bugs.

      While each of these exercises is a great addition to an overall strength training program, I don’t prescribe them in isolation. They would be added on to the bigger, whole body exercises that I like to see all of my clients do (pushups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows etc), regardless of age.

      Does that make more sense?