Cover image for The fitness instinct : the revolutionary new approach to healthy exercise that is fun, natural, and no-sweat
The fitness instinct : the revolutionary new approach to healthy exercise that is fun, natural, and no-sweat
Jordan, Peg.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Emmaus, Pa. : Rodale Press ; [New York] : Distributed to the book trade by St. Martin's Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xix, 235 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library GV481 .J694 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Fitness Instinct represents the most significant breakthrough in fitness theory in decades. Written for all those who have been scared off, intimidated, overwhelmed, or confused by the high-science approach to fitness, this book offers a whole new way to get the exercise you need. Peg Jordan has put more than two decades of research and experience into an 11-step program that is already shaking up the fitness industry.

Author Notes

Peg Jordan, R.N., is founder and editor of American Fitness magazine and serves as the fitness and wellness expert for, the number one women's network site on the Internet. She writes frequently for national publications and tours the country speaking to corporations and groups about fitness, alternative healing, and wellness. She is a past winner of the coveted Healthy American Fitness Leader Award.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The editor and founder of American Fitness magazine excoriates what she calls "the fitness cartel"Ägyms, the media and the sports apparel industry. Jordan, admitting to her own part in the conspiracy, shares amusing anecdotes of phony endorsements, hard-bodied aerobics instructors and thousand-dollar airbrushing. She begins by giving the reader a personality test (the Enneagram) to determine his or her fitness type. Jordan's cornerstone program is based on brief periods of activity throughout the day, which amounts to not much more than an elaborated "take the stairs" approach. She offers her views on everything from yoga, stretching, tai chi and relaxation techniques to running, biking and hiking. While none of this is really new, she does effectively embrace the now mainstream mind/body connection, inspiring people to work out in their dreams and get to know their bodies. Her steam runs out tward the end with a perfunctory review of supplements such as carnitine and ephedra and an endorsement of liposuction. Yet the book offers many options that may lead frustrated aerobaholics to more fulfilling paths. 5-city author tour; QPB and BOMC alternates. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Why the Fitness Bandwagon Has Passed By So Many It's time to compare the promise to the reality. For 25 years, the fitness cartel has spent millions of dollars convincing us that the pursuit of hard bodies is the key to happiness. This relentless message has persuaded a few to become full-time fanatics, while the vast majority of us have fallen by the wayside, watching as the fitness bandwagon rolls by. Perhaps you are one of that majority.     Don't feel guilty. It's not your fault if you don't exercise. It's not your fault if your body doesn't look like Jane Fonda's or Arnold Schwarzenegger's. It's not your fault if the thought of pumping iron, wearing revealing spandex, jumping to an aerobics instructor's bark, and generally breathing hard and breaking a sweat makes you want to hide under your bed.     Blame it on the fitness industry.     Much of the reason that you may hate exercise can be attributed to the way fitness has been sold and packaged. A split in the population has occurred between the 20 percent who have benefited from the fitness industry's message and the 80 percent who have been left behind, frustrated and gaining more weight every year. This 20/80 split continues despite a lot of lip service at many health clubs about just going for good health and forgetting about perfection. No matter what is said by the staffs and personal trainers, the emphasis, messages, and images speak louder than the latest politically correct spin.     Two out of 10 people find that the hard-body, muscle-mania approach at health clubs is just their ticket. Still, not even those in this minority reap the full benefits of movement. Even these successfully serious exercisers report--both in scientific studies and in my own research--that their fitness pursuits fail to awaken deep, abiding feelings of self-worth and well-being. Rather, their fitness quests often fuel their obsessions about shortcomings and make them feel worse about themselves, their efforts, and their bodies.     As for the other 80 percent, they fall prey to something that I call the intimidation factor, that dreadful sense of shrinking inward and wanting to disappear that you feel when you enter unsafe territory. More than two-thirds of the people I've interviewed talked about the distress they felt when surrounded by "perfect bodies." Diane, a 28-year-old former gymnast, told me that she felt "awkward and incompetent" around the weight equipment, "as if everyone is staring at me, knowing I'm not using much resistance." An older computer engineer told me that he was so embarrassed about his out-of-shape body that he left the gym within a few minutes, without finishing his routine. "The trainers and regulars already have their little clique going. They can't help but hang around and laugh together. I knew that I was the source of their amusement, so I got the heck out. You won't find me exercising around perfect bodies ever again."     Whether that perfection was real or imagined is another story. I honestly believe that there is no "perfect body." None of the people I talked to--not even those who had what almost any of us would call perfect bodies--considered themselves to be without imperfections. Even cover models groaned about their skinny calves or their puny wrists or their low-set ears, as if the Earth's rotation depended on their having a different appearance. Why? The pursuit of perfection has been drummed into us with a million images, launching a million obsessions.     Starting at a very early age, girls and boys tend to adopt dieting habits and anxieties about body image based on seductive ads and images designed to sell the perfect body. For years, we all watched Kellogg's Special K commercials in which a slinky torso, the headless woman of a million ads, glided around in a swimsuit. In 1998, however, Kellogg's decided to challenge the stereotypes that have fueled women's insecurities. The cereal-maker began creating ads that debunk the ideal body image, announcing that "perfection is about accepting yourself the way you are," says Karen Kafer, the firm's director of communications. A more recent ad features a worried-looking, naked baby girl with a caption balloon: "Do I look fat?"     Self-esteem is largely determined by how people feel about their looks. I didn't want to believe this, and I hoped that self-esteem was determined more by one's education, social support, family ties, and similar high-minded standards. Then I reviewed more than 300 research studies and psychological surveys that convinced me otherwise. At the same time, as a television journalist, I was regularly coached by media consultants who showed me the focus group statistics about what people remember.     When people listen to a speaker, the visual content accounts for 70 percent of what they recall. They pay attention to only about 10 percent of the words. That's why, when Hillary and Bill Clinton went on prime-time TV during the 1992 campaign to talk about surmounting marriage difficulties, all people could talk about the next day was Hillary's hairdo. We're just a little strange that way. Disconcerting as this was, I saw how the fitness industry could easily prey upon this natural tendency to focus on the image and, in turn, let the image affect our feelings of self-worth. WHAT IS FITNESS, ANYWAY? Let's be clear about this. Fitness isn't anything real or tangible. You can't go out and buy some "fitness." Nor can you store it, save it for a rainy day, or share it. Some people think that they never have enough of it, although others would look at them and believe that fitness is the main thing they have going for them. Fitness is a concept, a word, an image in the mind, shaped by decades of advances in exercise science along with corporate-sponsored images and publicly broadcast messages. Fitness as a cultural phenomenon is controlled by a cartel that includes several industries, among them beauty, fashion, sports, sporting goods, and media. What is real is your life.     It's easy to lose sight of that when fitness is packaged and sold in the image of a mean-looking tigress wearing a very revealing leotard to show off a bosom that defies nature--not to mention gravity--on someone with such obviously low body fat. Just in case the message is too subtle for you, the tigress is usually posed in profile, with her spine dramatically arched and her butt thrust out. This pose has launched many million-dollar aerobics video careers and sold millions of dollars worth of health club memberships, fitness equipment, clothing, and beauty products.     This unrealistic and unattainable image can turn you into a mere spectator in life. When you can shake off the spectator trance, however, and return to your own life, you get to explore what fitness can mean specifically for you. In other words, what matters to you physically is your ability to perform all of the activities of a typical day. Now, if your typical day involves a lot of back arching and butt thrusting, perhaps the fitness cartel can help you. If not, it's time to help yourself.     If you had to run down your food, chasing rabbits and guinea pigs as do the people of a native tribe in northern Mexico, fitness would imply the ability to sprint like a cheetah every other day. If you earned your daily keep by diving for sponges, you would be fit only if you could hold your breath for three minutes. Keeping up a level of fitness that exceeds your present daily activity requires an artificial overlay of exercise. By artificial, I mean any physical effort that is not part of your normal movement repertoire.     We go through the days performing about four or five different movements: stretching, lifting, reaching, walking, and holding. These moves help us to be functionally fit to accomplish what we want. They exercise the entire neuromuscular unit, from brain to limbs and back again. Think of it as a loop of fired-up electrons, a lightning stream of neurons and twitchy muscles, communicating and cooperating. As wellness expert Neil Sol, Ph.D., explains, "Functional fitness is all about strengthening the loop." If that's the case, artificial exercise ignores the loop.     Isolating one muscle with a slow set of carefully tracked bicep curls is, in a sense, an artificial exercise. Rarely in life do you have to use one muscle to do something. The act of reaching for a heavy dictionary and lifting it across a table involves numerous muscles in your shoulders, chest, and arms--more muscles and tendons than you can imagine. Some work as primary movers, others as secondary assistants, and still others as stabilizers. An entire concert of cooperative teamwork takes place.     Time spent performing isolated movements and artificial exercise is part of the cult of body image and perfection obsession. The more hours you invest in this cult, the more you invest in the world of image over substance, looks over function. How did this happen? It happened because fitness became mystified. THE MYSTIFICATION OF FITNESS Making it harder than it is--that's how any profession robs you of your own intuitive know-how. The legal profession invented its own legalese. The medical profession created an aura of "knowing better" about life-and-death issues. Even mortgage institutions know how to make a homeowner's agreement so convoluted that you willingly pay all sorts of fees just to free yourself from the excruciating explanation of details.     The fitness profession is no different. Health and fitness have become mystified, abstracted, and intellectualized. We now must rely on scientists and experts, instead of our own common sense, to figure out how to be fit. I've been asked by countless people, "What should I do if I don't like going to a gym or working with weights?"--as if simple movements such as walking or dancing were somehow beyond their normal experience. They ask, "What kind of exercise should I do if I've got the flu?"--as if they have lost their bodily cues to lie down, rest, and recover. I grow more dismayed every day when I read letters to the editor asking, "Is walking really a good way to exercise?"--as if the simple act and its blood-pumping benefits elude them. Inquirers ask about intensity, "How do I know if I'm working too hard?"--as if they can't tell anymore when their muscles are tired or they are out of breath.     Of course, people believe that they need these answers in order to exercise properly. If you've listened to the countless messages dumped on your doorstep by the fitness industry, you've probably believed it, too--until now. You shouldn't feel like a dope for relying on these fitness "experts" for answers that your body already knows. You've been brainwashed--and now it's time to undo the damage.     Many people have lost touch with their own bodies' yearnings to stretch, move, walk, or dance. Ever since the new breed of experts largely requisitioned fitness training and physical advice, I have discovered in more than 400 interviews how a reasonable person's own self-generating capacity for initiating movement is polluted with embarrassment and insecurity.     The fitness industry has simply made health and fitness information difficult to understand. Mystification takes fitness out of the practical and into the scientific realm, requiring high levels of mastery. Exercise science mastery became the exclusive domain of specialists who had achieved advanced levels of education and experience: sports medicine physicians, exercise physiologists, cardiac nurse specialists, certified technicians--professionals who must interpret the scientific data and write your exercise prescription. This orientation was borrowed from the development of cardiac rehabilitation programs, which blossomed in the 1980s due to the record number of coronary bypass operations.     Government public health officials, together with the American Heart Association (AHA) and cardiac researchers, started identifying the risk factors linked to heart disease. In a scramble to control or lower those risk factors, entire protocols were developed to help people change their behavior. As new findings developed, we altered the programs, but for decades, they stayed fairly consistent in recommending the following strategies. · Limit dietary fat to no more than 30 percent of total calories. · Lower cholesterol below 200 milligrams and triglycerides under 120. · Don't smoke. · Control blood pressure by keeping the systolic reading below 140 and the diastolic number below 90. · Practice some form of stress management. · Maintain your ideal weight. · Perform consistent aerobic exercise.     For years, highly publicized national campaigns shouted that if people would only follow these recommendations, they could beat the odds and lower their risks of heart attacks and strokes. It was only when we had many individuals who were still having heart attacks despite doing everything we recommended that we began to question what other biological, emotional, psychological, and genetic factors might be at work.     When I was a cardiac care nurse, for example, I knew a 40-year-old runner who surpassed every one of those guidelines. He followed a heart-healthy diet, even sprinkling lecithin (a fat emulsifier) on his breakfast cereal. He had the blood pressure of a teenager. He had no family history of heart disease or any other identifiable risk factors. Thus, when he dropped dead from a sudden heart attack, it made me question the value of the numbers game. How do we continue to counsel people to follow set-in-stone guidelines, when every day we see men and women who don't fit the risk factor description yet still succumb to the chief killer of our time?     What the young runner had working against him was the heartbreak of a recent divorce. At that time, grief and loneliness were not part of the scientific profile for heart disease. More recently, however, the case for emotional pain and isolation as risk factors has begun to make its way into the medical literature. It seems that heartbreak is linked to heart disease, and loneliness impacts the immune system.     After working in cardiac care units, I became the cardiac rehabilitation supervisor at a major heart center in Los Angeles; at the same time, I was starting American Fitness magazine and writing videos and texts for fitness instructors. It seemed like a perfect segue, since cardiac rehabilitation principles were emulated in the fitness field. Every lifestyle lesson taught to the at-risk population was now being preached to everyone else--now ominously referred to as the "apparently healthy" population. The word apparently changed the entire timbre of the fitness movement, allowing nonmedical fitness personnel, armed with the oft-quoted quasi-statistic that "1 in 4 Americans is at risk for heart attack or stroke," to cast a suspicious eye on the average man or woman. (The actual rate is 1 in 1,000, but "at risk" can encompass any number of factors, including stress or physical inactivity.) This misleading statement was latched on to by the health club owners as an advertising ploy, while their staffs scrambled for CPR certification. THE LAND OF WALKING TIME BOMBS Clients were seen as "walking time bombs," reported one fitness center employee. "We were scared that they would drop dead of heart attacks during their warmups." Club enrollments included medical disclaimers as well as the usual lawsuit waivers; many clubs followed through with extensive client self-reports outlining medical histories and cardiac risk profiles.     In all fairness, some clients really were at risk for cardiac trouble. For example, I was called as an expert witness to testify against a health club that failed to ask the appropriate questions of a 28-year-old, overweight African-American man who had high blood pressure. After complaining to the staff that he didn't feel well, he was encouraged to take another few runs around the track before going to the steam room. There, he collapsed from a major heart attack and was finally rushed to an emergency room. His rocky hospitalization left him on disability for life.     In their depositions, the club owners talked about the "out-of-shape, unfit characters" and "lazy, unmotivated lard-butts" who "didn't have the proper drive to get fit." I was appalled by their insensitive and self-righteous attitudes, but I knew that the tide had turned against them as far as negligence litigation was concerned. The health club chain settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.     I think about this man now and wonder what could have saved him from a life of baby-sitting his black-and-blue heart. Just how far did he get from knowing what was physically good for him and what wasn't? When he was goaded into taking those treacherous jogs around the track, all the while feeling a crushing pain in his left shoulder and nausea rising in his throat, didn't he stop and think, "This isn't such a good idea; my body can't take this right now"?     I had a chance to ask these questions. This former IBM junior manager is now in his late thirties, still on disability, divorced, and struggling with day-to-day physical exertion. He talked about the tremendous amount of intimidation he felt from the moment he entered the health club. "Everyone was really buff, really in shape. I told them that I had read in their ad in the paper that they had `personal counselors' who could tailor-make a program for me. I knew I was out of shape. I hadn't done anything since high school, and I knew I had high blood pressure, but they didn't ask any questions. They just told me to go and stand with a group of ladies in leotards and somebody would show us the ropes. I asked them again about the personalized part, but they said that everybody got the same thing in the beginning." So much for individual counseling and tailored training.     He also told me that he reported his discomfort and nausea over and over but was told, "Look, that's just nerves. You're probably looking for an excuse to quit--everybody does in the beginning. Just push through it."     What bothers me most about this response is not the lack of exercise knowledge that obviously produced it but rather the mean-spirited discounting of an individual's genuine fears. I believe unconscionable reactions such as this reflect an arrogance and steel-edged superiority that are fostered by the strength-training and body-shaping cults of the fitness movement. Their script goes like this: "I know what's better for you than you do ... so just pay up and shut up." "IS IT OKAY TO BEND OVER?" Some personal trainers consider themselves the priests of the fitness religion, serving as intermediaries between the handed-down commandments of body expertise (to which they alone have access) and you. As a whole, the profession has done a lot of good, but I've interviewed far too many health-club members to not make this critique. Often, the trainers have the last word not only about your protocol and progress but also about what constitutes peak performance for you. In interview after interview, I heard women and men complain that they are "so out of shape" that they need personal trainers to harass them into exercise regimens they hate but believe they should do anyway.     At this point, the fitness cartel has usurped basic body knowledge to the extent that the average person I interviewed believes that she can no longer trust her sensory awareness. "The advice keeps changing every year. I've lost my instinct to know what's good for me," complained Shelly, a mother of two who has been a chronic dieter and sometime gym-goer for more than 15 years. She talked about how she tried to follow exercise classes that promised weight loss but steadily gained 15 pounds a year for quite a while. One year's advice was that fat burning is accomplished through low-intensity, long-duration exercise. Another year's advice was that it is accomplished through overall calorie burn, no matter what the intensity.     People write to health and fitness columnists in newspapers nationwide with questions such as: "What do I do to lose weight?" How long should I walk?" "Should I jump rope?" "Will dumbbells hurt my back?" As unbelievable as it may seem, I got a flurry of questions regarding the simple act of bending over to tie one's shoes. This quandary was prompted after a leading fitness organization banned "prolonged unsupported forward flexion."     Often, I've been asked to ghost-write question-and-answer columns for celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. "Supply people with brief and helpful answers to all their questions," was the innocent-sounding proposal. I've done these columns for years in national publications, and the questions seem to grow more and more out of touch. A growing dependency develops whenever I supply people with answers to questions that are best asked of themselves. There is only one response to all of these questions that has integrity: Return the question in an empowering way and help people develop awareness about their own body responses.     That's what I hope to do for you with this book--help you answer your own fitness questions. For instance, here's a sampling of common questions to which you already know the answers.     What do I do to lose weight? Ask yourself, "What has worked for me in the past?"     How long should I walk? Ask yourself, "How long do I feel comfortable walking?"     Should I jump rope? Ask yourself, "How do I feel when I try it?"     Will dumbbells hurt my back? Ask yourself, "Does my back hurt now? What aggravates it?"     Reflective questioning helps to establish that you--yes, you--are best-suited to determine how your body feels with movement. Anything short of that fosters dependency and robs you of basic self-knowledge about your body.     There are many well-intentioned professionals in the fitness industry who recognize that the old paradigm isn't working and who are asking for a new approach. I'm on the road quite a bit, delivering speeches, workshops, and keynote presentations to people in the health, wellness, and fitness fields. I'm often asked what I recommend for health and fitness promoters, and I tell them that it starts with the basics: Learn to listen and ask questions first. Just as doctors and pharmacists are learning to drop their arrogance and stubbornness and finally listen to patients, it's important for fitness promoters--who are, in essence, part of an offshoot of the medical profession--to follow suit. I tell them to start any counseling session not with their own agendas and well-rehearsed prescriptions in mind but with a sincere attempt to understand the client's life and goals.     Second, I tell health-care providers that they have to finally understand that the population has split into two groups: the 20 percent who are disciplined in their fitness routines, and the 80 percent who are turned off by it all. I tell them that if health and fitness professionals really want to make a difference, they have to listen to the stories of the 80 percent. It was only by listening closely to those tales that I learned to set aside my own arrogance and judgments as a health professional. I also had to come to terms with the ways that I had helped create and colluded with an industry that reinforced messages and images that were, on second look, at cross-purposes to the happiness and goals of 8 out of 10 people. In fact, much of the fitness message that I and others were spreading was antagonistic. By dropping what I thought I knew and listening deeply, I started my own journey of self-healing and transformation as well.     Four years of interviewing brought me to my knees professionally, and I knew that I couldn't go on doing what I had been doing. The interviews revealed an unbridgeable gap between the oft-hailed "health habits" that people are supposed to follow and what they are actually able to accomplish each day; between the motivational techniques that we encourage people to employ and the irritating discontent and unhappiness that these techniques leave in their wake. With interview after interview and story after story, I learned and awakened and publicly asked for forgiveness. This book is a collection of what I learned and what I saw that truly does work for those who are able to break away from the fitness cartel's grasp and learn once again to listen to--and trust--their own bodies. ARE YOU WORTH THE EFFORT? In almost every interview that I conducted, it came down to the same thing. As people started to roll out their long, sad list of excuses for why they didn't exercise or eat right, they often ended with a shrug of the shoulders, declaring, "It's not worth the effort." Upon further questioning, that statement started to unfold into " I'm not worth the effort." Similarly, another discounting phrase, "I didn't try hard enough," often turned into "I'm not good enough." For some it was, "I don't have what it takes." Countless women repeated a similar version: "I don't know what's wrong with me--I just can't stick to the diet and exercise routine they taught me."     What do we have here? An epidemic of low self-esteem? A contagion of self-deprecating remarks permeates the fitness attitude of the average person. I asked many leading health promotion experts what could contribute to this malaise. Nationally renowned professionals such as Pat Lyons, R.N., a leading educator at Kaiser Permanente Health System in California, founder of Connections, Women's Health Consulting Network, and co-author of Great Shape ; Steve Ramirez, head of the Fresno County health services in California; and Michael O'Donnell, Ph.D., editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion , all agree: The experts have been proselytizing people with the same message for more than 20 years and watching them fail at consistent change. This sets up a cycle of blame and repeat failure that sends people into downward spirals of gaining more weight and becoming more sedentary. One wellness physician at the Veteran Administrations Hospital in Los Angeles described this cycle in this way. It's gotten so that I don't tell anybody what to do anymore--and that's a huge shift for a doctor, believe me. Instead of assigning this ridiculously artificial routine on a Health Rider or some other piece of equipment that they hate and that is going to be thrown in the garage in a week, I just listen to them about how they conduct their days--where they work, what they like to do when they come home. I'm beginning to think that it all comes down to self-esteem. If they start to feel good about themselves, I can assist that process by showing some interest in them as people instead of seeing them as people who need to alter their entire lifestyles. And that's another thing: Alter for whom? For them, or for me, so I feel better about my medical practice? They've got to make the change from within, and I'm convinced that it actually starts with self-esteem. THE HIGH-PRICED RIP-OFF To understand how insane the fitness movement has become, consider the case of Gayle, the single mother of a six-year-old boy, who works two jobs just to make ends meet. She has always carried 10 more pounds than she'd like, and late one night, she succumbed to the propaganda of an infomercial selling a $150 walking program. By the time we talked, the question she had begun to ask herself was, "Do I really need a $150 program, complete with audiocassettes, training heart zones, walking exercise zones, motivational tapes, and life-size posters of walking celebrities-- in order to take a walk ?"     Here is her description of the expensive walking program, endorsed by a fitness celebrity, that she purchased from TV. I was disappointed the minute I got it--not so much in the package but in myself for falling for another gimmick. I mean, look at my day: I run around like a chicken with her head cut off all day, in and out of errands, chasing around like crazy. Then, I finally get home from work, change my clothes, throw some dinner in the oven for my son, Joey, and strap on the headphones to listen to my audio walking program. I figure I can take a quick walk around the block at least. It's been a week since I bought this thing; I'd better use it. I don't have time to read the booklet, which looks like it basically says something about three walking speeds: slow, medium, and fast. Hello?! This is unbelievable. What did I pay for this? I don't want to think about it. Anyway, I can't stand it. I want to get going, but the tape is blabbing about all the safety factors and risks of walking--stuff I should know before I get started. I've wasted about 10 minutes on my front porch and haven't moved a step. Maybe I have the wrong tape. I go back in the house to see if there's at least some music I can listen to, and then I want to break down and cry. What am I doing? Did I really need this to go take a walk?     No, Gayle did not need to go through this aggravation and expense in order to take a walk. Somewhere along the line, though, she came to believe that other people know better about what is good for her, so she transferred authority outside herself and looked to the experts for answers about something as basic as taking a walk. When we arrived at this insight in her interview, she got teary-eyed and shook her head, saying, "I'm really done with that routine."     Then, as if the universe were serving up a synchronous challenge, the phone rang in her home. Gayle talked a few minutes, asked some questions hesitantly, then wrote down an appointment. She hung up the phone and said, "That was the dentist's office. They said that I need another cleaning, even though I just had one a couple of months ago. But they said I needed one anyway, so I've got an appointment for that. I just hate the way they poke at the gum ..." She stopped talking, maybe because of the look on my face; then she said, with a shocked look, "Oh, my God, I'm doing it again, aren't I?"     The conditioning is tougher to break than most people realize, but you must break this pattern in order to fully tap into your fitness instinct. In this book, I'll show you how to become aware of the very moment that your mind starts drifting into this dangerous territory and how to put a stop to it. Better yet, I'll show you how to come up with your own, more enlightened answers to whatever fitness question pops into your brain.     I am not saying that you should never ask anyone for help. Obviously, when we are at a stage of initial learning or are not quite competent at a skill, depending on expert advice adds to our knowledge base. Usually, however, we already have the answers. We just need to learn to trust our bodies.     I did discover that women have a harder time with this than men. The cultural pressures on women to give up authority are unrelenting; the silencing act begins early. Psychologists Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice , and Emily Hancock, author of The Girl Within , have both written about the stages in which young girls no longer assertively voice their opinions and even turn against their own instinctual natures. In a man's world, girls are expected to act coy, appear helpless, feel weaker, and show restraint. Not really saying what you think, coupled with constantly seeing images that are impossible to imitate but that the culture holds up as desirable, can erode your sense of self.     The inevitable next step seems to be, "If I'm not going to be in charge of what I think or feel, who will?" Tragically, there is an overabundance of tabloid cultural images to rush in to fill the vacuum. Young women not only silence what they think, they internalize what the culture says. I gave a talk to 25 young women, ages 16 to 18. I asked them which would be easier, to give me three full names of supermodels or tell me the date of their last period. They all opted for the supermodels, then proceeded to talk about how they hated their own looks and bodies.     Mary Pipher's book Reviving Ophelia looks at case studies of adolescent girls falling into depression, eating disorders, addictions, and suicide, blaming themselves for not being attractive or good enough. Whether from cultural pressure and family conditioning or messages from boyfriends, the fashion industry, fitness trainers, doctors, priests, cops, celebrities, and wherever else they come from, this inappropriate and dangerous surrender of instinctual knowledge is at the core of women's disembodied relationship with their own health and fitness.     How did it all become so complicated? When did the simple act of physical activity--the birthright of every human--become the guilt-ridden drudgery of endless stair-stepping? "Forced exercise has all the appeal of a prison labor camp," said Cheryl, a marketing specialist who has been dieting and exercising her entire life.     Granted, our sedentary lifestyles are major culprits in the way we have distanced ourselves from normal daily physical activity. "But who wants to sit on a stationary cycle at night after sitting at a computer all day and then driving home on the freeway for an hour?" complained a 56-year-old writer and editor. "I feel like my butt can't take another minute parked on that damn bike. My kids talked me into one of those rowers, and I won't sit on that, either." (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Peg Jordan. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Path to Instinctual Fitnessp. xi
Chapter 1 Why the Fitness Bandwagon Has Passed By So Manyp. 1
Chapter 2 Discover Your Fitness Personalityp. 19
Chapter 3 Free Yourself from Old Mythsp. 35
Chapter 4 Fire Your Bad-News Chorusp. 51
Chapter 5 Cultivate Your Still Pointp. 65
Chapter 6 Awaken Your Seventh Sensep. 79
Chapter 7 Move to Your Internal Clockp. 93
Chapter 8 Explore Alternative Movesp. 127
Chapter 9 Gather 30 as You Gop. 149
Chapter 10 Reclaim Your Inner Trainerp. 173
Chapter 11 Find Your Hidden Motivationp. 185
Chapter 12 Quick Fixes: Let Your Instincts Guide Youp. 199
Epilogue: Unleashing Your Seventh Sensep. 219
Indexp. 223
About the Authorp. 235

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