When I was a teenager, my mom bought the book “The Body Principal” written by Victoria Principal. Victoria Principal is well known for her role in the soap opera Dallas. This book hit the market during the time when aerobics were popular and mega gyms are probably not around yet. But the emphasis is different- it offers a comprehensive exercise program that is easy to do anywhere and hopefully one that a person can stick to for life.
The book was on special offer price by Popular bookstore (because it was more than a decade since it was writen). I remembered the first time when I read the book, I was so motivated that I got on to exercising right away.
In the book, Victoria introduced a series of isometric contraction exercises. She showed how these exercises can be performed anywhere- while waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting at the hairstylist or while driving. No one will even notice when you are tightening your butt or stretching/contracting your calf muscles. Those exercises worked for her because at the time she wrote the book, she led a very busy life- full time career as an actress, run her own home, do her own cooking, led an active social life and regularly volunteer her services. It was something that a lot busy working women could relate to. Some of the exercises were quite tough… and effective.
There are many exercise books in the market now but very few teaches isometric exercises and blending exercise into our lives. Isometric contraction actually helps to tighten the muscles- but it takes longer for the effect to be shown compared to isotonic exercises like lifting weights. But isometric contraction exercises- can cover areas that are hard to reach by exercise machines. Imagine, if you spend about an hour commuting to work, and do discreetly do these exercises- in the long run, your butt’s much tighter from the tighening exercises you do than the missed sessions at the gym. Other examples:
- doing push ups using the dressing table- she had 3 different types of push ups to address different muscles
- using the stairs to do calf raises
- exercising the shoulder muscles in the shower
- some tough exercises for tummy to be done on the bed
Aside from that, she also talked about incorporating sports like swimming, running, tennis and cycling as part of the program. Sports are fun activities to do and anything that’s fun will keep a person motivated- it gets the blood pumping and improve cardiorespiratory health. She talked about the benefits of each sports and what type of warm up exercises to use for a particular sports.
I was also quite impressed, because looking back, Victoria had wrote about the benefits of strength training- in an era (1983) when pumping iron was largely a guy thing- wait, not even guys, but that era, when gyms are mentioned, the first thing that came to mind are bodybuilders. She cleared the misconception that:
1. Weight training will not give you large muscles
2. Muscles need not be large in order to be strong
Finally, there’s a 30 day diet plan and a detailed 7-day menu. I find the menu a bit hard to follow since I ate the typical Malaysian diet which is very different.
For many years, until before I had joined the gym, I practiced her exercises on and off. Today, many people are cancelling their gym memberships due to financial and time constraints. As such, there are a need for more books dealing on gymless structured exercise programs that people can try out of the gym environment. Even though there are newer books written on 10 or 15 minute workouts, somehow I find that it is less comprehensive and the workouts less effective compared to The Body Principal. It is not surprising that books that are written more than 20 years ago sometimes are of better quality compared to a lot that is found on the shelves today.
Therefore, don’t judge a book by its cover or year of publication. Who knows, you may pick up some great books from a second hand bookstore at a fraction of the price of a new book.