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In this non-fiction book, powerlifter and journalist Poorna Bell discusses the barriers for women and minorities when it comes to getting into exercise. She uses her own story about how she got into powerlifting following the suicide of her husband, and talks about how gyms and personal trainers need to be more inclusive. She also incorporates societal barriers and diet culture, such as how particularly for women, exercise is generally viewed as a way of losing weight, and women are encouraged to do cardio while men are encouraged to lift heavy weights (I’m not actually sure that this last point is actually the case based on my own, admittedly very personal, experience).

There is an important message here – yes, gyms need to be more inclusive and welcoming for women (again in my experience most gyms are already), minorities, and people of all genders and sexualities. The issue is that it feels like every few pages there is the message to ‘make gyms more inclusive’ – but how this can be done is never really explored, and it ends up just feeling like a bit of a rant.

I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the book – certain parts did resonate very strongly, especially the parts about diet culture, and I thought the parts about how Poorna Bell came to deal with her own grief surrounding her husband’s death were very poignant. However, I do feel that this was a book in bad need of an editor – each chapter was just a list of people from a certain category (maybe a certain age group, religion or sexuality) who described how they felt that exercise was not for them, and then a call for personal trainers and gyms to be better equipped to welcome people from every way of life. It ended up feeling repetitive, and I’m not entirely sure that this wouldn’t have been better as an article rather than a full length book.

I do also feel that while Poorna Bell speaks very highly of the two personal trainers she has herself had, and the gym that she belongs to, the book almost felt like an attack on gyms as a whole and personal trainers in general.

So overall – a great message gets lost in the repetitive style of writing. BUT I enjoyed the parts about Poorna’s own family and her love of powerlifting.

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