cover image People Who Sweat: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Pursuits

People Who Sweat: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Pursuits

Robin Chotzinoff. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100286-3

Exercising to get in shape--at least a different shape than a couch potato's--has turned into a national obsession. Readers who have despaired of ever winning an organized race or of having the handsome, hard body of an athlete will be pleasantly surprised at the range of people, showcased in this motivational book, who have achieved athleticism without becoming athletes. In an introduction, Chotzinoff describes participating in a mountain race alongside traditional athletes driven temporarily insane (""I pass an incredibly fit woman... who appears to be hallucinating... she murmurs `lactic acid lactic acid'""). What Chotzinoff (People with Dirty Hands) is trying to get away from is the idea that one has to go through hell just to come in first and be the best. And so she offers this amusing study of ordinary people's commitment to athletics. The ""athletes"" range from a group of traveling weightlifters who bench press for Jesus to one-legged tree climbers. Creative ways of getting fit are explored: surfing, mall-walking and spelunking. These people understand the true importance of exercise, pushing limits and accomplishing personal goals. The degree of peculiarity of the sports and the people who participate in them varies greatly, and so, too, will readers' interest. However, Chotzinoff never slacks off in terms of variety, offering a full catalogue of sweaty, invigorating activities to try. (May)