Despite the outcry on the forum, I actually thought this book was a decent read. I found the fitness and nutrition sections to be very informative and motivating. The instructor profiles and tips were fun to read. I also enjoyed learning about how the Benson sisters got started in their fitness business. They overcame some very daunting hurdles! The most humorous chapter of the book was FIRM Spirits. I'm not one to knock how another chooses to live her life, but let's just say... their priorities are not mine. The makeup, manners, underwear, clothing and entertaining tips were amusing to me (although I wasn't offended in the least).
Anyways, I thought the book was a lot of fun to read. It's a good reference to pull out when explaining why women *need* strength training. The nutrition recommendations they make are probably very healthful, but a little to severe and ascetic for my tastes. I also think their caloric recommendation of 1800 calories is kinda low for athletic/active women. I give the new FIRM book three stars (out of five)!
I would not recommend this book to readers who are very familiar with the Firm, particularly if you have "20 questions about fitness," their 40 minute video. Firm for Life basically reiterates much of what is in that video. I found their nutrition information interesting, however I can't say that I ran right out and bought pumpkin seeds! As for all of the sections about personal appearance that raised such a controversy, I didn't find them offensive as much as I found them silly. Anyone that reads a fitness magazine or a fashion magazine is privy to the same information. All in all, I breezed through this book quickly and enjoyed it, but I really didn't learn anything that I hadn't already seen in their tapes and newsletters. If you're new to exercise or the Firm, I'd read it, otherwise I wouldn't recommend it.
The book is very interesting from the standpoint of someone wanting to know the Firm's philosophy and why the videos work. They've included a lot of the information from their "Twenty Questions About Fitness", a video I've seen several times over. In the early chapters, the sisters work hard to convince the reader that many of the myths about exercise are, in fact, myths. They spend a little time poking ascerbic fun at the likes of Fonda, Step Reebok and Bob Greene, Oprah's personal trainer. Yet, what they say makes complete and utter sense! And the truth is in the testimonials, which lace the book every couple of pages.
I also enjoyed reading about the Firm's instructors, although I was acutely disappointed not to see much written about Susan Harris, who is, to my mind, as much a founder of the Firm as sisters Cynthia and Anna. After all, if not for Susan's lush, lovely, streamlined body struggling to make those reps in Volume One, The Firm as an independant video company wouldn't have made it as far as they have! (I can remember my husband watching volume one while I worked out to it...and I KNOW it was to watch Susan's trim physique and that long, long blonde braid wave forward and back as she moved.)
The chapters on nutrition were very thorough, though I agree with the previous reviewer that the caloric intake is a little sparse! I read, on the Cathe Friedrich forum, that the average high intensity exerciser(with heartrate at high end of maximum)can burn 10 calories per minute! Consider an hour long workout where only half the time is spent in that high target zone...and you've burned 300 calories just working out! I was amazed, because I typically spend 2 hours four times a week and approximately 90 per cent of my workout is in the higher zone. That's about 1,000 calories burned per workout. Doesn't leave much caloric intake to support regular activities of daily living or my basal metabolic rate, which I KNOW is much higher these days because of The Firm (and Cathe Freidrich videos). So, I guess the reader just has to be aware of her/his own needs and fashion nutrition according to that.
All in all, the book is well done and polished, much like The Firm videos themselves. It would make a great gift for someone you want to introduce to The Firm. It's already convinced three people I work with to buy the Firm's new beginner videos, and it "re-afFIRMed" my commitment to using all the old tried and trues I have stacked on my bookcase!
This is a very interesting, if a little
eccentric, book and I'm glad I got the
chance to read it (thanks again, Susan!).
The best part of the book is the nutritional
information. Wow - did I learn a few things!
They include a chart that you can copy and
keep track of your diet. The most surprising
thing I found out is that I am *not* getting
enough calories (at least according to their
recommendations). The Bensons say that, on
average, you should be getting about 2,000
calories a day. Other nutritional articles
and books echo that, so I believe it, except
that since I'm smaller than average, I think
I probably only need about 1,800 or so.
Nevertheless, I was astounded to find out I
am getting only 600 to 1,000 per day most of
the time. Yikes! I'm also lower than their
recommended protein percentage and higher on
the carbohydrate percentage. This was a real
eye-opener for me. So a change in eating
habits is in order for me -- although I've
tried to eat "healthy," there's a lot more to
it than loading up on broccoli and carrots!
And now that I've learned this, I just can't
wait to see the new me after I follow their
plan for awhile -- I'm fantasizing about the
new incredible muscle and leanness I'll have :o).
Now that I've raved about the nutrition section,
I must comment on some other parts. The
beginning of the book was a little bit of a
turn-off for me. The Bensons emphatically
state that aerobics are boring. And I
emphasize emphatically. Well, excuse me, but
I happen to adore aerobics and I know most of
us VFers do. I was turned off because they
didn't say "we" found aerobics boring, but
that aerobics are boring - period. And they
said it more than once.
After that, things improved. There are
demonstrations of particular "compulsory"
exercises -- i.e., exercises you should do as
a minimum. As an advanced exerciser, I didn't
find the demonstrations all that enlightening,
but I'm sure many people will find value in
There are also bios on several instructors,
and comments from Firm Believers which are
very interesting and often motivating. I
enjoyed reading these.
The last part of the book deals with make-up,
grooming, manners, and hosting get-togethers.
While I found this a little off-the-beaten-
track for this type of book, what I did notice
throughout was a resounding message that
women can be and should be confident, secure
individuals. The way you dress and act in
public reflect how you feel about yourself.
What ties it all together is that your fitness
program can be a major step in upping your
self-confidence. I think that's very true.
I know for myself, the more fit I am, the
better I feel about myself - and it shows in
business and personal relationships. Either
that, or it's just old age - after 37 years,
you've embarrassed or made a fool of yourself
so many times, that you just don't have the
energy to be insecure anymore!!!
I thought this was very informative, especially regarding nutrition. So many who want to lose fat, starve themselves. The FIRM advocates cutting back to approx. 1700 cals to lose, (and not less than 1200) and about 2000 for maintaining. They also recommend "clean" eating, (what we all need) and a higher protein than the food guide pyramid, which they say is for the sedentary. So much good info! I also enjoyed reading about their instructors and the origins of The FIRM, as well as the success stories. The chapter FIRM Spirits, (I questioned the reasoning for putting this in... some of it is opinion, not fact.) did have some things to think about. I highly recommend this book for anyone serious about changing their body. Their workout and dietary princiiples truly worked for me! I will re-read this and refer to it often.
I will try not to repeat what others have said. Having just returned from the Road Trip to Columbia and meeting Anna Benson and some of the instructors profiled in the tape, I just want to say that I liked the book before, but now it will become an extremely useful tool for improving my horrible diet.
The nutrition information is superb. I enjoyed learning about the early days of the Firm, although I would have liked more on Susan Harris included.
Much of the information is from "20 Questions about Fitness" but I like that because now I can have a portable version of this great informational tape. "20 Questions: is without a Doubt a classic.
I even liked the parts devoted to etiquette and style. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to change her life.
Amy R. Steppe
This is a really unusual little book which tries to cover a lot of different ground.
First of all, it is only in small part a fitness book, and most of the fitness information is old if you've already seen the FIRM's 20 Questions video; however, it's nice to have the information in printed form too.
Of the other chapters, I found the one on how they got started the most interesting, and I too smiled at the comments they made about Oprah Winfrey's fitness guru, who stresses calorie ristriction and aerobic exercise over weight training. I bet if Oprah tried the FIRM for 10 workouts, she'd fire that Bob Anderson. It just goes to show that tons of money doesn't necessarily get you a better workout.
I was looking forward to reading more about some of the FIRM's classic instructors, but there was hardly anything about them. Of Susan Harris they simply write "an instructor named Susan Harris". ( It almost reminds me of what former employers say about past employees who they can't stand but don't want to be sued: "Yes, she was employed here for X period of time, but we can't comment further") If you're a conspiracy buff you'd almost think there was bad blood between Susan Harris and the FIRM, which is too bad since I think she was very instrumental in the FIRM's success.
There is a chapter on diet which I thought was pretty bad since one of the instructors recommends drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk which is very dangerous.
The weirdest part of the book was the chapter called "FIRM Spirits" which makes it's two authors seem really conceited. They seem to have this idea of themselves as true Renaissance women. The appendix even includes a reading list so that we readers (the common rabble?) can be more like them!? Hey, I wouldn't mind looking like them, but I'm happy being myself. Thank you.
The Bensons sure seem to know their stuff BUT they sure don't cut any slack for their competitors. The phrase "building themselves up by cutting others down" seems to be their motto. I honestly could not read this book because I got tired of reading their slams at other fitness pros and of their patting themselves on the back so hard. I'm sure the information in the book is useful, but I resented paying good money for an advertisement.
This book seems to have been planned with a definite format: bad chapter, good chapter, bad chapter, good chapter. . . The first chapter is a prolonged and excessive pat on the back from the Benson sisters to the Benson sisters, alternating with body blows to other fitness professionals. I wouldn't call that starting off on the right foot. Although to give them the benefit of the doubt, they DID overcome a lot of opposition and created an awesome product, so their pride in themselves is pretty justifiable. Nonetheless, I didn't want to hear it! Their facts about exercise in the next two chapters make the whole book worthwhile. Totally inspiring information that will motivate the heck out of you! WELL WORTH the price of the book! The "Firm Fuel" chapter seemed a little extreme to me. The nugget of gold that I got out of it was that exercisers need MORE protein than the food pyramid recommends. However, I found their approach to food to be totally joyless and ascetic. The exercises they recommend in the next chapter as being foundational are well photographed and described, although I'd rather do a Firm tape myself. Nonetheless, good information there. Firm spirits was a chapter I could skip, again the Benson sisters seemed to think that the Benson sisters are the epitome of grace, beauty, strength, intelligence, and social skills. They overdid it just a little! Which isn't to say that there aren't some good suggestions here. My biggest hoot came from Anna's suggested reading list. She lists "The Holy Bible, King James Version" with the comment "The definitive text for Western spirituality". I was ROTFLOL over that one. I'm sure God is glad He has the Benson sisters approval!
Overall, this is a good book. I got a lot of interesting information out of it. I would definitely recommend reading it, perhaps not buying it. There is a whole philosophy of what it means to be feminine here that I don't necessarily agree with. But I'm open to learning what I can from these two undeniably successful women.
I purchased this book from EBay (to re-sell) and I glanced through it before selling it. It was fairly interesting to read about the Firm and how they got started, but I have to say I was very disappointed with the way the writers "cut up" other fitness instructors (especially Jane Fonda and Oprah's trainer) - it really put a bad taste in my mouth. Whether they are right or not about their feelings about these fitness instructors, to me it seemed in poor taste (and almost made me feel embarrassed for them because it made them look really bad. There was a sense of conceit all through the book which was really unappealing and unnecessary. Everyone already admires the Benson sisters and The Firm, so there is no need for them to write a book where they are constantly praising themselves and talking about how their approach is so much better than this instructor or that instructor.
Anyway...just my two cents. I have many Firm videos and I really love them, so I guess that's why I was disappointed with the lowliness of some of the material in this book.