The Book Nerd’s Guide to Incorporating Books Into Your Workouts

Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. Find past guides here.

The Internet tells me people are very interested in fitness these days. The emergence of footgolf seems to reinforce this evidence: we’re so desperate to be active, we’ve resorted to just making stuff up.

Of course, I use the term “we” loosely. Recreational hand-eye coordination is difficult when one’s hand is holding up a book (though having your nose in a book does make it a lot more difficult to get nailed in the face with a dodgeball). Thus, I am not popular in league play.

That said, even I can understand the importance of staying in shape. There are too many books in the world to read to let ill health stand in the way of reading. But I propose a compromise: so as not to waste too much precious time away from our books on the elliptical machine, let’s work out with them.

“You’re crazy, Nicole!” I can almost hear you say. That observation is entirely irrelevant, friend. I say your books can be your best fitness friends. And here’s how, unbelievers!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. No More Arm Flab
At 1,024 pages, even the paperback version of Susanna Clarke’s fantasy opus will serve you well when working up a sweat. With a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in each hand, 30 biceps curls will feel more like misery than magic. But I’m told that’s the ideal sensation during exercise.

R.L. Stine’s Treadmill of Terror

  1. Pick up a copy of any Fear Street novel.
  2. Begin walking on treadmill.
  3. Walk until a mention of Fear Street or a member of the Fear family.
  4. Run until a teenager makes a bad decision.
  5. Walk until the next bad decision.
  6. Alternate pattern until finishing the book.
  7. Die. Probably.

It Ain’t Magic. It’s Leg Day.
No need for weights to get a nice leg workout: just use your favorite fantasy series. Start with A Song of Ice and Fire (5 books), add the Outlander series (8), then the Harry Potter books (7). That’s not to mention The Chronicles of Narnia (7) or The Lord of the Rings (3). Many of those entries have the heft equivalents of toddlers. And by the end, you will have the gluteus maximus of a bookish gladiator. (I assume Russell Crowe studying The Epic of Gilgamesh was edited out of Gladiator for time.)

Yoga’tta Keep Turning the Page
If you think about it, yoga and reading go hand in hand—or hand in foot, or foot in shoulder blade, depending on how flexible you’ve become. Both are intended to soothe and strengthen the mind. Neither require you to jostle around much. I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to hold Downward Facing Dog if I’m looking at more than just a yoga mat, or my own nascent leg muscles. Just be sure you’ve got the right book. Don’t plop down some crackling, fast-paced Gillian Flynn as you’re heading into the Crow Pose, because you’ll need those hands to flip the pages.

The Spinning
Got an exercise bike? A Stephen King novel? A healthy sense of self-preservation—or at least a deep-seated fear of clowns, prom, and psychopaths? Then you’ve got a workout, and possibly a need for fresh athletic pants.

See, that was no sweat. I’ll let you work that up when you fill your gym bag with Murakami’s collected works and head out the door.

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