My girl Rachel Cosgrove – author of The Female Body Breakthrough which was one of my top 3 favorite Great Fitness Experiments ever – is back with her hotly anticipated follow-up book. And because she was kind enough to send me a review copy the Gym Buddies and I have been testing it out. We’ve been lifting. We’ve been sweating. We’ve been foam rolling. (Lie: I still don’t feel anything when I foam roll. I try it half-heartedly about every third workout.) And it’s been…
Okay, this is awkward.
I don’t know how else to say this other than I’m kind of disappointed. I didn’t want to be. I kinda feel like a traitor. I love Rachel, you guys. I adored her first book. It was life-changing for me. Between the FBB and The New Rules of Lifting For Women (her weight-lifting collaboration with her husband), I learned to love lifting heavy and embrace building muscle as a training goal as opposed to losing weight. She bucked the conventional wisdom and created new, challenging and creative workouts. Her new book? Well, I think this anecdote sums it up:
Every day for the past month I’ve been carrying her book to the gym with me, toting it around the weight floor and reading it while I stretch out. But I’ve been carrying it face down. I’m kind of embarrassed to be seen with it, frankly.
The title of her new book is Drop Two Sizes. (Subtitle: A Proven Plan to Ditch the Scale, Get the Body You Want & Wear the Clothes You Love!) I spent so much time trying to teach myself to stop caring about the number on the tag of my jeans that doing a 3-month workout designed for just that feels like a step backward. To be honest, we all know that I do still care about my stupid jeans. Probably more than I should. But that’s why I needed Rachel in my corner again, telling me I’m strong and strong is beautiful! Her first book helped me “build a butt” to fill out my jeans – and I love my butt now! I want more butt! (Metaphorically speaking.)Plus she was the one who explained to me the problems with “chronic cardio” and that was a major revelation for this cardio queen!
Now, I’m not against losing weight or clothing sizes or looking hot as a motivator to workout. Heaven knows that’s definitely part of why I do what I do. I just kind of wish it wasn’t the main point of the book. And I really wish it wasn’t printed in two-inch letters on the front. In pink. If the men on the weight floor already didn’t take me seriously, they certainly won’t now. Also? It’s not Rachel on the cover. I loved having Rachel on the cover of the last book because she’s not the typical “fitness model” but she’s strong and gorgeous and real – and living proof that her method works. And they replaced real Rachel with a non-attainable, stock photo fitness model who, as Gym Buddy Krista pointed out, likely looked that way before she ever met Rachel. Plus, she’s doing that whole coy-cute jumping model move. She’s not even lifting or anything.
For comparison, here’s her first book. Show off those guns, girl!
But once you get past the cover things get better. She reminds you again that weight is not a good indicator of health or fitness. She gives you some great tips for handling the mental side of training and weight loss. There are a ton of before-and-after pictures with success stories from her clients. There’s also some diet advice and a meal plan that she outsourced to her food guy, registered dietitian Chris Mohr. I’m not doing the diet aspect of the book (I stopped doing food Experiments a couple of years ago after they brought on the crazy voices too much) but the recipes and plans are pretty much standard magazine fare. Very low calorie, low-fat and aligning well with conventional wisdom eat-a-handful-of-almonds-for-a-snack generic. I was a little surprised to see “1 c cooked oatmeal (1/2 c dry), 1/2 c berries” for one of the breakfast options. Where’s the protein? Where’s the fat? And how is 160 calories – or 250 if you cook it with a cup of milk – supposed to get you through to lunch much less through one of her workouts? I also added up the calories from one day of meals and it just topped 1000 calories which seems like way too little food to me, especially if you want to build muscle. But I’m not a dietitian so take that as just my personal opinion.
Drop Two Sizes is also nicely organized in that she lists everything by day. It’s a 12-week program divided into three phases. You workout 4-6 times per week, alternating between two weight workouts and two metabolic circuits made up of body weight exercises. Each day is listed as its own page in the book with the day’s menu, the workout and a motivational activity so you’ve got it all in one place. She has lots of handy calendars and charts with which to track your progress.
The workouts however are Rachel’s forte and where she really shines in both books. The Gym Buddies and I have been sore after almost every workout and have enjoyed returning to her singular dynamic warm-up. We love the short-but-hard weight lifting workouts. You’ll recognize a lot of the moves from her first book and also from her column in Women’s Health (in the May issue she even gives you one of the two phase I workouts straight from the book to try out). Do note however that unlike her first book, this book’s weight routines require a bit more equipment: you’ll need access to a set of dumbbells, kettlebells, cable machine and a TRX (or creative substitutions). For me these workouts are the main draw of the book. If you loved the workouts from her first book (or from NROLFW or her kick-butt Spartacus series) then this will provide some serialized moves to add to your repertoire. And of course she’s got great illustrations of how to do each move.
My one small quibble with this book’s weight workouts is that she seems to have lost her zeal for getting women to lift heavy. I realize that “heavy” is relative depending on your fitness level but I’m not sure anyone is served by being advised to “pick a kettlebell about as much as your purse weighs.” Unless you’re hauling a 30-pound backpack around. And then mad props to you. For the record my purse weighs 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Yes I weighed it. On my food scale. Because I’m awesome and I love tiny purses. I do not, however, love tiny kettlebells. Reader/blog-friend Rachael, who has also read it, summed it up pretty well in an e-mail, saying, “I know *I* will not be selecting a kettlebell based on the weight of my purse. Can’t she compare it to a gallon of milk or something? A rotisserie chicken? A HAMMER? ” Girl, I love you so hard. Henceforth I’m totally selecting all my weights based on their comparison to cooked animals or blunt objects.
If this book had come from anyone else I would have read it and thought it was fine. Not earth shattering, the dietary advice a little iffy, but I got some good workout moves out of it and the pictures are great. But because it came from Rachel, I think I felt a bit betrayed. And so perhaps this review isn’t quite fair. Maybe no sequel could have lived up to my expectations. Maybe I idealized her first book too much. Maybe I’ve had too many pretend conversations with her in my head and now I think we’re friends or something. (I’m weird. But you should hear my convos with Shawn T! We should do stand-up comedy together, we’re that good.) And it must be pointed out that the Gym Buddies and I have only done the workouts from phases I and II so perhaps my opinion will change once we’ve completed the whole 12 weeks. But I felt like I had to write something now because I was such a champion of her first book and so I’ve had a TON of readers/friends/random people ask me about this book. So here it is.
I’m not trying to be an ingrate but I can’t be anything but totally honest with you guys: I don’t love it. The Gym Buddies definitely don’t love it. And this makes me sad.
Have any of you got a chance to check out Drop Two Sizes yet? What do you think – am I being too hard on her? Am I the only one who is kind of bugged by that cover? How do you choose your kettlebells?? Have you ever read a book that you had to carry face down or cover it with a brown bag or something?
P.S. The links to the amazon page for this book are NOT affiliate. I can’t really recommend it at this point and I don’t want you guys to think I’m trying to sell you on something I don’t love.