It’s 7:00am and you have another busy day ahead. Your kids are fighting over who gets the last of their favorite brand of cereal, you’re almost out of coffee and toilet paper, and you’re going to be late for work because you have to stop by the DMV to renew your driver’s license. Your daughter has to be at a friend’s house by 5:00pm for a birthday party and your son just told you that he needs a new pair of shoes. Exercise is the last thing on your mind today, but if you’re trying to stick with a healthy routine and get in shape, you need to find the motivation to stay with your plan and fit exercise into your schedule.
When your energy and motivation are at a low point, sometimes it helps to read about how other people have coped with the challenge of getting in shape and staying in shape, even in the middle of busy or difficult situations. Here are nine books that will help inspire you to keep with your self-improvement routine – or maybe they’ll inspire you to start one!
Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now
by Jayne Williams
If you’re out of shape and overweight, you might be discouraged before you even start your exercise routine. Many people who want to lose weight by exercising feel self-conscious when they start, especially if even the simplest exercise is difficult for them to do. When you read Jayne Williams’ story, though, you’ll see that anyone can start exercising and getting in shape. This book will help you get that image out of your head that’s slowing you down – you know, the one that’s labeled “this is what an athlete looks like.” The image of a woman who is slim and can run quickly, who looks good in her yoga pants; the person you want to be, but are afraid you’ll never become. Instead, you’ll realize that you’re already an athlete. You just need to find out how to reach your full potential. And you need to find out how to have fun doing it. Even if you’ve never wanted to compete in a triathlon, reading about how Williams went from couch potato to competitive athlete will give you the inspiration you need to pull on those tennis shoes and get out the door – today.
A Life Without Limits
by Chrissie Wellington
Wellington went from office worker to international triathlete, and although her story and goals might not match yours, you’ll enjoy reading about her journey to the top. She also provides diet and exercise tips that you can use to focus on your own exercise program. Sometimes reading about someone who keeps going, no matter what, is all you need to boost your own willpower, challenge yourself, and reach your own goals.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you’ll get a lot out of this true story of a young woman who went on a walk of more than 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon. While it’s not specifically a book about how to exercise, it’s definitely full of a lot of activity – Strayed does the thousand-plus miles in only three months (an average of about 12 miles per day). This personal story documents her journey towards achieving emotional and mental health, something as important as reaching her next day’s hiking goal. The book covers difficult topics like domestic abuse, drug use, marriage problems, death, casual sex, and more, so it’s not a book that some people will be comfortable reading. However, it’s fascinating to watch how Strayed’s self-image changes along with her physical form as she continues to press forward through desert heat and mountain snow. One main theme in the story is the inspiration Strayed finds from reading books – and that’s something you can learn from, by using her book to find inspiration for yourself.
Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180
by Mike Magnuson
Like Jayne Williams’ book “Slow Fat Triathlete,” this book shows you how to go from XXL to extra-special. Try reading both books to get the male perspective as well as the female one. If you’ve got a teenage boy who doesn’t want to do anything but sit around and play video games, this entertaining book might be what he needs. It’s both a warning of the dangers of not getting exercise, and an inspiration for people to change their habits and their goals, no matter what shape they’re in right now. You might want to read the book before you give it to your son, though – it does cover adult situations like drinking too much, and the language is often more suited for adults as well.
Racing Dawn: How A Crazy Mom With 5 Kids Ran 12 Marathons In 12 Months
by Dawn Lauti
Okay, this one might not be inspirational for everyone, but sometimes it’s good to read about people doing things you’d never want to do, just to see how they did it. Talk about fitting things into a tight schedule! It’s a short book (less than 100 pages) but it’s something you might be able to use to jump-start your own exercise plans. It focuses on how it’s not just physical energy, but mental energy, that helps people reach their goals. If you’re looking for something that will help you focus your willpower on getting healthy and getting out to exercise, this might be the book for you. Lauti is not a single parent, and she depended on her husband to help her reach the goal of one marathon a month, but it’s still a fun book to read (and at less than 100 pages, it will leave you plenty of time to do some exercise yourself).
The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete
by Matt Long
Some people have to overcome mental obstacles in their search for a healthy body or a better level of fitness, and some people have significant physical obstacles as well. Matt Long started out as a man at an already high level of health and fitness, working as a firefighter in New York City, competing in marathons and triathlons, and riding his bicycle to work. Unfortunately, one day he was hit by a bus as he was riding to work, and although his life was saved, he thought his competitive life was over. This is the story of how he got through both his physical pain and his mental pain to become a top athlete again.
Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment
by Suzanne Morrison
You might associate yoga with peace and calm and serenity, but Suzanne Morrison brings this ancient practice into the full light of modern life, with all of its noise and conflict. Morrison bases the first part of the book on the journal entries she made when she was 25 years old and lived in Bali for two months, studying yoga. She wasn’t a single mother, and she had the resources to fly to Bali, so this isn’t a book that everyone will connect with. On the other hand, it’s funny and revealing, and it’s interesting to see how Morrison takes what she learned from the experience to continue with the yoga practice when she returns to the United States. Yoga is a great way to get into shape and improve flexibility, circulation, and overall health. If you’ve been afraid to start a yoga program because you don’t match your mental image of a person who does yoga, reading Morrison’s book will convince you that anyone can do yoga – at least for a little while!
The Body Book
by Cameron Diaz
Wouldn’t it be great to have a movie-star body? Even better would be a movie-star life that would let you schedule your regular exercise routines easily, with the help of a personal trainer. And a private chef. And someone to give you a massage after your workout. But even if you don’t have all of those things, says author and movie star Cameron Diaz, you can learn to love and take care of your body so that you feel like a movie star no matter who or where you are. Diaz encourages every woman to stop thinking of themselves as out of shape, and start thinking that the shape they’re in now is beautiful. While she stresses that a healthy lifestyle is important, she wants people to realize that it’s also important to be honest about where they are now, and to appreciate the body they have. She’s honest about her own history, too; she didn’t really start getting in shape until she was over 25 years old, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do. The book includes some helpful ideas about nutrition, exercise, and keeping focused. Because Diaz talks about how she felt unattractive as a child, this might be a good book to give to your teenage girl to read, to help your daughter see that everyone is beautiful, even if they never become a movie star.
The Lazy Runner
by Laura Fountain
Reading this book by Laura Fountain is like having a friend whispering in your ear, encouraging you to keep going, and sympathizing with your desire to just stay home and watch television. This short book is ideal for anyone who wants to start running as their exercise routine, because Fountain describes how she first started out in a similar program. She talks about things to do and things to avoid, gives advice on what to wear and how to find the right shoes, and provides inspiration on how to just get out there and run, even when you don’t want to. If your goal is to get fit by pounding the pavement, then this is the book for you.