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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Product Review: The Intrinsic Exerciser: Discovering the Joy of Exercise

The Intrinsic Exerciser: Discovering the Joy of Exercise 
Jay C. Kimiecik

This book was kicking around on our shelves thanks to my lovely wife, and the concept seemed intriguing, so I read it.

At a baseline, the ideas in this book are interesting. Kimiecick argues that most successful exercisers are those who pursue exercise for intrinsic, rather than extrinsic motivations. In other words, while losing a few pounds or looking good for the ladies might be enough to get you started, it won't be enough to keep you going. To create a long-term, sustainable habit of exercise, you need to pursue exercise for internal reasons. Pursuit of "flow", the joy of movement, or an attempt to gain mastery provide far more reward and motivation than a simple pursuit of longevity or improved appearance, or so the argument goes.

I think the notion is probably sound, and there's some ideas in here that help explain why some people turn to things like the martial arts for fitness. When faced with the prospect of either stepping on a treadmill for hours at a time, or attempting to learn how to fight, the latter offers a path towards mastery that is more likely to keep people coming back. So there's definitely some food for thought in here.

Ultimately though, I found the book a bit too shallow and brief, without a lot of substance to it. Kimiecik cites numerous studies and authors, but never delves deeply into the evidence that supports his view that intrinsic exercise is the superior mindset. He offers some checklists and exercises to help turn you into an intrinsic exercise, but this isn't a full-blow program either. The inclusion of some seriously ridiculous neologisms (Inergy, Feelization) just annoys me. I really wish exercise and self-help gurus would stop trying to make up words for things. They usually just sound stupid.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure I can honestly recommend this book. If you're a coach or businessman, I think it provides some interesting insights into why people choose to exercise. If you're seeking motivation, it might help, but it's not brilliant in that regard either. If you're going to read it, get it from your local library, if you can.

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