“When you are an active, athletic person living in a body that does not look like a traditionally athletic body, prepare yourself for skepticism, cynicism, and outright disbelief,” writes the author of such books as Good in Bed, Best Friends Forever, and In Her Shoes, later made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine. Consider this a two-for-one: Weiner’s new book, Big Summer, out now from Atria, is the season’s perfect beach read. Meanwhile, Weiner knows that beach entertainment is only half the battle—you also have to feel comfortable in your skin. So that when people ask, “You do what? You rode your bike how far? You hiked for how long? You’ve done boxing, or HIIT, or boot camp, or barre? You?,” you can tell them, kindly and patiently, “Yes.”
“You will explain that you exercise because it keeps you healthy and it keeps you sane, and no, you aren’t actually trying to lose weight—you just like to move,” says Weiner. “And maybe, after the skeptics and the cynics and the outright disbelievers take their doubt elsewhere, someone in a body that does not look like a traditionally athletic body—a body that looks like yours—will sidle up and quietly ask, Could I do that, too? Yes, you will tell her. Yes, you can. And you will give her one of these books.”
Slow Fat Triathlete, by Jayne Williams
“Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now,” reads the cover, above an image of a sizable woman, smiling broadly as she runs along the water. Sold. Written in a wry, funny, matter-of-fact voice, this book was my bible as I trained for my first sprint-distance triathlon. Having it was like having a practical and wise big sister running or swimming or biking alongside you, telling you what to wear and what to eat and that, yes, you need to practice getting out of the water, into your shoes, and onto your bike.
Running with a Police Escort: Tales from the Back of the Pack, by Jill Grunenwald
Once upon a time, there was a woman who didn’t fit in. While her peers were swooning over boy bands or mourning for Kurt Cobain, she was listening to Barbra: The Concert. While her peers were on the playground, she was inside, reading a book. This is the story of how an unlikely runner decided to lace up her shoes and show up for herself. Frank, funny, 100 percent relatable, the perfect gift for any exercise-curious women in your life.
A Beautiful Work in Progress, by Mirna Valerio
Being plus-size and white is one thing. Being plus-size and a person of color means you’ll get double the side-eye when you take to the streets, or the sidewalk, or the gym, or the yoga studio. Valerio’s book is the story of her journey as an ultra-distance runner, and as a person who insists on her own worth and visibility in the world.
Every Body Yoga, by Jessamyn Stanley
The subtitle of the book is “Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love your Body.” Part three isn’t easy, but this book—part memoir, part instruction manual, with gorgeous illustrations—is making it possible. I especially appreciate Stanley’s insistence that, with every pose, her practitioners get comfortable with taking up space. If you can do it on the mat, you can do it in the world.