Even if you’re a household name, succeeding at writing a book that comprehensively and persuasively covers the topics of inspiration, motivation, fitness, diet and nutrition is tougher than getting washboard abs – in large part because of the sheer volume of similar titles out there.
It’s like, OK, so what makes YOUR self-improvement plan better than the 57,982 others devised by the authors and gurus and celebrities who came before you?
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To that end, I’m not sure “Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan that will absolutely Change Your Life” – the new book by Danica Patrick, out Dec. 26 – will absolutely fulfill the promise in its title. Certainly not that of everyone who picks it up. But if you’re a fan of the soon-to-be-retired NASCAR star and you’re stuck in a workout rut or trying to rid yourself of bad eating habits, there are certainly worse tools you could use to try to turn things around.
Patrick, 35, gets things going by digging right into the title (“People say I’m pretty intense. Wouldn’t it be cool if ‘pretty intense’ was the way they talked about you, too?”) and laying out her promise: “It’s a high-intensity diet, fitness, and mental conditioning program ... (that) will reshape your body, calm your mind, and set you on the path to achieving life’s greatest goals. And it will be more fun than you ever imagined.”
To get to the good stuff, readers will have to wade through chapters full of affirmations and assurances (generally of the “we’re-going-to-build-a-new-and-amazing-you” variety), testimonials from “average” folks who say they got fit by following her program as guinea pigs (I got the picture after the third one, got annoyed after the sixth or seventh), and exclamation points. Lots and lots of exclamation points (at times, she used so many in a row I started to feel anxiety).
But most of the meat of “Pretty Intense” looks good.
Patrick’s program calls for five days a week of training, with two days each week where you’re doubling up in the morning and the afternoon/evening. There are three cardio sessions, an upper body day, a lower body day, an abs day, and a “long circuit” on the weekend.
Anyone with a running background may find the cardio portions too lightweight, especially early on. Week 1, for example, starts with a routine that consists of 5 minutes of fast walking, then 20 minutes where you alternate between jogging and walking every 60 seconds.
The strength and core segments, meanwhile, are reasonably challenging from the outset. Right before writing this, I did the Week 1 upper-body workout – 100 butt kickers, 100 jump rope and 100 jumping jacks, followed by five rounds of 20 knee push-ups, 20 bent-leg tricep dips, 20 Supermans and 20 jumping jacks – and worked up a decent sweat in my living room over the course of about 25 minutes.
There are exercises with names even experienced gym rats might not be familiar with (L-sit toe touches, commandos, snap jumps, mason twists, etc.), but she demos the form and technique for each of them at www.prettyintense.com, and they’re accessible alphabetically and load quickly.
She’s right when she says that workouts are work. (“Otherwise, they’d be called chill-outs,” she writes.) She’s right that when workouts get particularly punishing, you should lean on mantras – and she offers a rudimentary but practical trick to come up with ones for you to put in your repertoire. As someone who has run more than 20 marathons and completed two Ironman-distance triathlons, I personally think she’s a little too dismissive about the benefits of long-distance running, but she’s right: high-intensity interval training and working out twice a day instead of once can pay big dividends.
For the record, Patrick doesn’t claim to have any personal training certifications, just like she doesn’t claim to have attended culinary school (the two-day course she took at the Culinary Institute of America and her guest spot on “Chopped” don’t count). But careful reads of her thoughts about cooking have the ring of someone with a ton of experience and confidence in the kitchen, even if her philosophy – when spelled out – hews closely to that of many other athlete-friendly and Paleo cookbooks published in recent years.
Repeat after her: Processed foods bad, real food good; naturally raised meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts are your friends; sugar and table salt are your enemies.
Of her 48 personal recipes, the only one that raised an eyebrow for me was the Perfect Grilled Steak. Though it’s good reminder that you should make sure the steak comes up to room temperature before grilling, her long description of how to grill it would probably only be of use to someone who has zero concept of how to properly cook one.
A number of her creations look terrific, though, and I imagine that over the holidays I’ll be whipping up a batch of her Simple Waffles (made from coconut oil, eggs, vanilla extract, honey, almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda and unsweetened almond milk) and giving her Curry Turkey Burgers with Caramelized Onions a go. Also at the top of my to-do list: the Five-Spice Roasted Cauliflower and some Almond Cookies.
I have to say, also, that her presentation is terrific. The directions appear to be easy to follow, and the styling of the food and the photographs – taken by Patrick herself – are gorgeous.
The book just kind of ends after the cooking portion, which is followed immediately by an Acknowledgments section that is, sadly, already outdated: In the third paragraph, she writes “Thank you to my love, Ricky, for putting up with me during the long and exhausting process of writing the workout program, testing all the workouts, writing and editing all the chapters, trying new recipes...” As you may have read, she and longtime boyfriend/fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just recently broke up.
But with this book (and the 2017 debuts of her clothing line, her wine and her solid EPIX documentary), Danica Patrick is ending a year of building her brand beyond the racetrack on a pretty high – and yes, “Pretty Intense” – note.
More on ‘Pretty Intense’
“Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan that will absolutely Change Your Life,” by Danica Patrick with Stephen Perrine, will be available on Dec. 26 wherever books are sold. List price is $30 but most retailers are selling it for less; Amazon, for instance, is currently offering it for $18.56 in hardcover and $14.99 on Kindle.
Want to meet the author? Patrick will sign copies of the book at an event on 7 p.m. Jan. 4 at Barnes & Noble’s Arboretum location (3327 Pineville-Matthews Road).