"God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure."
Eat, sweat, Play
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Anna Kessel, London, Macmillan, 2016. ISBN 978-1-5098-0809-0Anna Kessel expresses her purpose in writing the book as follows: “This book is about encouraging women and girls to reclaim sport on their own terms. It is not a lecture about health, but rather an invitation to discover the fun and fulfilment in physical activity and everything that had brings – from better emotional stability to better relationships”.
The story of how Anna Kessel went from being a girl who always tried to skip PE at school to a sports journalist and enthusiastic runner is interwoven with examples from many interviews undertaken across the whole spectrum of women in sport.
The book deals with the traditional arguments that exercise is unfeminine, impossible during pregnancy, difficult for young mothers or during the menopause. It deals with the rampant sexism that Kessel and all the women experience as working professionals in the male dominated world of sport – whether the sexual innuendo or are being asked if he had come to make the tea for the men and the temptation to pretend to be a bloke in order to survive - and the concern of sportswomen that people value their appearance over their sporting achievements.
But much beyond countering the negativity, the book argues for sport as a force for good in women’s lives – building confidence and empowering them. The book even argues that success in sport (and success is interpreted much more widely than just “winning”) can lead to success in life. As one businesswoman said of recruiting sports: “As a sportsperson you’re not offended by criticism, you just use them to improve, and that’s a skill I think a lot of people who haven’t been in sport don’t have”.
Kessell does not pull her punches: “Enjoying sport shouldn’t be akin to joining a private members’ club where you need to be vouched for, learn a secret knock and possess a pair of testicles”.
An excellent and thought-provoking book.