Firm for Life: A Lifelong Plan for Fitness, Strength, Energy and Overall Good Health
By Cynthia Benson, Anna Bruni Benson
The FIRM was the first fitness program to prove, after extensive research, that aerobics and weight training could (and should) be combined. The result is a super effective workout that gives three times the fat loss of aerobics alone. And, unlike aerobics, The FIRM workout rebuilds the strength (the muscle tissue) that age takes away. It also does a better job of preventing brittle bones and possibly heart disease and stroke as well.
Being "beautiful and youthful" is, in simplest medical terms, nothing more than having a high lean-to-fat body composition ratio. Only The FIRM's "aerobic weight training" simultaneously reverses both the muscle loss and the fat gain of aging. With The FIRM workout, dramatic exercise results are finally within reach of anyone with a VCR and a willingness to work. In the exercise world that's an historic event.
The FIRM difference has already changed many lives. The FIRM has a hardcore following of perhaps half a million "FIRM Believers," both in our exercise studios and through our videos, who express their gratitude to The FIRM in person, in letter, in e-mail. They report that our workouts not only did wonders for their bodies but in so many cases transformed their general outlook on life as well.
Jane Fonda's office once doubted the authenticity of letters to The FIRM. In 1988, they demanded verification when we reprinted a letter from Maryland in which a FIRM user described a Fonda video as a comparative "joke." We sent a representative sampling of similar letters from FIRM users, and never heard from Fonda's office again.
By conservative estimates, many hundreds of thousands of FIRM users have discovered dramatic results they didn't see with videos by Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, Richard Simmons, and a hundred other representatives of the reigning "exercise establishment." And due in part to The FIRM's work, women's weight lifting is currently the fastest growing activity in exercise. Even Richard Simmons began promoting weight training-sort of. Simmons has a new companion to his sweatin' tapes: his tonin tapes with rubber band resistance.
In a 1996 infomercial, Simmons waxed philosophical about his combination of sweatin and tonin'. As if he had invented the movement, Simmons mused wryly that everyone in fitness seems to be "jumpin' on the bandwagon." (Simmons's tonin' tapes came out years after the key research broke. Welcome aboard.)
For the FIRM Believers and for those of you who have yet to get acquainted with us, we're writing this book to teach you not only our unique approach to exercise, but also the cornerstones of FIRM philosophy: boosting energy levels all day long, staying motivated and upbeat, maximizing nutrition, and reshaping your body while reversing the aging process. We'll draw from the testimonials of FIRM Believers and instructors, including some amazing makeovers, and we'll give you the science behind the exercise and eating plans we recommend-all in accessible, plain English.
We want FIRM for Life to serve as your twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week personal trainer-keeping you on the straight and narrow as you move toward your goals. And while The FIRM fitness program is essential, FIRM training tips will help you achieve lifestyle goals. You'll discover the strong and positive correlation between physical and emotional health and your quality of life. There's no doubt that The FIRM exercise programs work; here we'll prove to you that The FIRM lifestyle is every bit as effective.
How in the world did two sisters from South Carolina, without a celebrity spokesperson or a big bankroll, create and bring to market America's top-selling workout videos? We attribute our success to the raw power of a better idea, to our faith that better science eventually wins, and to a family tree ripe with energetic female role models. But most of all, we are grateful to you, The FIRM video users. Thank you for making our work possible. As our work enriches your life, so do your letters enrich ours. Thank you for your many thoughtful letters.
So if you have a workout goal, and you're vaguely ready to commit to it, you've come to the right book! And if you don't have a workout goal yet, this book will give you the motivation you need to commit to a plan! In return, we promise that you'll see a firmer, shapelier, stronger you in just ten workouts (or less); you'll burn fat three times as fast as with aerobics alone; and, best of all, you'll not be bored! But first let's tell you a little about ourselves, our background, and how the concept of The FIRM came to be.
Getting to Know Us
We're fifth generation residents of Columbia, South Carolina-baby boomers with a family background that prepared us to fuse dreams with reality and confront the world of the exercise establishment. Our mother, a concert pianist, made her debut at Carnegie Hall when she was nineteen, but gave up a brilliantly promising career to marry and raise four daughters. Our father, a self-employed businessman, was energetic on weekends with all kinds of home projects. We watched him build goat stanchions (to hold the goats in place while we milked them), renovate the goat barn into a bachelor apartment, and build a swimming pool in the backyard for his four daughters. His hobby was calling square dancing, so early on we had an education in group movement to music-one of the cornerstones of The FIRM program.
Ours was a normal fifties father-conservative and ever concerned about the welfare of his girls. Mother, on the other hand, was a risk taker, a bit of a bohemian, and a pioneer who raised us on organic foods decades before it became fashionable. We'll never forget being ridiculed by the other school kids when we took brown bread sandwiches out of our lunch boxes!
A freethinker before her time, Mother read the works of Adele Davis in the mid-1950s. Something "clicked" and she realized that the American "establishment" way of feeding "embalmed" foods to people (especially infants and children) was terrible. Determined to raise a healthy family, she moved us to the country where we were physically active in activities such as growing our own produce, milking goats, making our own butter, and even killing chickens. Having taught us to be unafraid of work, our parents also encouraged us to develop a skill to earn pocket money. (They didn't believe in giving allowances.) Anna taught swimming classes in the backyard, and Cynthia gave piano lessons.
Another great thing about our upbringing was that the house was always filled with artistic talent-cellists, violinists, singers-and project- oriented activity, which fueled our entrepreneurial drive to control our own lives and create a world for others.
At the University of South Carolina, Anna met her future husband and business partner, a young filmmaker named Mark Henriksen. After graduation, Anna and Mark went to Atlanta to edit a documentary film they'd been selected to make, and Cynthia emigrated to Beverly Hills to teach junior high school and subsequently work in commercial real estate. Cynthia always had a head for business and education, and Anna had the passion to create. We were a good team.
Around this time, 1977, Anna was shopping around for a cohesive exercise program. But every gym and studio she tried left her empty and bored, and she knew that boredom was absolute death to any form of exercise: If it bores you, you will quit. It's that simple. Anna claims that her initial motivation for establishing The FIRM was selfish. Since what she wanted and needed didn't exist, she invented a way to train herself that involved synchronization with music and a total body workout.
Since Mark had been lifting weights for a long time, in 1978 he encouraged Anna to bring a pair of dumbbells and ankle weights to her aerobics class. "Without weights, you'll be wasting your time," he advised.
It seemed logical to Mark and Anna that this brand new aerobic weight training combination would produce faster, more dramatic results than any workout class yet invented. Combining aerobics and weights would unite the best of both worlds: (1) the runner's leanness and endurance, and (2) the weight lifter's strength and shapeliness. Great idea. Why not?
Flash-forward seventeen years. In 1995 Dr. Kenneth Cooper (the venerable "father of aerobics") and other luminaries in America's "exercise establishment" revealed their research indicating that aerobics and strength training could be accomplished simultaneously, in one time-efficient workout.
It is ironic that scientific torchbearers such as the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) had previously perpetuated the unscientific belief that aerobic and weight workouts should be done separately. That core belief was based not on scientific research, but on an old gym myth that turned out to be false.
Back in 1978 Anna began using herself as a test subject/guinea pig for the new methodology. Using Mark's recommendations and her own instinctive training, she began selecting and redesigning the basic vocabulary of moves and sequences that would become the core of The FIRM system. As motivation, Anna drew on the usual scientific curiosity, but she also tapped personal vanity-the most common motivator. Anna reasoned that she pursued the same fitness goal as every other woman. Why not use the same motivator? Drawing on her years in the gym, Anna began finding the muscle isolations that she could really feel, within the low-tech/low-boredom parameters of aerobic weight training.
The new workout system results met her high expectations. As predicted, the two-in-one workout produced results. And in 1979 The FIRM's aerobic weight-training classes opened to the public in Charleston, South Carolina. It would be seven years until the first FIRM video was ready for release.