Fitness booklets NEED to make a comeback! Self-produced pamphlets & fan-zines are, quite rightly (in my opinion), already making a huge comeback as people take advantage of super cheap printing. They can get their work out there and at the same time circumvent the constrictive ‘rules’ of publishing. I believe there is still a market for the humble fitness booklet (and personal correspondence, but I will come to that), and this is why…
It used to be that for $0.25 (or £0.10!) you could get your hands on a small booklet that would help you to learn almost anything! Once you mastered the basics you could then move on to a correspondence course, where on a pay-as-you-go schedule you could gradually build up your knowledge (or your body) on a monthly basis. These small but packed publications could fit easily in your pocket to be brought out to fill in a spare moment or for reference. Notations were made in pencil and there was a sense of OWNERSHIP about these cheaply produced little publications.
The advent of cheaper book publishing, and then the internet of course, killed a lot of small presses off. As younger people move away from the information saturation of the internet however, and older people seek to rediscover the real ‘feel’ of the printed page, small pamphlets / booklets are once more finding their way into peoples hands.
I buy up vintage fitness pamphlets and fitness booklets whenever I see them. I was fortunate some years ago to buy a complete collection of what was referred to on the box as ‘Bodybuilding Courses.’ They had belonged to a young man who had worked his way through a variety of home-based exercise programmes. One of the programmes was the course by a gentleman named Thomas Inch, at one time Britain’s Strongest Youth and then Britain’s Strongest Man. Scanned below are three letters to the young man (Mr. Granville). I don’t know about you, but I would feel MUCH more motivated if I received letters like these along with monthly workout schedules and plans.
I particularly love the line:
You will realise that I am deviating from the usual run of the course, but this is according to my judgment [sic] of your case and your requirements and hope this is clear to you.
Now if “Britain’s Leading Physical Culturist and Health Specialist told you that, wouldn’t YOU feel special!!”
Your measurements are good but of course I will improve you…
BOOM! Also – how fabulous is it that he asks for a REPORT!
I include this last letter as an example of early fitness marketing. It is just an extra little note offering a £5 (and five shilling) course for £2 (cash only). That is over 50% saving AND of course:
I guarantee utmost satisfaction!
Online Fitness Booklets
You may argue of course that the tone of these letters is exactly what modern fitness professionals are going for – and you are right. Many programmes have forums now, so you can interact with fitness professionals, or people are encouraged to join Instagram groups and post their selfies online. They are basically online fitness booklets and correspondence courses. Back in the day however it was all about YOU and the MIRROR. You motivated YOURSELF, you worked out in SECRET.
I don’t believe in looking backwards just for the sake of it, but on the subject of BASIC fitness levels for ALL, I think we have lost our way a little and made things WAY more complicated than they need to be. Luckily however the information WE need is all out there, some of it 30 – 50 -100 years old now. I want to present it to you (or point you to towards it), and help you through it for the simple reason I GENUINELY enjoy this stuff!
Look fit by feeling great!