Natalia Mehlman Petrzela + Amanda Mull: Fit Nation

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Natalia Mehlman Petrzela + Amanda Mull: Fit Nation

Join us for an in-person event with historian of American politics Natalia Mehlman Petrzela for a discussion of her new book Fit Nation.

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Strand Book Store 828 Broadway 3rd Floor, Rare Book Room New York, NY 10003

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About this event

Join us for an in-person event with historian of contemporary American politics and culture and certified fitness instructor Natalia Mehlman Petrzela for a discussion of her new book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession. Joining Natalia in conversation is staff writer at The Atlantic Amanda Mull. This event will be hosted in the Strand Book Store's 3rd floor Rare Book Room at 828 Broadway on 12th Street.

Can’t make the event? Purchase a signed copy of Fit Nation here.

STRAND IN-PERSON EVENT COVID-19 POLICY:

All patrons may be required to provide proof of vaccination and/or wear a mask *per the author’s discretion.

*Proof of vaccination will be defined as either an original vaccination card, Excelsior Pass or its equivalent. We will be checking to ensure compliance with the 14 day waiting period post-vaccination.

Registration will be required online. No tickets for entry will be sold at the door.

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How is it that Americans are more obsessed with exercise than ever, and yet also unhealthier? Fit Nation explains how we got here and imagines how we might create a more inclusive, stronger future.

If a shared American creed still exists, it’s a belief that exercise is integral to a life well lived. A century ago, working out was the activity of a strange subculture, but today, it’s almost impossible to avoid exhortations to exercise: Walk 5K to cure cancer! Awaken your inner sex kitten at pole-dancing class! Sweat like (or even with) a celebrity in spin class! Exercise is everywhere.

Yet the United States is hardly a “fit nation.” Only 20 percent of Americans work out consistently, over half of gym members don’t even use the facilities they pay for, and fewer than 30 percent of high school students get an hour of exercise a day. So how did fitness become both inescapable and inaccessible?

Spanning more than a century of American history, Fit Nation answers these questions and more through original interviews, archival research, and a rich cultural narrative. As a leading political and intellectual historian and a certified fitness instructor, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is uniquely qualified to confront the complex and far-reaching implications of how our contemporary exercise culture took shape. She explores the work of working out not just as consumers have experienced it, but as it was created by performers, physical educators, trainers, instructors, and many others.

For Petrzela, fitness is a social justice issue. She argues that the fight for a more equitable exercise culture will be won only by revolutionizing fitness culture at its core, making it truly inclusive for all bodies in a way it has never been. Examining venues from the stage of the World’s Fair and Muscle Beach to fat farms, feminist health clinics, radical and evangelical college campuses, yoga retreats, gleaming health clubs, school gymnasiums, and many more, Fit Nation is a revealing history that shows fitness to be not just a matter of physical health but of what it means to be an American.

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela + Amanda Mull: Fit Nation image

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and associate professor of history at the New School. A certified fitness instructor, she has worked out at home and in gyms for nearly three decades. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and her work has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and CNN. She is coproducer and host of the acclaimed podcast Welcome to Your Fantasy and cohost of the Past Present podcast. She lives in New York City.

Photo credit: Sylvie Rosokoff

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela + Amanda Mull: Fit Nation image

Amanda Mull is a staff writer at The Atlantic. Before joining the magazine in 2018, Amanda wrote for publications including New York magazine, Rolling Stone, Vox, and Elle. At The Atlantic, Amanda covers health—in the broadest possible sense of the word—and writes “Material World,” a regular column on American consumerism.