I’ll admit it’s not easy staying in shape, and at times I seem to be fighting a losing battle. In the middle of the winter, curling up with a good book is much more appealing than going out for a long walk on a sub-zero day. But on most days I do try. In nice weather I go for a lot of walks; in colder or rainy weather I’ll return to the treadmills in the fitness center where I live. I attend yoga classes off-and-on, or do some yoga at home, to work on my balance and flexibility. And I even have a few free weights to do some strength training. Perhaps it’s my own efforts in this regard, but lately I’ve been longing to read about contemporary romance heroines who squeeze in a bit of exercise into their lives.
I’m specifically interested in contemporary romance heroines, because, let’s face, it, reading that a Regency era heroine has a fitness room or that she regularly hikes up her skirts and jogs just wouldn’t be appropriate. And most paranormal or urban fantasy heroines either seem to regularly stay in shape to survive, or have very specific natural abilities and powers that endow them with extra strength and speed. But what about your average contemporary romance heroine? And by average, I mean a non-athlete heroine who manages to fit in a bit of exercising into her regular routine.
Most of the contemporary heroines I’ve been reading about lately seem to be lucky; they’re svelte and have curves in just the right places without seeming to do anything to stay that way. Now I don’t expect the average romance heroine to have access to an in-home fitness facility like the heroines in Nora Roberts’ Bridal Quartet. Unless they’re unbelievably wealthy, not everyone can afford a home facility as described in this passage from Bed of Roses:
“CNN muttered away on the flat screen while Parker, her phone’s earbud in place, racked up her miles on the elliptical. Emma scowled at the Bowflex as she stripped off her sweatshirt. She turned her back on it and the recumbent bike, on the rack of free weights, the shelf of DVDs with their perky or earnest instructors who might take her through a session of yoga or pilates, torture her with the exercise ball, or intimidate her with tai chi.”
Once in a while I’ll encounter a heroine who runs. Olivia, the heroine of Victoria Dahl’s Bad Boys Do regularly runs for fitness. The scenes don’t take up a lot of time, often only a sentence or two such as this brief passage, “Olivia had run for nearly two hours, and strangely, after that long run, she’d found it much easier to breathe.” While short in nature, this adds dimension to Olivia’s character. She runs to stay in shape, but also to relieve stress.
I encounter a lot of contemporary romance heroines who occasionally wear yoga pants, but few who actually seem to take yoga classes, or do yoga routine at home. Cady, the heroine of Jayne Ann Krentz’s 2001 publication Lost and Found regularly practiced yoga. Through passages such as the following, we learn not only that she practices yoga, but a bit about her personality:
“When she was ready she went slowly through the yoga exercises that she had practiced faithfully since college. It had been suggested by more than one acquaintance that she was a little obsessive about her daily workout. But she was convinced that it was the flowing, stretching movements combined with the deep-breathing techniques that allowed her to control her body’s predisposition toward panic attacks.”
One of my favorite yoga mentions in a contemporary romance is one I sited in a post here about romance heroines and their hobbies, featuring Dru, the heroine of Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Blue. In that book once Seth, the hero, learns that Dru takes yoga classes, he begins to fantasize about how that might translate into their sex life.
For me, I guess the desire to see a mention of exercising by heroines is similar to my desire for a mention of the heroine’s hobbies. I don’t want pages devoted to exercise, but even a brief mention or two helps me know more about the heroine, adds substance to her character, beyond her relationship with the hero. I want fully developed heroines, and exercise is just want part of it.
Do I expect every heroine to exercise? Certainly not. But I’d like to see it more frequently. And I’d love to see any recommendations you might have. Can you think of any contemporary romances you’ve read lately in which the heroine has free weights in her home? An exercise bike or elliptical in her home that she uses for more than drying clothes? How about a heroine who regularly goes to a fitness center to work out on the equipment, or to take Zumba or spinning classes? Any great heroines come to mind?
– LinnieGayl Kimmel