We've come a long way, babies, since the days when Charles Atlas helped the 97-pound weakling protect his girl friend from the bully on the beach. For one thing, it hadn't yet occurred to anyone that the woman, too, could benefit from being strong and fit.
Now we know better, but that awareness has come suddenly after many centuries of abysmal ignorance. A woman today can be conversant in carbohydrate loading and still harbor ancient fears that jogging will cause her breasts to sag.
Many books and articles intended to guide the emerging female athlete have been published lately, but none is more authoritative than The Sports Doctor's Fitness Book for Women, by the late John L. Marshall, M.D. with Heather Barbash (Delacorte Press, $13.95).
Before his death in a plane crash in February 1980, Marshall was chief of surgery at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery and founder of the John L. Marshall Sports Medicine Research and Education Foundation. In the course of his work, Marshall treated and befriended Billie Jean King, Julius Erving, Martina Navratilova and Larry Csonka among other sports stars, and he came to realize that even the best female athletes knew virtually nothing about modern training methods—the use of weights and aerobics, for instance—that long have been standard practice for male athletes.
Writes Marshall, "Rosie Casals, after training in a gym under the supervision of an expert staff, was shown that she could run twenty minutes more, go on to a series of sprints, and then continue to run even more.... It's this feeling of being completely fatigued from physical activity that most women have never known."
In spite of its subtitle, "How to Identify Your Own Physical Type—and Find the Fitness Program That's Best for You," this book isn't just a formula for self-improvement; it's a survey course in sports physiology, taught without condescension by a man of reason.