The Jane Austen Workout

prideprejudice annotated shepard

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

It is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.

This would be my desert island book, if I didn’t practically know it by heart.

I celebrate instead with my favorite Austen novel,  Emma.

Later, when I put down my book to stretch to an old Jane Fonda workout tape,  I absent-mindedly asked, “Does anyone know where the Jane Austen Workout  is?”

There was much laughter, but I’m sure if we developed the Jane Austen Workout we would get rich.

S0 I have developed some archetypal Austen workout activities in honor of the bicentenary.


Lizzie and Wickham

Lizzie and Wickham

1. There is a hell of a lot of walking in Austen.

Do Emma and Harriet ever sit still?  Does a day go by when the Bennet sisters don’t take a walk?

Take a walk when the characters in Austen’s novels do, and you will soon be physically fit.   If you read P&P, you may meet the cute, caddish Wickham, with whom giddy Lydia Bennet falls in love.  You may also meet sensible, dull Darcy, as Lizzie does when she walks through his park and decides he’s not so bad after all.  I would far rather converse with the delightful Wickham, though Darcy is the marrying kind.

And if you are Emma, and who wouldn’t rather be, you might meet Frank Churchill, so charming and funny, or Knightley, the stern advisor/friend with whom she is in love.  Frank is much more fun.

As you can see, I am into the bad boys of Austen.

2. Ride a horse when an Austen character rides a horse.  Think of the rivalry between Fanny and Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park.  Pert Mary Crawford keeps borrowing Fanny’s horse, and Edmund, who rides with her, forgets that shy, sickly Fanny needs her horse for her workout.  Why does Fanny martyr herself?

We want Fanny to get her horse back.  That Mary!

3.  Read any Jane Austen novel at a club, and dance every time a character dances.  The very sight of you with a Jane Austen novel will attract every man in the place, or…   Oh, well…  I’m only joking. No heterosexual man I know has ever read Jane Austen except for a class.

The Jane Austen Workout!

The Jane Austen Workout!


Forget kickboxing!  The elliptical is for sissies!  Carry all six of Austen’s novels, which I’m sure you have, in a backpack or bike pannier, and if they’re the annotated editions, you’ll soon be exhausted. Add a couple of biographies to make it really tough.  Go uphill for a couple of miles, or climb a mountain with your Austen for a more strenuous workout.  DON’T DO THIS IF YOU’RE ON BLOOD PRESSURE MEDICATION.  Heck, I just made that up, but there has to be a warming with a workout.  For all I know, people with high blood pressure carry Jane Austen books up mountains all the time.

And then go home and go to sleep.

Now here are some links to a challenge and an article (not part of my workout).

1.  THE PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BICENTENARY CHALLENGE.  At Austenprose, a very good website, you can sign up to read P&P or related books and watch the movies during this anniversary year.  It is complicated, like all of these challenges, and involves putting a logo up at your blog, commenting, counter-commenting, and…but there are prizes.

2.  At The Guardian, several writers take a look at Pride and Prejudice.  (Some of them are men, which disproves my theory that men don’t read Austen.)  Sebastian Faulks says, “Mr Darcy may not be the first depressive to feature in an English novel, but he is almost certainly the first to be a romantic lead.”

5 thoughts on “The Jane Austen Workout

  1. This made me laugh. As I just purchased five of Austen’s novels I will take your exercise advice to heart. Well, maybe not the horseback riding…

    I am just starting “Persuasion” and perhaps will be persuaded to take a walk or two (or whatever fitness program they ascribe to in that book).

    Thanks for a fun post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s