We have a fairly narrow general idea of what “in shape” looks like — generally slim, at least from the hips down, with strong cultural ideas about how men and women “should” look. And few people have a clear sense of performance needs separate from looks.

In Athlete, Howard Schatz expands on his work with dancers to show us a startling range in the mix of genetics, training, and function: Olympic athletes. Here we see specialists in bodybuilding, weightlifting, and rhythmic gymnastics.

Competitive athletes do make some choices that put long-term health lower on the priority list than immediate-term performance — another way they ask us to consider what it really means to say “in shape” in the first place. For these athletes, at this point in their lives, competitive performance is almost everything. For most of us, there’s a considerably less knife-edged balance of health, function, and fun. In fact, for us, the range of “what in shape looks like” could even be a touch broader.

You can see more selections at My Modern Met, and there are some used copies available at Amazon.


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