Kunitz opens his book with an anecdote of his middle-school aged cousin who has recently joined her school’s women’s weightlifting team. Using this illustration, he dives into an introduction of the great shift in attitudes the world of fitness has seen. Referencing male muscle figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Kunitz reminisces on a time when females were “not to bother with being strong” and lifting was considered dangerous. These examples are employed to introduce the two premises on which he bases his argument for a “New Frontier” of Fitness occurring today: the importance of women and the embrace of strength training.
In the prologue, Kunitz parallels the argument presented throughout the rest of the book with his own health journey. As a writer at The Paris Review in the nineties, Kunitz describes himself as partaking in the “wasted waif aesthetic,” exercising only his mind, rather than his body, while engaging in alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and unhealthy eating. It was not until after his thirtieth birthday and the multiple deaths of his peers that he made the decade-long choice to break his bad habits one by one. Daily runs turned into nicotine abstinence which turned into a veggie preference which turned into a gym membership and, eventually, a lifestyle of lifitng, healthy eating, and functional fitness. He argues his own relationship with fitness parallels how culture came to understand fitness and bodily ideals through “periods of forgetfulness and rediscovery” leading to the current state of more democratic fitness and training for performance.
In the introduction, Kunitz describes a revolution of fitness and physical ideals currently occurring, which he entitles the “New Frontier.” He identifies Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, as the most influential of many pioneers in this new health realm. WIth a focus on basic, functional exercises and the application of fitness to everyday life, Kunitz argues this new concept of fitness in the New Frontier begins to permeate all facets of life. From food to workouts to metabolic processes, Kunitz’s New Frontier is characterized by the “[quantification of] one’s existence” and the participation of all walks of life. He goes so far to say New Frontier Fitness (NFF) restructures the participant’s life, as its results extend beyond workouts and nutrition, but into ethics and emotional well-being. It is from this broad definition that Kunitz derives his central tenet of NFF, the idea of training for self-improvement and adjusting how one deals with the new tricks living introduces—AKA “practicing at life.”