Stories That Didn’t Make It In The Book- Part 2

Sweat with Brook Benten” gives my life’s stories, in puns and pieces. But there are other stories that could have been included in each chapter. Let’s go there!

An unbelievable story of hosting a reality TV show was told in Part One of this blog series– and with no detail spared in my most recent podcast episode. The fight of modern-day authors, a Step fiasco, and a viral video are the scoop for this Part Two installment.

Every chapter in “Sweat with Brook Benten” has an exercise theme and the stories I tell are either directly related to that mode of exercise, or a play-on-words. In this blog series:

Part One added stories that could have been (but weren’t) included in Chapters 1-4. Part Two will do so for Chapters 5-7. Part Three, yet to come, will tell stories that could have been included in Chapters 8-11.

Chapter 5: Fight

As LeRoux sang in their 1982 hit song Nobody Said It Was Easy, “No one ever said it would be this hard.”

I decided in 2020 that I would write a book. I wrote a little bit, got distracted, took other freelance jobs, got a life coaching certification, and beat around the bush to come back around to the book. My friend, a woman who has worked in book publicity for twenty years, suggested that I get a literary agent to pitch the book to publishers. No siree Bob! I wanted to own my own work. I fretted a publisher would take my words / my stories / my passion for something as consequential as well-being and squander it to marketing jargon. I was not about to let that happen. The way I saw it, 77% of all book sales happen on Amazon. Why not self-publish and put all of my eggs in one basket (Amazon)? If I ever asked that question, it was purely rhetorical. I knew exactly what I was going to do: self-publish my book. There was no convincing me that any other option was worth considering.

Okay, maybe it should have been a consideration. Not every publisher is looking to rip you, the author, away from your book baby and change the words to bologna just to sell books. That’s what contracts and intellectual property lawyers are for. Matched with the right publisher or hybrid publisher, a book has a far better chance of being distributed far and wide.

An author can go at it solo, but an author knows how to write. Are they really good at all the ancillary stuff to make that puppy move? I wasn’t. In order to wear the hats of author, influencer, publicist, designer (I ended up needing to design my own eBook because Amazon’s stipulations made my graphic designer want to poke an eye out with a plastic fork), model (I modeled for all the photography in my fully-illustrated book), video presenter (my book has workout videos embedded via QR codes), Adobe Premier Pro expert (I recorded and edited my audiobook myself), accountant, customer relations specialist, WordPress guru, and VP of Sales and Marketing, I needed help. I turned to PR by the Book. Because I couldn’t afford to hire them to wave their magic wands and handle all of these needs for me, I enrolled in their Do-It-Yourself course.

Through videos and forums, PR by the Book’s DIY course taught me what I had to do to limp by without hiring help. Limping, cursing, feeding my kids the same meal almost every night, becoming a ghost to my friends, and losing a lot of sleep (something I coach readers NOT to do in Chapter 11), I was able to do all of those jobs and get the book to the finish line. Hindsight, though, it wouldn’t have killed me to listen to what my well-informed friend had to say about publishing paths.

My book was uploaded to Amazon’s system with time to spare in order to allow for review and quality-assurance approval to allow for a January 22, 2024 publication date. Indeed, the book published on January 22. But I anticipated Amazon’s typical “next-day delivery” shipping terms.

Oh, my heart.

Oh, my word.

Oh, my fight. It’s not over.

It was then, on “pub day,” that I learned that purchasers won’t receive their hardcover books until the middle of March! Ay caramba! That’s 7 weeks after placing their orders!

In order to keep a book from getting buried in an Amazon grave, it needs praise (5-star ratings and reviews) and high volume purchases. It’s a conundrum how you’d review a book you haven’t read. The few reviews on the site now are from a handful of eBook purchasers. The eBook is only $1.99 and delivered to your device immediately. It’s nowhere near as beautiful as the fully-illustrated hardcover, but immediacy is nice.

Until the hardcover is actually shipped to customers, my accounting shows zero books have been purchased.

I know that’s not true.

But opening the author’s portal and seeing a big fat goose egg still feels like a sucker punch to the belly. That said, it’s not my first round in a ring. The fight chapter is the fiercest chapter in the entire “Sweat with Brook Benten” book. My reason, to inspire millions to well-being, is worth the fight. Onward.

Chances are, you’re not fighting the book publication process. Your fight may be learning technology in order to adapt for your job (and you feel 150 years old). Your fight may be raising children and you feel like you’ve lost yourself. Your fight may be sending your last child off to college and you feel like you’ve lost your heart. Your fight may be yearning for a spouse, a child, a parent and that person doesn’t come. Your fight may be a divorce. Your fight may be finances. Whatever your fight is, be steadfast and courageous. I know in my bones that this is true: “You haven’t come this far to come this far.”

Your support keeps this blog going. Buy a book (hard, e, audio, or all!). Write an Amazon review. Tell a friend. Take it to the ‘gram.

Chapter 6: Step

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: if you can teach Step, you can teach anything. Step Aerobics is the most fun you’ll ever have while breaking a sweat. For your instructor, it’s an overwhelming-at-times brain game!

I don’t teach basic Step. In other words, just stepping up and down, over and over… occasionally adding a knee or hamstring curl– yawn. That’s “basic Step.” I like to start with simple moves, but layer by layer, add complexity so that by the time we get to the finished combination, everyday women are dancing around that bench like Jenny from the Block!

The preparation, though. Oh my gosh, the intense preparation. It was hard when I was a teenager, but when the pandemic hit, I was in my late thirties and the old brain had been through the wringer. I didn’t trust that I’d be able to make all of the calls accurately on a live-stream Step Aerobics class. I had advertised the Live class to everyone in my social-sphere of influence. Sharon Richards had shouted the class out to her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. I practiced my choreography over and over again. But self-doubt and fear gripped me. What if the camera inverts, so what I’m calling “right” actually appears left? What if I get tongue tied or brain fog? What if my shoelace comes untied? What if the kids come running out in the middle of the workout? What if the camera isn’t really running? What if they microphone doesn’t feed through?

I do not consider myself a perfectionist. But this relentlessness to get-it-right at all costs sure feel like perfectionism’s kissing cousin.

I caved under the pressure and decided to fabricate a Live filming. I set up the camera and opened with a Meryl Streep-like performance “Oh HI, Kay! It’s been two decades! So good to see you. Gale! We haven’t done this together since college! So good to see everybody joining in. We’ll give it another five minutes for everyone to log on.” I’d like to thank The Academy, my chickenshit fear, and Imposter Syndrome- without whom I may never have experienced the fruition of this shenanigan.

It was clear that I had lied. People logged on way before class was supposed to begin, and the soliloquy you see above already started rolling. Plus, when I recorded, I did so with only feeding the microphone to the camera. I laid the music on in post-production. In theory, this process would make the sound of both the mic and music as crisp and clear as possible. I tried to lay the 32-count music on, song-by-song, matching the movement as not to make it appear off-beat. I wasn’t spot-on with lining up the ending of one song with the start of the next, so sometimes the music was off. Some songs were louder than other songs- the levels were a mess. The song in the beginning is so faint, you cannot even hear it.

Everybody knew it was not a live performance. An authentic Live roll, even if I blanked and froze like a deer in the headlights, tripped on the bench, and both of my kids ran out naked on set, would have been superior. People would have brushed it off as the cost of doing live business. Giving it a brave live roll would have been tenfold better than the mock-Live performance, even though with the prerecorded version, I nailed all the calls and performed footwork as polished as Petra Kolber, herself. The viewers expected authenticity. I gave them fake Prada.

Laura McKowen says, “The truth is uncomfortable but expansive. Lying is uncomfortable by confining. You know the difference when you feel it.”

With my tail tucked between my legs, I fessed up to what happened. I did the only thing I knew to do to make it right. I offered another Facebook Live Step class. This time, it was a legitimate live performance. People were forgiving. They typically are.

The glitter of this story is not my choreography, skill as a a Step instructor, bounce-back for a second go-round… The shiny, beautiful, too dazzling to look straight at because it glows so bright it’ll blind you is people’s eagerness and earnest capacity to forgive.

Chapter 7: Kettlebell

The book really covers the gamut of my kettlebell adventures. I could babble a few other stories about bells, but I worry it would work like an Ambien. You heard the fun stuff (if you haven’t gotten the book yet, you can listen to the entire kettlebell chapter here.) Well, you know how I told you that my first kettlebell video, Ketttlebell: Butts & Guts, was full of cheesy one-liners? It’s nothing compared to the video my brother shot when I was home for Thanksgiving and we were horsing around. Little did we know, our film would go viral on YouTube.

My first workout video was full of cheesy antics.

It was 2006, years away from camera phones becoming ubiquitous. We had a camcorder. And perched high like a tower in my parents’ backyard was a two-story… apartment. By all practical purposes, this was an apartment. It had stairs leading up to a front porch. It was fully furnished, had heating and air, a television and a Nintendo. When my dad built it in the ’90s, we called it “the fort.” It was intended for my brothers to play with their friends.

After we grew up and moved out, this fort became the dog house for Jeckel, the dog.

My brother, Dayton, held the camcorder as I declared this fort to be the “World’s Greatest Doghouse.” I was dressed in a loud outfit with a conspicuous headband. My big energy was channeled through my arms, hands, voice, and loud, obnoxious facial expressions. “Check out this crib!” I say/shouted. “This dog’s livin’ the life! WHOA- there’s Jeckel now! Let’s see this pad. Hubba wha! A sofabed! AND A BACHELOR-PAD TELEVISION!” You get the picture. Big, big energy.

I thought nothing of uploading the video to YouTube.

Within a month, the video received over 10,000 views and an array of off-colored comments. “This girl should check herself into a mental institution.” “If I was as dumb as this woman, I’d shoot myself.” My thin skin couldn’t take it. I took the video down and made sure it was permanently deleted.

The World’s Greatest Doghouse may have been hokey, but all of those views would have translated in to pocket-jingle. Old me couldn’t take the criticism. Current me would have taken it right to the bank. The video is long gone (as is Jeckel, RIP), but my brother and I still crack up at the YouTube frenzy it caused and the mean comments.

This story is told in more colorful detail in Season 2, Episode 5 of More Than Sweat podcast.

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