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A ‘cleaning’ workout, ‘Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise’

Around this time of year, we appreciate that other people just planned outrageous lies or outlandish pranks for April 1.

We, however, told no one that a piranha was swimming in the lane next to them. Nor did we sneak embarrassing items into your gym bag when you were not looking. So as you read the following about workout books, keep in mind that we are all about truth, righteousness and the fit-America way. No fooling.

“The cLEAN Momma Workout” by Carolyn Barnes; William Morrow ($16.99)

To use author Barnes’ phrase, a sick child served as her proverbial light bulb.

“I was totally overwhelmed and in chaos,” says Barnes, a former “ballerina bun-head” (her phrase) and current Pilates instructor who lives in California. “I had a 3-year-old who was calling ‘Mommy Mommy Mommy’ and a son who was nursing. I couldn’t carve out time for myself, and I’d look around the house and it was chaos.”

Then – let there be light! – her son “upchucked in the kitchen.”

“I was cleaning it up while holding him,” she said by phone from California. “I put him in the swing, did the ‘rag drag’ and it all morphed into an amazing cardio workout I started to do while my kids were in the bathtub and I was hanging out there anyway.”

She began scrubbing sinks with a vengeance and floors with fervor. What began as housework became the “cupboard calf-raise,” “the vacuum lunge,” “the laundry leg-lift.”

“I’ve taken the concept of dance, of muscle isolation and applied it to times I was cleaning the countertops, which we do as mommies a million times a day,” says Barnes, 41. “I’d wipe them down, engage my core, use a good dancer’s posture. I noticed my body going back into dancer body mode. I felt my strength come back. My ab work and core were so tight so fast, much more so than when I’d had my daughter. My core went – woo!”

After four or five months of heavy-duty housework and being more mindful of her eating habits, she’d lost 60 pounds. She was as toned, she says, as she’d been during her dancing days.

She encourages constant movement throughout the day and thus, keeping metabolism humming.

“If you’re on the phone, do you really know I’m doing my leg lifts?” she asks, adding she’s doing squats while we’re talking. “Or if you’re texting, does anybody know you’re in squat position?

“It’s a mindset. Clean out your body, your mind, your soul, your house,” she says.

“The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise And Other Incendiary Acts” by Hanne Blank; Ten Speed Press ($14.99)

Blank began exercising to combat side effects from medication she was taking for a syndrome that affected her body’s use of insulin.

“I’m trained as a historian on medical and sexual history,” she says by phone from Atlanta. “I was slugging my way through insulin research and what works to improve insulin resistance. What has the best track record is regular, moderate-intensity, sustained exercise. I thought, ‘Well, it can’t hurt. It might help.’  ”

It did. Six years later, she doesn’t take medication for her syndrome. She exercises every day, sometimes twice a day. And she is, she says, as comfortably as she would say she has brown hair, fat.

“I get the question a lot, ‘How come you haven’t lost weight?’ Well, because I don’t,” Blank says. “There are a lot of people who get a lot of movement in their lives and who are still fat because that’s how their bodies are. There’s this feeling that the default state for human beings is slender, but there’s no proof that’s true.”

As a medical historian, she says, she’s learned that health and visible muscle weren’t always sought after. People who were muscular used to be those who had to do heavy labor. Then as low-paying jobs became more sedentary wealthier people began working out, showing they had time to train their bodies. “Being ripped is a fairly new idea,” says Blank.

She’s all about the fun in working out. “The freedom to play freely in the world, to move through the world, is a birthright,” she says. “No one should take that away from you, no matter what your size or what you look like.

“It’s not about fat or thin. It’s about strong.”