Casey Johnston on Turning Weight-lifting Into a Business

Photo: Molly Matalon

In a TikTok video she made to promote take down, In her step-by-step weightlifting manual for beginners, fitness writer Casey Johnston demonstrates how to pick up a litter box for a 40-pound kitten and carry it to her apartment. In this “before” scene, she has a painfully familiar series of contortions, trots, scrambles, and finally pushes the box through the air like a door wheelbarrow. The “after” video is approximately 2 seconds long. Johnston reaches out to pick up her box and carries it inside.

This clip is simple, but it sums up what makes Johnston such an effective teacher. It’s the one who convinced readers that gaining weight, not losing weight, is worthy of fitness goals. The daily benefits of lifting and her body, as you’d expect from the author of an advice column called Ask Swollwoman, I was horribly swollen.

Since 2016, when she started writing her column, Johnston has amassed a large (perhaps somewhat poignant) following. Her readers moved with her from Hairpin to Self magazine to Vice to Johnston’s independent newsletter. She’s a Beast. Navigating the world of journalism hasn’t always been easy for Johnston. This could be inferred from the trajectory of her column visiting her home four times in her six years. In the previous media age, a voice expert with an established following might have written for the same magazine for 20 years. Johnston was a nomad and then had to have an entrepreneurial spirit. In the process, she became her self-published success her story. Her newsletter has her 21,000 subscribers. take down It sold 11,000 copies at $20 each.

No one Johnston spoke to in the traditional publishing world thought the book would sell. Agents and editors couldn’t get their heads around how to present the material: “‘Have you ever thought of making an app?'” asked her. “I liked, good lord.

what to make take down What sets it apart from other books in the genre, in addition to Johnston’s charming voice and minor expertise, is the way she deconstructs the movements as plainly as possible. “I’ve read textbooks explaining how to lift weights, and it’s like a brain melt,” she says. As such, there are no exercise physiology or anatomy charts in her book. Instead, there are simple instructions on how to safely move weights from one relationship to another with gravity, and a link to her YouTube video of herself doing the move.

It’s been a particularly confusing January for those of us who live in bodies and consume culture.burnt toast, maintenance stage), reminding readers of the insidiousness of the diet industry before returning to social media feeds dominated by “before and after” weight loss photos and “New Year, New You” ad campaigns. Even the sensible can’t help but notice that celebrities are now leaner and have lower bumps in their jeans. When we become aware of this, it affects us. I asked my gym trainer if the way clients talk about their goals has changed. skinny favorite Toned When Lean.

“Doctors say, ‘Just exercise,’ and people on Reddit say, ‘Eat less,'” says Johnston. “And if it were that simple, we’d all be doing it.” She warns me that she’s exhausted, but she’s more than happy to tell me about this mess. She and her boyfriend celebrated her recent move to LA by getting a new puppy who hasn’t slept through the night yet, and although she hasn’t been to the gym much lately, predictable readers , no problem at all. The importance of resting as few times as possible is a leitmotif in her work.

For Johnston, that wasn’t always the case. She used to be hungry and did cardio to the point where her feet and hands were always cold. Her epiphany moment, and many of her readers, rest on a painting of four avocados. The pits represent muscle and the green flesh represents fat. If you restrict calories for weight loss, both seeds and meat will be smaller. When you put the weight back on, the pit will inevitably get smaller, a process that repeats each time you repeat the cycle. Bigger pits, not less green ones, should be the point of practice, but we’ve been twisting that for years.

Johnston, who started lifting in 2014, is the ideal guide for those new to strength training. “Eating like a big, beautiful horse,” which she needed to build muscle, wasn’t easy for her. “I was scared to put on her weight to get stronger,” she says. She admits that one of her reasons for starting lifting was to look as good as the female lifters she found on Reddit. Oh, and her body looks more conventionally hot than before. And she does it by exercising far less than I do and eating far more than I do. It was compelling. ’ It feels refreshing to hear someone admit that their fitness goals were, at least at some point, deep under their skin.

And it’s rare to read a clever author who is so unnerving. In part, she attributes her glorious sanity to — you will be dumbfounded — weightlifting. He taught me something. As is true of a lot of her research, she doesn’t have to worry about lifting weights to understand her insights.

Much of Johnston’s success began with failure. About a year before Vice fired her, she approached her newsletter platform Substack about her publishing deal. “I’ve never heard of a lower offer,” she says. She was like, “I’ll pay you $75,000 a year on a contract basis.” She receives her 15% of the subscription revenue for the year and keeps 85%. But she was stipulated to write at least twice a week, so that was a big deal for me. (A spokesperson said the company wouldn’t comment on her numbers, but she added, “I hope she’ll come back to Substack one day.”)

It was a big deal not to take.she runs instead She’s a Beast With the newsletter platform Ghost, she “easily” earned enough to pursue the project full-time. She notes that while there are bigger newsletters out there, her readers are loyal. They work on very aggressive tactics to get subscribers.” Second, they have low open rates. “The engagement rate for paid subscribers who pay $100 or $250 a year is 90% in the last 30 days. For free subscribers, it’s 80%. think.”

A collection of essays touching on the newsletter’s theme was recently sold to Simon & Schuster’s imprint One Signal in a “significant deal”. (Readers also Publisher’s Lunch As you know, “significance” runs companies between $250,000 and $499,000. Johnston hopes readers will come back to this book when they want a reminder that it’s better to be strong than thin. “When I think of media that I really like, I think of Nancy Meyers movies. And that’s my vision for this book and to stay that way.”

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