Toning Up With Tommy The Turtle

Turtles are known for being slow, staying at home a lot, never exerting too much energy. But that was before anyone met Tommy the Turtle.

This new children’s book character is active and strong – a fan of exercise, getting active and living a life that gets him out of his shell.

Tommy is the brainchild of Eric Mathe of Edmond, a personal trainer who found his second calling as a children’s book author. Every day, Mathe helps people get in shape and live better lives. His new book, “Tommy the Turtle – Exercise is Fun!,” is a way of sending that message to children.

“Habits are formed when we’re young,” Mathe says. “I picture this book, even though it’s fun, as a way to help children form good exercise habits that, hopefully, they’ll carry on later in life.”

Mathe spreads that message through Tommy the Turtle and his good friends, Lion and Rabbit. At the beginning of the book, Lion and Rabbit wear turtle shells too because they’re reluctant to join Tommy in his exercises. But as the book progresses, they literally come out of their shells and join his campaign for healthier living.

“Turtles are animals we commonly associate with not being very active,” Mathe says. “I thought, ‘What better animal to demonstrate that if you exercise, you can be fit and strong – even a turtle can do it.’”

Through his work as a personal trainer, Mathe’s accustomed to the cues of exercise techniques. One day, he started thinking about targeting them toward children in a fun way.

“I started putting the exercise cues down in a rhyming form and thought it might be entertaining,” Mathe says. “It wasn’t necessarily a moment of enlightenment, but I began writing down the rhymes and it all happened pretty naturally.”

But the exercises aren’t random movements that sound fun or simply fit on the page. Mathe says he chose nine exercises that hit every muscle group in the body. From crunches to jumping jacks to high knees, it’s a full-body workout.

Another major component of “Tommy the Turtle” is the illustrations by artist Rey Marz. The California-based illustrator has never met Mathe in person, but through e-mail, they concocted a vision of Tommy demonstrating exercise techniques in a way that children could understand. Marz was contracted to do the illustrations through Mathe’s publisher, 4RV Publishing, LLC, of Edmond.

“He did a great job,” Mathe said. “He told me he wasn’t that well-versed in fitness, but I think he sold himself short. I was blown away when the characters first started coming to life. It was more than I ever hoped for. My wife and I couldn’t stop looking at it. I thought, ‘There’s Tommy, finally.’”

Marz, an artist who experienced his first book illustration with “Tommy,” said that bright colors, together with Mathe’s exercise expertise, set the right tone.

“I used a lot of greens throughout the book to get the turtle feel,” Marz said. “I wanted the exercises to look very clean and accurate, but to keep it fun at the same time. It’s a great idea – entertaining, educational and motivational at the same time. I started feeling like I wanted to be like the characters in the book doing the exercises.”

“Tommy the Turtle” is scheduled for release on July 15, but it can be pre-ordered through It also will be available in bookstores and, eventually, on

4RV Publishing President and CEO Vivian Zabel said Mathe’s book fills a niche in the world of children’s books by taking a serious subject like exercise and making it fun.

“Children nowadays aren’t getting enough exercise. They’re more sedentary than in the past,” she says. “One reason is they don’t see any fun in it. This book will help put some fun in exercising for young children. I can see where parents will be interested in this book, as well as schools using it in activities with their students.

“Eric uses simple vocabulary so children can understand the exercises, and he created rhymes, which help children remember. This is the kind of health topic that we need available for children and for parents. I think he’ll be very successful with it.”

Mathe said he’s ready to spread his message of exercise and healthy living to young people everywhere. He’s almost finished with his second book, focusing on nutrition, and he looks forward to introducing Tommy the Turtle to everyone he meets.

“The concept of creating good habits is so important,” he said. “I get to see it on an everyday basis as a personal trainer, but I’m excited to reach young people through this book. I have really high hopes for it.” 

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