Athletics and Manly Sport/The Training of Athletes Tested by Every-Day Life
THE TRAINING OF ATHLETES TESTED BY EVERY-DAY LIFE.
IS TRAINING INJURIOUS?
The training of athletes must always be a subject of general interest. If there be an art by which men are made specially strong for some unusual period and purpose, how far can it be applied to the daily lives of average men? Is the training of an athlete a solid building of strength, or is it even consistent with a lasting condition of vigorous health?
These questions must be considered from two very different standpoints, namely, from that of the professional athlete and that of the average person who wants to get into lasting "good condition." Throughout this article, even when treating of special training, the amateur and his modified needs are not forgotten. The information intended for athletes in training for a contest, like their exercise and food, must be condensed and particularized; but it will be found to contain matter of common interest, needing only the change suitable to individual circumstances.
It is undoubtedly true that the mass of those who live in cities, and whose occupations involve little manual or physical exercise, allow their bodies, at an early age of manhood, to sink out of all trained and athletic strength and shapeliness. It is only necessary to visit a Turkish bath to find abundant evidence of the muscular collapse which has overtaken the modern city-dweller: bodies "developed" everywhere in the wrong direction; arms like pipe-stems, while the beautiful muscles of the shoulders and back are smothered in layers of vile fat, and spindle-thighs and straight calves weakly support bellies like Bacchus.
When the observer beholds the superb condition of trained oarsmen entering a race, or of boxers going to fight for a championship, he stands in admiration of the firm and massive muscles, the light and elastic step, the strong wind, and the insensibility to blows that would produce concussion of the brain in a common man. Can the rules which produce these results be taken out of the training-school, and followed in common life, even with large modifications?
The unhesitating answer is—No. The training of an athlete for a contest must continue to be essentially different from the training of a man for his every-day living.
Furthermore, the training of an athlete, with the single view of enabling him to concentrate his entire muscular powers for a struggle lasting from ten minutes to two hours or more, is likely to be injurious when seemingly most successful. The injurious effects, however, may be reduced to a minimun by a careful adherence to physiological rules.
"Training," says a physician, "sacrifices a man to muscle, not less than a prize pig is sacrificed to fat. Muscle and fat being in each case the special object, the success of the art is measured by the amount of the sacrifice. But it is not thus that men and pigs are made healthy."
This is an extreme view, perhaps, particularly in sight of recent improvement in training systems. But all forcing is injurious, and training is a forcing of the muscles. As Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes says, it is "burning the vital fire with the blower up." It is like cramming for an examination —an innnense amount of information is gathered in a very brief space of time; but too often the mind has been sacrificed to the memory; the over-stimulated brain soon loses its vigor; the triumph has been purchased by a life of mediocrity or apathy.
It was noted in ancient Rome that the athletes were short-lived, liable "to rupture of blood-vessels, to apoplexy, and lethargic complaints;" and it has been charged that even the training of our American college athletes, at least in the past, has had an injurious effect on their health.
Still, it must be admitted, in favor of training, that the greatest athletes known in modern times were not short-lived.
From the results of the training adopted at the English universities, it would appear that the constitution is even strengthened, the intellect sharpened, and lift; lengthened. Dr. John Morgan ("University Oars," 1873), collected statistics of the subsequent health of those who have rowed in the university races since 1821), and he found that, whereas at twenty years of age, according to Farr's life tables, the average expectation of survival is forty years, for these oarsmen it was forty-two years. Moreover, in cases of death, inquiry into its causes exhibited evidence of good constitutions rather than the contrary, the causes consisting largely of fevers and accidents, to which the vigorous and active are more exposed than the sick.
And it was certainly not at the expense of the mind, in these cases, that the body was cultivated, for this roll of athletes is adorned with the names of bishops, poets, queen's counsel, etc.
The following table gives the names and ages of twenty-two of the most famous prize-fighters of England, Ireland, and America:
|Bendigo (W. Thompson)||1811||1880||69|
|Wm. Perry (Tipton Slasher)||1819||1881||61|
|John C. Heenan||1823||1873||38|
|Average Age, 47.|
This is not a very bad showing for men whose profession involved numerous severe trainings and exhaustive conflicts, and whose lives in the intervals were usually dissipated and full of excitement. But it must be remembered that, to start with, these men were exceptional for health, strength, and probable longevity.
These figures and facts seem to point to a possible training, based on scientific principles, by which the highest possible muscular results may be obtained without injury to health.
THE EVILS OF IMPROPER TRAINING.
The "system of training" pursued by most of those who train athletes, especially boxers, is, in the main, traditional, arbitrary, and unscientific. The main evils and dangers of the "system" are over-training, reduction of nervous force for the sake of muscular power, disregard of instruction in respiration, subjecting individuals of different needs and appetites to the same rule, and training men who are from the first unfit to be trained.
The end of training is to keep up the top speed or top force for a short or a long period. To do the latter requires the full development of the body, and long, careful, and patient preparation.
In a long contest, of any kind, a bad man trained will beat a good man untrained. This is a notable fact. Training implies a struggle of some kind. It ought to be based on the principles of physiology and the special needs of the individual athlete. The usual time allotted to training a man, or a crew, for a contested struggle, is six weeks. The objects to be obtained in this time are:
- The removal of superfluous fat and water.
- The increase of contractile power in the muscle.
- Increased endurance.
- "Wind," or the power of breathing, and circulating the blood steadily, in spite of exertion.
The first is arrived at mainly by a change of food; the second and third by various muscular exercises; the fourth by steadily keeping up such exercise as can only be sustained when the breathing and circulating organs do their full duty, such as running. Of course, each of these aids reacts on and helps all the others.
Before considering the training that is beneficial, it may be well to glance at the unfortunate effects of the traditional systems of training that are too commonly followed.
Though the training of our athletes grows better year by year (owing principally to the higher intelligence applied in the case of college oarsmen and gymnasts), it is a fact that to-day almost every boxer, and many other athletes, trained for a contest, are over-trained and seriously weakened. Quite recently, I saw a man on the day of his contest, whom his trainer spoke of as being "in splendid condition—hard as nails; lost twenty pounds in six weeks." The man was gaunt; there was a look in his eye that was unnatural. His muscular system was wonderful to look on; but it had drained almost his entire nervous vitality. He could bear hammering, and he could strike hard; but the subtle and precious moral and nervous strength that would sustain him in a close fight, enable him to endure, and to leap into renewed opportunity, was drained dry to feed his hard muscles. He was naturally a brave and confident man; but that day, when the struggle tired and tested him, and his muscles were weary with opposition, he had no nervous force to sustain him, and he suffered, dodged, and at last yielded, half-beaten, like a coward. The man had been trained out of humanity into a spiritless and thoughtless animal.
It is notorious that "over-training" leads to a condition of system in which the sufferers describe themselves as "fallen to pieces." The most peculiar symptom is a sudden loss of voluntary power after exertion. It is sometimes called "fainting;" but there is no loss of sense, and it is quickly relieved by liquid food. It is no uncommon thing to see a man in the ring or on the track come to a dead stop, though full of muscular power.
This is sometimes caused by loss of "wind" (to be explained hereafter); but much oftener it is the result of the complete overlooking of the nervous strength by a trainer who thinks of no force except that which he can handle and measure. "The power which is to drive the muscles as the power of steam drives an engine, is produced by the nerves—a fact much overlooked."
The effects of over-training and ignorant training are strikingly shown in the following remarks by a leading English medical journal, "The Lancet," on the condition of John C. Heenan, the American boxer, when he fought King for the championship of England, in December, 1863:
"The immense development of the muscles about the shoulders and chest was very remarkable. They stood out prominently, and as little encumbered with fat as if they had been cleaned with a scalpel. In firmness they resembled cartilage. But, with all this splendid development, it was evident that Heenan had received a shock from which his system was only slowly recovering; though whether this loss of power was due to punishment received in fight, or to the hard training which he had previously undergone, may be a disputed point. As physiologists, it seemed to us highly probable that his training had been too prolonged and too severe. When Heenan went into training on Wednesday, the 23d of September—just eleven weeks before the match—his weight was fifteen stone, seven pounds. As he stepped into the ring on the 10th instant, he was exactly fourteen stone. At the same time King weighed thirteen stone, though he was three quarters of an inch taller than Heenan, whose height was six feet one and one half inches. Those who know what severe training means will, perhaps, agree that Heenan was probably in a better condition five weeks before meeting his antagonist, than on the morning of his defeat, although when he stripped for fighting the lookers-on all agreed that he seemed to promise himself an easy victory, while exulting in his fine proportions and splendid muscular development. It is now clearly proven that Heenan went into the contest with much more muscular than vital power. Long before he had met with any severe punishment—indeed, as he states at the close of the third round—he felt faint, breathed with much difficulty, and, as he described it, his respiration was "roaring." He declares that he received more severe treatment at the hands of Sayers than he did from King; yet at the termination of the former fight, which lasted upwards of two hours, he was so fresh as to leap over two or three hurdles, and distance many of his friends in the race. It was noticed on the present occasion that his physique had deteriorated, and that he looked much older than at his last appearance in the ring. Without offering any opinion as to the merits of the combatants, it is certain that Heenan was in a state of deteriorated health when he faced his opponent; and it is fair to conclude that the deterioration was due, in a great measure, to the severity of the training which he had undergone. As with the mind, so with the body, undue and prolonged exertion must end in depression of power. In the process of physical education of the young, in training of our recruits, or in the sports of the athlete, the case of Heenan suggests a striking commentary of great interest in a physical point of view. While exercise, properly so called, tends to development and health, excessive exertion produces debility and decay."
MUSCULAR POWER SECONDARY TO RESPIRATORY POWER.
"Muscular power," says a leading English authority on training (Maclaren), "plays quite a secondary part in rowing; respiratory power makes the first claim, and makes it more exactingly than in any other mode of physical exertion in which men can be engaged."
I do not think that rowing makes a greater claim on "the wind" than any other exercise. I am convinced that a heavier demand on the lungs is made by both fast swimming and boxing—undoubtedly by the latter. Probably nine pugilistic contests out of a dozen are decided by superior "wind," and this is true of almost all fast-swimming matches.
In another place in this article reference is made to the need of deep-breathing for the attainment of general health. But it is not deep-breathing alone that the struggling athlete needs. He must, by practice, attain the art of holding his breath and adding thereto. Even in deep-breathing the lungs are never emptied of resident air. Fresh air must be stored for a time in the lungs before it is allowed to reach the blood. We retain about two hundred and fifty cubic inches of this resident air (which is the tempered reservoir whence the blood derives its oxygen), and gradually renew and change it by breathing. We inspire only some twenty-five to thirty cubic inches of fresh, cold air at each breath. This is a man's normal resting condition; of course, when strong exercise begins the blood demands more fresh air. The novice, or the uninstructed athlete, when exercise begins, commits the grave mistake of breathing out his resident air, to make room for a deeper inspiration. But the cold, fresh air is not allowed by nature to reach the air-cells: if it chances to get down too far it makes us cough ; it is too cold, and has too much oxygen. Therefore, a vacuum, or half-filled space, is created; the novice gets "out of breath;" and, if he cannot gradually recover what he has lost, he must come to a stop.
The properly trained man, on the contrary, endeavors to keep all the air he has got, and to add to it, by intruding on the complementary space. When he has regained the small quantity necessarily lost at starting the muscular action, and increased on it, he has got what is called his "second wind," and then he is able to go on while his muscular power holds out.
Running is the best exercise to increase the breathing and staying power, as the muscles used in propelling the runner's body do not interfere with those of respiration. The runner can hold his breath, with the chest fully extended, for a long time, while the rower, for instance, must fill his lungs at each stroke,—from thirty to forty times a minute. But, with practice, the rower can keep his chest well filled without letting out his resident air; he lets out a small quantity only, and fills this up again, so as to keep the full complement of air necessary for the blood without changing a great quantity at each breath.
As the arm increases in girth from using the dumb-bell, the chest of the runner and oarsman accustoms itself to the larger demands made upon it, both for breathing and holding the wind. It must be remembered that many persons, though muscular and athletic, can never learn to do anything that demands rapid respiration. They can put forth their strength slowly; but they always get "winded" in a rapid and vigorous test. Persons, with this peculiarity, usually try to cure themselves by muscular exertion; but this is wrong. What they need is intelligent and long-continued exercise of various kinds for the breathing organs.
"Indigestion, sleeplessness, nervous indecision, palpitation of the heart, and irregularity of the bowels disappear under proper training," says an able physician and athlete; "but if they exist, the regimen should be entered upon with more than usual caution."
THE FOOD OF ATHLETES IN TRAINING.
"Hard work trains," says an authority (Woodgate), "and diet keeps the frame up to its work." This has been the principle on which training, of beast and man alike, has been carried out since the benefits of "condition" were first appreciated.
Trainers usually begin with excessive emetics and aperients, "to clear the blood." There is no particular harm in this, if they do not make the man or crew work hard till "tone" is recovered. Then comes regular feeding, good in itself, but with the usual order—"the less drinking the better—liquids swell and soften the body." In defiance of the physiological fact that different individuals need different quantities of liquid as well as of solid food, this practice will be applied generally. Of course it brings about a rapid reduction of flesh; but it severely reduces strength, nervous and physical, at the same time.
The true rule for drinking while "in training' is—first bar out seductive and injurious drinks, and then drink when you want; but only drink water. The "swelling" and "soft flesh" are rank nonsense.
Trainers exclude most vegetables, as being "watery food,"—another flagrant error. The acids of vegetables are necessities for the blood, for digestion; and, besides, their strength as food is very great.
Under all systems of training and rules of diet, it must never be forgotten that "what is one man's food is another man's poison."
The Greeks of old fed their athletes on wheaten bread, fresh cheese, and dried figs; later they advanced to beef and pork; but the bread and meat were taken separately, the former at breakfast, the latter at dinner. Except in wine the quantity of food and drink for Greek athletes was unlimited. The exercises consisted, besides the ordinary gymnastic instruction of the paloestræ, in carrying heavy loads, lifting weights, bending iron rods, striking at a suspended leather sack filled with sand or flour, taming bulls, etc.
The modern athlete, in training, eats meat at least three times a day. The best systems are those pursued at the great universities of England and America. As an example, I give here the Oxford system of training for the summer boat-race:
|A day's training at oxford.|
|Rise about 7 a.m.|
|Exercise||A short walk or run||Not compulsory.|
|Breakfast at 8.30||Of tea||As little as possible|
|Meat, beef or mutton||Under done.|
|Bread or dry toast||Crust only recomended.|
|Exercise in fore-noon||none|
|Dinner at 2 P.M.||Meat much the same as at breakfast|
|Bread||Crust only recommended|
|Vegetables,none||Not always adhered to|
|Beer, one pint|
|Exercise.||About five o'clock start for the river and row twice over the course, the speed increasing with the strength of the crew|
|Supper at 8.30 or 9 P.M.||Meat, cold|
|Bread and perhaps a little jelly or water-cresses.|
|Beer, one pint.|
|Bed at 10 P.M.|
"It may be considered a typical regimen for fully developing a young man's corporeal powers to fulfil the demands of an extraordinary exertion, a standard which may be modified according to the circumstances for which the training is required."
The Cambridge (England) system differs very slightly from the above; and in neither is any exaggerated severity of discipline enforced, nor any rigid suppression of peculiarities or wish for variety.
The system of training pursued by the Harvard University crews is generally the same as that followed by the English universities. It may, however, be noted that the same degree of perfection has not yet been attained by Harvard, nor is it claimed by the gentlemen who have this care in hand. "The chief difference to be found in favor of Oxford or Cambridge, England," says a Harvard oarsman and athletic authority, "is the permanency of their principles. They do not swing around the compass either at defeat or victory."
The system at Yale, independently of the varying styles of rowing, resembles also that of the English universities. Yale, however, in the matter of training, has the best-organized college system in America.
The following extremely valuable contribution to the physiological lore of training, undoubtedly one of the ablest treatises ever prepared on the special subject, has been written for this book by a distinguished Boston physician, who has made it a particular study,—Dr. Francis A. Harris, Medical Examiner of Suffolk County, Professor of Surgery in the Boston Dental College, Demonstrator of Medico-Legal Examinations in Harvard University, etc.:—
The question of the alimentation, or feeding of the athlete, is one to be determined by the consideration of several factors in the result to be obtained.
These factors are, in general, first, the development of the body to such a degree, that, with the best muscular condition, there shall also be the nicest possible balance between the various systems, muscular and nervous. The human body is, as it were, a sort of chemical engine; and, however perfect the machine may be made, if the motive power be not kept supplied, the machine is useless.
A second factor is the removal of the superfluous, and the superfluous only. Athletes and their trainers are too apt to carry the reduction of fat to a point below the requirements of proper physical health. Fat, beside other functions, supplies heat to the body; and, for most chemical processes, a certain temperature is requisite; and, in so far as the fuel necessary for sustaining that temperature is taken away, so far are the chemical changes interfered with. This is especially true of the changes in man. Most men are trained too fine. It is a matter of history, that, in the Oxford-Harvard race of 1869, two of the crew, by training till two others who joined them weeks later were in condition, were so far below their own best physical condition as to render the crew, as a whole, not fit to do its best work, and caused a defeat, which, perhaps, was unavoidable, greater than it otherwise would have been. I am aware that this statement has been disputed; but, as one present at the time, I am firmly convinced such was the case.
A third factor is the development of what is essential for perfect condition to a degree consistent with a proper working of all parts,—muscular, nervous, respiratory, and digestive.
All this Involves the consideration of the following matters:—
- The kind of food.
- The quantity of food.
- The methods of preparation.
- The variety.
- The conditions under which the food is used, as to time, relative to exercise and sleep, and the Interval between meals.
- The question of fluids; and
- Indirectly, the question of alcohol and tobacco.
The determination of the kind of food depends upon broad physiological principles. Each trainer may, and generally does, have a diet-list which he considers the only proper one. Yet each is so far good, and so far bad, as it coincides with, or departs from, the general principles of physiology. The human machine, reduced roughly to its lowest common denominator, is a mass made up of chemical elements; chiefly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, together with lime, sulphur, phosphorus, and Iron.
The oxygen is, of course, chiefly supplied from the air, and, to a less degree, from water. Hence the necessity of good respiratory apparatus,—lungs that shall not only work well, but shall have as great volume as possible. The oxygen is rapidly consumed In the body. The greater the amount of exercise, the greater the waste, or rather expenditure, of material, including oxygen, and the greater the necessity for having large reservoirs from which to draw.
Wind is as essential, perhaps more essential than muscle; for a man in rowing, or running, may have plenty of muscle to go farther, but his exertions have expended more oxygen than his lungs can replace, and the machine won't go. The battery is run out. The lungs can be developed, as well as any other portion of the body, by exercising them in their own functions. Deep inspirations while at rest, running, and the use of those muscles (as those of the upper arms and shoulders) whose movements tend to expand the chest, will so enlarge the capacity of the lungs that great amounts of one of the most important chemical foods of the body can be taken into the system.
The other elements are to be found in any ordinary list of articles of diet; and, as a matter of fact, two or three articles may supply them all,—meats; including beef, mutton, veal, lamb, pork, poultiy, and game; vegetables, including potatoes, corn, spinach, onions, peas, and beans; fish; bread in its various forms, oatmeal, eggs, milk, and fruit, make a list from which, with the addition of condiments, all necessary supplies obtainable from food may be had. From such a list, however, selections are obviously to be made with advantage.
Not alone is the food itself to be taken into the stomach; but, to accomplish its desired end with the least difficulty to the organism, the food must be of such kind as to be most easily and readily digested and assimilated.
For that reason, of the meats; beef, mutton, lamb, and game are to be preferred, as well as the dark, rather than light, meat of fowls.
Fish of the white-meated variety.
Oysters raw, not cooked.
Potatoes and oatmeal suffice for starch.
Bread well cooked, and not of the finer grades of flour.
Milk is to be regarded as a solid food, and not a beverage. It is very rich in nutriment, and is very readily digested and assimilated.
The quantity of food is, in a measure, to be proportioned to the amount of work done as well as to the individual according to size. As to the amount to be taken, experience has shown, that, for a hard-working man, thirty to forty ounces a day are sufficient. But quantity depends on one other thing. That food may be properly digested, a certain amount of distension of the stomach is necessary; that is, for example, if all the food necessary for twenty-four hours could be condensed into three boluses, or pills, these pills would not nourish the body like the same food taken in the ordinary form. From this, it is easy to see that fish is a desirable article of food, as it satisfies the cravings of appetite; and, though taken in considerable quantity, is so deficient in nutritive matter, as compared with meat, that it does not largely tend to replace the fat used up in the body. It is true that a person, by change of diet from one containing much starch that is, articles like potatoes, bread, oatmeal, etc.) to one of meat chiefly, loses his fat. This loss, however, is due to the natural consumption of the fat in consequence of exercise, and the fact that it is not replaced by the food taken. From the starchy foods come the sugar, and on the sugar is largely dependent the formation of fat.
But, even at risk of repetition, I cannot too strongly urge the use of good judgment in this matter of reduction of fat. Fat is useful, it is essential, and it is too common a practice to endeavor to get rid of it all. Yet, in so far as it is reduced beyond its proper ratio to the rest of the body, just so far does the body fall short of the perfect machine sought to be developed. As it is, however, at the start, generally in excess, the diet, in the matter of fat-producing foods, should be restricted. Not over one pound of bread or potatoes, out of a whole diet of forty ounces, should be eaten.
The method of cooking has much to do with the nutritive qualities of a given food after it is eaten. Meats should be roasted or broiled, rather than baked or fried or boiled. In this way their juices are best retained. Starchy foods and fish should be thoroughly cooked, while meats should be a little underdone.
The list of foods mentioned above should furnish sufficient variety; indeed, a very small portion of the list would furnish all the essentials; but variety itself is an essential. The long-continued use of a single article inspires disgust, and, in consequence, a smaller amount of food is taken, and even that amount less readily digested, as the fluids necessary to that process are not poured out as freely as for those things which are appetizing. It is not necessary that the mouth should "water," but it must not be dry.
The conditions under which food is taken are of great importance. It should not be taken, in any considerable quantity, either directly before or directly after sleep. It should not be taken either immediately before or after severe exercise. The nervous system, after the complete rest of sleep, must have a little time to get in working order, to acquire momentum, as it were, before it furnishes the motive-power for digestion; and, on the other hand, if called on to do it at a time when sleep is required, it is apt to work imperfectly or not at all, and so both digestion and sleep are interfered with. The same principles apply to exercise. When the body is exhausted by violent or long-continued work, it is not in condition to perform the function of digestion; nor, if called from the performance of this function to perform severe muscular exercise, can it do so without, as it were, neglecting the work imperative to be done in digestion.
In such a case the food passes undigested into the bowels; it acts as an irritant, and bowel troubles ensue as a consequence of nature's attempt to get rid of what is really foreign matter.
Without laying down a rule to be absolutely followed in all cases, it is safe to say that some such plan as this should be followed:
Rise at six; bathe; take about two ounces (a small cup) of coffee, with milk,—this is really a stimulating soup. Then light exercise, chiefly devoted to lungs; a little rest; the breakfast of meat, bread, or oatmeal, vegetables, with no coffee; an hour's rest. Then the heaviest exercise of the day. This is contrary to rule; but I believe the heaviest exercise should be taken before the heaviest meal; a rest before dinner. This meal, if breakfast be taken at seven, or eight, should be at one, or two, not leaving a longer interval than five hours between the meals. At dinner, again meat, vegetables, bread, perhaps a half-pint of malt liquor, no sweets. Then a longer rest; exercise till five. Supper light,—bread, milk, perhaps with an egg. Half an hour later a cup of tea, and bed at nine.
This is, of course, but a rough outline; but indicates the general plan.
In the rest after dinner there must be no sleep. While breakfast and dinner should be the important meals, the dinner should be the heavier, and should be in the middle of the day.
The amount of fluid taken should be only moderate, especially when it is a question of reducing fat. By rendering the solution of food in the stomach more dilute it promotes the rapidity of absorption, and, in fact, increases the actual amount of nutriment absorbed. Yet, water is, probably, the most important article taken into the stomach of man. A person can endure hunger much more than thirst; and the demand for water will make itself felt more quickly and more imperatively than the demand for food. It is my belief, that, as a rule, in training, too little water is allowed. Three quarts, rather than three pints a day. There are good reasons for this. Many of the refuse particles, left after the chemistry of the body, are carried out by the kidneys. If there is not supply of water enough to hold these matters in solution, the effect of too concentrated secretion from those organs will make itself felt in serious disturbance, if not in actual disease; and, when it is remembered how much of the water is carried off by the lungs and skin,—in breathing and in perspiration,—an additional reason for caution in undue deprivation of water, is manifest.
Of course, if milk or beer is used, that, to a certain extent, will diminish the necessity for water.
It should be stated here, however, that milk, if used in the diet, is to be regarded rather as a solid food, than as a beverage,—a pint of good milk being nearly the equivalent in nutritive properties to a pound of steak. One reason that milk is said to be hard of digestion by certain people is, that after a hearty meal they drink milk for a average, putting, as it were, one steak on top of another; and wondering why the stomach will not manage it all. Another reason why there should not be too great a deprivation of water is, that this loss is so keenly felt as to almost cause suffering,—certainly irritation,—and so disturbs the tranquillity and perfect working of the nervous system as to destroy that balance which is so necessary.
On this point, a word about sleep. The brain must have its exercise and its rest as well as the muscles. It must be nourished. Foods containing phosphorus (as fish) should be used. During the intervals between muscular exercise it should be kept moderately employed, and not too much stimulated. Reading, chat, discussions not too exciting, and games not calculated to arouse too great an excitement (that is, chess—not poker). The man should have plenty of sleep. While some men can go without much sleep, the average man, and especially the man in training, should have eight hours.
In the nervous system is the motive-power of the machine; and in so far as that is exhausted, or impaired, or neglected by exclusive attention to the other systems, in so far will the machine fail to work.
As to alcohol and tobacco: it may safely be said that, on general principles, they are both artificial demands, unnecessary, and therefore not beneficial. As, however, in these days, a large proportion of men are habituated to their use, and the system has become, in a measure, dependent upon them for the performance of certain functions, that the immediate and entire abandonment of their use is not to be advised. The amount of alcohol should be very much restricted,—only what would be contained in a pint of malt liquor, at the most, and that at meal-time, should be taken. Tobacco should, also, be restricted, and gradually diminished till none at all Is used. The heart, which has been long accustomed to be whipped up by alcohol, and soothed down (though irritated) by tobacco, will not work so well till it has been gradually accustomed to other treatment.
As all the digestive functions should be performed properly, and as the diminution of water supply is likely to be considerable, certain vegetables, like spinach and onions, and certain fruits, should be occasionally allowed, in spite of their sugar, for laxative purposes,—a method much better than the resort to more artificial means.
Whether severe training is good for a man, or not, is a matter of dispute. I cannot believe that it will increase longevity. The average condition is better than intermittent, severe strain. When one thinks what the heart is called on to do in severe exercise and training, it is hard to see how the lasting power of that organ can be increased by it,—that little organ, not larger than the fist, with its delicate, translucent valves, yet which, with proper care, will send a current of blood, one eighth the weight of the body (that is, seventeen pounds in a man weighing one hundred and forty) through that body every twenty seconds, waking or sleeping, from birth, perhaps, for a hundred years. This muscle has no chance to rest like the others. When that rests, the machine is broken. It has to be ready to work harder in sickness and accident. Isn't it asking too much of it, in addition, to do the extra work in training, and expect it to carry us to our three-score years and ten?
A DAY'S FOOD AND EXERCISE IN TRAINING.
The training of athletes will vary, of course, with the nature of the contest; but one may give a generalized sketch of a day's exercise in training, differing more or less from the foregoing systems. It will be observed that Dr. Harris, in his suggestions, which ought to be invaluable to athletes, materially differs from the Oxford system of training. It may be safely concluded that Dr. Harris writes with a careful regard to the circumstances of American life, and that his rules are better suited to the needs of American athletes.
An athlete, in training, devotes his whole time to the regular observance of rules. This regularity is not possible for persons employed in shops, stores, and professions. They are sure to be far from their running-ground, their boat, their swimming-bath, &c. Still, there are many oarsmen, and others, who have to work all day—even while training—and they must adapt their exercises to their needs and time. The one exercise none can attbrd to neglect is running, to clear the wind.
Seven o'clock is a good time for an athlete in training to rise. He ought to get a good dry-rubbing, and then spunge his body with cold water, or have a shower-bath, with a thorough rubbing afterwards. He will then go out to exercise before breakfast,—not to run hard, as is commonly taught, but to walk briskly for an hour, while exercising his lungs in deep-breathing.
Few men can stand running before breakfast. It produces nausea, spoils the breakfast, and throws them out for the whole day. The food eaten at night has long been consumed, and it is obviously wrong to make a violent effort while the muscular and nerve organs are in a state of inanition. But the walk and the open air will give a man an appetite for his breakfast.
Charles Westhall, the pedestrian, who gave much intelligent and experienced consideration to training, says:—
"The walk should be taken at such a pace that the skin does not become moist, but have a good, healthy glow on the surface, and the man be at once ready for his breakfast at eight o'clock."
Westhall recommends that, before this walk, an egg in a cup of tea, or something of the kind, should be taken.
The breakfast need not always consist of a broiled mutton-chop or cutlet; a broiled steak, broiled chicken, or broiled fish, or some of each, may be taken, with tea or coffee. (Dr. Harris's regimen is excellent throughout.)
After breakfast, a good rest for digestion. About half-past ten, a man training for a boxing- contest might "punch the bag" (always an air-bag) for fifteen or twenty minutes, and spar four three-minute rounds briskly with his attendant. For the last two weeks of his training, this ought to be increased to eight or ten, or even fifteen, three-minute rounds, and the time-keeper should see that he gets full time in each round. At no time during the day ought a man in training to loll about idly.
Whether for boxing, rowing, wrestling, or swimming, there ought to be a regular running exercise before the mid-day meal. This exercise ought to begin moderately for time and distance, and increase gradually; the last quarter of the run should always be at the top speed.
If the men are training for rowing, they ought to exercise in the boat twice every day. Let it not be forgotten that constant exercise, spread over a long period, is necessary to bring the muscular system into condition which can be depended upon.
"Muscle may be full and firm, yet, if it be inactive for the greater part of its existence, it will not be capable of long and sustained exertion. Look at the muscle of the breast of a fowl or a pheasant: it is not deficient; it is large and plump; it serves its purpose when called upon. But, if we contrast it with that of a grouse or a wood-pigeon, what a difference may be observed! The muscle of the latter bird is so dark from arterialized material and blood-vessels, that it looks black beside the 'white meat' of the former. The one is incessantly in motion, taking active exercise in quest of food and shelter; the other scarcely moves about at all. Now, we want to approach the condition of the grouse, not of the hen, to be capable not only of a violent and short, but also of a long-sustained, effort; and, for this, many hours' exercise every day is needed."
Dinner may be far more varied than is usually allowed by the trainer's "system." Any kind of butcher's meat, plainly cooked, with a variety of fresh vegetables, may be taken, with ordinary light puddings, stewed fruit, but no pastry. A good time for dinner is one o'clock.
An American athlete, when thirsty, ought to have only one drink,— water. The climate and the custom in England favor the drinking of beer or claret; but, beyond question, the best drink for a man in training is pure water. After dinner, rest, but no dozing or siesta. This sort of rest only spoils digestion, and makes men feel slack and "limp."
After two-and-a-half hours' rest, with walking exercise, the final work of the day—running, boxing, rowing, or hand-ball exercise, or all of these always more than one. There should be two full hours of exercise at this period of the day, varied in speed, care being taken, whether in rowing, running, or boxing, that not too much is done at the top speed. "If a man or a crew has been exercised at high pressure on one day, he should be allowed to do less the following evening, and he will be all the better on the third."—(McLaren.) When work is over, a man may have a bath, and be well rubbed down. (I have seen a rough silk mitten, manufactured in Boston, which is most excellent for the rubbing, both wet and dry.) If the athlete be thirsty, let him drink water, rinsing his mouth frequently. Supper, at six o'clock, should not be a second dinner; but neither should it consist of "slops" or gruel. The food recommended by Dr. Harris is excellent and sufficient. The athlete ought to be in bed by ten o'clock, in a room with open window, and a draught through the room, if possible, though not across the bed. He ought to sleep on a mattress, warmly but lightly covered, and without a pillow. As explained later on, pillows are unnecessary to all but certain sick people. They injuriously affect the breathing, weaken the muscles of the neck, making the neck lose one or two inches in girth, and take away the greatest luxury of rest and sleep.
Running, though indispensable for clearing the wind in the early weeks of training, should usually be dispensed with at least two weeks before a boat-race. "A crew," says W. K. Woodgate, "that has rowed a slow stroke, and has meantime got fit (into condition), by running, will row a quick stroke with more uniformity later on than a crew that has done no running, but has got fit by fast rowing. The latter crew has always been abroad when 'blown,' and so has contracted faults. The former, when the time for quick strokes comes, is like machinery in action, fit in wind, and has, therefore, neither exhaustion nor irregularity to throw it out of gear when the fast stroke is essayed."
It may not be out of place to say that men are more often injured by the going out of training than by the training itself. A reckless and sudden change from asceticism to license is more harmful than all the severities of training. "To make the conclusion of training an excuse for indulgence and excess not only injures health of body, but stultifies the lessons of practice, of self-control, and fixed habit, which are among the chief moral recommendations of modern athletics."
VARIOUS EXERCISES AND HOW TO PRACTISE THEM.
The best exercise for a man training for a boxing-match is boxing; the next best is running.
The best exercise for a crew training for a rowing-race is rowing; the next best is running.
The best exercise for a man training for a swimming-match is swimming; the next best is running.
And so with other contests: running is not only second best, but is absolutely necessary in each, for running excels all exercises for developing "the wind." This is simply because the muscular action of the runner enables him to hold and increase his wind more easily than is possible under the varied and violent arm and chest motions of the boxer, the oarsman, or the swimmer.
A boxer, in training for a contest, ought not to confine his sparring to one or two men. He ought to spar with new and able men, and with as many as possible. It is a radical and common error to confine the exercise to one opponent, no matter how good he may be. After a dozen bouts together, two men know every stop on each other's gamut—even the variations are not surprises. New men, new ways. The boxer or the swordsman who uses himself only to a single opponent, is very apt to lack confidence with a stranger. On the other hand, he who is used to many antagonists welcomes a new man with a powerful sense of knowledge and confidence.
Another exercise in sparring, next best to the opposition of a living boxer, is a hanging bag—not a sand-bag or a flour-bag, as of old—but an air-bag.
The heavy sand-bag (thirty or forty pounds weight), which moved only a few inches even when struck heavily, was good, mainly, for one thing which, it is to be hoped, is out of date and unnecessary—the hardening of the knuckles and skin of the hands. For practice in hitting, it was not good. One might as well strike the wall. It calls for no rapidity, no swift directness, no agile "ducking," retiring, or stepping aside to escape a return.
The air-bag (a leathern foot-ball is best) is as quick and as straight in return as a first-rate boxer. To strike it hard, very hard (so that it rebounds from the ceiling three or four times, according: to the force of the blow and height of the room), is an excellent kind of solitary boxing exercise; so, also, is the rapid and continuous hitting it with one hand. Besides this, it is interesting exercise. A man has to work with a sand-bag; he has fun with an air-ball, and he can return to it with pleasure and interest two or three times a day.
For muscle-hardening exercise, there is nothing better than the dumb-bell—only it must be a very small dumb-bell—not a very large one, as of old. The best size is an iron, two-pound dumb-bell. This is the size with which the strongest men exercise nowadays.
It is admitted, at last, that the object of exercise is not to strain but to strengthen. Heavy dumb-bells strain; light ones strengthen.
"The effects of exercise," says an English medical authority on training, "are twofold: on the one hand a stimulus is given to the action of the heart and lungs, which enables the blood to be more thoroughly oxygenated and more rapidly circulated; on the other hand, there is an expenditure of force accompanying the increased activity of the organic changes. Exercise strengthens the parts exercised, because it increases the nutrition of those parts. When any organ or muscle is inactive, the circulation in it becomes less and less; the smaller net-work of its blood-vessels are empty or but half filled; the streams gradually run in fewer channels, and the organ, ceasing to be thoroughly nourished, wastes away. When the organ is active all its vessels are filled; all the vital changes, on which depend its growth and power, proceed rapidly. The force expended is renewed, unless the expenditure has been excessive, in which case there is a disturbance of the mechanism, and depression, or disease, results. . . . The advantage of exercise to a student, politician, or any other brain-worker, is that it lessens the over-stimulus of his brain, distributes the blood more equally, calling to his muscles some of those streams which would impetuously be rushing through his brain."
In other words, exercise with the arms, legs, or trunk, relieves the congested brain as surely, and, of course, far more healthfully than bleeding.
To return to the need and superiority of the light over the heavy dumb-bell: exercise with the latter is necessarily brief. The single heavy dumb-bell can be lifted from four to twenty times, say, according to its weight. The whole body is violently strained for the brief effort. Quite often, if the lifting be not carefully graduated in weight, the in-rushing blood bursts some of the finer net-work of the vessels, or the delicate covering of the muscles is rudely torn, and the would-be athlete is an invalid for life.
The one-pound or two-pound dumb-bell strains nothing: it only adds to the swing of the hands. The exercise can be varied so as to develop upper and lower limbs and trunk. It is particularly adapted to those who are not trained athletes. Say, the arms are thin and weak and soft, and you want to increase their size, strength, and firmness. There are only a few regular motions for this, and they can be learned in a minute. The hands, grasping the dumb-bells, are hanging by the sides: begin by raising them, bending the elbow and touching the front of the shoulder with the ball of the thumb; down again, and up again: that is all. You repeat this motion twenty times, thirty, on to fifty or sixty before you are tired.
Then stop,—always stop any exercise when it tires you: this is nature's advice.
But begin in a minute or so, and go over it again. You will probably this time reach seventy. Then change the motion: extend the arms like a cross, on a level with the shoulders, and double in from the elbow, alternately, just touching the tips of the shoulders with the hands. Keep this up till you are tired, and then go back to the first motion.
In a week you will be able to raise the hands in the first motion hundreds of times, in a few weeks a thousand times.
This means—what? It means that you keep the muscles of the arms working actively for from a quarter of an hour to an hour; that the lately dried-up blood-vessels are now full of warm blood, feeding the hot muscles as a trench full of water feeds a famished field. It means also that the girth of the arm is one, two, or more inches larger than it was a few weeks ago; that the flesh is firm and solid; and that arm, shoulder, and hand are so strong that there is a new pleasure even in swinging an umbrella or shaking hands with an old friend.
Proceed in the same way with the muscles of the feet, legs, sides, abdomen, back, and neck; and in three months the world and life will have almost as new a look and meaning for you as if you had been born over again.
Any low-priced treatise on athletics will teach you the motions for the different muscles.
THE CURSE OF THE CLOSED WINDOWS.
Remember, always, it is not the handling of heavy weights that is beneficial, but the number of times you perform a motion. The object desired is to draw the blood to the wasted or undeveloped muscles, and keep it there long enough to feed the old, and to form new cells. The blood remains in the muscles while they continue exercising.
I dwell on the use of dumb-bells because they are so handy and so varied in excellence. Dumb-bell exercise is in every one's reach. Twenty-five cents will buy a pair of two-pound iron dumb-bells. You need no gymnasium other than any upper room in your house, with the windows wide open. Never exercise with closed windows.
Remember that the largest vein in your body is open at one end; and it is not filled with blood, but air,—your wind-pipe.
It invites disease to fill your lungs with bad air, when you breathe heavily under exercise, inhaling all the floating threads and dust of a closed room. This open vein makes a breathing man part of the outer world; the atmosphere is his bellows. This is why we ought to love and value the country, and hate the city. We are truly and actually part of the place we live in: its life enters with every inspiration into our lives. We are one with the reeking streets; with the foul exhalations of bar-rooms, with their stale drinks and hideous spittoons; of smoke-filled cars; of crowded halls; and, again, we are one with the fresh morning air of the fields; with the balsam of the strong and beautiful pines; with the sweet breathings of cattle; with the wholesome smell of the fresh-dug earth; with the fragrance of the meadows and the hedges and the trees; with the sound-washed atmosphere of the sparkling river.
Even in a physical sense, the word of the poet is true: "He who has Nature for a companion must, in some sense, be ennobled by the intercourse."
"You will find," says St. Bernard, "something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters."
"There is no riches above a sound body" says Ecclesiasticus, "and no joy above the joy of the heart."
"Life is only life when blessed with health," says Martial.
"It is the misfortune of the young," says Sydney Smith, "to be early thrown out of perfect tune by the indiscreet efforts of their parents to force their minds into action earlier than Nature intended. The result is dissonance, want of harmony, and derangement of function. The nervous system is over-excited, while the physical system is neglected. The brain has too much work to do, and the bodily organs too little. The mind may be fed, but the appetite is lost, and society is filled with pale-faced dyspeptics."
"The ancient Greeks," says Dr. Samuel Smiles, "among their various wisdom, had an almost worshipful reverence for the body as being the habitation of the soul. They gave their body recreation as well as their mind."
"And what thinkest thou," said Socrates to Aristodemus, "of this continual love of life, this dread of dissolution, which takes possession of us from the moment that we are conscious of existence?"—"I think of it," he answered, "as the means employed by the same great and wise Artist deliberately determined to preserve what he has made."
"If we are asked," says a scientific authority, "which of the many necessaries of life is best entitled to the chief place we must surely reply, oxygen. This gas forms about one fifth of the bulk of the atmosphere, and our wants are supplied by the act of breathing, so regularly and ceaselessly performed by every one. It is possible to live for a long time without the protection of a house or of clothing; it is even possible to live for many days without food; but if we are deprived for only one or two minutes of oxygen, the consequences are serious, and may be fatal. . . . Again, oxygen is so closely connected with the great vital processes upon which our growth and daily energy depend, that food itself is useless unless accompanied by a large supply of it. Indeed, when the quantity of oxygen which a man consumes in his lungs daily is calculated, it is found to be greater in weight than all the dry food he requires during the same period. Yet, again, if we wish a house and clothing and food, we must work for them; but for oxygen there is nothing to pay. It is free to all, and lies around us in such abundance that it never runs short. Here, then, we see every means taken to insure that all our demands for oxygen shall be freely and fully met, and yet we are assured by medical authorities that a very large proportion—some say one fourth—of all the deaths that take place is caused, directly or indirectly, by oxygen starvation."
What is the reason that so many must suffer and die for want of this endless blessing,—fresh air? The chief reason, answers the same authority, is city life. Instead of living in the country, where every household might have a large, free space of air around it, we draw together, for the convenience of business, to great centres. There the houses are crowded closely together, often piled one on the top of the other, so that, instead of an overabundance, there is only a limited quantity of air for each. This is made unfit for the support of life by the very act of breathing; the impurities are increased by the waste products of manufactories; and oxygen is destroyed by every fire and lamp and gas-light. The winds and certain properties of the atmosphere constantly remove much of the impure air, and bring in a pure supply; but the crowding together in many parts of a town is so great, and the production of poisonous matter goes on so continuously, that instead of each breath containing its full proportion of oxygen, the place of that gas is taken up to some extent by what is actually hurtful to life. When this is the condition of the atmosphere outside the dwelling, it is necessarily much worse within it, for there the displacement of impure air by pure cannot take place so rapidly. The consequences are as already stated. Large parts of our town populations never have sufficient oxygen; their lives are feeble and full of suffering, and numbers die before their time. Such facts are painful to contemplate; but a knowledge of them puts the wise man on his guard, and he may do much for himself. In the choice of a house he will remember the advantage of a great air-space around it, and of plenty of space within it, so that bedrooms may not be overcrowded. Or, if a large house is beyond his means, he will take care that the rooms are not crowded with furniture, for every piece of furniture excludes an equal bulk of air. When he enters the house he will see that at all times as much fresh air from the outside is admitted, by means of open doors and windows, as can be allowed without inconvenience from cold; and as often as possible ho will have a blow through, to clear out all odd corners where foul air may linger. "Pure air and good food make pure blood, and only pure blood will give good health."
EXERCISE FOR CITY DWELLERS AND SCHOOL CHILDREN.
But let us return to the city and the gymnasium.
Dumb-bells are first-rate. Next, weights and pulleys: you can buy them for two dollars, and set them up in any room where you may open the window when you want to exercise. They increase the volume and power of the extensors of the shoulder, arm, and forearm,—muscles rarely used.
"There are many troubles which you cannot cure by the Bible and the hymn-book," said Henry Ward Beecher; "but which you can cure by a good perspiration and a breath of fresh air."
A breath of fresh air! What does it mean? It means the country, of course; but it means the city, and your own room, with the window wide open, if you cannot get to the country. The air is God's; and He cleans it even for the vitiated city.
Most human beings breathe imperfectly; and without good breathing health and strength are impossible.
"It is estimated," says a recent clever writer (H. T. Finck), "that there are from seventy-five to one hundred cubic inches of air which always remain in a man's lungs. About an equal amount of 'supplemental ' air remains after an ordinary expiration; and only twenty to thirty inches of 'tidal air' as Huxley calls it, passes in and out."
You have seen in a river-bend, where the deep water is stagnant, a floating log lie stationary for weeks and months. It would lie there, in the green scum, if let alone, till the freshet came in the spring. There is a lot of that kind of still air in the lungs, waiting for a freshet—which some placid people never experience (these are the nice, pallid, delicate dyspeptics).
The unused and undisturbed air in the lungs, if originally breathed in from close and exhausted rooms, can become as foul as the stagnant river-pool. It must be expelled—and how? By deep-breathing.
"There are few persons," says the author of "Personal Beauty," "whose health and personal appearance would not be improved vastly if they would take several daily meals of fresh air—consisting of twenty to fifty deep inspirations—in a park or some other place where the air is pure and bracing."
Deep-breathing is a mighty means of preserving and restoring health—Indeed, it ought to be called the first means. The air is a great and cheap doctor.
"The wise for cure on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend."
Many leading authorities are of opinion that the best way to learn deep-breathing is to inhale slowly as much air as you can get into the lungs without discomfort, and then exhale again just as slowly. A clever physician, however, and one of the best athletes in America, told me a better way, which I have tried and recommended with unfailing success. It is to inhale slowly and fully, without straining, and then shoot the air out of the lungs with a sudden gust, by a collapse of shoulders and chest. Then slowly fill the lungs again (through the nostrils),—and gush! out it goes (through the mouth) with a sound like a small locomotive. In the street, you may be noticeable, by the noise, perhaps; but you can get through your twenty or thirty puffs twice a day without much trouble.
The effect of this practice is almost incredible. Take two or three spells of thirty breaths each day for one month; and you will increase your chest-measurement in that time from two to four inches! And this is not like the trainer's increase: it is permanent. And, besides, you will have unconsciously contracted a habit of deep-breathing for the remainder of your life.
One of the misfortunes of New England is the rarity of horseback-riding as an exercise. "The saddle is the seat of health," says Dr. Smiles; "riding may be regarded as the concentrated essence of exercise."
"Who is your doctor?" said some one to Carlyle. "My best doctor," he replied, "is a horse."
The Puritan finds it hard to believe, though, that "idleness is not all idleness." Cicero said: "No one seems to me to be free who does not sometimes do nothing." And elsewhere he says:*"There should be a haven to which we could fly from time to time, not of sloth and laziness, but of moderate and honest leisure."
Every American, young, middle-aged, ay, and old, ought to take from two to four weeks at least, every summer, for rest and sport. Shooting, fishing, driving tours, walking tours. We can all enjoy one or more of these exercises. George Stephenson knew the folly of trying to take too much out of one's self. When he found his friend Lindley exhausted and depressed by too excessive application to engineering, he said to him: "Now, Lindley, I see what you are after—you are trying to get thirty shillings out of your pound. My advice to you is—give it up."
Children in school growing narrow-chested and round-shouldered stooping over desks and books, ought to be taught to breathe as well as to read, and they ought to be kept at it as constantly. And prizes and honors ought to be given to the girls and boys who can run best, swim best, throw the farthest ball, and whose chest-measurement, taken monthly by the teacher, is largest, as well as to those pale-faced students in spectacles, who can demonstrate a problem in Euclid or construe Greek at sight—or rather at half-sight.
The examination of the eyes of Boston public-school children, by a distinguished oculist, a few years ago, brought to light the shocking fact that the vision of the majority was defective. The Hygiene Committee of the Boston School Board, in a report dated Nov. 22, 1887, said: "It has been settled beyond question that school-life has a damaging effect on the eyesight of children."
Listen to the congregation in church on Sunday morning, where there is nothing to divert attention. From end to end of the church you will hear an endless hacking and wheezing from bronchial tubes in all stages of disease and decay. Suppose you had a flock of sheep, and that you came on them quietly some day, and heard such a coughing and wheezing as this of the congregation, would you not shake your head? And, then, suppose you learned that the young ones were growing dim-sighted? What kind of farmer would you be to go on treating those afflicted sheep on the old condition that had caused their injury?
Plato reprehended a boy for playing at some childish game. "Thou reprovest me," said the boy, "for a very little thing."—"Custom," said Plato, "is no little thing."
And not only are we to be (unless we turn to athletics for the cure) a race of bald-headed, round-shouldered spectacle-wearers, but a race of ugly dyspeptics, divided between lank-sides and potbellies. What, with our horse-cars, crowded on bright days, when every one should walk, with our corseted women and girls crushing their livers into their abdomen, and their hearts into their lungs; with our narrow-chested weaklings with quavering stomachs, depending on the deadly revival of the cocktail—may the Lord have pity on our descendants!
Beecher was right—there are some things you cannot learn out of a hymn-book half so well as out of a tree. And there are other things you can learn better than a precept can teach, out of a sallow face, or a red nose, or dull eyes, or peevish mouths, and miserable homes. You can learn, for instance what rum does, what dissipation does, what self-indulgence does, not only on the morals but on the personal appearance.
Vanity is a moral force as well as a moral weakness: it depends on the direction and object.
When you cannot reach a young man's conscience by a temperance argument, you may reach his vanity by leading him up to a shaky, bleary, lying, home-cursing drunkard, and tell him that he is beginning to look like that!
Instead of lecturing? a young woman on the folly of fashion, tell her, and prove to her, that her beauty will be murdered; that her eyes will grow dim; that she will die an old maid, sour and wrinkled, if she continue to outrage the laws of Nature by tying herself in the middle with corset-strings like a living blood-pudding. Horrible taste! Tell her to open her bed-room window, and let in the part of her that is outside,—the fresh part, the sweet air that belongs to her heart, that her poor blood is rotting for. Tell her that unless she does these things, and walks and breathes and bends like an animal, as she is, instead of riding on horse-cars and buggies, and mincing on high-heeled shoes that distort her feet, and breathing contamination in her hermetically-sealed bedroom, she will get wrinkles round her toothless mouth, and blue circles under her dull eyes, like all the other querulous, ill-tempered and sour-faced maids and matrons who crowd the horse-cars, and worry and abuse the poor, tired girls in the stores.
Better burn all the school-books and school-houses in America than go on another half century congesting the children's brains with memory-cramming, blinding their sight and crooking their backs with constant study.
Give us a rest! Give us time to play while we are children; for, God knows, we shall have work enough, and too much, as men and women.
The whole system of American life, from childhood to old age, might have been invented by a distorted mind, bent on degrading the natural beauty of the human form, and producing a race of ugly, weak, near-sighted, selfish, vain, prejudiced, ill-tempered, and unwholesome men and women.
"A drunkard is always a liar," says an authority; and he might have added that a weak, dyspeptic, devitalized man or woman is apt, if not certain, to be a shirker, a snarler, a sensualist, a sneak, and a coward, or more than one of these.
And to think of the endless, empty talk, talk, talk of the future puling, bald-headed abnormality of the cities! For, with the decay of your real man, surely swells the gaseous self-opinion of your weakling. What he loses in stamina, he is sure to make up in gab. He will prate correction, but do none, either for himself or others. He will preach labors and sacrifices he is afraid and unable to practise. He will run not only to head, but to the sensual centres. Your big-chested, bright-eyed, large-shouldered athlete is never a vile sensualist. It is always your pot-bellied, purple-fleshed, dew-lapped, soft-handed creature, on the one hand, or your pallid, tremulous, watery-eyed specimen on the other.
The only use in such men and women is to manure the earth, to hold a warning up to history, and to be pushed out of the path of the strong races, whom they tempt by their luxury to become their conquerors and successors.
To make the future American all he ought to be, physically, mentally, and spiritually, we must build gymnasiums as well as schools and churches. We must honor the teaching of health and strength and beauty, as the Greeks did, as well as the teaching of books and sciences. We must cover our incomparable rivers and lakes with canoes and light outrigged boats, as we are covering our bays with white-sailed yachts. We must see that every square fifty yards of clear ice in winter is covered with merry skaters (the best of all exercises for developing grace); and that the vile rinks for roller-skating, with their atmospheres almost as filthy as their morals, are closed or torn down.
There ought to be a first, second, and third prize in every school, public and private, for such accomplishments as walking, swimming, running, jumping, boxing, and climbing. Our scholars should be taught to cultivate body as well as mind; to breathe as well as to calculate; to know that strength is as sure to follow exercise as knowledge to follow study. Then they will truly know the meaning of the wise man (Johnson), who said: "Such is the constitution of man that labor may be said to be its own reward;" and of the eloquent man (Cicero), who said: " It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor."
CORPULENCE, DIET, AND SLEEP.
"Physic, for the most part, is nothing else but the substitute of exercise and temperance," says Addison.
"The only way for a rich man to be healthy is by exercise and abstinence, to live as if he were poor," says Sir W. Temple.
"A hale cobbler," says Beckerstaff, "is better than a sick king."
"In these days," says Bulwer Lytton, "half our diseases come from the neglect of the body in the overwork of the brain. In this railway age the wear and tear of labor and intellect go on without pause or self-pity. We live longer than our forefathers; but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares. They fatigued only the muscles; we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves."
Corpulence is one of the penalties of under-exercising, under-breathing, over-eating, and over-drinking.
For the reduction of corpulence, the following rules (Dr. T. K. Chambers) may be observed for a three weeks' course:—
"Rise at 7, rub the body well with horse-hair gloves, have a cold bath, and take a short turn in the open air. Breakfast (alone) at 8 or 8.30 on the lean of beef or mutton (cutting off the fat and skin), dry toast, biscuit, or oat cake, a tumbler of claret and water, or tea without milk or sugar, or made in the Russian way with a slice of lemon. Lunch at 1 on bread or biscuit, Dutch cheese, salad, water cresses, or roasted apples, hung beef or anchovies, or red herring or olives, and similar relishes. After eating, drink claret and water, or unsweetened lemonade, or plain water, in moderation. Dine at any convenient hour. Avoid soup, fish, or pastry, but eat plain meat of any sort, except pork, rejecting the fat and skin. Spinach, haricots, or any other green vegetable may be taken, but no potatoes, made dishes, or sweets. A jelly, or a lemon-water ice, or a roast apple, may suffice in their place. Take claret and water at dinner, and one glass of sherry or Maderia afterwards. Between meals, as a rule, exercise must always be taken to the extent of inducing perspiration. Running, when practicable, is the best form in which to take it. Seven or eight pounds is as much as is prudent to lose during the three weeks. If this loss is arrived at sooner, or, indeed, later, the severe parts of the treatment may be gradually omitted; but it is strongly recommended to modify the general habits in accordance with the principle of taking as small a quantity as possible of fat and sugar, or of substances which form fat and sugar, and sustaining the respiratory function. By this means the weight may be gradually reduced for a few months with safety."
If a man in training, or in every-day life, finds that he cannot get off his flesh, and so clear his wind, with the ordinary routine of exercise, cut off his sugar and his potatoes, just to try how it acts. "With some digestions, sugar makes no difference," says W. B. Woodford ("Oars and Sculls";) with others an ounce or two of sugar in a day makes a pound or so of fat, which, but for the sugar, would have turned into muscle. The four or five lumps, or spoonfuls, that a man would take at breakfast and supper would, with some men, put on more fat in one day than a two-mile run would take off."
For a more permanent reduction of fat, there is nothing that can be depended on except a well-prescribed regimen, such as that of Banting, who reduced his weight forty-six pounds, and his bulk over twelve inches round the waist, "and this after having vainly tried all that medical aid could do for him." Banting's plan consisted in abstaining as much as possible "from bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes, which had been the main (and I thought innocent) elements of my existence." At first this looks like sweeping the table clean; but we are reassured by the bill-of-fare that remains. "For breakfast," says Mr. Banting, "I take four or five ounces of beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon, or cold meat of any kind, except pork; a large cup of tea (without milk or sugar), a little biscuit, or some dry toast. For dinner, any fish, except salmon, eels, or herrings; any meat, except pork; any vegetable except potatoes; some dry toast; fruit out of a pudding; any kind of poultry or game. For tea: fruit, a rusk or two, or toast, and tea without milk or sugar. For supper: meat similar to dinner." For alcoholic drinks, Mr. Banting only ruled out champagne, port, and beer.
Undoubtedly this regimen has been successful in innumerable cases. Its author, indeed, declared that it not only reduced his corpulency, but cured him of deafness and other ailments.
Sidney Smith, writing to Lord Murray, said, half playfully, "If you wish for anything like happiness in the fifth act of life, eat and drink about one half of what you could eat and drink. Did I ever tell you my calculation about eating and drinking? Having ascertained the weight of what I could live upon so as to preserve my health and strength, and what I did live upon, I found that, between ten and seventy years of age, I had eaten and drank forty horse-wagon loads of meat and drink more than would have preserved me in life and health! The value of this mass of nourishment I consider to be worth seven thousand pounds sterling. It occurred to me that I must, by my voracity, have starved to death nearly one hundred persons! This is a frightful calculation, but irresistibly true; and I think, dear Murray, your wagons would require an additional horse each!"
Says Shelley, the poet:—
"On a natural system of diet, old age would be our last and our only malady; the term of our existence would be protracted; we would enjoy life, and no longer preclude others from the enjoyment of it; all sensational delights would be infinitely more exquisite and perfect; the very sense of being would then be a continued pleasure, such as we now feel it in some few and favored moments of our youth. By all that is sacred in our hopes for the human race, I conjure those who love happiness and truth to give a fair trial to the vegetable system. Reasoning is surely superfluous on a subject whose merits an experience of six months would set forever at rest."
How to insure sleep has become a matter of speculation. Some think early rising is a sovereign remedy.
"Early to bed, and early to rise,
Make a man healthy and wealthy and wise."
There is no need to prescribe recipes for sleep to a healthy, well-exercised man or woman. They will fall asleep as naturally as they breathe. But many persons, whose constitutions are out of gear, adopt artificial methods. Says Dr. Smiles:—
"One tries to sleep by repeating the multiplication table; another repeats some bit of well-known poetry. A missionary, troubled with sleeplessness, repeated the Lord's Prayer until Satan sent him to sleep to get rid of it; and he says that he never found that recipe to fail. Another looks at an imaginary point, and follows it far off in the distance, thus inducing the hypnotism of brain. Some, like Dr. Franklin, believe in the air bath, and others in a pillow of hops."
The following is the method of producing sleep, according to Dr. Binns, in his "Anatomy of Sleep":—
"How to Produce Sleep.—Let him turn on his right side; place his head comfortably on the pillow, so that it exactly occupies the angle a line drawn from the head to the shoulder would form; and then, slightly closing his lips, take rather a full inspiration, breathing as much as he possibly can through the nostrils. This, however, is not absolutely necessary, as some persons breathe always through their mouths during sleep, and rest as sound as those who do not. Having taken a full inspiration, the lungs are then to be left to their own action; that is, the respiration is neither to be accelerated nor retarded. The attention must now be fixed upon the action in which the patient is engaged. He must depict to himself that he sees the breath passing from his nostrils in a continuous stream; and, the very instant that he brings his mind to conceive this apart from all other ideas, consciousness and memory depart, imagination slumbers, fancy becomes dormant, thought subdued; the sentiment faculties lose their susceptibility; the vital or ganglionic system assumes the sovereignty; and, as we before remarked, he no longer wakes, but sleeps. This train of phenomena is but the effect of a moment. The instant the mind is brought to the contemplation of a single sensation, that instant the sensorium abdicts the throne, and the hypnoctic faculty steeps itself in oblivion."
Another method was that followed by Dr. Southey. To James White, he said:
The late Archbishop Whately, of Dublin, was a hard brain-worker, and required a compensating amount of sleep. He knew well that the brain weakens under continued and protracted labor, especially at night. Accordingly he adopted a method of ensuring sleep and rest. One winter day a medical friend accompanied Dr. Field to the archbishop's house at Redesdale, Stillorgan. The ground was covered with two feet of snow, and the thermometer was down almost to zero. As the couple of doctors passed they saw an old laboring man felling a tree, while a heavy shower of sleet drifted pitilessly in his wrinkled face. One of them thought, what a cruel master that man must have. The other said, "That laborer, whom you think the victim of prelatical despotism, is no other than the archbishop curing himself of a headache. When his Grace has been reading and writing more than ordinarily, and finds any pain or confusion about the cerebral organization, he puts both to flight by rushing out with an ax and slashing away at some ponderous trunks. As soon as he finds himself in a profuse perspiration he gets into bed, wraps himself in Limerick blankets, falls into a sound slumber and gets up buoyant."
HINTS FOR TRAINING AND GOOD HEALTH.
Do not run before breakfast: if you want exercise, walk. It is well even before a walk to take a cup of tea or coffee.
Before cold bathing in the morning, a brisk rubbing down with rough gloves or towel will increase the pleasure and efficacy of the bath. After bathing always a thorough rubbing. (There are rough-silk mittens made by George F. Brown, of Boston, which are excellent for both wet and dry rubbing.)
Take a Turkish bath once a fortnight.
Moderation is the secret of good training and good health — moderation in exercise, as well as in eating, drinking, and sleep.
Never sleep on a pillow, unless you are sick, and it is ordered for some special reason. Nature never intended man, or any other animal, in sleeping to raise the head higher than the shoulders. Pillows interfere with the breathing, and weaken the muscles of the neck. To sleep without a pillow, on a perfectly flat mattress, is the luxury of rest, because of the natural position. It soon increases the girth of the neck from one to two inches, by making the neck-muscles stretch and fully do their work. It allows the chest to deepen its breathing; and it prevents, to a large degree, wakefulness and snoring. The discomfort of putting away the pillow lasts less than a week, and once you have tasted the delight of a free, level sleep you will never be induced again to double your chin down on your breast, or your ear over on your shoulder, by using a pillow. All children should be told these reasons, and then their pillows should be taken away. A horse's or a dog's shoulders are higher than a man's; but he who wants to sleep well can learn from those animals how the head should be laid.
Go to bed at ten and get up at seven.
Open your bedroom window, and, if possible, make a draught through the room, but not across your bed.
Never exercise in a room with closed windows.
If you have no time for open-air exercise, go through various muscular motions with dumb-bells in your room, with the windows open, on rising and before lying down. Open-air exercise is not indispensable to health.
The test of moderation in exercise is fatigue. Never go on with any muscular exercise when you are tired.
A celebrated physician asked an old man, remarkable for his health, what regimen he used. "I take only one meal a day," he answered. "Keep your secret," said the physician; "if it were known and followed, our profession would be ruined."
"There is no disease, bodily or mental," says Shelley, "which adoption of vegetable diet and pure water has not infallibly mitigated where-ever the experiment has been fairly tried." I do not recommend a vegetable diet, but these experiences induce thought on the matter of healthy food.
Eat no rich gravies, nor meat twice cooked; and eat nothing fried that you can have broiled.
Stupid people say "sawing wood is good exercise." Remember that good exercise must be recreation (re-creation, or renewal of vigor), and there is no recreation in sawing wood, or any other laborious occupation.
Remember that pleasure is a means as well as an end. The exercise that has in it the element of amusement is ten times as healthy as a listless walk.
Never attempt severe mental or bodily labor after a meal.
If possible take your heavy tasks, mental or bodily, in the forenoon.
Every morning, in the open air, fill the lungs twenty times slowly with fresh air (inhaling through the nostrils), and expire suddenly through the mouth. This will strengthen the lungs, renew the resident air, induce a habit of deep-breathing, and enlarge the chest.
The best of all exercises for physical development is all-round glove-boxing, practised with skill and temper; the next best is long swimming, with the over-hand stroke and an occasional change of hands; then follow these exercises which I place in the order of their excellence: river-canoeing (double paddle), shell-rowing, hand-ball, lawn-tennis, fencing, walking, and all kinds of gymnasium work.
During exercise, especially in walking, keep the abdominal muscles well under the will, so that the abdomen may be drawn in, and kept in, for any length of time. The abdominal muscle is the test of condition. Some people never control it; and from youth to age the belly leads the man. When the abdominal muscle gets the better of a man, he has said good-by to his athletics.
- A specialist writing on corpulence, says:—"A constant free indulgence in vegetable foods favors the accumulation of fat. The same may be said of thick soups, sauces and spices, puddings, pies, cakes, all sweets, milk, and even water, if drunk to excess. Alcoholic and malt liquors are notorious fat-producers. The majority of those people who use them continuously and in considerable quantities, sooner or later show an increase in fat. Here a question arises: Is the fat produced by alcoholic liquors, such as whiskey, brandy etc., of the same character as that put on by malt liquors? It would appear that there is a difference. Malt liquors do not degenerate the system of the indulger as does alcohol, which has rightly been termed 'the genius of degeneration.' Malt liquors have nutritive properties, and they contribute to bodily support. The beer-drinker is fat and florid, and within certain limits his fat is wholesome. He has an excess of blood, and suffers from what is known as plethora, while the tippler of alcohol, sooner or later, suffers from anœmia, or poverty of the blood. The following is a modification of the various regimens which have been advised by different physicians who have closely studied the disease. This list is generally accepted by the profession.
"Foods which may be eaten: Beef tea, mutton broth, chicken soup, stewed oysters, beef, mutton, veal, ham, eggs in any form, game, poultry, and fish of all kinds, onions, celery, cresses, cabbage, tomatoes, radishes, squash, turnips, stale bread sparingly, toast sparingly, gluten biscuit, only three ounces of breadstuff per day. Grapes and oranges are allowed. As much water as the system needs should be indulged. On this point no rule can be given. Some people suffering from obesity drink but very little water, less, even, than they actually need. They should drink more freely. On the other hand, the obese person who makes it a habit of drinking several quarts of water a day should lessen the quantity considerably. Tea or coffee without milk or sugar is allowed. Sour wines may be taken occasionally, but sweet wines are prohibited. If digestion is reasonably good, none of the articles advised in the foregoing will prove burdensome. If there is much dyspepsia, and it does not soon disappear under this diet, why, then, the sufferer must refrain from eating what he knows by experience aggravates his trouble. Eat slowly and chew the food thoroughly, is a golden rule for all to follow.
"To regulate the diet is by no means all a fat person must do to become thin. He must exercise freely and judiciously. Walking is good exercise, if one does enough of it and walks properly. If he merely saunters along for four or five miles, with his hands in his pockets, it will probably do him very little good. He will need to 'make a business' of walking—swing his arms, and, in fact, work the whole upper part of his body. There is a variety of apparatuses now on sale under the names 'home exercises,' 'noiseless chest weights,' etc. One of these can easily be set up in home or office, and very great benefit will in a short time follow its use. These contrivances are especially adapted to develop the upper part of the body. Walk to develop the lower part. If one cannot afford a 'home gymnasium,' which costs from six to ten dollars, let him buy a cord of wood, and saw on that for half an hour a day; he will find himself a much better man physically, as well as mentally, in a very short time."
- Mr. John M. Laflin, of New York, the "model-man" of the Vienna Exposition, is an accomplished athlete, and a champion in many lines. For several years he stood in the Paris Life School for Gerome and many other famous painters of the human figure, and he has drawings made by them which show him to be one of the few perfectly-formed men. He is six feet two and one-half inches in height, with a forty-six inch chest, seventeen-inch biceps, and every muscle of his body equally developed. He has given lifelong attention to athletics. He says:—
"The best of all-round exercises is rowing. It brings all the muscles into play, particularly those least used in ordinary light exertion. The sliding seat proved to be not only a good thing for racing, but a great improver of rowing as an exercise. It brings the muscles of the legs, loins, stomach, and back into better action. For women nothing is so beneficial as rowing.
"Using heavy bells is worse than useless. You can get up all the perspiration you want by swinging a one-pound iron in each hand in lively fashion for a minute or two. If you do not perspire freely, or are subject to pains in the joints or muscles, or your circulation is sluggish, you can attach a battery to the bells. That is a new idea, and a very good one. An electric battery of considerable power can be enclosed in a box not much bigger than a well-filled pocket-book. This is hung about the neck by a cord, so as to fall upon the breast. Two wires connect it with the dumb-bells, and when the bells are grasped, a regulated current passes through the body, starts the circulation, and wakes one up generally. The wearer can walk around the room swinging the arms, striking in any direction, and getting exercise and electricity all at once. If that does not start the perspiration nothing will. Another good apparatus, and a cheap one, is a striking-bag. It is easily made. Put a ring in the ceiling; tie a stout cord to the ring, and at the lower end of the cord fasten a foot-ball, to hang at about the height of the chin. To the lower side of the foot-ball attach a piece of rubber gas pipe, and make the end fast to a ring in the floor. That prevents the ball from flying all about the room when struck, and brings it back quickly. Punching that foot-ball is pretty lively work, and the best kind of exercise for a boxer. Then the rubber straps with handles, which can be obtained almost anywhere, give a great variety of exercise, are inexpensive, and take up no room. With such apparatus a man or woman can have a gymnasium at home, and one hour out of twenty-four devoted to exercise and rubbing, will keep anybody in good condition, and make him healthy and cheerful, if not wealthy and wise. Swimming is one of the best of exercises, but unfortunately the opportunities for indulging in the sport are limited. It is good for the arms, legs, back, and almost all parts of the frame, and it increases the lung power better than anything else.
"One need not train like an athlete, and a man does not require a physique like mine, to be perfectly healthy; but if men and women could be kept healthy for a few generations, physical development like mine would be the rule, not the exception. Nine-tenths of the diseases that now keep the doctors busy would be absolutely unknown. No healthy man ever got pneumonia, no matter what the exposure. There is no case on record of a sailor having pneumonia. This is because a sailor's lungs are kept in good order by pure air, and he gets plenty of exercise. The amount of exercise necessary to keep the body in good condition is less than you might suppose. Fifteen minutes a day, rightly employed, will do wonders. A person ought to exercise a few minutes in the morning, and then take a sponge-bath in salted water, followed by vigorous rubbing with hair gloves or a coarse towel. The movements of the muscles start the impurities to the surface, and the bath cleans the pores. The exercise ought to be light. I don't believe in exertion that taxes the muscular strength. Heenan and all those old-time athletes thought they must use hundred-pound dumb-bells and trot around with great lead soles on their shoes. That made them heavy and slow, and exhausted their strength needlessly. One-pound dumb-bells are heavy enough for anybody, and Indian clubs should not weigh more than four or five pounds at the outside. Gymnasts should not use heavy weights at all. What is needed to develope muscle is movement, action — not strain. You don't train a trotter by hitching him to a loaded coal-cart, and making him drag that around the track. Hanlan doesn't get into a whaleboat for a scull race. The lifting of heavy weights is bad for a man, and the men who trained themselves to lift a ton killed themselves. Over-training and over-exercising of any kind is injurious, and that is why college boat-racing is not always a good thing. The weakest man in the boat must work too hard. A man is only as strong as his weakest point, and you put too much strain on him and he will give away at that point. That is why I advocate light exercise for health. The exerciser should never get tired."