Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ENDURANCE by Earle E. Liederman - Author and Publisher, (1926), - Chapter 7

Ability brought on by practice, endurance, fatigue, and recuperative powers all are closely linked together. No one can make good, whether he is a runner, boxer or athlete in any other sport, unless his organs as well as his muscles work in harmony, and unless the muscles possess the ability to recuperate between exercises. A beginner’s muscles all sadly lack these qualities, and largely because of the lack of acquired coordination through overcoming the antagonistic muscles. Naturally, in such a condition fatigue sets in.

Often deer chased by huntsmen have been known to drop dead from exhaustion; but during exercise a human muscle never reaches the condition of absolute fatigue or complete powerlessness. This is prevented by the painful sensation experienced before the muscle becomes absolutely incapable of action. The rest that is enforced by the thoroughly aching muscles checks the further development of fatigue. Even should the enthusiast desire to continue the movement after the muscle is aching, the pain and suffering soon would become so intense as to eliminate all forced action by will power.

I once read what was an excellent illustration proving that muscles really never become absolutely exhausted. It also was stated that all the will power a man may possess cannot exhaust the last remaining power still left in the muscle after it reaches the severely aching point. As nearly as I can recall it, it read something like this: One of most tiring attitudes to assume is that which consists of holding the arms outstretched horizontally. The deltoid or shoulder muscle does most of the work. There are very few who are vigorous enough to hold the arms in this manner for more than five or six minutes. At the end of this time the deltoids cannot act longer and the arms drop. But the muscles are not exhausted; the fibres still possess a great contractive force. This can be proven by the fact that certain stimulants, such as electricity, can bring into play this motive force over which the will no longer has any action. If by waiting until the exhaustion of fatigue becomes unbearable to a man who is holding out his arms, and if at the moment when he declares he has used up all his power and is about to let his arms fall, you apply a strong electric current to the shoulder muscles the fatigue and feebleness seem to vanish and the arms remain outstretched, showing that the muscles had not lost all their contractile power.

It is undesirable to work a muscle to such a degree that an abnormal stimulant is required to bring forth farther contractions. It is wise to discontinue the movement and to relax when, or even before, the aching point begins to develop. After a time it will be found that you will not have as many aches as you used to have, and these, of course, are eradicated by the practice and experience in the various movements and by the development of better tone – better endurance – in the muscles themselves. The more experience you have in a certain movement the more endurance you will acquire. Do you thing for one instant that a mountain climber could continue until he reaches the summit if it were his first attempt? Naturally, the first time he climbed anything he would experience fatigue; but by constant practice his finally is able to avoid his fatigue by having his muscles in condition and working in coordination.

One year while in Seward, Alaska, I stood gazing a quite a high mountain on whose round top there had been placed a flag. I inquired of a passerby for what purpose the flag had been put there. He told me the mountain was known as Marathon Mountain, and that each year there was an annual race up to this flag pole and back, the winner being presented with a prize. I almost opened my mouth in astonishment, for it was hard to realize how a human being could run up the side of such a heavy grade for so long a distance, for this mountain must have been fully four thousand feet in height. If any one of you have tried to run uphill you will appreciate this wonderful endurance it takes to run the short distance of even one hundred yards. I feel quite certain that those who participate in the annual Marathon Mountain run would not think of making this attempt without first rehearsing at least a good distance up the slope and regularly, for several or many days before the race.

Anyone who wishes to experiment in uphill running should try running two or three steps at a time up the stairway of a tall office building. I am sure he would find himself extremely tired before reaching the top, and would not recommend such exertion to anyone who has not conditioned his legs, heart and lungs beforehand, by first practicing one flight, two flights a few days later, and progressively to the top in this manner. It would be foolhardy for anyone to attempt it otherwise, for not only would fatigue set in, but the heart action would be greatly disturbed, possibly the heart damaged, and most likely serious consequences would follow.

The power to resist fatigue is essential in acquiring endurance, and, in fact, may be said to constitute endurance. If you have refrained from exercise for some time and your body suffers for the want of it, fatigue may well be dreaded; whereas, if you exercise daily and keep your body in condition you will have no cause to dread fatigue. But by having too long periods of repose, such as omitting your exercising drills for days at a time, it will make you more susceptible to muscular fatigue and muscle lameness than if you daily performed physical activities for but a minutes. Therefore it is essential, as I have so many times stated, always be in good condition.

The only way to gain the power to resist fatigue is to increase power and endurance of muscles, heart and lungs. You must continue each day whatever exertions you are performing, until the muscles begin to feel tired. After a while what exertions once brought on fatigue and demanded relaxation no longer will do so. In time you can continue with the activity without thought of fatigue, and for what, to the inactive person, will be an almost unbelievable length of time.

A well-trained man resists fatigue easily, not because he ignores the painful sensations which usually or frequently accompany work, but because these sensations are not produced in him, or at most are produced in very slight and easily variable degree. Exercise induces nutrition in all the tissues of the body. This makes them more resistant and firmer, and, in a sense, arms them against shocks and friction and protects them against the accidents of work On the contrary, prolonged repose makes the tissues softer and more susceptible to the shocks and accidents.

Fatigue in all its forms is felt especially after too much rest has been taken. If anyone has had the experience of traveling across the country, from coast to coast, he will realize more than ever the value of daily exercise. I have taken this trip numerous times and, while I always keep myself in excellent condition, a three or four-day ride on the trains, with its dusty or super-heated atmosphere and lack of activity, makes me feel, upon arriving at my destination, that my energies have been lowered appreciably.

Once, after I have been in heavy active training for several months, I went from New York to Seattle, Wash. After leaving my baggage at my hotel, I took a walk up and down the hills of the various streets. Anyone who has been to Seattle will know what steep grades there are along some of the side streets which cross the main thoroughfares. I found in time that in reaching the tops of the little hilly streets I was beginning to puff, when ordinarily I would not been so affected by such exercise. This breathless condition was brought on by my four-day train ride, during which I had practically no physical activity whatever. This indicates the importance of allowing no day to elapse without doing exercise in some form or another.

My belief is that in these modern times the automobile takes a great many years from any people’s lives. How many businessmen are there who upon leaving their homes walk to the elevator of their apartment or hotel, which carries them down to the street and there awaits their car, which brings them direct to the office where they again enter an elevator, which brings them practically to their desk? After a day of inactivity they ride home; and they repeat this same routine day after day. It is no wonder they become fat and flabby, with absolutely no endurance. They would suffer from lameness and stiffness if they walked the length of two or three blocks. Finally they wonder what their troubles may be. Perhaps, upon advice from their physician, they decide upon an hour’s walk. They probably are in bed with fever the next morning. But take the postman, who walks and stands continuously all day long. He goes to bed without feeling any ill effects from the exertion, and awakes in the morning feeling fully fit for his duties.

The fatigue which follows an exercise of speed is unlike that experienced after an exercise of strength. In performing strength work the muscular contraction is well in evidence and is slow and prolonged, and the fatigue is especially felt in the muscle. The limbs become weary and congested. The blood flows to them and swells them, which is usually the most encouraging thing a physical culture enthusiast can experience. When I first began exercising, I performed my work before a mirror, and I was just as enthusiastic about my measurements and increasing the size of my muscles as my pupils are today. I actually measured my muscles every day to see whether or not they were increasing in size. How encouraged I felt when, upon finishing a certain movement and measuring the muscle which performed the movement, I found that it had increased about one-quarter of an inch in size; and how disappointed I was when later in the day I found I had lost the one-quarter of an inch, as the blood had left the muscle, naturally decreasing the size of the muscle. But the constant swelling up or bringing of blood to the part used by the activity of the exercise positively will increase its size permanently, if not overdone to the point of exhaustion of cells, energy and building material. But more of this later.

The expression “nervous fatigue” gives a good idea of the kind of disturbance which easily is recognized by those who have ever prolonged and exercise of speed. There is less desire for sleep, and the appetite also lessens. These effects are produced by the great expenditure of nervous energy, which an exercise of speed makes necessary and which makes the repair of the exercised structures more difficult. Speed work, also, will take off weight, which can be laid to the expenditure of nervous energy in performing the speed work, just as any nervous strain upon the body is bound to reduce the weight.

While fatigue may be muscular or nervous, it also can be mental and take the form of depression. This depression can be created by overwork and by using the will power to force the muscles beyond their natural tiring point. It is interesting to note what stimulating effect the mind has on the muscles, especially when they are fatigued. Those who have engaged in actual warfare know what aching and swollen feet mean upon returning from the trenches, exhausted and depressed because of the tremendous amount of nerve force and muscular action used in advancing and in retiring in combat. It is a common sight to see comrades dropping exhausted, one by one, upon their return march. But let some shout “the enemy is coming,” and everyone will be on his feet, forgetful of fatigue and depression.

It will be seen, therefore, that besides our will power forcing our muscles onward, that additional stimulus can be created by fear and excitement. Of course, greater reaction is bound to follow when such added stimulus compels further muscular action. But whether it be fear of bodily injury or fear of losing out, such mental stimulus will prove very interesting in the study of endurance work, which I shall discuss in another chapter. It is not wise to force the muscles by the will to such as degree as is possible by some emotion unless a life or a great accomplishment depends upon it; and except in some crisis or urgent need it is well to discontinue movement when the feeling of tiredness enters the muscles involved. Muscles should be in such condition that fatigue would not manifest itself, through training and possessing the ability to recuperate between movements. And again let me repeat there probably will be lack of recuperative power if relaxation between movements is not secured, or if coordination is defective and muscle antagonism plays the chief role during the movements.


The sensation of fatigue prevents one from having an exact idea of the energy which the muscular fibres still possess; and it compels rest long before all the force of the muscles has been spent, just as the hunger warns us that we need food long before the body becomes weakened from lack of nourishment. The sensation of fatigue should put us on guard. As I have said, it would be dangerous to continue working until the muscles become completely exhausted and incapable of contracting, and we should look upon early signs of fatigue as nature’s warning to discontinue all movement.

The student will find that a greater number of movements can be made if the mind centers on other things. If you think about what you are doing the concentration on the movement naturally will tire your muscles quicker that if your mind wanders. Mental concentration while exercising, therefore, can be seen to be better for muscle building than for endurance work. As an organ the heart is an example of this. It beats throughout our lives. Its movements are not involuntary, just as are the movements of the lungs. Neither the heart nor the lungs ever determine the sensation of fatigue in individual muscles or groups of muscles.

The muscles ordinarily under the control of the will have the same immunity to fatigue if their contraction is make more or less involuntary. This easily can be observed in patients suffering from St. Vitus’ Dance or those suffering from palsy. In either case movement after movement is performed against the will, from morning till night, and yet muscular fatigue does not develop in appreciable degree. If an athlete were able to continue such a series of movements, impelling him to do so by force of will, complete exhaustion would set in before many hours would pass.

The student will find for himself that an exercise which is accompanied by concentration, that is with the thought on every movement his is doing, will prove more fatiguing than a movement which is performed independently of the will. Again may be mentioned the beginner with his lack of coordination and muscle sense and who is wholly independent upon his enthusiasm and desire to achieve in a difficult sport or pastime. The tension he puts forth with each effort can be likened to the most strenuous muscle-building work for the experienced athlete.
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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