Sunday, April 26, 2009

ENDURANCE by Earle E. Liederman - Author and Publisher, (1926), - Chapter 9

By this time it is evident to the student that before he considers endurance he must acquire muscular coordination, muscle sense, and good wind, and have his organs functioning properly. A youth may possess all of these qualifications, but how about the one who has slipped backwards? He is the fellow I am trying to reach, and if I did not think I could fully arouse his interest before the time I finish this book, if I did not hope to covert every reader to the fact that he must continue to keep himself in good condition and not backslide physically, and if I did not think that you who read this book would feel that I am correct in claiming that everyone should be able to save his own life, in most emergencies, I would cast the whole manuscript into the ocean, whose waves are almost touching my feet as I write.

For one who has discontinued training, it is advisable to begin very lightly and progress just as slowly as if he had never before had experience with exercising. In this manner there will be only a slight discomfort showing on the following day, which can be worked off by gentle movements in order to improve the local circulation and carry off the retained muscle waste, as well as to avoid over-work. It is a fact that too much exercise is more harmful than none at all, as in the case of the circus strong man.

It is folly to compel yourself to exercise when the body says “No.” Just when you receive this warning, you alone can tell. But there is a distinct difference between the call for rest and relaxation after having had enough, and the sluggish feeling of indolence. How many times have you, who have had experience with exercising, gotten out of bed in the morning with sleep still in your eyes. It seems at such times as though you could scarcely open them. It may come from the fact that you were late the night before. In most cases a cold bath will remove this felling and give you the desire for working. But should it not do so and you still lack the starting energy, it will be much better for you to skip your morning exercising period on that day. If you cannot perform it later, take none at all that day, and the following morning will find you prepared and fit to tackle a vigorous drill.

If you fail to follow this plan you are liable to overwork your muscles, and overwork would be a case of fatigue being pushed to the extreme. Overwork also can be produced by continuing an exercise or a sport after your good judgment and bodily feeling tell you to stop.

Have you ever attended a six-day bicycle race? Perhaps many of you have. Around and around the saucer track the riders go. These men have wonderful endurance powers, brought on, of course, by their continuous riding in six-day races throughout the year. The first day or so finds them still fresh, but if you can get close to them when they dismount from their wheels, after relief by their partners, to carefully study their faces, you will find that haggard, drawn expression on each of them, signifying the drain upon their energies. They are overworking themselves, and if it were not for the vast amount of sleep that each six-day rider takes when the race if over, they would soon find themselves physical wrecks.

The reader must not misunderstand me and think, when I am emphasizing the fact that everyone must possess a certain amount of endurance, that I am advocating for him marathon running, six day bicycle riding, or twenty-five-mile endurance swimming, for such is not the case. I want simply to impress upon each and every reader that a fair amount of endurance is absolutely essential not only safety’s sake in saving one’s own life and the lives of others, but for anatomical and physiological reasons as well. Endurance exercises, if not carried out to the extreme, positively will prolong life.

Overworking of the muscles burns up the tissues faster than they can be replenished, with the consequence that instead of the muscles becoming larger they grow smaller and smaller in size. This is proven by most endurance runners. You would think anyone who runs mile after mile would increase the size of his legs from such prolonged effort, so that eventually they would attain enormous proportions; but the fact that almost every endurance runner has thin legs proves that the work or pastime in which they excel breaks down the muscle tissues faster than they can be built up. Hence, in endurance work an abundant diet is essential.

Only the other night I was attending a boxing show, and among the various celebrities introduced from the ring was a tall thin fellow, whose height I should judge to be about six feet, but whose clothes hung so loosely upon his framework that he appeared rather ungainly. Much to my surprise, this young man was introduced as a champion runner, he having run without stopping for one hundred miles. He was introduced from the ringside that night for the announcement that he intended to run seventy-five miles the following Saturday. It was hard for me to imagine anyone running one hundred miles without stopping, and yet this youth accomplished this feat; so seventy-five miles would not prove very difficult for him. But I wondered, and I presume there were hundreds of others whose thoughts were the same, why he did not possess a massive chest and Heculean legs. But it is the same with him as it is with practically all other endurance athletes – the longer they work, the thinner they become.

Exceptions to this rule can be had in swimmers. It seems that the water creates a fatty tissue around the muscles of most swimmers. It is nature’s way of protecting them from the cold, just as the people of the North usually are stouter than those living around the Equator. As all rules seem to have exceptions, it is well to look into the better nutrition of long distance swimmers. You all have noticed on the bathing beaches how the thin man suffers as soon as he comes out of the water. His teeth chatter and he presents a woeful sight. You often wonder why he does not dress instead of endure his shivering. It may be that the stout people naturally take to the water and, therefore, can stand the cold much better than the thin ones. You frequently see the stout man play around in the water and on the beach, sometimes for hours at a time, and not seem to be affected. Probably this is the reason why stout people naturally become distance swimmers after they have perfected the art of swimming.

Approaching exhaustion will manifest itself not only in the muscles themselves but in the organs as well. The heart will beat with exceptional rapidity and force and the respiratory organs will be greatly affected. Prolonging an exercise beyond this point might cause serious complications – heart strain being the most serious one. The heart is a muscle and therefore, is enlarged through activity. It develops thicker, heavier, stronger walls; and in the athlete it propels the blood more vigorously than the smaller, weaker heart does in the one who never exercises. Excessive exercise, however, induces wearing and degeneration and diminished strength of the fibres, producing dilatation of the cavities of the heart resulting from a thinning , weakening and stretching of their walls. Usually the athlete who strains his heart is “through.” Therefore, my earnest advise to all my readers and pupils is to make doubly sure not to prolong a movement beyond the point when they feel a degree of fatigue that is slight enough that the exercise could be continued for some time longer.

This feeling of fatigue will become less and less pronounced as one progresses with the work. Suppose, for illustration, one feels slightly fatigued after performing a movement on or two hundred times. After the same movement has been performed for a week or two, it will be found that two hundred times does not cause fatigue; an additional twenty-five to fifty repetitions will be possible before experiencing this feeling. A similar illustration may be gotten from running. Suppose one is able to run a quarter of a mile before the respiratory apparatus is affected or the heart begins to thump. It won’t be long before it will be possible to run half a mile before experiencing the same functional disturbance of the organ.

To cite from my own experience: when I first became interested in swimming, I used to find great enjoyment in swimming in pools. To swim the length of the pool, which was sixty feet, seemed to be sufficient for me for some time. The exertions I went through in those sixty feet left my muscles tired, my breathing exhausted and my heart beating rapidly. This was because I was a beginner. It was not long before I was able to swim two and three laps and upon completion of the additional lap or laps I would feel just about as tired as I did previously at the end of one lap. After a year or so I was able to swim a mile without as much organic disturbance as I had in the beginning after my first lap’s swim.

This shows how progression can be made naturally, without any strain upon the organs. If in the beginning I had attempted to swim two laps, the over-exertion may have exhausted me to such a point as to strain my heart. Or a little later, when I was able to swim three laps, if I had forced myself to swim four or five laps the same serious condition might have resulted. And today even though I am able to swim considerably more than a mile ( though I am not a professional long distance swimmer), if I were to force myself to swim three or four miles, should it be possible for me to do so, serious organic disturbances might ensue.

Mental depression or indisposition must not be mistaken for exhaustion. By this I mean that if your are performing work or a sport that you indulge in more through necessity than through liking, often a mental disturbance manifests itself and you imagine you feel tired long before you actually do.

There may be some requirements in exercising that you will need to make good to perfect your body to a condition of physical independence, so to speak – to a point that will give you courage and a self-satisfied feeling when you realize that you are fit and able under almost any ordinary circumstances to protect yourself in emergency. If you should experience unpleasant exercises, such as forcing yourself to swim under water a certain distance or working to a point of being able to swim half a mile or more, your thoughts may tell you to stop long before you feel slightly fatigued in the muscles used.

You may wonder why I dwell so much on water sports; but I really consider swimming the foremost accomplishment in anyone’s life from the standpoint of self protection, at least. I really believe there is not one person in ten who is a good swimmer. The five or six of the ten who are able to swim or keep afloat will be incapable in case of emergency, and the remainder who do not know how swim at all will be absolutely helpless in emergencies in the water. Expert practical knowledge of swimming has saved many a person’s life. But though you may be able to swim on the surface of the water for a reasonable distance, you have only about fifty percent of the knowledge necessary should emergency arise. You should be able to swim a reasonable distance under the water, also. While this may be disagreeable to many, and difficult as well, owing to the holding of the breath and the presence of mind required as to sense of direction, still for life saving it is absolutely essential that this be mastered. Suppose you should be cast suddenly from a ship into the ocean or lake or river; the weight of your clothing would not be an asset toward keeping you afloat. You may find yourself under the water on numerous occasions. You may be compelled to unlace and remove your shoes while keeping afloat; and you will find that taking off a pair of shoes while floating requires your head to be under water many times before you successfully remove them. Each time your head is under the water, you must hold your breath to prevent the water from entering your lungs. Unless you are accustomed to swimming under the water, you are liable to become panicky and drown.

When I was a small boy we all used to swim in the Harlem River. We did not bother with bathing suits, and would have much fun diving. I recall how muddy the water was, but that made no difference to us; we liked it just the same. The diving stunts we performed then we would not attempt to do today, for we have better judgment. I often recall of diving twenty or more feet into three feet of water. I had to turn quickly upon reaching the water, to prevent ramming my head into the river bottom, and still my chest and abdomen would scrape the bottom. As we grow older such foolhardy stunts never enter our minds except as memories.

I recall that on one hot summer day, while diving off one of the piers, a number of us went off at the same time. We all came up and climbed back except our friend Joe. WE were never very uneasy because we knew he was an expert swimmer as well as diver; but we looked for him, thinking he might be playing a trick on us, hiding somewhere under the pier with the intention of sneaking up behind us to push us into the water. We waited and still no appearance, and finally Joe’s head came up out the water, directly alongside a barge which was near the spot where we were diving. I recall the agonized expression on his face. He told us afterwards that he started fetching or swimming under water, and when he came up for air he found himself underneath the flat-bottomed barge. It seemed almost unbelievable, but still fresh in my memory is the recital of his miraculous escape.

I frequently see his boy, now grown, and a few years older than myself; and many times we have looked back on the days when we were boys and often mention the narrow escape he had in the Harlem River. If he had not the presence of mind, plus the ability to hold his breath and swim some distance under water, he would not be alive today.

This is one true and excellent proof of the value of being “at home in the water.” Of course, I do not believe in one endeavoring to see how far he can swim under the water, or to the point where he begins to feel distress in his lungs or heart. But this distress first manifests itself in the mind; and the desire to give up too soon never will enable you swim the distance you should be able to swim in proportion to your size, organic condition and swimming ability. You will find, when you feel indisposed and inclined to come up for air while swimming under water, that if you repeat several times to yourself, “just one more stroke,” you will be able to take half a dozen or more extra strokes, possibly without any ill effects organically. You alone must be the judge as to your respiratory condition. If when under water your lungs feel like bursting, you have remained under too long for your good, though no real and lasting harm may result from an occasional experience of this kind.

One year while in southern California I took the boat to Catalina Island. From this island tourists are given the opportunity to ride in a glass-bottomed boat, through the bottom of which can be seen the sea-growth and shells and fish to a depth of about thirty feet, for the water is unusually clear. The lecturer on the boat I was on was in a bathing suit, and after explaining the different sights which we saw as the boat glided along, he announced he was going to give an exhibition of under-water swimming and he asked all to take out their watches to time him, to see how long could stay under the water. I would not have believed it possible had I not timed him with my own watch while he was under water; but when he came up it showed that he had been under almost four minutes. A truly remarkable test of what might be termed breath endurance, or lung capacity.

However, holding the breath and working at the same time may cause dilation of the heart. But I think everyone should progress to the point of being able to swim or hold the breath under water for at least one-half to three-quarters of a minute. This, of course, must be worked up to, for to endeavor to hold the breath for one-half a minute in the beginning, if it were possible to do so, might be dangerous.
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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