Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - Chapter 13 - DR von KRAJEWSKI, the FATHER OF ATHLETICS AND HIS SYSTEM OF LIFE - By George Hackenschmidt

I have previously stated that doctors, surgeons, and other medical authorities who decry rational, systematic physical exercise, and particularly, exercise with heavy weights; do so simply because they have never properly studied the subjects in question.

They may have taken a prejudice, or rather evolved a prejudice against the methods which I have ventured to style "The way to live," and having taken up this attitude, have either refused make a personal test of them, or have not been favoured with opportunities for so doing.

For the sake, therefore, of any reader who may have these prejudices, or, who may with to combat them, I now propose to give a short sketch of a very eminent medical man, who having his attention drawn to physical culture, at the age of forty-one, felt himself impelled to make a thorough and complete study of the subject; and the results of his investigation.

I shall frequently have occasion to refer to this doctor in the course of the story of my life, reference to which will show how well I was situated to form an exact observation of his daily life.

Indeed, I may say that I owe practically all that I have and am to him. He it was who taught me how to live and how to train, and he it was who launched me on my career. Would that I possessed the eloquence to express my life-long gratitude and my veneration for his memory.

Nor would I indeed claim to be his chief and only debtor. In a sense, perhaps, I owe more to him than anyone else, but athletes the world over are, one and all, directly or indirectly in his debt. Well was he styled the "Father" of athletics, for it was on the system which he first organized, that every athlete of any prominence during the last twenty-five or thirty years, developed his powers.

On that system and on no other, have Sandow, Saxon, Padoubny, Pierre Bonnes, Zbysco, Siegfried, Aberg, Lurich, Koch, Steinbach and hosts of others developed their powers. The doctor's system may been varied slightly in individual cases, but the general idea, the general system and routine, nay, almost the entire programme, has in each separate instance followed closely that which Dr. von Krajewski mapped out for himself.

And he, remember, was a convert. He, one of the leading physicians of St. Petersburg, was attracted to the subject of physical exercise as a method of securing and preserving health, strength, activity and vigour (both mental and physical). The subject appeared interesting to him, he investigated it, approved - and immediately set to work to organize and systematize it.

First and foremost he laid it down that every man should sleep regularly for eight hours out of every twenty-four.

To this end, he would regularly, every night, on retiring to rest, write on a card the hour at which he did so, which card he would throw out into the passage by his bedroom door. When his servant would picked this up in the morning he knew at what hour the Doctor was to be called; viz., eight hours after the hour on the card, neither a moment sooner or later. Say that he had retired at four a.m. Then he would be called at noon, and so forth. Usually, however, he slept from 1 a.m. till 9 a.m., at which hour he would have coffee and rolls, and attend to his correspondence until 10 a.m.

He then adjourned to his gymnasium, a large apartment, fitted with a bath, and having two very large windows, so that as much sunlight as possible might enter. The windows, however, were never opened during the period of exercise, in order that the temperature might be as even as possible.

He would first take a short bath, in water as cold as could be obtained, and in St. Petersburg the water can be cold on occasion. Leaving the bath, he never used a towel, but commenced exercise straight away, and continued this for half and hour, at the end of which he would be perfectly warm and dry.

The routine followed was on the lines indicated in Chapters IX and XI (for he always exercised with weights). Naturally it would not been possible to perform every exercise, described in these chapters, every day, but a sufficient programme was followed to bring every muscle into play, and this was so varied as to neglect none of the movements.

Between the various exercises he never sat down to rest, but walked steadily up and down the room, with perhaps a wrap thrown over his shoulders (but this rarely).

The exercise finished, he dressed and set forth on his morning round. Having visited his patients he returned home usually about 2 p.m., for luncheon. After this he slept for one hour, and then commenced receiving patients up till 6 p.m., or thereabouts, which, with all other duties, occupied him till dinner time (from seven till eight) when he resumed his attendance to indoor patients, who continued to call till as late as midnight, or even later.

This last may seem strange to British readers, but I may mention that Russian hours are much later than English ones, and that Dr. Krajewski had an enormous practice, as many as 250 patients frequently calling on him in one day.

I may add that he was a most charitable man, attending numberless patients of the poorer classes without any fee or recompense. These were freely invited to call on him, and used to flock in in large numbers after 8 p.m. as they left their work; his waiting-rooms being usually crowded at that hour.

He had, of course, a large practice among the wealthy classes, which occupied the earlier part of the day.

Needless to say, such an incessant round of hard mental work and anxiety was very wearing, and would have been thought to tax the strength of even the hardiest constitution. Yet the Doctor was always well, active and vigorous in mind and body, and ascribed his perpetual fitness solely to his daily physical exercise.

As I have said, he did not commence the practice of this until he was forty-one years of age, and yet at sixty-three he always declared, and was acknowledged to look, younger, and to far more active and vigorous than he was at forty.

So satisfied was he of the great benefits accruing from systematic physical exercise, that he spared no pains to extend its practice. His enthusiasm and interest was unbounded, while the pains which he would take to enrol adherents and to cultivate promising athletes were almost beyond belief. Some ideas of these last may be gathered from a perusal of the "Story of My Life," which I have been persuaded would prove of sufficient interest to publish at length, and with which I therefore propose to conclude this book.

Iron Nation
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