Saturday, August 27, 2011


I can recall certain incidents in connection with my own experience with exercise and over work. At a rather early age, I showed considerable interest in rather long walks. For a boy the walks were exceptionally long. I should say that at about eleven or twelve I commenced to walk for considerable stretches, but no attempt was made to make time or to cover any set number of miles. I would simply start for some distant objective, such as a cave in the nearby foothills of mountains, and by spending the greater part of the day on my feet would complete the round trip and incidentally quite a few miles for one so young. As a young boy very seldom walks in a straight line when out in the woods and fields, it is difficult to say how many miles might have been traversed on any of these frequent excursions, but the walking would generally consume the greater part of a day.

As I grew older, a fondness for long hikes seemed to develop and by the time I was fifteen and sixteen it was a common thing for me to walk fifteen to twenty miles on a Saturday afternoon, and from thirty to forty miles on a Sunday. During my sixteenth year, I covered various distances of between fifty and sixty miles in one day. Of course, a start was made very early in the morning and the arrival at home was well after dark. Some of these walks consumed fifteen and sixteen hours, which I now believe to be too much of an endurance test for one of the youthful age of sixteen. My experiences in this would have no place in the present discussion if it were not for the after effects which were noted. Arriving home late in the day after one of the longest walks, and having spent the day on my feet with only a minimum of food, I would eat as much as m appetite dictated, but due to excess fatigue, my appetite was not very ravenous. I simply would feel too tired to eat, in spite of the fact that the day had been started with only a light breakfast at day break or earlier, and at noon the only food had consisted of a few sandwiches (cheese and raisin principally) which had been carried in a coat pocket. Although thirst would demand considerable water during the day, I am now convinced that sufficient liquid was not furnished my system during the day.

Retiring at ten perhaps later, it was nearly impossible to sleep and the entire night was spent under conditions very closely resembling ague; intermittent fever and chills. Strange to say, though, the next day would find me but slightly tired. Judging from this, I must have been in fairly good condition, but the worst part of it probably is that the untoward effects were never realized and properly appreciated. At the ages of fifteen and sixteen, I weighed around ninety to ninety-five pounds stripped, at a height of about five feet, two, to five feet, five (if my memory serves me correctly); for one of years and physique, the walking feats were no doubt commendable as such, but altogether too strenuous and fatiguing. Had the long been the sum of my exercise activities, the possibilities of over-training or overwork would not have been so prominent, but in addition I started to run a couple of miles nearly every morning, and whenever Saturday or Sunday didn't find me out hiking I was out running or walking over hill and dale. On top of all this, I took some part in other sports, swimming very regularly in the summer, skating once in a while during the winter, and occasionally fooling around at boxing, wrestling, and ball playing. Thousands of skinny kids, such as I was, do all of the latter, but few cover the same number of miles on the road in addition. During that time I practiced vegetarianism, to which I shall allude in the proper chapter. It is, indeed, a wonder that upon taking up bar bell exercise during my sixteenth year, a gain of twenty or more pounds in bodyweight took place in a few months' time.

Today, I look back upon that period of boyhood years spent in overwork ( or over exercising) with regret. I place the blame on the incompetence of those who wrote articles to inspire physical culturists. Truly, my people frowned upon such activities, but nothing was done to interfere with me. What I believe was really needed was the counsel and advice of physical culturists who knew what was correct and what was incorrect in physical training for the youthful amateur. That is exactly the service I am trying to render, and I wish it understood when advice or suggestions are given that they are offered as the result of considerable experience and observation. As a boy and a youth, I was an avaricious reader of everything pertaining to the health and development of the human body, with an inclination common to all young people, towards the new and sensational. It is presumed that a large number of those who read this book are of the same class. Great confusion attended my early efforts at physical improvement from reading of the ideal plan of training for both strength and endurance at one time. This is one of the most contradictory statements it is possible to make, when speaking of both in the strict sense. Endurance as it is commonly understood, and great strength each call for an entirely different type of physique and training. A great deal depends on your definition of endurance, but in this particular instance reference was made to distance running (or rather middle distance running) as the ideal type of endurance work which should accompany strength developing exercises. The athlete who trains for pure endurance such as the ability to run miles, cannot expect to possess a physique which would be accepted as a model anywhere. The distance runner keeps himself trained down to the minimum of muscular size and bodyweight in other words in a finely drawn condition. The man who wishes to acquire a perfectly developed physique and great strength must train in such a manner as to continually build a reserve of energy and accumulate bodyweight. It is doubly pernicious to proffer advice to the youth of growing age that he should combine distance running with body-developing exercise.

We have duly considered overwork. That is one side of the picture. Some attention must be paid to the other side; this might aptly be referred to as wishing for physical improvement without exerting oneself sufficiently.

From a health standpoint, there is something to be said in favor of under training, providing one exercises consistently at fairly strenuous work in preference to any program of over training. A high state of health efficiency might be maintained by exercising regularly about twice a week and at times only once weekly, providing the man has first put himself in good physical condition. Our remarks at present do not concern the man who finds it convenient to exercise a limited amount of time each week and is satisfied simply to maintain good health and fair muscles. But to the other fellow who under exercises, he who is alarmed at the possibility of over exerting himself, we wish to point out the folly of expecting value for nothing.

If you are troubled by exertions which cause you to breathe harder than normally, or you quall at thoughts of perspiring profusely, satisfactory results from your exercises may be a long way off. Do not become alarmed because your muscles become stiff and sore after the first attempts at exercising; this only denotes that your circulatory and respiratory functions have not been accustomed to the task of repairing tissue waste from exertion; as a result certain chemical products of the tissue repairs remain in the muscles causing a stiffness. Continue your work, and the stiffness will wear off. Likewise do not become scared if you notice one or more prominent veins on your arms or legs. Increased physical activities and higher muscular efficiently demands vascularity or greater size and elasticity of the blood vessels. You may have noticed the large veins on the forearm of the man who works hard with his hands and arms. Athletes who use the legs a great deal have enlarged veins on those limbs; hand balancers have them on the shoulders and upper arms. There is positively no connection between enlarged veins of this nature and varicose veins. True varicose veins appear like a large bunch of angle worms and not just a single protuberance here and there. Varicose veins also cause a certain degree of pain, but not enlarged veins from physical exertion. Varicose veins are generally caused by the lack of a proper degree of activity, especially while standing on the feet for long periods of time; or by the wearing of tight garters or other articles of clothing which constricts the circulation.

Activity should be beneficial rather than harmful for such a condition, thought the person should also endeavor to keep off the feet as much as possible. Varicose veins are sometimes brought about by the flabbiness and weakness of the muscles; therefore, anything which tends to improve the muscular tone will prove beneficial. The tyro physical culturist must understand that it is necessary for the heart to beat faster and harder during and immediately after exertion, thank during the time you are sitting at ease or moving about at any ordinary gait. There would, indeed, be something seriously wrong with you if your heart did not beat faster with greater force. As you have been shown, in a chapter on physiology, the circulation is stirred up to supply the tissues with oxygen, after clearing away the waste matters formed as a result of the exertions. The degree of the exertion determine the extent to which the heart beat is accelerated.

One of the reasons for failure to make satisfactory progress in physical exercise is the fear of some men of causing the heart to beat fast; others sometimes think they experience an irregularity in the heart beat, and when a physician tells some people their heart beat is irregular, they become almost scared to death. We have seen instances of such individuals actually pining away, afraid to move in a hurry. Nothing is so liable to bring on the death of the average person as to scare them about the condition of their heart.

We quote the opinion of Dr. Milton J. Raisbeck, of New York city, as given in an address before the Eastern Homeopathic Medical Association. According to this doctor, extra heart beats should be no cause for alarm, as it is a provision of nature to insure continued beating of the heart. The heart is made up of a great many cells, as he explained it; each cell is capable of starting the contraction which we know as the heart beat. Generally certain of the cells set the pace or the rate of the heart beat. Sometimes these governing cells change their pace, especially when a person rests after exercise. If the pacemakers change very quickly, a few of the other cells may not be able to keep the pace; then you conscious of an extra or irregular beat. Fear should not be felt at the occasion of such irregularities as an irregular heart beat is perfectly normal in many areas. Dr. Raisbeck also cautioned his brother physicians about frightening patients by telling them they have an irregular heart beat.

It is possible for the ambitious physical culturist to be at one time careful of his living habits and sensible in regards to extremes. I can easily appreciate the confusion which greets the enthusiast on every hand. Searching for the truth on matters pertaining to healthful living he reads every magazine and book available and the pity of it all is that opinions are rife and convictions clash as the protagonists of one cult deride the faddists of another "ism." The confused enthusiast has no way of discerning the truth, so he is apt to choose the fad which meets his fancy for the moment. For a while he may follow one diet, then failing to note the wonderful results promised, he switches to another. In the end, he is most likely to become disgusted with the entire movement which claims exercise as the backbone of its preachings but relegates actual physical exertions to a position of unimportance, in favor of practices of dieting and abstinence which call for a minimum of exertion.

To understand the entire physical culture movement, I need only look back over my own life. Having passed through the period of hero worship of an individual, which had such a strong hold on me as to make me a willing follower of any idea advocated by the individual; having experimented on one diet scheme after another, and tested the value of various foods, I likewise experimented with exercise and systems of training. Now wonder I have little faith in some of the teachings that once held me in a spell.

Iron Nation

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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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