Sunday, September 14, 2008

ENDURANCE by Earle E. Liederman - Author and Publisher, (1926), - Chapter 2

While it is true that I am an advocate of muscle building and strength work, perhaps it is because I am still living the best years of my life, and my enthusiasm is just as keen now as it was twenty-five years ago. But I am as positive as I am of my writing this that the time will come, as my years increase, when my desire to continue my strenuous physical activities will lessen; and I know when that time comes my greatest enthusiasm in regard to the physical will be toward retaining my robust health. Strength and muscles for the sake of these alone no longer will be of interest. This is simply a law of human nature. What does a man of sixty care about competitive strength of bulging muscles? His main goal in life should be the maintenance or development of robust health and vitality.

Let the reader not misunderstand me and think that this book is a book for the older man. It is not. It is written for the benefit of all ages. But as the healthy, enthusiastic youth naturally possesses the seemingly tireless energy, I feel as though the word "endurance" will be of more interest to the one who used to be "good" and who has slipped backward—the man of middle life who recalls with longing thoughts the vigorous youth and young man that he used to be. How many times do the words enter your mind, "I used to be able to do that when I was younger," etc. I always dislike to hear anyone say these things, for, if he is not boasting, he is acknowledging that he has led such a life of physical inactivity or self-indulgence as to become—if not really a "has been," a "never was." There really is no excuse for anyone to deteriorate physically quicker than nature intended, and nature surely meant the man of forty to be in his prime of life. But how many are, at this age? Most of them are "has beens," and look much older than their years. The man of sixty or sixty-five should be in just as good health and have practically as much vitality as he had when he was thirty. Suppose a few gray hairs do appear, or a couple of lines gather on the face; what should they matter as long as he feels and acts physically like a youth of twenty-five?

Endurance work is the only exercising that the aged man, the man with the weak heart, the consumptive, or even the beginner, should indulge in, and in these cases it must be of a gentle variety and not severe enough to cause fatigue. For the man with the weak heart or the man past middle life the endurance work must be so gentle as to prevent any strain whatsoever. It should be done slowly enough and with enough pause between each two movements to give the organs and muscles a chance to recuperate.

An example of this can be gotten from walking. Put a man with a weak heart walking up a hill or a grade and the work, instead of being an exercise of simple endurance form, becomes an exercise of fatigue; whereas, even in such a condition, walking on level ground may be prolonged hour after hour without fatigue. Progression in the exercise can be made by increasing the rapidity of the steps, but this should be done very systematically and, preferably, under careful guidance.

The best example of endurance is shown by the heart. It begins work several months before birth and ceases only with death; and the only reason it is capable of such continuous contractions is because the cardiac or heart muscle rests after each heart beat, thereby recuperating sufficiently to continue beating. If the heart is overexerted through undue physical activity that greatly quickens its action or beats, the cardiac muscle cannot recuperate quickly enough and the heart becomes overtaxed.

The same thing applies to all the other muscles of the body. When exercises are indulged in which produce rapid physical fatigue, the work is strength-increasing a muscle-building; but a complete relaxation and rest must follow such a period of strenuous exercise in order to give the muscles a chance to recuperate. Otherwise the tissues will be torn down more quickly than they can be replenished and the only progress will be backward, in development, strength and energy.

No better illustration of this can be had than that of a professional circus strong man (I do not recall his name) who years ago possessed such stubborn determination regarding his exercising that it became an obsession with him. Not only was he compelled to perform numerous exhibitions in the sideshow where he worked, but his determination to add more and more muscle to his frame stimulated him to exercise for long periods at a time, serveral times a day. This he kept up month after month and year after year. But instead of his muscles growing larger and larger, they became smaller and smaller, until he died, in the prime of life. Just before his untimely death he was so nervous and thin from his self-destructive practice that he not only proved useless as an exhibitor but he developed a pale, emaciated appearance. This man positively killed himself by overwork, by prolonging his exercises beyond the time when he should have stopped; and instead of relaxing and resting and giving his muscles a chance to grow, he wore himself out.

I recall another case, that of a young man I met by chance many years ago, who was deeply interested in feats of strength and physical development in general. His one desire seemed to be to get muscularly strong. Judging by his thin, nervous appearance that there was a drain upon his vitality, I inquired into his methods of training, and learned that he exercised every day for two or three hours at a time. I told him to cut down on his training and not to exercise for more than one-half hour each day, and if he found that he did not put on more weight in a short time and if his muscles did not increase in size and his strength improve, he should exercise for one-half hour every other day. It gave me as much pleasure then to advise this young fellow as it does today to guide my enthusiastic pupils. This young man soon passed out of my mind, and it was only recently that I again, by chance, met him in another city which I was visiting. He was still thing, appearing to be not one pound heavier than when I had seen him several years ago. I asked him if he still continued exercising, and if he were as interested in physical development now as he used to be. He told me he was more enthusiastic than ever and that he exercised faithfully. He still persisted with his daily training for an hour or two at a time. The only thing I could do was to repeat my advice, but I felt that it merely went in one ear and out the other. Think of all the energy this fellow has wasted year after year, exercising for less than nothing! He is getting no stronger and no heavier, neither are his muscles increasing in size or contour; he is simply burning up tissues and wasting his energy as quickly as, if not quicker, than they can be restored.

In the case of this young man and in that of the circus performer mentioned previously, the exercising they did must be termed endurance work, and no human being can keep up strenuous, heavy endurance exercise, working hour after hour, without exhaustion of physical and nervous energies. These cases prove that endurance exercises prolonged by will power beyond the point of fatigue and repeated too often, will do more injury than good to the body.

I have emphasized the value of walking as an endurance movement. Rowing is another form of exercise that should be indulged in by those whose hearts are weak or whose years forbid heavier exertions. Whether this rowing is done on calm water or on a rowing machine, the movements can be done slowly enough and in such a mechanical way that the weakest individual can keep it up for a long period of time, usually with only beneficial results. If, on the other hand, the pace is quickened the work enters the class of muscle-building and strength-producing exercises and would prove too violent for a weak heart.

Now the question arises, when is exercise endurance work and when is it muscle-building work? What is endurance work for one may prove muscle-building work for another, and vice versa. This all depends upon the individual's strength. If a healthy young man were to go out rowing and row mechanically and slowly, with just enough pause between each two strokes to permit recuperation, he could continue hour after hour and perhaps all day; and, if he has never done this work before, the only unpleasant results arising from such a lengthy row would be a callous or two on his hands and perhaps a few sore muscles the next day. Therefore, it would seem useless and a waste of energy for any strong, healthy young man to indulge in such a light pastime unless it were done merely for pleasure.

On the other hand, should the individual have a weak heart or should he be in the declining years of life, such a long row would prove too fatiguing and would, without a doubt, overtax his heart and energies. Such an individual naturally should begin such endurance work, in the initial attempt, only for very brief periods of time. A fifteen-minute row should be sufficient for the first time, and should never under any circumstances be done in rough water, or against any great resistance if performed on the rowing machine. He will find it an easy matter to row for thirty minutes or even one hour after a sufficient time of mild preparation, providing, of course, sufficient brief pause is put in between strokes for recuperative purposes.

Walking should be progressed in the same manner—first a stroll, and at some later time the pace quickened according to the strength of the individual. That is one reason why golf is an ideal recreation for the older man, although it is not an old man's game by any means. The links are full of youths and most of the top-notchers in this game are comparatively young men.

Have you ever watched day laborers digging in the streets or working on railroad tracks? If you have you may have wondered how they could keep that work up all day long, day after day—that is if you have ever tried similar work yourself. The next time you observe a day laborer note how slowly he works. There is no haste in picking up things or moving, though should the gang foreman be around there perhaps may be more effort put forth than at other times; but as soon as the foreman leaves you will find the laborers straightening up and relaxing, even though it be for but a moment or two at a time. If it were not for this relaxation at every opportunity, and the slowness with which they work while actually "on the job," pausing between actions, they would not be able to continue their labor. Should you wish to experiment in this line yourself, just go out and shovel snow some winter day, and you will find that you cannot keep it up very long if you use the shovel with enthusiasm.

I remember that one year when returning from Europe there was a shipping strike in Sweden. The boat had to sail on time and the crew was composed mostly of young college students who volunteered to work on the boat for their passage to America. I had the good fortune to become acquainted with the staff captain, who was very hospitable in showing me around the ship. After we were a few days out we encountered very heavy seas, caused by a hurricane which had been blowing all night. The boat was pitching and tossing and the waves washed over the bow on many occasions. Fortunately I possess a stomach not easily disturbed and I never get seasick; so I gladly accepted the staff captain's invitation to visit the engine room, as he previously had informed me that owing to the storm there was more work than ever to be performed in the engine room and one after another of these young students were fainting from the heat. So down we went, deck below deck, until the air became hot and stuffy. There I saw these young fellows, some stripped to the waist, working frantically without pause, it seemed. I marveled at their endurance, and it was no wonder to me that they became exhausted and dropped from the exertion and the heat. Yet the work had to go on. The engines had to be fired. It was difficult to stand, owing to the rolling of the boat, which caused additional work for the muscles of the laborers in order to maintain body balance. This was just another illustration proving to me that relaxation is necessary, and a pause must be placed between movements. Otherwise, the limit of endurance quickly will be reached and the body will collapse.

Not so many years ago Marathon races were the craze in New York City. Around and around the track of the old Madison Square Garden these runner would go, one after the other; and it was only the goal they had in mind and the indomitable will power they had that propelled their legs even after their bodily inclinations said "stop." The result was that at the finish all would be at a point of exhaustion, and many would collapse.

Now another question arises: How much can the human body endure and with safety? It is known that a man can outrun in endurance a horse, for it has been done. We can go without sleep day after day; we can go without food or drink for an almost unbelievable time. But it is interesting to note the reaction in each instance. In the matter of exercise, if the reactions after endurance work is of severe fatigue, it proves that the movements have been carried on for too long a time. Of course, when endurance work is done as in case of necessity or in case of competition, fatigue must be expected, and such physical exertion should not be classed as exercise.

I think I am safe in classifying as endurance work any movement that can be performed with the arms over one hundred repetitions; and yet here is another example of strength work almost entering the endurance classification. In the rear part of my office I have a number of heavy barbells. I keep these on hand to test the strength of my pupils when they visit me from time to time. One day one of my star pupils asked me to show him certain methods of performing a difficult lift. While there I jokingly told I would hold with him a contest in lifting. I picked up a bar-bell which weighed either one hundred pounds or one hundred and twenty pounds. (I do not recall at the present writing which weight.) I remember lifting it over my head, with two hands, about fifty or sixty times. Then I asked him to see how many times he could perform this lift. I thought I would prove to be the winner, for at about his forty-fifth count I remember how much his back started to bend and with what difficulty he was pressing it overhead; but at the seventy-fifth count he was continuing, with the same difficulty and the same arch in his back. I marveled at the wonderful endurance his muscles possessed, and yet he was lifting a bar-bell—strength work.

This, again, shows that what is strength work for one is endurance work for another; and although seventy-five repetitions or more cannot bring the exercise strictly under the endurance class; it at least shows continued strength. And, in the final analysis, continued strength is very closely related to endurance; they seem to go hand in hand. To lift with one hand a fifty-pound dumbbell from the floor to arm's length overhead and lower again would prove quite a difficult feat of strength for a weak chap. Yet I have seen this same young man mentioned above perform this lift three hundred and fifty times without stopping.

So many times I give my students the common push-up exercise to be performed on the floor. Undoubtedly you are familiar with this movement, which consists of lying flat on the abdomen and, while keeping the body rigid, pushing up with the arms and lowering until tired. For beginners this movement is muscle-building work, but after a few months it ceases to be valuable as progressive exercising and turns into an endurance movement. I, myself, have performed this movement over one hundred and fifty times without stopping, and I know of other strong men who have accomplished this.

To lie flat on the back, with the hands placed behind the head, and then come to a sitting posture until the elbows touch the knees may prove quite an effort to one who never has done it before; yet this same movement has been done over two thousand and seven hundred times without stopping.

Some people have difficulty even in bending their knees without their joints cracking. To one who never has squatted, ten or fifteen squats would make the muscles of the thighs exceedingly lame the next day. I recall one stout woman attempting to do the squat exercise or sitting on her heels, but after lowering the body she was unable to rise again by the strength of her thigh muscles. Yet this same movement has been done over three thousand times without stopping.

How winded and exhausted the average man becomes after running one block to catch his train in the morning! And yet Paavo Nurmi will run mile after mile and at the finish appear comparatively fresh, in wind, strength and energy.

Have you ever watched the efforts of a beginner learning to swim? After twenty or thirty feet he must come out of the water, before exhaustion overtakes him. And yet Henry Elionsky, while forced to abandon an attempt to swim one hundred miles, did swim over thirty miles, in spite of the tide and rough sea that forced him to discontinue.

I relate these instances merely to show you that what is strength work for one is endurance work for another; so, therefore, what is endurance but continued strength?
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