Monday, November 24, 2008

ENDURANCE by Earle E. Liederman - Author and Publisher, (1926), - Chapter 5

Physical activities come under two headings—one is exercise or recreation and the other is work or labor. You often may wonder why a laboring man, performing his daily toil, does not develop into a great athlete. He surely performs more repetitions throughout the day than any physical culturist will ever attempt regularly to do. Would it not be logical, therefore, to assume that all these muscular efforts would produce enormous muscles, great strength, and almost tireless energy? If we look deeper into the physical condition of laborers we find that not one in a hundred possesses a symmetrical development. The laborer is strong, it is true, and his endurance powers are excellent, for I am sure neither you nor I could undertake to bend our backs the number of times a day that the average workman does in the performance of his duties. Yet he is easily defeated in practically every physical encounter with a trained athlete.

In the first place, though his muscles are larger than the average man's they are so accustomed to being used in the same restricted manner that they are almost helpless when required to be used in a different way. His back may be exceptionally strong, much stronger than the average athlete's when it comes to bending; yet the average athlete easily can outlift him in all feats of strength where the back is brought into play. In spite of the endurance he possesses from performing movement after movement, day after day, the average laborer would make a poor showing against a trained wrestler, boxer or runner. It is only by working slowly and relaxing between movements that he is able to keep up his daily toil for eight hours or more at a stretch.

Now let us consider the athlete. Usually he exercises for but about fifteen minutes to an hour a day. This time is spent either with the weights or gymnastic apparatus or in calisthenic exercises. He works with enthusiasm, and fair rapidity throughout his entire exercising period. At the completion of each series or movements each muscle is tired, sometimes almost to the point of exhaustion; but when his drill is finished he feels in top-top condition and like whipping his weight in wild cats. For the remainder of the day he relaxes, so far as special exercising is concerned. During this period of relaxation his muscles are given a chance to recuperate and grow. His muscles are trained by daily exercising to work in coordination, each helping the other. It is only natural for him to endeavor to excel in one or more of various sports, whether they be jumping, running, weight lifting, wrestling or boxing. He will find that his muscles will enable him to excel in these sports far above the average man, assuming that they have equal theoretical knowledge of the sports undertaken.

Pit the laborer and the athlete together in any sport whatever, and, even though their knowledge of the sport is equal, the trained athlete will come out winner on every occasion. Why? The answer is that during working hours the laborer has been working too hard, overworking his muscles and denying them the chance to build up to the degree of muscular coordination such as is possessed by the trained athlete, who relaxes most of the day. Work wears out the one while exercise strengthens the other. The laborer works for necessity, but the physical culturist exercises for recreation and to gratify his enthusiasm. The physical culturist would be no better off than the laborer if he exercised excessively, for he thereby would bring on exhaustion and overwork, just as does the working man.

A well-trained body is first of all essential to anyone interested in endurance. It would be folly to take a man who has never run more than a block in his life, out for a two- or three-mile trot. in the first place he could not last—he would collapse far from the finish. And if a man who has never exercised in his life were compelled to go quite a distance for something which must be gotten hastily to save someone else's life, it is doubtful whether the patient would survive. The man would not have the endurance nor the strength to carry him through.

I remember reading years ago, when I was a boy, about Bob Fitzsimmons, who was then heavyweight boxing champion of the world. I think it was back in 1897. He was at the bedside of his sick wife, and the doctor told him that oxygen must be administered immediately to save her. Fitzsimmons ran at top speed, late at night, from block to block, looking for a drugstore, hospital, or police station where he could get an oxygen tank. At last he found one and carried a tank of oxygen while running at almost the same speed back to his home. His wife was kept alive. If Fitzsimmons had not possessed a well-trained body and the ability to run rapidly and long, which he secured from doing his road work prior to his fights, there might not have been this story to tell.

Therefore, the advantages of a well-trained body readily can be seen in cases or emergency, whether it be in the performance or duty for others or to save one's own life. To begin with, the exercise enthusiast, in addition to having greater strength, naturally will have more coordination in his movements than will the average man, who lacks experience in physical training. The untrained man possesses little, if any coordination. In fact, instead of coordination there usually will be found muscle antagonism.

It is amusing to note how clumsily a beginner will dance. You can see them on any dance floor. Yet, the simple steps of the Charleston, foxtrot or waltz are easy after a little practice. Have you ever noticed a woman throw a ball? Of course, she has little cause to do so, but when the attempt is made it plainly can be seen even by the inexperienced that something is wrong, for none of the muscles concerned with throwing the ball seem to work in unison. Anyone who frequents and swimming pool will see how clumsily the beginner endeavors to learn the first rudiments of any stroke, and yet swimming is easy after one learns how. How amateurish the experienced boxer will make an inexperienced one appear. No matter what sport or pastime or walk of life you may consider, the inexperienced man or woman puts forth twice as much effort in the beginning, and this effort is clumsy and awkward, because of the fact that instead of muscular coordination there is muscular antagonism—some of the muscles opposing those doing the work actually contract instead of relax, thus hindering the action and doubling the effort.

No one can appreciate muscular coordination more than the weight lifter or the golfer. The weight lifter must stand "just so," grip the bell properly, time his movements accurately, and, when bringing the bell overhead, lower the body downward at the exactly required moment. The golfer must be in perfect form for his drive. He must work in unison from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. The slightest movement will have a tendency to displace the center of gravity of the body, thus interfering with the stroke being made, whatever its nature.

The only way to obtain coordination is by practice; and by practice I mean to exercise. In animals coordination is instinctive; but in man it must be developed. Everyone has observed the movements of a cat. They are graceful and harmonious, and yet no one ever taught a cat how to move. For a human being to obtain the grace of movement of a cat it would, undoubtedly, take years of practice. A pianist requires considerable practice before he is able to place his finger on the key he desires to strike, but when he is able to do so he does it with no less effort than a chicken expends in snapping its beak at a grain of corn.

When one masters the art of coordination, if it may be termed an art, he really possesses what might be termed muscle sense. Have you ever watched an experienced tennis player? If you have, you have noticed the wonderful dexterity with which he returns the serve or volley. He sees the ball coming toward him but he does not see the ball hit the racket. His judgment and muscle sense know just where and how to place the racket to hit the ball and he does not see the ball again until it has rebounded quite some distance away from his racket. Those of you who have played handball will appreciate what is meant by, and the importance of, this sense of coordination. I know from my own experience in playing handball, especially in a four-wall court, that the ball shoots around the walls with such rapidity that it would be almost impossible for the eye to follow its progress. But my muscle sense allows me to realize where the ball is about to come and, naturally, by putting my glove in the right place and adding a little force for the return serve, I am able to stroke the ball and control it, sometimes, of course, better than at others.

Magicians have proven to the public that the hand is quicker than the eye. But the hand or arm, as in handball or tennis, must be much quicker than the eye; for if one took the trouble to turn the head, even though slightly to allow the eye to follow the ball, he would lose control of the return serve. In baseball the batter depends a good deal upon his muscle sense; and even though his eye sees the ball coming toward him, yet, as in the case of handball and tennis, his eye does not see the ball hit the bat; but his muscle sense and judgment enable him to swing the bat where it will meet the ball—not timidly but with tremendous power, and with almost uncanny certainty, as with Babe Ruth and some of our other home-run hitters.

Last year I received the honor of becoming an Honorary Member of the Mounted Police Association of New York City and also of the Honor Legion of the Police Department of New York City. One of the requirements of the initiation was for me first to ride a mechanical horse and later a live one. I am almost ashamed to admit that I am an amateur at equestrianism. Of course, through my athletic abilities I had but little difficulty in mastering the rhythm of the mechanical horse; but when it came to find the gait of the live one I was all at sea. The bumping I received during this initiation on the live horse I painfully remembered for many days afterward. Now, if I had possessed the muscle sense gained through practice in horseback riding, I would not have been black and blue from this seemingly severe initiation. Even though I since have taken up horseback riding seriously, still my endeavors at my first attempt must have been just as amusing to those who knew how to ride, as are the antics of a fat man in a gymnasium for the first time.

Muscle sense really is the feeling we have of the force with which a muscle contracts and in the direction in which it acts. Without it we would not be able to place our hand or foot at the exact spot which we wished to touch. Muscle sense involves the antagonistic muscles as well as the muscles used in directly performing the movement. These antagonistic muscles must be worked to act in harmony and coordination with the other muscles before muscle sense can be perfected—the opposing muscles must be fully relaxed so that the acting muscles will be completely unhindered while they are performing; but when the need arises the muscles must be able instantly to reverse their condition and relaxation. This muscle feeling or sense can be gotten only by practice and experience; and if one never has attempted any pastime or sport it would be ridiculous for him to compete against anyone but a beginner like himself.

Undoubtedly one of the most striking examples of muscle sense is that exhibited by the juggler. Juggling requires both dexterity and balance. Many times I have attended vaudeville shows and have seen almost unbelievable stunts performed by these master jugglers. I remember one man in particular who juggled a chair, a pail, a coat, coat rack and hat—five entirely different objects of different sizes and weights. He threw them into the air and turned them around, and caught them again without dropping one. Surely his eyes could not clearly see all these objects. Therefore, he depended wholly upon his muscle sense to gain the applause of the audience.

The pianist must eliminate all stiffness from his fingers before he can expect to excel with his chosen instrument. Stiffness, if not due to some inflammatory or structural change, would indicate that the extensor muscles were interfering with the flexors. If the oarsman allowed his triceps to interfere with the pulling power of his biceps when rowing, he would not make the speed he is after and he would soon tire in the arms should he be attempting a long row.

The same thing applies to any muscle or group of muscles in the body. If the flexor and extensor muscles interfere with each other's action, it will be necessary to put forth several times the effort and energy in order to accomplish any performance. That is one reason why laborers cannot compete with the experienced student of physical culture; their muscles have been exercised in their work in a restricted manner, and there has been no coordination for refined or complex movements.

The reader may wonder what all this has to do with endurance; but I am working up to the application. I am endeavoring to prove to you, and I will, that complete control of the muscles, which includes coordination and muscle sense, must be gotten first of all before you attempt anything in the line of endurance exercise. The man who properly exercises his muscles will, first of all, keep fit and he always will have his muscles under his command, the same as a general who continually drills his troops, has them under command.

So many would-be physical culture enthusiasts forsake their exercising in disgust just because they experience muscle fever or a feeling of exhaustion the day following their first workouts. If such enthusiasts would use a little common sense and judgment and begin systematically, their attitude regarding physical development would be entirely different. A baby first crawls, then walks, and then runs. As gracefully as a cat may be, a new-born kitten is very clumsy. Everything must progress, and it is impossible to progress beyond the laws of nature. It is true that some progress more rapidly than others, just as with two individuals taking piano lessons together one will make better progress than the other.
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