Monday, December 29, 2008

ENDURANCE by Earle E. Liederman - Author and Publisher, (1926), - Chapter 6

To a beginner in physical training, fatigue is the first discomfort or pain experienced, whether he is standing before a mirror performing dumb-bell or calisthenic exercises, or whether he participates in open-air sports, such as rowing, jumping, games, or what not. He finds that after a very short period of exercise he is out of breath and some part or other of his body seems incapable of further movement. An aching is experienced, indicating, of course, that the muscle has been used to the limit of its power of recuperation. Usually after a short period of rest he will be able to resume activities. But if a beginner allows his muscles to reach the aching point or if he resumes exercise before fully recuperating after he has become fatigued, he will learn to his sorrow the next day that he should have exercised less strenuously. The lameness he will experience will prove very uncomfortable, and if more than one group of muscles should be affected he is liable to find himself in bed, suffering from muscle fever.

This reminds me of one of my pupils who came to my office one afternoon and enrolled for my course. I outlined about five or six exercises for him to follow for the first few days, to get his muscles in condition for a few of the more vigorous movements, as he had never before done any exercising. I particularly told him to take it very easy and not to exercise more than about five minutes for the first day, and after a day or two he could increase this period by a minute or two. I told him to come back and see me within a couple of days. When the time came for his second visit, this pupil "showed up missing"; but about a week later he lagged into my office, pale and in a half-alive condition. Upon asking what had been the trouble he told me he had exercised for five hours the day after he enrolled. He further stated that the next few days after that he had spent in the hospital. Well, no wonder! Evidently my instructions to him to take it easy had gone "in one ear and out the other," and his enthusiasm to become suddenly muscular and strong overwhelmed his sense of good judgment—if he had any!

If by chance you are one of those who have taken no active exercise for a few months and then return to a gymnasium, you may find at the outset that you still retain all your old pep and vigor. You can perform all of the most difficult movements and with nearly the same ease as you used to, and you may work in the gymnasium the first time for the same length of time to which you have been accustomed in the past. In the evening, however, a little or, perhaps, a great weariness and sleepiness most likely will come over you, indicating that your body craves more sleep than usual. But sleep may not come for a long time. If finally you fall asleep, you probably will awake shaking and perspiring. Your tongue may be coated and your appetite lost and your limbs will be trembly. These are the symptoms of muscle fever, which is a type of poisoning resulting from an excess of the waste products of muscle contraction and nerve action.

After a while, however, the fever will decline, but you still will feel uncomfortable and your muscles will feel the need of rest, and for several days thereafter they will be sore and stiff. All this happens when one has exercised strenuously after a long lay-off. However, stiffness or muscle soreness does not occur as always in the same manner. If the exercises you take, which you have not practiced for some time, are confined to local or single muscle groups, instead of experiencing muscle fever you will experience simply a severe lameness or muscle soreness in the localized areas that took part in the exercise. This soreness will last about the same length of time as if you develop muscle fever.

To you who have exercised, wouldn't it seem foolish for someone who had spent years at a desk and who had taken no exercises whatever, to be entered in a one-mile run against experienced competitors? What would you think of him—of his judgment, and of his chance of winning? After the first block or two you would soon express your opinion in mirthful gestures. Yet this very same inexperienced man, in his own heart and soul, will feel he is capable of defeating the others, at least holding his own with them.

Nearly all my life I have been interested in the boxing game, and whenever there is a good boxing exhibition I make it a point to attend of at all possible. I have seen fighters grow up, so to speak. I have watched their interested wares in the preliminaries, and have seen them progress month by month and year by year until they have reached the top. Also, I have seen these same first-class boxers retire after losing their laurels, and nearly all of them were much below the age of thirty when their crowns were lost to others. It is pitiful to see some of these retired boxers, whom the public classifies as old-timers, return to the ring to combat against youth. Probably financial need may be the first thought; but surely a prominent thought must be that of their ability to defeat the newcomers just as they, themselves, defeated all comers in their own heyday. But youth must be served, and the poor showing of the old-timers brings nothing but comment and boos from the audiences.

While all this apparently may have little to do with the subject of endurance, the few illustrations given will help to bring out my points. There may be a great many other conditions largely governing the ability of the one-time champion boxer, such as reduced recuperative power, lack of judgment in distance and timing, etc. He ignores these, or does not estimate their extent, and his intentions and thoughts are just as serious as those of anyone else who thinks he can make good without first giving serious thought to his physical preparedness, which directly and deeply concerns endurance.

In my high school days I played halfback on our football team, and even in those days I considered that I was in good condition, for I always had been interested in physical training. Without questions I was the strongest boy in the school, because I was the only one who exercised faithfully. Others may have been mildly interested and probably performed their exercises spasmodically, working a day or two and then dropping it for a week or so. My excellent condition made me over-confident. We had a tough team to play, and after memorizing the signals I really felt that I did not need to go through all the minor practice in which the rest of the team indulged. They practiced running, tackling, passing, punting, etc. My team-mates probably respected my condition, for—without being boastful—I had made good on previous occasions the year before. Finally the day of the game came; and I played with my usual enthusiasm. But for the next day I was so lame and muscle sore in nearly every part of my body, it seemed, that I actually was feverish. I was learning the lesson each and every one must learn, by painful experience, who does not heed the warnings of others more experiences in physical training and sports.

Stiffness or muscle soreness need not generally follow vigorous work which tires the muscles quickly. Sometimes you may be misled into thinking that you are exercising with sufficient ease to prevent soreness and that you have discontinued the movement before any signs of fatigue set in. And, at other times, an exercise can be pushed to the limit of your powers without the slightest disturbance following. This is because stiffness depends rather upon your general and muscular condition than upon the manner in which you perform the work. For instance, a moderate exercise, such as walking, may result in stiffness in a man accustomed to complete inactivity, while running or jumping will not produce any disturbance in the well-trained man.

I very seldom have had a real massage after exercise. I usually massage myself with a coarse towel by friction, in the form of a rubdown. Should I exercise too violently at some new sport or pastime to which I am not accustomed, and should I experience muscular soreness, I generally treat the condition with hot applications and gentle massaging with my own hands. It may be that I do not mind muscular soreness, as I have been exercising for so many years that I suppose I am somewhat used to it.

But not long ago, while I was in the best possible physical condition, I chanced to meet a masseur whose reputation travelled before him. This masseur had been praised by many for his remarkably effective, magnetic manipulations. Having some leisure time on this day I decided to try one of these famous massages. I must admit that the masseur knew his business; he understood anatomy thoroughly, which is essential to the proper manipulation of the body. Whether he made extra efforts because he knew who I was—and probably a hard-boiled critic with a chip on my shoulder—I do not know; but I must admit that I felt better mentally, if not physically, afterwards. Now mind you, I said I was in the best physical condition at the time. I had been training daily month after month and without growing stale; my muscles never had possessed better contour; nor had my vitality and strength ever been greater than on this day. Yet, the next morning my muscles were stiff from my neck to my feet.

I surely enjoyed this experience, for it furnished me with further proof that even though the muscles have been accustomed to performing heavy or even tedious movements, still by offering them such a slight change it was possible to bring on muscle stiffness. It proved that the muscles can be deeply affected by manipulations; but I doubt very much whether such manipulations would increase their size even a fraction of an inch, even if they were massaged daily. Rather, I would say that a gentle massage to muscles not in the best possible condition might enable them to perform more vigorous contractions afterwards, and muscles in perfect condition can be benefitted by a gentle massage, which undoubtedly will somewhat help them, also, in performing endurance work.

What effect has massage beyond its chief effect of increasing the circulation? It produces heat in the muscles—the same as is acquired by the contractions and extensions of the muscles in active exercise. There must be a certain temperature before the muscles can act in harmony and coordination, for cold muscles are practically as useless as are the muscles of a man in the declining years of his life.

Even though the student feels that he is in full command of all his physical powers and that he has superior quality of muscle, it will be well to consider here the subject of improvement of muscle quality.

Heat plays a very important part in governing the quality and usefulness of a muscle. When a muscle is cold it naturally becomes somewhat stiff and this experience can be had by anyone who is exposed to a brief exposure in winter when improperly clothed. One seems to shrink together, so to speak, and a sort of numbness overtake shim. If he were to attempt to perform a certain feat, no matter how simple it might be, such as jumping, running or the like, he would find that he would experience more or less pain in the muscles involved.

This brings to mind a personal experience which happened one summer a year or two ago on the beach. It was a cool day with a strong wind blowing. I had been in the water for some time and naturally I felt chilly when I came out. I started doing hand-stands on the sand in order to warm up and increase my circulation. After doing a dozen or more hand-stands with various forms of push-ups, I suddenly decided to turn a back handspring. I did, and something snapped in my left ankle. All the blood had been centered around the muscles used in handbalancing, and my feet were cold and not in condition to receive the force when I landed on them somewhat heavily. I limped around for about nine weeks with a sprained ankle, the penalty of my folly; but I since have made it a point never to attempt any movement or stunt that requires skill or strength, before first seeing to it that my muscles are warm and in proper condition for that particular work.

When you attend a track meet you will note how the sprinters always warm up before the race They trot up and down, either stationed in one spot or in short jogs here and there on the track, in order to get or keep the muscles of the legs warmed up and in condition to compete. If a runner did not do this he soon would find himself far behind his competitors.

Heat is an indispensable element for muscle contraction. However, if the temperature rises too high, then the heat destroys the activity of the muscle. This easily can be illustrated by anyone who desires to experiment with hot bathing. After lying in a tub of very hot water until one is perspiring profusely, one will experience a sleepy feeling, probably a "dopey" feeling, rather than one of energy. If, however, this hot bath is not too long continued and is followed by a cold shower, one will regain activity of the muscle, because the cold water restores normal temperature and at the same time shocks the nervous system and acts as a stimulus.

Heat can be produced by excessive muscular work as well as by bathing and other external means, and such muscular effort can overheat the blood and poison the nerve centers, doing considerable temporary or even permanent damage.

It readily can be seen, then, that heat, or warming up of the muscles, and placing them in a condition to do work is just as important as is practice in any sport which will produce muscle sense, and as important as training that will develop muscular coordination. These are among the first rudiments of physical training that the student must acquire before attempting anything in the line of endurance work.

In the production of heat, diet plays a very important part. The athlete who does not eat properly and whose food does not properly proceed through the process of digestion, will find himself lacking in muscle condition and, therefore, in his endurance efforts. The body is entirely built up from the materials drawn from the food we eat; and certain physical and temperamental characteristics depend considerably upon where one lives, because of the variance in foods native to different geographic regions, especially different zones. The foods grown or produced in a zone as a rule are best suited to the needs of the natives of that zone. The Eskimo and the inhabitants of the far North must eat a fatty diet or foods that will produce considerable heat. Whether they understand the food question or not seems to make no difference, for they evidently are concerned only about their tastes and the gratification of their appetites, and these in all cases call for heat-producing foods, in the far North. The people who live around the Equator subsist on an entirely different diet, and they could not tolerate by taste or digestion, the food eaten by those in colder regions.

Again bringing in one of my own personal experiences: I have lived in the tropics and I have lived in Alaska. I even have had the good fortune to be within a few hundred miles of the North Pole, where, as far as I could see, there was nothing but pack ice. Do you suppose for one instant that the fresh fruits and green vegetables I ate in the tropics would be sufficient time for me in a temperature far below freezing? In the North I continually craved greasy stews, thick soups, potatoes and the like, and the reader can rest assured that, while eating with my coat collar up around my ears, such food tasted better to me than any ice cream soda ever did when the thermometer registered over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

To show what effect food has upon the body, just go without a few meals and experience the pangs of hunger. You will find that you will not be very much inclined to exercise when your stomach seems to be begging for nourishment. A man who regularly performs violent muscular work cannot furnish the quantity of heat needed by this work after a two-day fast.

Practically, it is impossible to outline a definite diet that everyone may follow regularly. The constitution of each of us is different from that of others. The nervous individual needs far different food than does the phlegmatic person, and the large, tall man naturally will require a larger quantity, owing to the size of his organs, than will the small-framed, shorter man. Each one will have to experiment for himself; and as there are so many varieties of foods to select from, I am sure it will not be difficult to find the proper diet. It may be necessary for one to make a fairly careful study of some of the magazines or better books dealing with the subject of diet, in order to learn some of the principles of dietetics. The subject of diet has received much thought in recent years and almost any recent book on the subject will give many valuable suggestions for the man who exercises. Personally, I believe in variety. I do not think a man should, unless there is something organically wrong with him, stick to one exclusive diet, for the body requires all kinds of foods. I believe, however, that it is far better to secure variety from meal to meal or from day to day, rather than to have a wide variety at each meal.

I have done considerable experimenting with diets. I have lived exclusively on milk for a while. I have tried raw foods. I have tried milk and eggs; and I have tried the mixed diet—meat and vegetables. And, although I must admit that the vegetarian diet seems to be most satisfactory, still there are times when my body seems to need a thick steak; and when it does I believe in satisfying the needs of my body. Too much meat, of course, will prove harmful, as will too much of any good thing.

Whatever foods are selected as best serving one's individual needs, it is essential that one's digestive organs and the organs of elimination function properly in order to produce the proper body heat for the body. As stated before, without this proper heat, coupled with muscular coordination and muscle sense, no one will be able to perform endurance movements to any marked degree.

The student must bear in mind that when seriously considering endurance work, or any exercise that requires an extra expenditure of energy, he also must increase the quantity of his food. By this I do not mean to overeat or to stuff oneself to capacity; but unless the diet is somewhat enlarged or at least has additional nutritive food values added, he will be continuing his exercising not on physical strength but on nervous energy. It is a common occurrence for an athlete to continue in his sport or pastime without experiencing fatigue while performing endurance work and yet steadily lose in weight. This, however, cannot go on indefinitely. He must look into and adjust his diet and way of living, or he soon will be burning the candle at both ends; and he is liable to decline into a condition of such diminished resistance that he no longer can defends himself against the numerous injurious influences which react upon him from without, just as a man who is run down from a cold may be susceptible to any disease with which he comes in contact.

But to return again briefly to muscle stiffness. Before undertaking endurance work the muscles must be prepared by training so that stiffness does not develop. The best procedure for preventing stiffness is to do a small amount of work every day and progress according to your vitality and inclinations. Of course, if one follows inclinations alone he is apt to find himself becoming lazy, for it is natural for all of us to endeavor to become as comfortable as possible at all times. But habits are easily formed; and as we all are more or less victims of habits, it is an easy matter to form the habit of taking exercise at the same time each day, just as you eat your meals at the same times or do many other things at regular times during the day.
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