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Keeping Fit All the Way / How to Obtain and Maintain Health, Strength and Efficiency By Walter Camp Characters: 7639

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

This is a young nation. It began with the great gods of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And it fought a good fight in the War of Independence for Freedom and Equality. Then came the lesser gods of material success. They broke the nation apart. But it survived. Since the Civil War we have grown rich and fat, flaccid and spineless. We are like a great, careless boy with a rich father; our crops and material resources symbolize the rich father who is able to pay for all his son's foolishness. And so the youth has never stopped to think. But underneath that careless exterior there are muscle and character. For what is the history of Youth? If the youth is to become a real man he cannot be curbed to the extent of forgetting courage in an excess of caution. And the rush of our youth to the service showed this.


An Englishman once writing of the tendency of the elders to blot out all the fire of youth with restrictive legislation, said, "It is a fearful responsibility to be young, and none can bear it like their elders." How can a youth whose blood is warm within sit like his grandsire carved in alabaster? He cannot and he will not, and that is the salvation of the race. It is the old story of the stag in the herd. He will see no other usurp his rights until he is too old to have any.

Let me tell you something of the history of these attempts by the elders to curb the everlasting spirit of youth. At one time they would have eliminated all the sports. But we didn't let croquet become the national game! You ask what this nation of ours will become, and in reply I ask you what will you make of your boys?

Statisticians tell us that 90 per cent. of the men who go into business fail. Do you want your boy to fold his hands and say that because the chances are against him he will not try at all?

Are you going to let him get such a maximum of old man's caution that he reduces to a minimum the young man's courage?

Make him strong and well, just as you wish the nation to be strong and sound. There will always be plenty of middle-aged failures to preach caution.

Teach your boy fair play and may the best man win.

Teach him that the true sportsman "boasts little, crows gently when in luck, puts up, pays up, and shuts up when beaten"; that he should be strong in order to protect his country. A boy may over-emphasize his sports, but he will get over that. They tell us about the good old times when boys at college spent all their time in study and loved one another. There never were any such times. The town-and-gown riots took the place of sports, that's all.


We are all of us very much interested in the life of an automobile tire, and it seems to speak to us in terms we can readily understand. But only the particularly wise and successful men of our generation know and appreciate how valuable the life of a man is when expressed in those same terms of good hard dollars. Many manufacturers in the last two or three years have awakened to the fact that when, they put in a man and he stayed with them only two or three months, or even, in the case of executives, two or three years and then dropped out, either to go elsewhere or on account of ill health, it was a very distinct loss. In other words, they had put a certain investment into the man and that investment should have been growing more valuable to them all the time.

Germany's General Staff, previous to this war, was working overtime, just as our Cabinet and National Board of Defense are doing now-namely, till midnight and beyond. But the German General Staff was taken out into the Thiergarten in the morning for from one to two hours of exercise as a beginning of the day.

It therefore sifts itself down to this: If we had an ordnance officer

who fired a gun, that was tested for but two hundred rounds without heating, five hundred times and thus cracked it, he would probably be discharged. If the superintendent in a factory doubled the number of hours he was running his automatic machinery, and instead of doubling the amount of oil actually cut it in half and thus ruined the machines, he would be regarded as a fool. Yet we are letting our men, high in executive positions, heads of departments in the government, and leaders of manufacturing, transportation, and commercial interests, do this very thing. Is it possible that we regard them as less valuable to us in this emergency than machines and guns, that we should burn them out for lack of lubricant and rest or physical conservation?


A railroad president not long ago said that he had not the time to take exercise or rest, that his salary was fifty thousand dollars a year, and that his company had just given him a bonus of fifty thousand; hence he could not shirk his responsibilities. He paid the full measure and was buried in six months from the time of the warning. In one issue of the New York Evening Post the following deaths were noted:

President Hyde, formerly of Bowdoin, fifty-nine years of age. Capt. Volney Chase, of the Navy, fifty-six years of age. Capt. Campbell Babcock, fifty years old. Colonel Deshon, fifty-three years old.

Our Cabinet officers and executives and the members of the Council of National Defense are likely to forget, in the excess of their patriotism and loyalty, that there is one edict higher than that of the greatest government in the world. When Nature gives an order there is no appeal to a higher court, and the excuse that a man has not the time to obey, or is doing something that his country most urgently needs, has no weight in that court. When Nature touches a man on the shoulder and says, "Stop!" he stops. The penalty of frayed nerves, overworked brains, and underworked bodies is failure of body and mind. The premonitory symptoms are irritability, quarreling, depression, fierceness and inefficiency of effort, and finally complete breakdown. Three to four hours a week physical exercise under a scientifically tested plan and arrangement will keep these men fit. Is the price in this emergency too high to pay?


Up to the time when this world conflagration started, a man's physical fitness was merely a matter of individual interest. The general health of the community was important, but that fact was not sufficiently pressing to do much more than attract the attention of the health boards, and perhaps a few recently organized and semi-philanthropic bodies. But suddenly there flamed out a war in Europe, and at once the countries involved found that upon the physical fitness of the people would depend their lives and freedom. It was no longer an academic question. It became an immediate and vital fact.

In September of 1914 the writer placed the following suggestion on the top of his syndicate athletic article:


Guard your shores and train your men,

Teach your growing youth to fight;

Make your plans ere once again

Ships of foes appear in sight.

Teach new arts until you hold

In your bounds all things you need.

Then you can't be bought or sold;

From commercial bonds be freed!

If Manhattan rich you'd save,

If your western Golden Gate-

Train a field force, rule the wave.

Every day you're tempting fate!

Build the ships and train to arms,

Make your millions fighting strength

That shall frighten war's alarms

Ere they reach a challenge length.

He was immediately assailed as a militarist, and yet, had we but taken those preparatory steps, millions of lives might have been saved.

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