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Keeping Fit All the Way / How to Obtain and Maintain Health, Strength and Efficiency By Walter Camp Characters: 12640

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Vacillation and doubt are poison to the nerves.

This is the reason why it is advisable to teach co-ordination, prompt response to the command of the brain over the muscles, and the general sense of self-control which comes to a man when he has only to think in order to turn that thought into quick action. One of the penalties of the executive position is that, although the man begins as a disciplined private, when he goes up higher and gradually reaches the point where he gives commands only, and never has any practice in obeying them, he gets the habit of pushing buttons to make other people jump, while there are no buttons pushed to make him jump.


Now as to worry. It has been said, and not untruly, that one of the very largest causes of worry is bodily weakness. And in more than a majority of cases this weakness comes from poor physical condition. A good digestion and proper elimination seem to make the organism move smoothly, not alone with muscles, but with nerves. Hence if we get the engine right, the lungs doing their duty, the skin acting as it should, and the bowels and kidneys taking off the waste products, we generally find a robust man, little given to that most expensive habit, "worry."

Fear is the forerunner of illness.

There is nothing quite so effective in producing a bad condition of the human system as fear, and this fear is what worry develops into; later it becomes pure, downright cowardice.

Worry makes cowards. If a man has enough worry and anxiety, fear follows in its wake, and then the man becomes a mental and moral and often a physical coward.


The average man, when he is pressed to overwork, thinks that by cutting out some of his exercise and devoting that extra time to his work he can accomplish more. There never was a greater mistake; in the long run this method is the most expensive of all. No factory manager would think of running his automatic machines twice as long with half the amount of oil, and yet that is just what the man is trying to do in this case. The result is that he gradually piles up the various toxic products within himself until self-poisoning is inevitable. All his organs struggle to eliminate these poisons, but, being given no assistance, they gradually become less and less efficient, and then begins the payment of the penalty, for Nature never forgives this kind of treatment. From a practical, useful running machine he retrogrades into something fit only for the scrap-heap. The history is the same in all cases, although it may be more or less prolonged. The discomfort, occasional slight illnesses, the gradual loss of effective thought and power to concentrate, lack of appetite, unreasonable temper, insomnia, nerve diseases, and perhaps a complete nervous and physical breakdown if the conditions are not recognized in time, are the varying punishments inflicted by Nature.


I have referred to Nature's order, "You must earn your bread by the sweat of your brow." Almost every one, in these modern days of civilization, is earning his bread in some other way; well, he must make up for this by some kind of exercise or else Nature will surely take her toll. When men were earning their bread by the sweat of their brows they were not always sure of getting a surplus of it, and that was not a half-bad thing. In fact, it was far better for the race than present conditions under which so many men have given up physical work altogether. But instead of cutting down on their food they double up on it.


The usual temporary panacea for these ills of the flesh is to get some so-called "specific" in the form of a medicine and gobble it religiously. Thousands of men and women, who are unwilling to take five or ten minutes' exercise two or three times a day, will swallow something out of a bottle on a spoon before each meal, with a splendid satisfaction and confidence. Perhaps temporarily it produces improved results. At any rate, it gives a sense of mental satisfaction, and that something stands off the trouble for a while. There is still another method which has some show of reason in it, although, after all, it does not compare with the wiser, saner course. A man or woman is persuaded that if he or she will only give up some particularly attractive self-indulgence the result will be increased health and vigor. For instance, there is a common belief that tea or coffee is the cause of many ills. Perhaps this is true, but the giving up of tea or coffee will never cure the ills that come from lack of exercise, loss of fresh air, over-eating, and over-indulgence. The mere fact that a person is giving up something that he likes does not make him immune to the penalties which he incurs day after day by other offenses against the laws of Nature.


Rear-Admiral Carey T. Grayson, personal physician and health director to President Wilson, says:

"You may make the statement, in so many words, that physical exercise has been the means of making a normal, physically perfect man of the President. And when a man is in a normal condition he is in perfect health and physical trim. That was the initial intention in this case, just to make the President physically fit, and to keep him so."

Richard M. Winans says:

"The Admiral told me that when he first took charge of the President, Mr. Wilson was not a little averse to taking any sort of exercise. However, Doctor Grayson early succeeded in impressing upon Mr. Wilson that good health was an absolutely important factor in dealing with the grilling duties which would face him during the coming four years, and that his physical well-being was vital not only to himself, but to the welfare of the entire country."

The President has a dislike almost akin to abhorrence for mechanical appliances intended to exercise the muscles of the body. There is not a dumbbell, or an Indian club, nor a medicine-ball, nor a punching-bag, nor a turning-bar, nor a trapeze, nor a lifting or pulling apparatus, nor a muscle-exercising machine of any sort or description in the White House. The only mechanical device used by the President is a simple, unoffending golf-club.


Aside from his work in the open

air, Mr. Wilson takes a number of physical exercises indoors, very few of which have ever been described in print. Some of these exercises are taken as a substitute for outdoor recreations at times when weather conditions are too extreme. But the major part of them, and especially the more unusual of these exercises, are regularly practised as a part of his daily routine. As a matter of fact, they are pretty closely dove-tailed in with his office work.


However, if the President really has a favorite among his various physical exercises, it is said to be that of "flexing." This he employs almost entirely as an indoor exercise, and it perhaps is the one he practises more often than any other.

"Flexing," as Doctor Grayson put it into its simplest every-day term, is nothing more nor less than just good, old-fashioned "stretching" expressed in a scientific and systematized form of exercise. It is the most generally and commonly executed muscular exercise, and it is practised by nearly all the animal kingdom.

President Wilson uses his flexing movements with a careful regard to system, and a great deal more regularly and frequently than any other of his varied physical exercises. Particularly during his periods of concentration, when at work at his desk in the preparation of his messages to Congress or in the drafting of notes to foreign governments, the President, at short intervals, will either settle back in his chair and flex his arms and hands and the muscles across his back and chest, or he will rise and stand erect for a more thorough practice of the flexing movements for a period of a minute or more. At these times he will throw his body into almost every conceivable posture-twisting, turning, bending, stooping, the arms down, forward, back, and over his head, the muscles of the limbs and entire body flexed almost to the point of tremor, the fingers spread, and the muscles rigidly tensed.

In the opinion of Doctor Grayson, if business and professional men, particularly those who work at high tension in the cities, would pause in their work at frequent intervals during the day and give a few seconds of their time to the energetic practice of the flexing or stretching exercises, there would soon come to be not only less, but, possibly in time, no cases reported of this or that noted man, the famous lawyer, merchant, or financier, dropping dead at his desk or in his home or in the street, on account of apoplexy caused by hardened arteries.

One of Mr. Wilson's principal physical movements is that of body-twisting. With the toes at a slight outward angle, the heels touching and the body erect, he begins the movement by twisting the body a little more than half-way around; then swinging back in an arc, at the same time bending at the hips, until he has completed the circle and reached a hip-bending position, with the fingers of one hand touching the floor, the other extended vertically. This gives a stretching movement to all of the muscles of the torso, side, back, and abdomen, as well as considerable play to the muscles of the legs and arms.


We as a nation, through the revelation of the draft, have been suddenly thrown upon the public screen as physically deficient. And that, too, when the echoes of the Eagle screaming over successes in the world Olympic games had hardly done sounding in our satisfied ears. Naturally, we don't like it. Deep down in our consciousness we are not only dissatisfied with the picture, but we feel that somehow it is distorted; we are hoping to prove that even a photograph does not always tell the truth, at least not the whole truth. Yet in this search for the truth there are some facts that we must face and admit. The first of these is that as a race-blended, if you please, but still the people of a nation-we are ambitious and hurried. We act a great deal more than we think. Cricket is too slow for us; only baseball has the fire and the dash we like. We haven't quite enough time even for that, and so we begin to leave the stands before the game is over, craning our necks as we walk along toward the exits for a last glimpse, and then rushing madly to get on the first car out. All this is typical of our life. We have had a measure of benefit from our athletics. They are a spur toward physical development as long as they last. But no sooner are school-days drawing to an end than we begin the mad rush-toward what? To see how fast we can make money or name or position. We take a final look backward at the last inning of these sports of ours, and then we rush out into the world of American hustle. The lucky ones prolong their playtime a little by a college course, but they, too, finally abandon sport in favor of business and let themselves go slack until they lose condition. A week or two in the summer, a fort-night's orgy of exercise, and then back to the grind of factory or desk. How can this way of living keep even a young man fit? Golf has been a godsend to the older man whose pocket-book can stand it, but what about the youth? And when pressure comes on the older man he quickly gives up his golf at the demand of business.




Men who have really kept themselves fit are few. Those who have conscientiously started in to do this and then abandoned it are a host. There are valid reasons for this lamentable state of affairs.

First-Because the antiquated systems under which these men have attempted the task have

(1) Occupied too much time;

(2) Left men tired instead of refreshed;

(3) Exercised muscles which get all they need in a man's ordinary pursuits.

Secondly-Because the instructors who have taught these systems have laid stress upon

(1) Mere increase in size of the muscles;

(2) Ability to do "stunts" which are of no practical use to a man;

(3) Unnecessary use of apparatus.

Thirdly-Because they made necessary the services of a teacher to

(1) Lead the exercises;

(2) Keep track of their number and variety;

(3) Give special treatment to produce results.

But these mistakes are in the past. Let us look toward a brighter, saner, and more productive future.

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