GENERAL ARTICLES

Me-Athlete?

Hugh Grant Rowell September 15 1933
GENERAL ARTICLES

Me-Athlete?

Hugh Grant Rowell September 15 1933

Me-Athlete?

GENERAL ARTICLES

Hugh Grant Rowell

yOU’VE GOT to have an incentive for successful exercise. In school and college it’s fame, love of “dear

old—” or the privilege of wearing a letter on your

chest. That famous schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, had another sort of incentive when he forced his attenuated shanks to do a mile in about “nothing flat” after the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow had rudely hurled his gleaming head at the poor man. Fear, however, is no good as an incentive. It turns pleasure into punishment.

Incentives and degrees of exercise and kinds of exercise have changed since our forebears’ time. If primitive man was not hunting animals, the latter probably were hunting him. Indeed, unless his legs were fleet, his eyes keen and his brain wily, “tag” went a big paw—and he was "it.” The Indian hunted, fished and fought to survive. He needed no radio humorist to inveigle him through his daily dozen. Nor did the squaw, who was housekeeper, agriculturist, tanner, nursemaid and a few other things. Work done, religion and amusement became incentives to exercise. Dancing seems to have been a considerable factor in both.

It’s only recently that physical work has not been our real exercise, with the primary incentive of assuring ourselves of life through escaping our enemies and securing food, shelter and clothing. Fortunate are those of us who still eam their living by the sweat of their brows. For most of us. even if we indulge in physical labor, work is changing more and more to mechanical manipulations, to guiding clever machinery rather than performing the tasks ourselves. We are using our bodies much less actively than in our earlier days. Conversely, we are drawing on our nervous energy in exactly the opposite proportion.

What is the result? A different sort of fatigue—nervous, not muscular. The remedy lies in an exercise programme to fit our individual present and future needs. Such a pro-

gramme is possible and feasible.

It requires planning, I’ll admit.

The basis is the recognition that we need a change—rest, if you want to call it that, and consideration, as they say in investment circles, of “the long pull.” The objective is an enjoyable present and a grand old age, full of vigor and value.

Strangely enough, we often handicap ourselves in developing such a programme by wrong ideas.

The Value of Sports

WE FAIL, for example, to understand the reason for sports or their value to us. The old British idea of sport for sport’s sake was the right one. Why have we strayed so far from it? Since when have we a right to think of fine sports in terms of letters, medals, cups, championships and

coin? Sports were intended to keep us in good condition, to develop and keep assertive valuable parts of our characters. Should we merely play golf with a man in order to find out whether we can deal safely with him in business?

We need sports. It is a pleasure to watch them done well. We would like to persuade ourselves sometimes that we prefer to watch the game rather than participate in it. A reasonable amount of exercise, we admit is probably good for us; but so is castor oil at times. Often we start avoiding exercise in that exhausted age, adolescence, and in too many instances it seems that we never cease our dodging.

We don’t stop with dodging for ourselves. It amuses me to read tha many children prefer to watch others play; that you have to force them into games. I ’ve seen a good many children of various ages, degrees of brightness and natural athletic ability. I have come to believe that when any boy or girl is not interested in any sport, he or she is not normal physically or else nobody has made an intelligent effort to teach the child, to make the activity a joy. There should be ample opportunity for amusements for all children, not only to aid their present growth and social and character

development but to start something which will have a carry-over into later life.

It is not fair to blame ourselves too much. We haven’t known what to do. In those lean years when we were getting started in life, time and money were scarce and we rationalized our loss. Then, too, we get timid when we hear, “If you don’t stop your tennis at forty, it will stop you.” We read of accidents at sports when the latter are emphasized beyond reason or proportion.

Exercise we need all through life. When properly organized it should enable us to prolong life and be considerably happier.

The baby plans his exercise on such a basis. He kicks and turns in the crib, expands his lungs and tries out his voice if a pin sticks him or the collywobbles come stalking him. But do you know that, with proper planning, you can rid him of that alderman’s front porch much earlier than otherwise?

Before long the erstwhile kicker is marching around the room hanging on to chairs, and then he starts running the rest of us ragged with his vigor. It is then that we begin that long battle—lasting sometimes till he founds a new home for himself—to direct his energy into channels which will not exhaust the rest of the family. He begins to learn Continued on page 39

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games—simple ones at first, then games which require greater skill and co-ordination as his physical and mental powers and his social instincts increase. First thing we know he is playing the “hot comer” on his baseball team.

Instinctively, if we can judge by studies made in my laboratory, a boy picks out games for which he is best fitted in terms of apparent strength as proved by thorough physical examinations, including heart tests, and our own general opinion of each boy— “our” meaning the athletic director, his assistant and myself. On this theory, one’s exercise is and ought to be considerably tailor-made by oneself with expert assistance.

Tailor-made exercise includes a good many considerations, your physical type being only one of them.

What Are You Good For?

DIVIDING all of us into physical classifications, we find three general groups: The short, broad, stalky people, the mediums; the tall, slender, long-boned and long-muscled folk.

These, divisions are, of course, very general. In real life, most of us are composed of several types, which complicates the picture though not irreparably. Animals are much the same way. A good horse for the lumber woods or draying is broad and heavy, but for racing you had better put your money on the speed type with long legs and slender body.

Go to an athletic meet and you will find many examples of the marriage of man’s type and his exercise. Your long-distance runner will probably be a short, rather small man with long legs and very slender musculature. Your middle-distance runner probably has a long body and long legs and will be slender. For the short dashes, the moderately slender man is preferred, while the punishing 400-metre run requires stockier men. High jumpers may be very tall and slender or somewhat sturdier, depending on how they get over the bar. Wrestlers and heavy athletes are usually short, “built low to the ground.” Gymnasts have deep, broad, strong shoulders, and smaller or narrow hips. Swimmers have deep, broad, strong chests, broad shoulders, and otherwise resemble the so-called “all-round athlete” found in boxing, football, soccer and basketball—the well-built individual of medium height.

But whatever type you are, or whether you are old or young, the first thing on your programme is to wander over to your doctor’s office and let him tell you what’s what. He’ll get your blood pressure, give your heart a function test, and make sundry other

investigations of your person. He will tell you something about your limitations, if any, and w'hat exercise is best for you and how much. He will also tell you how to recognize the moment when you should apply the brakes, for unless you are in the days of your youth you must measure your exercise.

A Good Time to Stop

AND NOW for a few directions. If you ^ are planning to take on an opponent obviously younger and more vigorous than you, stop before you begin. Next, don’t keep at your game if you don’t feel up to it. That good old quality “gameness” was never unduly praised except by morticians and coaches dealing with youth.

Your own reactions to your exercise are your measurement meter. Next morning you should feel as chipper as can be. You should not be unduly tired when you stop your exercise. And there are “Stop” signals. Don’t run through them unless you want to pay a fine. Stop if your breath doesn’t behave itself very quickly after a rally. Stop if your heart speeds up and does not quickly return to normal. You can tell by the pounding whether it is behaving or not. Stop, too, w'hen you begin to feel tired and have to continue on your nerve—that’s when accidents happen at work and at play. If you will read your meter thus, barring special situations, you can play your favorite non-contact game—no physical contact with your opponent’s body—till your last active day. After all, it’s not the game half as much as the strenuousness with which you play it, that tells the story.

Because of this very fact, however, you are likely, in the forties or fifties, to decide that a game as active as real tennis or badminton should be, has ceased to interest you because you can no longer plunge into it with the abandon of yore. And so, being sensible, you turn to horseshoe pitching, bow’ling on the green or other games of real interest to all ages which do not require so much muscular exertion.

Automatically, then, you are likely to fit the game to your age. You have three ages—birthday, developmental, and functional. It’s the last one that counts on your exercise meter. And you can control it considerably by a well-planned exercise programme—the nearest thing to a fountain of youth yet discovered. Whatever your age, you can choose sport and indulge in it regularly.

Yes, “regular” is the word. Through planned exercise we establish an enlarged capacity of the body as a whole. Severe sporadic exercise in men over forty may do more harm than good. Follow the rule of regular but limited exercise every day. Why indulge in bursts of athletic drunkenness, ending in a general “morning after,” with sore muscles, maybe injuries and assuredly a complete lack of attunement to everything for several days thereafter? You upset the whole working of your body. The readjustment is severe. And don’t forget it is on such “Katzenjammers” that you can pull a tendon or get a first-class “charley horse.” It is never too late, but the younger you start your regular exercise programme, the better. Even professional athletes are, with

exceptions, burned up by thirty-five. Most of us never participate in organized athletics when we start earning a living, so it is the carry-over of your younger exercise programme that really counts.

Sports For All Ages

NOW TO LOOK over the sports menu and discués the dishes a little. You make your choice in terms of what is available and what is suited to you. After that —well, what do you like?

Daily dozens? What an insult to Nature! Walk to work instead: at least part of the way. Ladies, lower your heels and use the gas and tires for real trips, instead of driving the car to visit your neighbor across the street. Or ride a horse, which is real exercise.

Walk? 1 hate it. though I know it’s good for me. Run? Not even for trains. I puff too hard afterward. Curling? It looks good to me: how about you? I like tennis, though I’m getting into the "strategy” and slowmotion-picture class. Of course you can play tennis as long as you can hold a racket, see a ball, and move faster than a mud turtle. But the point is, you won’t. 1 don’t.

Golf yes. indeed. But may I play in some loose old togs instead of in my evening clothes? May I be content with five or six clubs, and carry my own bag lest I be accused of giving half the exercise to the caddy? Horseshoe pitching is good exercise and gets better as we grow older. Bowling is splendid, and we can live a long time with it for exercise if we don’t stifle in the ill-ventilated alleys. We can take it out on the green, or we can play bocee, the Italian bowling game, there, too.

Such exercises as these are so easy for you to control that the age hazard is kept low. But learn them early and acquire skill. The

later you start to learn a game, the more ashamed you are to exhibit your lack of ¡ skill.

Dancing, at almost any age, is highly desirable—for exercise, carriage and sheer enjoyment.

Make believe you’rea Channel swimmer if you like. Swimming is a tine sport for almost any age, provided you do not get beyond your depth and your staying power.

There’s an amazing number of interesting games for you, and new ones are apijearing every day. Even if you are young, your choice of sjxirts will be influenced by the individual capacity and preference which are intrinsically yours. You won’t play the contact games long anyway; not much beyond your years of acquiring an education. After that, you will use sports as a recreation and a means, not an end. As you grow older you will, if you are wise, recognize and heed the little danger signals by which Nature warns you to quit for the day. They’re not too emphatic, but they’re recognizable. “Better a live coward than a dead hero.” you know. The accidents on golf courses and elsewhere in later life are usually avoidable, if you listen to Nature’s suggestions. And don’t ever forget that your exercise programme must so appeal to you that it takes you entirely out of your regular humdrum world.

How are you going to put your exercise programme to a test? I’ll give you a high mark if you can shout a loud “Yes” to this hypothetical question:

In your opinion, does your present exercise programme bring you rest instead of added fatigue, relaxation, relief from your lifework mentally and physically, relief from those poisons and disconcerting thoughts you accumulate sitting around, relief—the greatest of all—from your worst self?