E. F. (Edward Frederic) Benson.

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_Daily Training_


[Illustration: text decoration] and [Illustration: text decoration]


31, West Twenty-Third Street

[Illustration: colophon, K]



The following pages contain certain rules and suggestions concerning
health, and certain simple and sensible ways in which it may, we hope,
be acquired and maintained at a very small expense of time and
self-denial, by a large number of people who are naturally accustomed to
feel not very well. The book is founded on notes made by its two authors
who, though they lead for the most part very different lives, are agreed
on certain broad principles of health herein set forth. One of them, for
instance, eats largely of flesh-foods every day, the other has scarcely
touched meat for years. But both are accustomed to feel extremely well
and to undertake considerable exertion either of mind or body without
experiencing any fatigue. One of them takes regular exercise, that is to
say he plays an out-door game on most days of his life, while the other
who abstains from flesh-foods has little practice of the sort. He will
take no out-of-door exercise for several days, work very hard, and find
himself perfectly fit for some severe physical test at the end. But they
are both agreed that if the one abandoned flesh-foods (which he does
not propose to do) he would cease to require regular exercise, and that
if the other took flesh-foods (which he does not propose to do) he would
not only be very ill, but would also require regular exercise. One again
is seldom seen without some appliance of tobacco in his mouth, because
he finds it agreeable and after an experiment of abstinence from it
found that it did not make any difference, as far as he could make out,
in his general health. The other never smokes at all. One again takes a
cold bath in the morning, the other a hot one followed by cold sponging.

But both are absolutely in accord on far more main points than those on
which their practice, at any rate, differs, and they have found it
perfectly easy to write this book together without wrangling, on which
account they wish to express a pious hope that the very fact that they
differ in so many things may have saved them from dogmatism. For it has
helped them to realize that even when they are agreed on any point it
would be a sheer stupidity to hint that they were therefore right, and
in consequence they only put forward the points on which they are agreed
as suggestions, hoping that others after trial may also agree with them.
For universal laws on an empirical matter like health are rare, and the
constitutions of men are various. One man’s meat, in fact, is literally
another man’s poison. But in the main the two authors are agreed. They
believe that the majority of mankind habitually eat too much and
habitually take too much stimulating food and drink. They believe also
that most people who do so do not take enough exercise, and that either
an increase of exercise or a decrease of stimulant is needed. They
believe that the best sorts of exercise are not those of slow pushing
movements such as are made in the use of dumb-bells, but full brisk
extended movements, with much use of the breathing apparatus and the
large muscle areas of the body. Similarly they are in accord as regards
present systems of training which tend to treat an entire crew or team
as if they were identical specimens, not as widely different specimens;
in every day life also they hold that because a certain mode of diet and
work suits A, it will not necessarily suit B and C, though B and C might
do worse than try it. They also regard the ordinary acceptation of the
word “Training” as far too narrow, and hold that to acquire a high
fitness of the body is a duty which should be within the reach of
everybody, since a mind housed in a fit body is far more capable of good
and sustained work than when its shell is imperfect. For this end they
advocate the starting of city athletic clubs like those in certain
American towns, being fully convinced that these clubs, with a
reasonable attention to matters of diet, would secure for the ordinary
city-worker a far higher measure of health than he is at present
accustomed to enjoy.

Finally, they believe that air, light and work (and here they do not
mind appearing dogmatic) are three prime remedies in the pharmacy of
God. And they feel sure that sensuality is bad for everybody.

_September, 1902._














Exercise II. - First Position _To face page_ 80

Exercise II. - Second Position 80

Exercise II. - Both Arms Together 80

Exercise VIII 81

Exercise IX. - First Position 82

Exercise IX. - Second Position 82

Exercise XIII. - First Position 83

Exercise XIII. - Second Position 83

Exercise XIV 84




Among the many notable discoveries made by the Anglo-Saxon race during
the nineteenth century there is none more curious, none perhaps which
will turn out to have been more concerned with the well-being of the
race itself, than that which we may broadly call the discovery of
Athletics. In itself this discovery was natural enough, since the love
of sport, the pitting of the wit of man against animals, or against his
fellows, has always been strongly inherent among us; but after thirty
years of the new _régime_ we are apt to under-estimate the extraordinary
difference between the average middle-class Englishman of to-day, in the
matter of athletics, and the Englishman of the late sixties. For to put
it generally, games have been, if not invented, at any rate nationalized
since then; a large class of professional or semi-professional players
has come into existence, and an innumerable company of amateurs who play
games for their own sake, and for the sake of the increased measure of
health which most men find that they thereby enjoy. That this movement
at present is in the exuberance of its riotous juvenility, which coming
years will tame and quiet, is probable, but it is also probable that
with this modification will come a more scientific method of playing
games, which will convert the mere animal pleasure of using muscles and
lungs into a system which, by their fit and reasonable use, ensures for
their users not only a greatly increased power in mere strength and
agility, but a greatly increased power of mental quickness and moral
strength. The discipline, the quick obedience, the endurance which were
found to be necessary for the games in themselves, will be consciously
used in other ways and with objects vastly more important than mere
athletic excellence. In fact, the standing luck of the Anglo-Saxons is
here again typified: that which they began simply for purposes of
amusement, Nature is converting and will further convert into an
element, not only of physical, but of mental and moral pre-eminence.

Indeed, it was time that some new strain of growth, as it were, was
imported. For decades upon decades the country life of England had been
gradually drained out of the country altogether by colonization and
emigration, and by centralization into its towns; and the inevitable
health which waits upon those who live mainly in the open air, whose
diet is simple and wholesome foods, was being undermined by close
quarters, insufficient oxygen, and more than sufficient stimulants,
while those of the upper classes who still lived much in the country
hunted six days out of the seven, and drank seven nights out of the same
number. For the good old Englishman type, “one of the rare old sort,” as
it is the fashion to call it, cannot in the light of to-day be fairly
thought to be a very efficient or wholesome specimen. In fact, instead
of admiring the life which certain not very critical observers have told
us “made them what they were,” we ought rather to admire the wonderful
constitutions nature had given them, which did not sooner break up
under the extraordinarily unhealthy _régime_ of riding off every day
some of the excessive port wine consumed the evening before. No doubt
those works of fiction which admiringly record their feats make such a
class to appear to us larger and more wide-spread than it really was; it
is merely the admiration which we deprecate.

But by this wise provision of nature, simultaneously with the crowding
into towns (a feature, by the way, not of decadent but of increasing
national energy, and inevitable to successful competition), came this
new feature, the rise of athleticism, and the desire and necessity for
the health which athleticism both demands and, on the other hand, brings
with it. It is requisite, in order to excel at any game which demands
fleetness of foot, quickness of movement, accuracy of eye, to live,
broadly speaking, in a sober and rational manner. Drunken meteors have
reeled and will reel again over the athletic heavens, men who are built
in such iron mould that excess appears not to interfere with their
excellence, but on the one hand their brilliance is but short-lived, and
on the other they are in themselves exceptional; for we may say that the
average scratch player at golf, for instance, will certainly not remain
on that desirable mark for six months if he drinks a bottle of port
every night, and empties his box of cigarettes in two days. Thus
athleticism, on the whole, encourages among its million votaries a more
sensible and moderate way of life than they would, but for it, have
enjoyed, and by it they now, and their children in the future, will
inevitably be the fitter citizens. The green fields of England are
depopulated it is true, and a thicker and ever-spreading pall of smoke
rises above the clanking manufacturing towns and fog-ridden skies under
which the cities hum like swarming hives; but how on Saturday afternoons
are the fields populated again, and how the sand-pits crumble under the
illiterate strokes of delving stockbrokers, to whom at the moment the
little half-hidden ball is of more importance than the miles and
millions of the Rand or the salvation of their souls!

Nor is this movement confined to those who have the money and the
occasional leisure to play games. When before in the history of the
nation has there been such a phenomenon as the weekly crowds at Cup
ties, or the rapt lines of spectators at county cricket matches,
watching with the intensest interest the games they never play, and
knowing the athletic history of heroes they have never spoken to? That
the pleasure and excitement of betting enter into their enthusiasm is,
of course, undeniable, but we do not for a moment believe that this
accounts for all of it. There is something else as well, and that
something is the admiration and envy of the fitness of physical
excellence. Or when before was seen so curious a sight as the ordinary
bookstall groaning under magazines, the sole aim and purpose of which is
to teach their readers how to obtain physical strength? The “genial
broad-shouldered Englishman” of an earlier day was content to be
broad-shouldered; nowadays every one wants to know how the broad
shoulders are to be acquired. But the “genial broad-shouldered
Englishman” of an earlier day was subsequently content to recline
himself on a curtained feather-bed in a most microbeous room, with
windows shut; now we tear down our curtains, fling open our windows, and
plunge ourselves (without knowing why, it is true) into freezing baths
before we begin the work of the day.

To say that athletics are entirely responsible for the healthier way of
life pursued by the average Englishman of to-day as compared to the
average Englishman of forty years ago, would be of course an assertion
utterly beyond the mark. On the other hand, it is quite certainly within
the mark to say that athletics have appreciably contributed to it,
inasmuch as they both demand, as mentioned before, a sobriety and
moderation in life as an essential to continued success, and themselves
directly contribute to health as well as demanding the conditions that
are likely to lead to it. At the same time the science of athletics is
at present in its infancy, both whether we consider them as an end in
themselves (a very small affair), or as a means to an end (an immensely
large affair). Even the literature of the subject, that with which the
bookstalls teem, seems to be full of fallacies, to be dealt with
hereafter, and to a large extent to be based on one immense
fallacy - namely, that the possession of enormous muscles, and the
ability thereby to lift immense weights, is in itself an object worth
the attention of a reasonable man. And when one adds to this that the
actual acquirement of such power is in itself not always a very safe
process, possibly leading to strain and involving misuse of the muscles
themselves, it is not too much to say that if this, namely, the
acquiring of huge muscles and the mere power they give, at the sacrifice
in many cases of quickness, and in some at the risk of positive injury,
were all, such practice would be Athleticism gone crazy. On the other
hand, these periodicals would probably retort by saying, “What is the
use of being able merely to hit a golf ball two hundred yards, make a
totally untakeable stroke at racquets, hit over the pavilion at Lord’s,
or put in a hot shot at Association?” To this we readily answer, “There
is no use in it at all _in itself_.” But what is useful is to be
possessed of the quickness, not only of muscle and eye, which is
necessary to such a performance, but the quickness of seeing an
opportunity, and the having the body in such perfect poise, in such
perfect obedience to the will, that as soon as the opportunity occurs it
instantly and correctly takes advantage of it. The acquisition of mere
muscular force cannot produce this, and the professional strong man who
could lift a wiry golf player from the ground with one hand will, unless
he is something more than a professional strong man, be easily outdriven
by the other. This borders on the vital question - namely, What is the
use of athletics? And the answer is that _they are a help towards
training_, by which is meant not the cultivation of a particular set of
muscles in order to attain excellence at a particular game, still less
the cultivation of slow moving muscles of ponderous size adapted only
for the moving of heavy bodies, but the fitness of the entire body to
execute the orders of the will rapidly and correctly, the health
necessary and incidental to this, the endurance and strength which will
result from it.

Nor is this fitness, which we desire to see the birthright of the entire
race, at all confined to the body only, for to have the body in
subjection in this manner necessarily contributes to the mental and
moral health of a man. That his mind and morals may be extremely
healthy, though he does not know a cricket-bat from a golf-club, goes
without saying; but that athletics, from their engrossing nature to (we
believe) the average person, from the healthy fatigue which they
produce, from their insistence that a man should abstain from excess of
food and drink and other habits more injurious, contribute to the health
of mind and morals, is, we believe, beyond question. Training, in other
words, in the bigger sense in which we wish to apply the term, has for
its object not only fitness for any or for every athletic exercise, but
fitness for all work mental as well as bodily. Yet it is nearly as much
a mistake to devote all one’s time to keeping perfectly well, as it is
to disregard health altogether. We believe, in fact, that certain rules
of life, certain habits and certain daily exercises produce the state of
body which we denote by the phrase _being in Training_, and that this
adapts its owner, in so far as he is adaptable, for any work he has to
do. Not that there is any one fixed mode of life, any one diet, or any
one exercise which will suit everybody, but there are certain general
lines of health, broad paths which should be approximately followed, or
at any rate given a trial. For in these matters the personal equation
must be taken into consideration, and the diet and exercise that are
beneficial to the heavily-built man of fourteen stone are not only not
necessarily beneficial to a light-weight, but may be positively
injurious, though, of course, it is perfectly true that frankly
unwholesome diet or continuance of unhealthy habits would be injurious
both for the one and the other. On this point ordinary systems of
training, even when in such competent hands as those who have charge of
the University crews, seem to us capable of being bettered. The entire
crew, broadly speaking, are treated as if they were eight identical
specimens of one machine, as if what is the best for one must
necessarily be the best for all. This assumption is not only not proved;
it is on the face of it highly improbable.

But it is infinitely more important that a city full of folk living, by
the exigencies of their work, under far from favourable conditions,
should be in decent health, than that a boatful of strong young men,
living in the best conditions, should be at the tip-top of excellence of
which they are capable on a given morning; and in the consideration of
the question of training, what we say is submitted to the attention not
only of those who have some definite athletic trial in front of them,
though it is hoped that even these may find something of profit herein,
but of those who have to lead a sedentary life, which does not naturally
suit them, and find that their health, and through their health their
work, suffers. No doubt in such cases there must be compromise to a
certain degree; for some persons unfavourable hours of work, or
ill-ventilated rooms are practically (at present anyhow) unavoidable,
but even here there will be found to be possible not only certain rules
which will mitigate the ill-results that would naturally follow, but
certain corrective measures which will, to some extent, prevent the
ill-results following at all.

It is in the crowded life of cities that these difficulties most beset
the problem of how to bring health within the reach, not of course of
those who suffer from definite disease, for that is the work of doctors
and physicians, but of those who in surroundings which suited them would
naturally be healthy. Hard brain-work, for instance, especially in a
dead and vitiated atmosphere, though it produces merely headache in
some, produces in many others (both the present writers are cases in
point) violent appetite, and the natural impulse is to take large
quantities of solid food. The result of this would of course be extreme
somnolence, and a subsequent awakening from a sleep that is as different
from nature-demanded sleep as is light from darkness, with an extreme
attack of general inability. Now such a meal as this, which produced in
the brain-worker somnolence and inability, would very likely have
produced in the man who was shooting all day nothing but an added zest
for his sport. In the one case the food goes, so to speak, to the right
place; in the other to the wrong one. Yet how comparatively few of us
study our health even in so superficial a manner as to know that
appetite, when one lives in abnormal conditions, is not by any means the
same thing as appetite when one lives wholesomely in the open air. And
how many fewer have the sense, even if they know it, to put the lesson
into practice, and deliberately alter their diet to suit the conditions
under which they are bound to live.

Again, there are many who, when able to take exercise, are healthy and
fit for any work that they may have to do, in whom the difficulty,
almost the impossibility, of getting it in the ordinary way in towns,
produces a marked decline in health and consequently in output of work.
Here, in a chapter devoted to the consideration of the question as
applied to those who must live in towns, we shall discuss the
possibility of athletic clubs to be brought within the means of those to
whom such clubs as at present exist are not, by reason of expense and
other causes, in any way accessible. For all these, also, we shall
suggest such daily exercises as can be taken in a minimum of time in the
minimum of space, which have for their object not the acquisition of
huge muscles, but the acquisition of healthy nerves and muscles, prompt
to obey, and swift to act. For these, too, as indeed for everyone,
certain perfectly simple hints will be given about the use of air, and
how to breathe properly, the use of water, warm to cleanse, hot or cold
to brace, and hot vapour baths to counteract that persistent clogging of
the passages of the skin which more particularly besets those whose life
is passed in towns, where there is less air, less exercise, more dirt,
and a tendency in all to indulge excessively (considering the
conditions) in food and stimulants.

Within the last few decades, it is perfectly true, the strides that have
been made towards the ultimate sanitary perfection of living are
enormous. Vast sums of money are quite properly spent annually on
securing for town and country dwellers alike, in answer to the demands
made by scientific investigators into the theory of microbes, pure water
supplies, ventilation and light in dwelling-rooms, systems of drainage
and disinfectants, and inspections of food which shall reduce, as far as
possible, such dangers as are universally incident to life and health.
Yet in a way, admirable as such expenditure and research is, admirable
also as are the results which have followed it, these natural provisions
for health deal more with the surroundings of the body than with the
body itself. Tenement houses are built on the most approved sanitary
principles, but that done it is left to the discretion of the
inhabitants of them (provided they do not keep pigs or poultry in their
bedrooms) to decide as to how they shall live in them. Board schools are
built with rooms containing so many cubic feet of air per person, but
that done the teachers are allowed to keep the windows hermetically
closed. Inspectors of food, again quite properly, destroy barrows of
decaying fish, and impose fines on their vendors, but no instruction is
given to either rich or poor as to the nature of foods, and in
consequence, with the best will in the world, they take quantities of an
expensive and stimulating food, when what they really need is a cheap
and nutritious one. Interesting and costly experiments are made as to
the bacilli of various diseases, and numberless means of dealing with
them are suggested in text-books, but what is not done is to inform
people, except in the vaguest manner, as to how they may prevent such

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Online LibraryE. F. (Edward Frederic) BensonDaily Training → online text (page 1 of 11)