A Natural Method of Physical Training

Jul 15, 2012 by

I think one of the best things about this book is its crazy title: A NATURAL METHOD OF PHYSICAL TRAINING: Making Muscle and Reducing Flesh Without Dieting or Apparatus.  That’s right, Edwin Checkley (he was sort of the Jillian Michaels of the late 1800’s) wrote a book first published in 1895 detailing how to make muscle and reduce flesh (yikes) without dieting or apparatus! All joking aside, Edwin Checkley wrote some really great books on physical fitness.  Long before the current craze of interval training or whatever…he wrote A Natural Method of Physical Training and helped start the physical fitness train.  Here’s a lovely few lines from his introduction: “THE BUGBEAR OF TRAINING. THERE are two points which writers and talkers about physical training are almost always ready to bring forward when discussion arises as to the present status of our race — they tell us to look at the ancient Greeks and at the animal kingdom. They tell us the ancient Greeks attained certain proficiencies in the field of athletics, and developed a remarkably perfect physique, which the artists delighted to reproduce. They show us the muscular perfection of brute creatures, their general health and comfortable relations with life. These points are in the main well raised. The example of the Greeks was in all respects one toward which the attention of modern people may always profitably be turned. The Panhellenic games were an inspiration to the rising generation. They made physical vigor fashionable. And they were not merely an isolated incident in the life of the Greeks. These Panhellenic games were simply the flowering of a superb system of training — superb so far as it related to the work to be done in those tremendous conflicts of the arena. Physicians and law makers alike realized the importance of athletic exercise. Lycurgus scattered free training schools, and his successors followed up, in one way or another, the example set by this remarkable governor. The people paid extraordinary honor to the athletic heroes. A man who won more than one prize at the same Olympiad was modeled in marble by the best sculptor of his state. We are reminded of our own times in the accounts which tell of the large fortunes made by those who achieved some especial glory at the games. But the conditions of life among the ancient Greeks were wholly different from the conditions of life with which modern men and women are struggling. The athleticism of the old Grecian race was cultivated under very favorable circumstances. The Grecians not only led a more outdoor life than our northern races, but their mode of living, in respect to public and private festivals, entertainments and social movements, made the development of the physical man much easier than it can ever be with us. These differences do not make it less proper for us to look to the Greeks, but we should remember the necessities arising out of these differences. It is for us to study out the compromise which must be made. Properly made, this compromise will represent a new and sufficient ideal. It will pay to remember that there has been a good deal of exaggeration in stories of Greek prowess. Undoubtedly we are in possession of some fairly accurate figures concerning the feats of the old athletes, but there are many absurdly false estimates of the early running, jumping and throwing. The Panhellenic games brought forward men who had been in training for great periods for special feats. The honors awarded were so great that no amount of training and exertion were considered too considerable. Given the same training our modem athletes would greatly surpass the Greek records. If the modern horse is quicker than the ancient, the modern man is quicker also. Our all-round athletes would, I am sure, have as- tonished an audience at an Olmypiad. And as for the matter of physique, there has been equally great exaggeration on that side. Plato tells us that the sculptors took considerable liberty in departing from the actual form of the model. Everything points to a relative inferiority in the ancient races ; yes, even in the worshiped Greeks. No one should doubt that the world is producing men of finer form than it has hitherto produced, and that it will continue to do so.”

Her are a few lines on why he thinks exercise is good for women (he was waaaay ahead of his time): “One year of good exercise will do more for a woman’s beauty than all the lotions and pomades that were ever invented. Interesting as are the changes produced in a man by proper physical training, the change in a woman is more striking and significant. Exercise seems to have a particularly immediate effect on a woman’s complexion. I have witnessed simply marvelous changes in the complexion, form and disposition of women under light training. I have in mind one well-built girl who carried herself poorly, breathed badly and had an unsatisfactory complexion. She joined a gymnasium, taking the lighter exercises, and began walking a good deal. In a few months a remarkable change had been produced. The unanimated pose had disappeared, the breathing was better (though still not what it should be, no special training having been directed to SOME HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS. I43 to the lungs), and the complexion was so clear that one could scarcely credit the change. Under my own training I have watched most interesting changes as a result of breathing exercises alone, and the extent to which locally directed exercises have improved forms that were considered hopeless would not be believed save by observation.”

and a few of his thoughts about exercise and muscle strength for men: “A man trained until his muscles feel like iron is really in a dangerous condition. He soon gets out of training and is then immediately at a loss. His muscles feed upon his vitality, and, especially when he has passed middle-life, threaten his general health. A man so muscle bound, as the saying goes, is not in possession of a power, The power owns him. On the other hand, a man who keeps his muscular system in a state of comparative softness and high flexibility can not only summon great strength, but his powers of endurance are surprising. He is, too, easily kept in training. Natural exercise will preserve his condition, and he is at any time ready to train for special effort, if that is necessary, without shock or inconvenience. Muscular exercise, however slight, results in a waste of tissue in the flesh fibres, and this waste is carried off. During repose the blood returns new material, and the stimulated action increases the area of blood circulation and enlarges the muscular mass. When exercise is properly conducted this waste and renewal go gradually and easily forward, preserving complete health in the parts and steadily increasing the resources. But when the exercise is unnecessarily violent the destruction of tissue is injuriously carried on. The process of repair cannot so nicely supplement the waste as in the case of reasonable exertion. And when exercise is introduced infrequently — after periods of almost complete inaction — it cannot atone for the sin of collapse. It will not do, as I have suggested, to sit, stand and move badly for ninety-nine one hundredths of the time and then hope to make things come out even by one per cent, of right exercise. The muscles will have the greatest health, strength and staying power that are kept flexible and full of blood by continuous use in every day life. To expect them to keep healthy by an infrequent fifteen minutes at some machinery, is as unreasonable as to think of preserving the comfort of the stomach with one meal a week.”  After reading some of his book again I am  taking my ass up off this chair away from the computer and going for a walk!!  Have fun with A NATURAL METHOD OF PHYSICAL TRAINING: Making Muscle and Reducing Flesh Without Dieting or Apparatus and Keep Reading!



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