Physical Culture - Gymnastics. IN America the noblest interests of the race have reached unpar alleled development. In no othet country, in no other age, has mental culture been so complete and universal. It is an era in the progress of the race. The fruits of labor which in other times and lands have been wasted upon the abnormal life of the few, have here, like air and light, the two great representative gifts of Heaven, found their way to the normal life of the million. But in this hour of triumph the national life is jeopardized by physical exhaustion. While the admiring world looks on, our bodies upon which as a foundation our higher faculties must rest, crumble and give way. Precocious brains are borne about by doubtful spines; brilliant talents are linked with dying bodies. Men, women, and children should be strong, but it should be the strength of grace, flexibility, agility, and endurance; it should not be the strength of a great lifter. Let me allude to the gymnastics of the circus. Permit me to call special attention to three features to the man who lifts the cannon, to the india rubber man and to the general performer. The lifter and the india rubber man constitute the two niis┬chievous extremes. It is impossible that in either there should be the highest physiological conditions; but, in the persons of general performers, is found the model gymnast. They can neither lift great weights nor tie themselves into knots, but they occupy a point between these two extremes. They possess both strength and flexi┬bility, and resemble fine, active, agile, vigorous carriage horses, which occupy a point between the slow cart horse and the long legged, loose┬jointed animal. The race horse has a much more vigorous eircula, tion than the carthorse. It is a fact not unfamiliar to horsemen, that when a horse is transferred from slow, heavy work to the car┬riage, the surface veins about the neck and legs begin at once to en┬large; when the change is made from the carriage to the cart, the reverse is the result. And when we consider that the principal object of all physical training is an elastic, vigorous condition of the nervous system, the superiority of light gymnastics becomes still more obvious. The nervous system is the fundamental fact of our eaxthly life. AU otherparts of the organism exist and work for it. It controls all, and is the seat of pain and pleasure. The impressions upon the stomach, for example, resulting in a bet┬ter or worse digestion, must be made through the nerves. This su┬preme control of the nervous system is forcibly illustrated in the change made by joyful or sad tidings. Could we have an unbroken succession of good news, we should all have good digestion without a gymnasium. But in a world of vexation and disappointment, we are driven to the necessity of muscle culture, and other hygienic expedients, to give the nervous system that support and vitality which our fitful surroundings deny. If we would make our muscle training contributive in the highest degree to the healthful elasticity of our nerves, the exercise must be such as will bring into varied combinations and play all our muscles and nerves. Those exercises which require great accuracy, skill and dash are just those which secure this happy and complete intermar┬riage of nerve and muscle. Another point I take the liberty to urge. Without accuracy in the performance of the feats, the interest must be transient. This priii┬ciple is strikingly exemplified in military training. Those who have studied our infantr drill have been struck with its simplicity, and y have wondered that men could go through with its details every day for years without disgust. If the drill master permits carelessness, then authority alone can force the men through the evolutions ; but if he enforce the greatest precision, they return to their task every morning for years with cheerfulness. At this point it may be urged that those exercises which hasten the action of the thoracic viscera to any considerable degree are simply exhaustive. This is another blunder of the 11 big muscle " men. They seem to think you can determine every man's constitution and health by the tape line ; and that all exercises whose results are not deter┬minable by measurement are worthless. I need scarcely say there are certain conditions of brain, muscle, and of every other tissue, far more important than size; but what I desire to urge more particularly in this connection is the importance, the great physiological advantages, of just those exercises in which the lungs and heart are brought into active play. These organs are no exceptions to the law that exercise is the principal condition of development. Their vigorous training adds more to the stock of vitality than that of other organs. I have said an elastic tone of the nervous system is the physiolog┬ical purpose of all physical training. If one may be allowed such an analysis, I would add that we exercise our muscles to invigorate the thoracic and abdominal viscera. These in their turn support and in┬vigorate the nervous system. All exercises which operate more di┬rectly upon these internal organs, as, for example, laughing, deep breathing, and running, contribute most effectively to the stamina of
the brain and nerves. It is only this mania for monstrous arms ancl shoulders that could have misled the intelligent gymnast on this point. As our artificial training is designed to fit us for the more success┬ful performance of the business of life, I suggest that the training should be, in character, somewhat preparatory for those duties. If you would train a horse for the carriage, you would not do it by driving at a slow pace before a heavy load. If you did, the first fast drive would go hard with him. Just so with a man. If he is to lift barrels of flour, or kegs of nails, as a business, be may be trained by heavy lifting; but if his business requires the average velocity and free motions of human occupations, then upon the basis of his heavy slow training, he will find himself, in actual life, in the condition of the dray horse, who is pushed before the light carriage at a high speed. Is it true that in either intellectual or physical training, bold, brilliant efforts, under proper conditions and limitations, exhaust the powers of life? On the contrary, is it not true that we find in vigor┬ous, bold, dashing, brilliant efforts the only source of vigorous, bold, dashing and brilliant powers? In this discussion I have not considered the treatment of invalids. The principles presented are applicable to the training of children and adults of average vitality. I will rest upon the general statement that all persons of both sexes, and of every age, who are possessed of average vitality, should, in the department of phvsical education, employ light apparatus, and execute a great vari~'ty'of feats which require skill, accuracy, cour┬age, dash, presence of mind, quick eye and hand, in brief, which demand a vigorous and complete exercise of all the powers and faculties with which the Creator has endowed us; while deformed and diseased persons should be treated in consonance with the phi┬losophy of the Swedish Movement Cure, in which the movements are slow and limited. We rejoice to see thdt the American people of all classes and both sexes are taking more and more interest in outdoor sports. The ~icycle, if used in reasonable moderation, will prove a great factor .in the physical development of both sexes; but the danger is that the American idea of trying to outdo others will cause the young with untried muscles to attempt century runs and generally to overdo; while, if they should take reasonable rides, aiid enjoy the fresh air and scenery, it would prove a benefit to mind and body. There are many simple contrivances to use at home, if not conven┬ient to take full gymnastic courses. We give a description of several, either of which, if faithfully used, will be of great benefit.
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