Recreative Exercises, Sports and Pastimes

Part IV

(Published 1904)

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A Characteristic. -Unlike gymnastics and calisthenics, which have the quality of being lessons, the characteristic of recreative exercise is that it is not a task but a pleasure to be rewarded for duty diligently done, and intellectual or corporeal labor faithfully performed.

Gratification. -This pleasure or gratification was an important influence in aiding the physical effects of exercise, and so powerful do we find it as a promoter of health that many pastimes, in themselves less beneficial than gymnastics, are thus rendered far more advantageous in their effects upon the well-being of the human organism.

Value of Freedom. -A great part of the benefits derived from sports of different kinds is doubtless due to the freedom from all restraint with which they are practiced, and this fact prevents the laying down of strict hygienic rules for their indulgence. As the play of a kitten or colt owes a portion of its beauty, pleasure and utility to its spontaneous, free character, so our best pastimes depend for their chief charm upon the fascination of freedom.

Some Regulation Needed. -Still an order to get the most fun out of games, there must be some regulations, and there are few sports in which certain slight modifications are not more beneficial to health, and less open to objection from a sanitary point of view. To point out these favorable conditions and indicate some of the evils to be avoided is our purpose.

ROWING.

Place of Rowing. -Among summer pastimes rowing holds a conspicuous place. The pleasant sensation of rapid movement, without exhaustive effort, has for nearly all of us a peculiar fascination.

Holme's Ideal Boat. -Our boat is something of the shape of a pickerel as you look down upon his back, he lying in the sunshine just where the sharp edge of the water cuts in among the lily-pads. It is a kind of giant pod, as one may say -tight everywhere except in a little place at the middle where you sit. Its length is from seven to ten yards, and as it is only from sixteen to thirty inches wide in its broadest part, you understand why you want those "outriggers,'' or projecting iron frames, with the rowlocks in which the oars play. My rowlocks are five feet apart
-double the greatest width of the boat.

Modern Racing Boats. -All modern racing boats, and most pleasure boats, are built with outriggers. This construction gives much more power to the oars. The rower sits nearly in the middle of the boat. He bends his knees, which are placed about an inch apart, places his feet, with heels close together, against the stretcher, exactly in front of the body. Thus he sits square to his work, and is sure to swing backward and forward exactly in line with the boat's keel.

Action of Rowing. -Rowing action is made up of two chief movements, the stroke and feather. The stroke is made by pulling the oar supported in rowlock through the water with the blade at right angles to the fluid traversed, so as to secure the greatest amount of resistance. In feathering the oar is revolved upon its own axis at the conclusion of the stroke by turning the wrists, and thereby bringing the blade into a plane parallel with that of the surface of the water. The term is also often made to include the whole process of carrying back the oar in that same positions, and commencing another stroke, as the oar is then technically spoken of as on the feather. This great accomplishment of rowers can be best acquired by the learner carefully watching and imitating masters of the art, as descriptions, however elaborate, are, of little use.

Principles of Rowing. -The three main principles upon which success in rowing depends are, first, the keeping of perfect time; second, the putting in of the oar exactly at right angles to the surface of the water; and thirdly, rowing the stroke right out with the legs brought well into use.
With reference to time a beginner is advised never to remove his eyes from the shoulders of the man in front of him, following his every motion, and making sure that if the time is wrong he will at all events not be to blame. He should be careful not to hurry the body forward, under the impression that he may otherwise be later, for this only makes the boat roll, and nothing demoralizes a crew more than that. Quick recovery after a stroke, and the free use of the legs the moment the oar gets into the water, are important agents in the acquisition of that inspiriting "lift" which is so desirable in boat-racing.

SwimmingSwimming. -Every wise man will learn to swim before he trust himself to any kind of a vessel upon deep water. In fact so many accidents are continually occurring upon the water that the art of swimming should be learned by both sexes in early life. Swimming exercises are both invigorating and hardening, and of great value in the preservation of health, if used in moderation, but they call forth such extensive muscular action and throw such a strain on other organs besides the muscles, that their effects, joined to those of the cold water, tax the utmost forces of many persons, even if indulged for ten to fifteen minutes.

Learning to Swim. -A favorite method of acquiring swimming postures and motions is to place the learner upon a low folding stool, his belly resting on the flexible canvas of the stool. The arms are bent at the elbows, the open hands brought in contact with each other just beneath the chin, and the legs somewhat bent, so as to approximate the heels to the lower part of the back. At the word "one," which the pupil should count after the instructor, the arms and the lower limbs should be quickly and forcibly stretched out, the hands held close together, with the palms in a horizontal plane, facing downward, and the feet separated some fifteen or eighteen inches. At the word "two,'' the knees are to be approximated, the legs still held extended, and the hands separated about six inches, the palms being directed more outwards, though still somewhat downward. Lastly, at the word "three,'' describe with each hand a quadrant of a circle, striking somewhat downward, and still more backward. At the same time the heels are to be drawn up, and at the conclusion of the effort to strike out, the hands are to be restored to the first position, shooting them straight forward again in the line of the supposed swimmer's movement in the water, in order to interfere as little as possible with the onward progress through that fluid.

 

Learning Real Swimming. -The first essay at real swimming may be facilitated by the use of the swimming-belt, or by securing the aid of a friend to support the learner under the body, or by two fingers under the chin. Most people, however, who have practiced enough to gale familiarity with the required movement as above directed, will be able to acquire the art without help. At first the attempt should be made in rather shallow water, and a still inlet or little bay of the sea has a great advantage, in that salt water buoys up the body much more than fresh. A good preparatory exercise is to rest the hands on the bottom, where it is just far enough below the surface to allow the shoulders to remain uncovered, and then perform the leg movements as already described. After a little confidence is thus gained, let the learner wade out a short distance further until the waist is covered, and then stooping forward quietly perform the combined arm and leg motions as before directed, keeping the body at the right inclination, and bending the head well backward, exactly as shown in the accompanying illustration. At the first few trials, some friend who is quite at home in the water should be close by to stretch forth a helping hand and support the pupil the moment such aid becomes necessary.

Cramps. -When cramps occur during swimming the best plan is to turn on the back or tread water, keeping oneself afloat be paddling with one hand, while the other is used to press or rub the affected parts. Two swimmers treading water can eventually aid an exhausted or drowning person by supporting him, one under each arm, and carrying him along with his head above water and the body and limbs stretched out motionless.

Skating. -This accomplishment can be best learned by one when young. In learning the most important points to be acquired are to turn out the toes, to keep the centre of gravity always in front of and on the inner side of the feet, to allow each foot to complete its stride before the next one is commenced, and above all to keep the ankles stiff and firm.

Laws of Gravity. -The whole art of skating depends upon a practical knowledge of the laws of gravity or what is commonly called the balance. Just as a boy's hoop will roll along firmly erect whilst in rapid rotation, yet begin to vibrate from right to left, and, finally losing its balance, fall sideways as its motion grows slower, so will the balance of a skater on the thin edge of his skate be perfectly secure whilst he skims quickly along, but tottering or entirely lost if he neglects to keep up the rapidity of his movement. Yet difficult as it seems at first, courage, confidence in the possibility of succeeding, fortitude in bearing hard knocks, and resolution not to be beaten will an a very few spurs accomplish wonders in the way of learning to skate. If the novice will strive earnestly to keep his head up and his hands down, turn his toes well out and make long, clear, firm strokes with each of his feet, he will soon master the perplexing mysteries of the inside edge, and after that has been overcome will find, like the juvenile geometer who has safely crossed the pons asinorum, that his greatest obstacle has been surmounted.

Roller Skating. -Although this variety of skating exercise, which has recently become so wonderfully popular, does not involve any peril of drowning, it is by no means free from danger to health or even to life. Besides the increased chance of bruises and broken bones from collisions in crowded rinks, the great risk to life is from pneumonia and other pulmonary affections, as a result of taking cold from exposure to draughts of air whilst the skin is moist with perspiration. The pleasurable excitement of skating, especially in agreeable society, is so great that few persons realize what vigorous muscular exertion they are making until after they sit down to rest, and, as already explained, such energetic contraction of the muscles, with its consequent increased production of heat, results in a profuse flow of perspiration, bathing the surface of the body and rendering its partial cooling by a current of air extremely dangerous. This evil is aggravated by the fashion, only too prevalent, of keeping on hats, bonnets and outer wraps, instead of changing the ordinary garments for lighter and looser clothing, as is or ought to be customary in all well-managed gymnasiums. Great care should be taken therefore to provide such external coverings as can be readily laid aside during active movement, and promptly reassumed on the cessation of vigorous muscular exertion. It is also advisable that persons who are heated and perspiring should not, although well protected by warm clothing, pass abruptly out into cold, and particularly, cold night-air, which being inhaled over the heated mucous membrane is especially apt to set up the inflammatory action of bronchitis, pneumonia and consumption.

Dancing. -The influence of ordinary dancing upon health would no doubt be beneficial were it not for the unhygienic surroundings which usually environ it. The amount of exercise obtained during a long waltz, provided it is not too long, no doubt does a great service to many a fashionable woman. Such an individual is often a stranger to proper walking exercise, and therefore a good dance, which compels her to breathe more deeply, assists the action of the liver and causes the blood to circulate more freely through the heart and great vessels, may be just what she needs to promote her health. Were it not for the length of time the revolving movement is kept up in a prolonged waltz, affecting the nervous system injuriously, and on account of the insanitary environment at most dancing parties and balls, they would be excellent means of inducing the lazy and careless to take exercise enough to meet the hygienic require- meats of their frames.

Riding. -Riding exercise can be taken by almost every one with advantage throughout the whole period from childhood to old age. In youth the great benefit proceeds not only from the exercise, but also from the tendency which it has to the formation of a bold and fearless character, whilst at the same time it teaches a love and regard for the most noble of the lower animals. There is something wonderfully inspiriting in rapid movement on the back of a galloping steed, and more than one great man has declared that his most brilliant ideas, as well as his most profound thoughts, have come to him whilst on horseback. For delicate females, and for men who are suffering from the effects of sedentary life, high living and other causes which produce congestion of the abdominal viscera horseback riding sometimes proves invaluable, and there is no doubt that cure in some cases of incipient consumption has been largely due to a judicious employment of this form of exercise.

Bicycling. -Beside its practical qualities as a vehicle, the bicycle affords one of the best methods of taking enjoyable exercise. It brings into use a large number of muscles of both body and limbs and tends to a harmonious development of both sides of the human frame. At the same time it increases the lung power and the action of the heart. Persons in delicate health, and especially those subject to heart disease, should be careful to avoid too long or rapid riding. After this caution there are comparatively few constitutional or acquired physical weaknesses which may not be benefited by the admirable combination of muscular action all out-door life which the bicycle affords.Cricket

Out-door Games. -The great variety of out-door games which have been devised, possess the advantage of leading to active exercise in the open air and are all therefore highly conducive to health. According to the different natural ability, acquirement or taste of an individual will be the personal predilection for one or more of these pastimes, and, as a general rule, the one in which a man finds the most intense and satisfying pleasure will be the one which proves most permanently beneficial to him. This is true for the reason already pointed out, that happiness is the best tonic and the most powerful stimulus which can be applied to the majority of mankind.

Cricket. -Perhaps of all the out-door games that of cricket, shown in the adjoining cut, offers not only the most healthful recreation to players, but presents to those who understand the game one of the most agreeable means of passing their leisure hours in the open air. It cannot be denied that the members of a cricket club who in strength of arm, quickness of eye and presence of mind are so superior to their fellows as to render them most expert batsmen, are precisely the ones who have the largest share of the exercise which they least need for perfect development, and yet this disadvantage for those who are caught out on the first or second ball can in great measure be remedied by care in equalizing the players on each side. Thus not only may a greater amount of pleasure for all concerned be derived, but also the advantageous results to health obtainable from this noble pastime are conferred with greater fairness upon each of the participants.


Richardson JG, Ford WH, & Vanderbeck CC (1904). Physical Exercise And Culture And Their Bearings On Health And Strength (Book VII), Medicology Or Home Encyclopedia of Health, A Complete Family Guide., University Medical Society, pg 861-888.


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