Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Terrestrial Flight

The term had me looking it up so you'll find some information below are some tidbits about recreational sports from a book titled "Outdoors: A Book of Healthful Pleasure" ©1894 Enjoy the thoughts from the time about exercise and recreation.

The lazy Washington atmosphare, which seems to have been imported from the Land of the Lotus Eaters, and which affects everybody on foot, from the sable piccaniny to the Cabinet officer, is powerless to influence the rider on the steel horse. I forget how many bicycles are owned in Washington, though I did take the trouble to ask; but it appears at times as if everybody must own one. The broad, straight streets, smooth with polished asphalt, are swimming with shining wheels, following, passing, crossing, approaching, vanishing, gliding, all lightness, noiselessness, and speed. They stream to and fro in glaring currents, and no single rider can hold your eye but for an instant, but they are always coming, always going, and spin in continuous succession along thsir soundless paths, swift as birds, and with no more apparent effort, though their elastic tires never leave the solid surface of the planet.
Then terrestrial flyers are not restricted to sex, age, or occupation. If there are not, at present, as many women as men, the number of the former is constantly increasing; and a woman looks so graceful on a bicycle that the aesthetic instincts of the sex, no less than its good sense and love of movement, will aid in urging them to the saddle. The Washington Department clerks are almost all members of the steel cavalry division; their unwearying steeds enable them to stay so much* later at their breakfast, and so much earlier at their dinner; and at the journey's end there is no stable to hire, no hostler to fee, no fodder to provide. How much salary, how much lassitude, how much dyspepsia and low spirits do these tense, economic racers save in a twelvemonth ?" Post equitum sedet atra cura" says Horace; but I doubt if dull care often overtakes the airy sweep of the bicycler. His foot is on the pedal: he is the author of his own flights, and he can regulate it to suit his mood.
The small boy and the elderly gentleman, the tradesman and ths manabout-town, the seamstress and she for whom the seamstress works, all mingle with equal propriety and enjoyment in the wheeling lists. Bicycling is a freemasonry, broader in its membership than any other, save human nature itself. The man of brawn and the man of brains are at one in the saddle. Youth and age alike can do their mile in three minutes or under. The "winning wave, deserving note, in the tempestuous petticoat," is never more winning than when it whispers past you on the wheel. A woman on horseback, in a trim riding-habit, is an alluring sight; but we miss one important feature ■— the rhythmic grace of motion, which nothing but the bicycle affords. The entire pose shows the figure to the best advantage; and the slight, unconscious swayings of the body to maintain the balance imparts an element of life to the spectacle which is more fascinating than the most studied art of mere attitude.
But it would be omitting an important factor in the combination which has made the bicycle so universally popular, to ascribe its success to its practical business utility and to its faculty of making its riders look well. It is, above all, the solution of a problem which has puzzled hygienists and physical culturists for many years. The modern gospel of physical culture has been preached sinca before i860; and certainly, the multiplication since that revived of gymnasiums, of athletic clubs, of out-door sports, and of athletes, is evidence that it has not been preached in vain. Probably a majority of college-bred young men have made more or less practical acquaintance with bodily exercise. During their college career they attended the gymnasium, rowed, played base ball or foot ball, or took part in athletic games. In after life, a fair percentage of them kapt up their practise for a time; but, as a general rule, the business occupation of life, or other business, led them to discontinue their active habits soon after reaching their thirtieth year ; thenceforward they "took things easy," and rapidly developed portly abdomens, short breath, and sluggish circulation. This is especially noticeable in men who have been prominent in feats of strength and endurance while their athletic life lasted. The more acute their enthusiasm, the sooner it seems to exhaust itself. Some few persistent individuals, however, who have always done enough and never too much, keep up a moderate activity till past forty, fifty, and even sixty, and these retain their health, their vigor, and their figures till near the end.
Now, it is a physiological fact that rational exercise, constant, but not excessive, is never so beneficial and necessary as between the thirty-fifth and the fiftieth years. During the ebullient season of youth, our bodies instinctively crave to work off their superfluous animation; but later on, physical indolence supervives, and money-making pursuits seem to afford an excuse for the indulgence thereof. But, whereas vitality is abundant in youth, even when not artificially reinforced, the opposite is the case in age. As years accumulate, we must needs do something to keep the pot of life boiling. It need not be much, but it must be something; otherwise the penalties —■ dyspepsia, palpitation, asthma, nervous prostration — are tolerably sure to be inflicted. The conditions of our intellectual and business occupations are too arduous and exhausting to be endured with impunity (save in the case of exceptionally fine organizations) unless they are counteracted by deep breathing and systematized muscular movements.
These facts have been often repeated, and are widely accepted. But the truth is, it is not good advice that we lack, but the stimulus that shall prompt us to follow it. A man or woman may be assured that a certain nostrum, taken regularly, will give him or her health and long life; and he or she may know the statement to be true. Nevertheless, if the nostrum in question be nauseating to the taste, or involves much trouble to procure, the patient will take advantage of any specious pretext to avoid taking it; and the result will be that, for the parson concerned, the nostrum might as well be non-existent. The situation is the same with regard to bodily exercise. Unless it be administered in an attractive form, it will be neglected. In youth the competition and solid pleasure of out-door games, and even of gymnastic contests of a more precise and scientific kind, are sufficient to enlist participants. But, as we grow older, we perforce retire from such contests and must then do our work alone, or not at all. But who wants to play ball, or run races, or lift dumbbells, or practise leaping, alone by himself, after the hair has begun to thin on his temples? Who will practise calisthenic movements in the solitude of his chamber? Who, even should his geographical situation permit it, will set out to row a couple of miles out and back, for the mere hygienic advantage of the exertion? Even walking is too monotonous for the majority of temperaments, except a definite material goal be in view. It is true that a few of the faithful here and there will do all these things, in spite of spite: but their number is so small that, for purposes of argument, they cannot be considered.

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