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Introduction to Outdoor Sports and Games

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The human body a perfect machine—How to keep well—Outdoor sleeping—Exercise and play—Smoking—Walking

Suppose you should wake up Christmas morning and find yourself to be the owner of a bicycle. It is a brand-new wheel and everything is in perfect working order. The bearings are well oiled, the nickel is bright and shiny and it is all tuned up and ready for use. If you are a careful, sensible boy you can have fun with it for a long time until finally, like the "One Hoss Shay" in the poem, it wears out and goes to pieces all at once. On the other hand, if you are careless or indifferent or lazy you may allow the machine to get out of order or to become rusty from disuse, or perhaps when a nut works loose you neglect it and have a breakdown on the road, or you may forget to oil the bearings and in a short time they begin to squeak and wear. If you are another kind of a boy, you may be careful enough about oiling and cleaning the wheel, but you may also be reckless and head—strong and will jump over curbstones and gutters or ride it over rough roads at a dangerous rate of speed, and in this way shorten its life by abuse just as the careless boy may by neglect.

It is just so with the human body which, after all, is a machine too, and, more than that, it is the most wonderful and perfect machine in the world. With care it should last many years. With abuse or neglect it may very soon wear out. The boy who neglects his health is like the boy who allows the bearings on his wheel to become dry or the metal parts rusty. The chief difference is that when the bicycle wears out or breaks down we may replace the parts or even buy another machine, but when our health is injured, money will not restore it.

In order to keep well we must observe certain rules of health. By exercise we keep the working parts in good order. If we are lazy or indolent we are like the bicycle that is allowed to go to pieces from lack of use. If we are reckless and foolhardy we may injure some part of the delicate machinery from excessive exercise or strain.

Play is the most natural thing in the world but we must use judgment in our play. A boy or girl who is not allowed to play or who is restrained by too anxious parents is unhappy indeed. Nearly all animals play. We know, for instance, that puppies, kittens, and lambs are playful. It is a perfectly natural instinct. By proper play we build up our bodies and train our minds. The healthy man never gets too old to play. He may not care to play marbles or roll hoops, but he will find his pleasure in some game or sport like tennis, golf, horseback riding, camping, fishing or hunting.

In this book we shall talk about some forms of play and recreation that are not strictly confined to children, but which we may still enjoy even after we have become grown men and women. We shall also talk about some children's games that some of the older readers may have outgrown. While we play we keep our minds occupied by the sport, and at the same time we exercise our muscles and feed our lungs and our bodies with oxygen.

It is unfortunate that in school or college athletics those who need exercise the most are often those who are physically unfitted to play on the school teams. In other words, we select our runners and jumpers and football players from among the stronger boys, while the weaker ones really need the benefit of the sport. Every boy should take part in school games when possible even if he is not as swift or as strong as some other boys.

It is very unmanly of one boy to make fun of another because he is weak or clumsy or unskilful. After all, the thing that counts and the thing that is most creditable is to make the most of our opportunities whatever they may be. If an undersized or timid boy becomes stronger or more brave because he joins in games and sports, he deserves a hundred times more credit than the big, strong boy whom nature has given a sturdy frame and good lungs and who makes a place on the school team without any real effort.

If we live a natural, open-air life we shall have but little need of doctors or medicine. Many of our grandmothers' notions on how to keep well have changed in recent years. Old-fashioned remedies made from roots and herbs have been almost completely replaced by better habits of life and common-sense ideas. We used to believe that night air was largely responsible for fevers and colds. Doctors now say that one of the surest ways to keep well is to live and sleep in the open air. In many modern houses the whole family is provided with outside sleeping porches with absolutely no protection from the outside air but the roof. I have followed the practice of sleeping in the open air for some time, and in midwinter without discomfort have had the temperature of my sleeping porch fall to six degrees below zero. Of course it is foolish for any one to sleep exposed to rain or snow or to think that there is any benefit to be derived from being cold or uncomfortable. The whole idea of open-air sleeping is to breathe pure, fresh air in place of the atmosphere of a house which, under the best conditions, is full of dust and germs. If we become outdoor sleepers, coughs and colds will be almost unknown. General Sherman once wrote a letter in which he said that he did not have a case of cold in his entire army and he attributed it to the fact that his soldiers slept and lived in the open air.

A Child's May Day Party

A Child's May Day Party
(Photograph by Mary H. Northend)

One can almost tell a man who sleeps in the open by looking at him. His eye is clear and his cheek ruddy. There is no surer way to become well and strong than to become accustomed to this practice. Then you can laugh at the doctor and throw the medicine bottles away. In stating this I know that many parents will not agree with me, and will feel that to advise a boy to sleep in the open when the weather is stormy or extremely cold is almost like inviting him to his death. It is a fact just the same that every one would be healthier and happier if they followed this practice. In a few years I expect to see outdoor sleeping the rule rather than the exception. Progressive doctors are already agreed on this method of sleeping for sick people. In some hospitals even delicate babies are given open-air treatment in midwinter as a cure for pneumonia. My own experience is that in the two years that I have been an outdoor sleeper, with the snow drifts sometimes covering the foot of the bed, with the wintry winds howling about my head in a northeaster, I have been absolutely free from any trace of coughs or colds. Thousands of others will give the same testimony. According to old-fashioned ideas such things would give me my "death of cold." It rarely happens that one begins the practice of sleeping out without becoming a firm believer in it.

One of the children of a friend in Connecticut who had just built a beautiful home was taken ill, and the doctor recommended that the child's bed be moved out on the porch. This was in December. The father also had his own bed moved out to keep the baby company. My friend told me that after the first night he felt like a changed man. He awoke after a refreshing sleep and felt better than he had in years. The whole family soon followed and all the beautiful bedrooms in the house were deserted. The baby got well and stayed well and the doctor's visits are few and far between in that household.

By all means sleep in the open if you can. Of course one must have ample protection from the weather, such as a porch or piazza with a screen or shelter to the north and west. A warm room in which to dress and undress is also absolutely necessary. If your rest is disturbed by cold, as it will probably be until you become accustomed to it and learn the tricks of the outdoor sleeper, you simply need more covers. In winter, the bed should be made up with light summer blankets in place of sheets, which would become very cold. Use, as a night cap, an old sweater or skating cap. A good costume consists of a flannel shirt, woollen drawers, and heavy, lumberman's stockings. With such an outfit and plenty of covers, one can sleep out on the coldest night and never awaken until the winter's sun comes peeping over the hill to tell him that it is time to get up.

Besides fresh air, another important thing in keeping well is to eat slowly and to chew your food thoroughly. Boys and girls often develop a habit of rapid eating because they are anxious to get back to play or to school. Slow eating is largely a matter of habit as well, and while it may seem hard at first it will soon become second nature to us. Remember to chew your food thoroughly. The stomach has no teeth. We have all heard of Mr. Horace Fletcher, that wonderful old man who made himself young again by chewing his food.

There is no fun in life unless we are well, and a sensible boy should realize that his parents' interest in him is for his own benefit. It may seem hard sometimes to be obliged to do without things that we want, but as a rule the judgment of the older people is better than our own. A growing boy will often eat too much candy or too many sweet things and then suffer from his lack of judgment. To fill our stomachs with indigestible food is just as foolish as it would be to put sand in the bearings of our wheel, or to interfere with the delicate adjustment of our watch until it refuses to keep time.

While we play, our muscles are developed, our lungs filled with fresh air and the whole body is made stronger and more vigorous. Some boys play too hard. Over-exertion will sometimes cause a strain on the delicate machinery of the body that will be very serious in after life. The heart is especially subject to the dangers of overstrain in growing boys. We are not all equally strong, and it is no discredit to a boy that he cannot run as far or lift as much as some of his playmates or companions. You all remember the fable of the frog who tried to make himself as big as the ox and finally burst. The idea of exercise is not to try to excel every one in what you do, but to do your best without over-exertion. If a boy has a rugged frame and well developed muscles, it is perfectly natural that he should be superior in most sports to a boy that is delicate or undersized.

To be in good physical condition and to laugh at the doctor we must keep out of doors as much as possible. Gymnasium work of course will help us to build up our strength and develop our muscles, but skill in various acrobatics and gymnastic tricks does not give the clear eye and ruddy cheek of the person whose life is in the open air. Outdoor sports, like tennis, baseball, and horseback riding are far superior to chestweights or Indian clubs as a means of obtaining normal permanent development.

Parents who criticize school or college athletics often forget that the observance of the strict rules of training required from every member of a team is the very best way to keep a boy healthy in mind and body.

Tobacco and alcohol are absolutely prohibited, the kind of food eaten and the hours for retiring are compulsory, and a boy is taught not only to train his muscles but to discipline his mind. Before a candidate is allowed to take active part in the sport for which he is training he must be "in condition," as it is called.

There are a great many rules of health that will help any one to keep well, but the best rule of all is to live a common-sense life and not to think too much about ourselves. Systematic exercises taken daily with setting up motions are very good unless we allow them to become irksome. All indoor exercise should be practised with as much fresh air in the room as possible. It is an excellent plan to face an open window if we practise morning and evening gymnastics.

There are many exercises that can be performed with no apparatus whatever. In all exercises we should practise deep regular breathing until it becomes a habit with us. Most people acquire a faulty habit of breathing and only use a small part of their total lung capacity. Learn to take deep breaths while in the fresh air. After a while it will become a habit.

Just how much muscle a boy should have will depend upon his physical make-up. The gymnasium director in one of our largest colleges, who has spent his whole life in exercise, is a small, slender man whose muscles are not at all prominent and yet they are like steel wires. He has made a life-long study of himself and has developed every muscle in his body. From his appearance he would not be considered a strong man and yet some of the younger athletes weighing fifty pounds more than he, have, in wrestling and feats of strength, found that the man with the largest muscles is not always the best man.

There is one question that every growing boy will have to look squarely in the face and to decide for himself. It is the question of smoking. There is absolutely no question but that smoking is injurious for any one, and in the case of boys who are not yet fully grown positively dangerous. Ask any cigarette smoker you know and he will tell you not to smoke. If you ask him why he does not take his own advice he will possibly explain how the habit has fastened its grip on him, just as the slimy tentacles of some devil fish will wind themselves about a victim struggling in the water, until he is no longer able to escape. A boy may begin to smoke in a spirit of fun or possibly because he thinks it is manly, but more often it is because the "other fellers" are trying it too.

My teacher once gave our school an object lesson in habits which is worth repeating. He called one of the boys to the platform and wound a tiny piece of thread around the boy's wrists. He then told him to break it, which the boy did very easily. The teacher continued to wind more thread until he had so many strands that the boy could break them only with a great effort and finally he could not break them at all. His hands were tied. Just so it is with a habit. The first, second, or tenth time may be easy to break, but we shall finally get so many tiny threads that our hands are tied. We have acquired a habit. Don't be a fool. Don't smoke cigarettes.

Walking is one of the most healthful forms of exercise. It may seem unnecessary to devote much space to a subject that every one thinks they know all about, but the fact is that, with trolley cars, automobiles, and horses, a great many persons have almost lost the ability to walk any distance. An excellent rule to follow if you are going anywhere is this: If you have the time, and the distance is not too great, walk. In recent years it has been the practice of a number of prominent business and professional men who get but little outdoor exercise to walk to and from their offices every day, rain or shine. In this way elderly men will average from seven to ten miles a day and thus keep in good condition with no other exercise.

It is very easy to cultivate the street car habit, and some boys feel that they must ride to and from school even if it is only a few blocks or squares. We have all read of the old men who are walking across the country from New York to California and back again and maintaining an average of forty miles a day. There is not a horse in the world that would have the endurance to go half the distance in the same time and keep it up day after day. For the first week or ten days the horse would be far ahead but, like the fable of the hare and the tortoise, after a while the tortoise would pass the hare and get in first.

In walking for pleasure, avoid a rambling, purposeless style. Decide where you are going and go. Walk out in the country if possible and on roads where the automobiles will not endanger your life or blow clouds of dust in your face. Never mind the weather. One rarely takes cold while in motion. To walk comfortably we should wear loose clothing and old shoes. Walking just for the sake of exercise can easily become a tiresome occupation, but the active mind can always see something of interest, such as wild flowers, gardens, and all the various sides of nature study in the country, and people, houses and life in the city.

A tramping vacation of several days furnishes a fine opportunity to see new scenes and to live economically, but near a city you may have difficulty in persuading the farm-wife where you stop that you are not a tramp who will burn the house in the night. If you intend to live by the wayside, the surest way to inspire confidence is to show in advance that you have money to pay for your accommodations. Also try to avoid looking like a tramp, which is quite different from looking like a tramper.

There seems to be a great difference of opinion on the question of how fast one can walk. The popular idea is "four miles an hour" but any one who has tried to cover a mile every fifteen minutes will testify that such a rate of speed is more like a race than a walk and that it will require great physical exertion to maintain it for any considerable distance. An eighteen or twenty-mile walk is about all the average boy should attempt in a day, and this is allowing the full day for the task from early morning until sunset.

Short and frequent rests are much better than long stops, which have a tendency to stiffen the muscles. The walker on a long tramp must pay especial attention to the care of his feet. They should be bathed frequently in cold water to which a little alum has been added. A rough place or crease in the stocking will sometimes cause a very painful blister.

Mountain climbing is a very interesting branch of walking. It is sometimes very dangerous as well and in such cases should only be attempted under the guidance of some one familiar with the neighbourhood. For rough climbing our shoes should be provided with iron hob nails. Steel nails often become very slippery and will cause a bad fall on rocks.

Cross-country running and hare and hound chases are much more common in England than in America. Our runners as a rule excel in the sprints and short dashes, although in the recent Olympic sports we have shown that our trained athletes are the equal of the world in nearly all branches of sport.

In many of the English schools it is a regular part of the school work for the teacher to organize hare and hound chases. The hares are given a start of several minutes and leave a trail by means of bits of paper or confetti, which they carry in a bag. In this kind of running the object to be sought is not so much speed as endurance. An easy dog trot with deep regular breathing will soon give us our second wind, when we can keep on for a long distance.

After any kind of physical exertion, especially when we are in a perspiration, care must be exercised not to become chilled suddenly. A rub down with a rough towel will help to prevent soreness and stiff muscles. The lameness that follows any kind of unusual exercise is an indication that certain muscles have been brought into use that are out of condition. A trained athlete does not experience this soreness unless he has unduly exerted himself, and the easiest way to get over it is to do more of the same kind of work until we are in condition.


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