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Posts Tagged ‘exercise

“When I feel like exercising, I just lie down until the feeling goes away”*…

 

exercise

 

The oldest film included on the National Film Registry of the US Library of Congress features a pale boy calmly swinging a pair of wooden clubs, apparently as part of an exercise routine. Approximately twelve seconds long, Newark Athlete was directed by the Scottish inventor and early associate of Thomas Edison, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, in collaboration with cinematographer William Heise at Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, sometime in the late spring of 1891.

Though the wooden clubs brandished by the Newark athlete in this jumpy fragment are now a thing of the past, evidence of their influence can still be seen…

Though largely forgotten today, exercise by club swinging was all the rage in the 19th century.  Daniel Elkind explores the rise of the phenomenon in the U.S., and how such efforts to keep trim and build muscle were inextricably entwined with the history of colonialism, immigration, and capitalist culture: “Eastern Sports and Western Bodies– the ‘Indian Club’ in the United States.”

* Paul Terry (founder of the Terrytoons animation studio)

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As we revise our routines, we might send healthy birthday greetings to William Cumming Rose; he was born on this date in 1887.  After a grounding in the sciences at Davidson College, Rose became a biochemist and nutritionist whose work focused on understanding amino acids.  His research determined the necessity for essential amino acids (amino acids that the body cannot itself synthesize) in diet and the minimum daily requirements of all amino acids for optimal growth.  In the course of his work, he identified the amino acid acid threonine.

wrose source

 

“Civilization impairs physical fitness”*…

 

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American opera singer Roberta Peters (second from right, on table) works out on strength training equipment as her trainer, Joseph Pilates, stands on a table beside her. Also in the room are PIlates’ wife Clara (right) and her own, unidentified trainee (standing), February 1951.

 

By the early 1930s, Pilates was challenging the norms of physical culture in New York, advocating for holistic movement and upending ideas that athletic mastery — whether throwing a baseball or standing en pointe — could be achieved solely through those sports alone. He shaped a new vision of the body; abdominal muscles were not merely a source of core strength, he explained, but the basis of respiratory control, and while most trainers focused on major muscle groups, he sought to activate the equally important connective musculature to lengthen the entire body. At the same time, Pilates began teaching expecting mothers. Conventional medical knowledge long forbade exercise for pregnant women, but that started to shift as many women found the exercises helpful in regulating breath and regaining muscle tone.

On any given afternoon in his studio, you could find an eclectic crowd, from Broadway actors and ballet dancers to lawyers and housewives, all breathing rhythmically as Joseph or Clara led them through various exercises: the pulling of ropes atop structures that resembled patient beds at Knockaloe, measured twisting of the body, extensions of the arms and legs, and circular motions from the hips. For some, the practice was integral to their careers; for many, it simply offered a curious respite from the world, a place to feel their bodies engaged in measured, reciprocal movements at a time when the strains of the Great Depression, and later the terrors of the Second World War, fell over New York and the whole country. Indeed, there was comfort in the opportunity to tend to one’s body as an anatomical creation with underlying principles, and dubious clients were often convinced by Joseph’s playful analogies. “Take a horse,” he’d often say to patients. “If a man wants to race him, he keeps him in top form. He makes the horse move. Why not keep humans in top form, too?”…

Interned during WWI, circus entertainer Joseph Pilates used found materials and his fellow prisoners as his test lab, and imagined an exercise system that would captivate millions: “The Acrobatic Immigrant Who Invented Pilates in a Prisoner of War Camp.”

* Joseph Pilates

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As we bear down on breathing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that The Motion Picture Production Code was instituted, imposing strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion, and violence in film in the U.S.  Popularly known as the Hays Code, after Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA, AKA the Motion Picture Association of America) from 1922 to 1945, it had become largely unenforceable by the late 1960s, and was abandoned, replaced by the MPAA rating system.

Motion_Picture_Production_Code source

 

 

Written by LW

March 31, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Any workout which does not involve a certain minimum of danger or responsibility does not improve the body – it just wears it out”*…

 

If you are one of the 51.8 million people in the U.S. who use a treadmill for exercise, you know there’s much pain for your muscle-and-fitness gain. On your next 30-minute jog, as you count down the final seconds, ponder whether the hard work made you a better person. Consider whether the workout would feel different if you had powered something, even a fan to cool yourself off.

Two hundred years ago, the treadmill was invented in England as a prison rehabilitation device. It was meant to cause the incarcerated to suffer and learn from their sweat. It would mill a bit of corn or pump some water as a bonus…

How an early-19th century penal innovation became the top selling piece of exercise equipment in the U.S.: “Treadmills were meant to be atonement machines.”

* (That well-known fitness expert) Norman Mailer

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As we try to find our rhythm, we might send well-constructed birthday greetings to Frank Hornby; he was born on this date in 1863.  A visionary toy designer, he created the Meccano construction set (in 1901), a toy that used perforated metal strips, wheels, rods, brackets, clips, and assembly nuts and bolts to allow kids to build unlimited numbers of models.  A huge success, it spawned a monthly magazine– and U.S. competition (e.g., the Erector Set).  He introduced Hornby model trains in 1920 (originally clockwork and eventually electrically powered with tracks and scale replicas of associated buildings); the “Dinky” range of miniature cars and other motor vehicles was added in 1933 (spawning such competitors as Corgi, Matchbox, and Mattel’s Hot Wheels).

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Written by LW

May 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I’m so unfamiliar with the gym, I call it James”*…

 

These wonderful photographs, which make such innovative use of multiple exposure, are from a 1913 German book titled Schwedische Haus-Gymnastik nach dem System P.H. Ling’s by Theodor Bergquist, Director of the Swedish Gymnastic Institute in the Bavarian spa town of Bad Wörishofen. As the title tells us, this style of “Swedish house-gymnastics” demonstrated by Bergquist (and his mysterious female colleague) is based on a system developed by Pehr Henrik Ling (1776–1839), a pioneer in the teaching of physical education in Sweden. Inventor of various physical education apparatus including the box horse, wall bars, and beams, Ling is also credited with establishing calisthenics as a distinct discipline and is considered by some as the father of Swedish massage.

* Ellen DeGeneres

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As we affirm our faithfulness to fitness, we might spare a thought for Wilhelm Weber; he died on this date in 1963.  A German gymnast, he medaled twice for his country at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis.

The 1904 German Olympic team

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Exercise for the rest of us…

Joanna Rohrback demonstrates the rudiments of Prancercise®:The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence:

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A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation. It’s about Self-Expression. It’s about Non-violence. It’s about Conservation…

In any case, as a quick look at the video will show, it’ll revolutionize one’s image.

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As we Prance!, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that Georgia Ann Thompson “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman to parachute from an airplane.  At age 15, Tiny (so named as she was 5 feet tall and weighed 85 pounds), visited a carnival at which the dramatic climax was a parachute jump from a balloon. Enthralled, Tiny joined the show and became a star attraction.  In 1913, the troupe was in Los Angeles, where Tiny met pilot Glenn L. Martin, who asked Tiny to test out an airplane trap seat he had designed… she did, and history was made.

Tiny and her clippings

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Written by LW

June 21, 2013 at 1:01 am

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