Friday, 3 February 2012

In Train

As the sporting season begins to crank up a gear with the start of the Six Nations Championship, here is an example of a punishing training regime for a sportsman in the early nineteenth century, the sport being not rugby but pedestrianism (running):

‘The art of training for athletic exercises, consists in purifying the body and strengthening its powers, by certain processes, which thus qualify the person for the accomplishment of laborious exercises.’  [The ‘trainer’ has a ‘patient’, to whom he gives initially ‘three dozes of Glauber Salts’ (a mild laxative)].  ‘He [the athlete] must rise at five in the morning, run half a mile at the top of his speed uphill, and then walk six miles at a moderate pace, coming in about seven to breakfast, which should consist of beef-steaks or mutton-chops under-done, with stale bread and old beer.  … The pedestrian must … run four miles, in flannel, at the top of his speed.  Immediately on returning, a hot liquor is prescribed, in order to promote the perspiration, of which he must drink one English pint.  It is termed ‘the Sweating Liquor’, and is composed of the following ingredients, viz: one ounce of caraway seed, half an ounce of coriander seed, one ounce of root liquorice, and half  of sugar-candy, mixed with two bottles of cyder, and boiled down to one half.  He is then put to bed in his flannels, and being covered with six or eight pairs of blankets, and a feather-bed, must remain in this state from twenty-five to thirty-five minutes, when he is taken out and rubbed perfectly dry.  Being then well wrapt in his greatcoat, he walks out gently for two miles, and returns to breakfast.’   Pedestrianism (1813) Walter Thom. 

Captain Barclay, the pedestrian champion,  used a regime similar to this and seemed to do rather well on it.

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