Races and Training: Chapter Nineteen



I’VE seen a lot of senseless controversy at one time or another

caused by men telling writers they’re wrong, while at the same time they’re quite unable to give an adequate reason for such a statement. If a thing IS wrong it should be easy to point out the mistake, and when that is done readers will be quick enough to settle for themselves which side of the argument is correct.

I mention this because I’ve been “hauled over the coals” in this manner many times in connection with the present subject, and nearly always, or so it seems to me, by men who had not adequately thought the matter out. I may still be wrong, but you can’t expect me to alter my opinions until I’m given a sound reason for so doing. The mere idea of breathing exercises being fallacious is so new that men are apt to balk at it, and pour out a stream of other people’s opinions without putting it to the test of their own thinking machine. Admitted that my viewpoint on this subject is entirely unorthodox, but any clear advance from the present ” normal ” always is unorthox until it is accepted as ” correct procedure.” So I would ask you to follow out the reasoning I’m giving you here, and thereafter you can form your own opinion.

Taking deep breaths to develop lung expansion seems to be quite popular with many people though, at any rate as far as the average man is concerned, such action is based on a fallacy, viz. that thereby they will attain the vitality which nothing but active exercise can bestow.

Do you take specific heart exercises ? Of course not ! Or exclusive circulation exercises ? Again no. Well, your breathing started at the same time as your un-assisted circulation and is one of its components. If you want to stimulate your circulation you


take physical exercise : Nature has no other method. If you want to enhance your breathing apparatus you should do exactly the same; heart and lungs share all work with the muscles and benefit equally.

Do you feel any better after you have held your breath for half a minute ? It is just as useless to force your lungs to work point -lessly twice as fast or double the expansion in the same interval. Interfering with Nature, when there is no call for interference, is always a mistake and always will be. The only way to teach your lungs to stand up to heavier work is to give them ” penny installments ” of that work at short intervals and frequently : they will then gradually build up as required. But don’t forget that as soon as you cease to educate them thus they’ll cease to retain the capability you’ve built up. In other words it’s just a waste of time to try to develop lungs for work which you’ve no intention of pursuing for any length of time.

Deep breathing, without the exertion which necessitates it, is like heavy feeding without the exercise which calls for added nourishment ; the lungs are needlessly overloaded with what is not required and use not an atom more oxygen than they want ; just as in the other case the stomach is overworked and can make no use at all of the surplus nourishment supplied.

You didn’t teach yourself to breathe, and if you interfere un­necessarily with the functioning of the lungs, you are more likely to cause trouble than anything else. If you are not breathing in a natural way it is only because you are not taking natural exercise, and the remedj^ for that is simple—see that you DO take it, even if it is only for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Even the modern office clerk, perhaps the man who suffers most from restricted action, can take a quick walk every morning and evening if he makes up his mind to it. With that, and a more generous dose at the week-end, a man can expect to keep his lungs in reasonably good condition, good enough for his way of life anyhow.

Good lungs, like everything else worthwhile, have to be worked for. Stick at the work and you’ll find they stay efficient ; get tired of it and they, too, will suffer a relapse. But you can’t fool them with a counterfeit, however ingeniously it may be camouflaged.

Plain logic, therefore, tells us that the only beneficial breathing exercises are those brought about by activity and physical exertion ; and the obvious moral is that to attempt to obtain the same benefits without doing the necessary work is only fooling yourself that you know better than nature.