"But how shall I find time to follow out even one of these exercises?" objects the victim of American social life. It is true, he cannot. We live so fast that we have no time to live. Nevertheless, gymnastics have one advantage adapted to our hurried habits. They afford the most exercise in the shortest time. In no other way, so easily accessible, can as much powerful motion be used in so brief a space.
The tired clerk or merchant comes home late, with feverish brain and weary legs. His chest and arms have had no exercise proportional to the rest of his system. What shall he do to restore the balance? If he can, let him erect in some upper room, away from furnace-heat, instead of a billiard-table, a private shrine to Apollo or Mercury. He will need but little apparatus. A set of weights and pulleys, a pair of parallel bars, two suspended rings, and a leaping-pole are all the necessary permanent fixtures. Other articles, as the dumb-bells, the Indian club, boxing gloves, foils, or single-sticks, take up no room, and can be added as his growing taste for their use demands. We would single out the parallel bars and the weights as the most generally useful. The former develop particularly the chest, stretch the pectoral muscles, and lengthen the collar-bones. The latter increase the volume and power of the extensors of the shoulder, arm, and forearm, and are to be sedulously practiced, because we have fewer common and daily movements of these muscles than of their antagonists, the flexors, and they are consequently weaker in most persons. The windows should be widely opened, and the room warmed by the sun alone.
Though, after the first few trials, the whole body will ache, and the astonished muscles tremble with soreness, a week's perseverance will overcome these earlier drawbacks. The gymnast will be surprised at the new feeling of vigor in the back and shoulders, and to find the upright, military posture as natural as it was before difficult to maintain. Temper and digestion undergo a parallel improvement, and it will require much to make him forego the luxury of exercise which he at first thought so painful.
Many persons become discouraged by beginning too violently. Alarmed at the fatigue and suffering at first induced, they shrink from further efforts. Gymnastics are, to be sure, an injudicious mode of exercise for some. Children get a good many sprains, and sometimes permanent deformity, from their use. The growing period requires care to avoid injuring the articulations; yet it is the most favorable time to spread the shoulders and deepen the chest. The young grow most in height and can best gain an harmonious development by frequenting the GYMNASIUM.
I'm about half way through cleaning up our attic gymnasium, which is frighteningly similar in composition to the one described here, except for the addition of a modern safety bicycle.