Author: Conor Heffernan

Conor is currently researching Ireland's physical culture movement as a PhD student at University College Dublin. When not in the library or the gym, he likes to try his hand at writing....with mixed results.

Indian Clubs in Victorian Britain

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Fitness crazes are unsurprisingly not a new phenomenon and in light of that fact, today we will discuss the growth of the Indian Club craze in Victorian England. Indian Clubs are bottle-shaped wooden clubs that are swung in the hand using a range of movements for the purpose of gymnastic exercise. Whilst they have been used for centuries in India and the Middle East both in people’s homes and in private gymnasia to develop strength, speed and flexibility, this form of exercise entered into Western consciousness relatively recently with British soldiers ‘discovering’ the exercises in the early 19th century when based in colonial India. The spread of the Club’s popularity in Victorian Britain was as rapid as it was fascinating.
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It’s Complicated: Nkrumah, Football and African History

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“The masses of the people of Africa are crying for unity…”

Kwame Nkrumah

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president in the nation’s post-colonial history was a controversial figure at the best of times. He proposed African unity but was at times an authoritarian leader. He lent a helping hand to those in need, but often on his terms only. Regardless of people’s opinions of him, one thing was clear. He was sincere in what he fought for. Nkrumah had a grand dream of uniting all of Africa and whilst ultimately he failed, he left an interesting story. This is especially the case when it comes to Ghanian football history.

Politics and football in Africa are more often than not bedfellows. Ghanaian football is no different.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s All Meat Diet Part Two

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Last week we had the first of Vihjalmur Stefansson’s amazing account of his all meat diet. This week we look at the second installment.

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Now that the experiments in diet which Karsen Anderson and I undertook at Bellevue Hospital have been accepted by the medical world, it is difficult to realize that there could have been such a storm of excitement about the announcement of the plan, such a violent clash of opinions, such near unanimity to the prediction of dire results.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s All Meat Diet Part One

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Vilhjamur Stefannsson was a man of note for several reasons. Born in Canada in the late 1800s, the would be explorer discovered new lands and continental shelves, all the while publishing a host of books, articles and journals. Between 1906 and 1918, he went on three expeditions into Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, with the duration of each trip varying from sixteen months to five years. During these years he observed the dietary habits of the local Inuits, whose primary food source was meat. 

In 1935 Stefannsson published his experiences in Harper’s Monthly over two articles detailing the all meat diet he encountered. Below is Stefannsson’s first article.

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In 1906 I went to the Arctic with the food tastes and beliefs of the average American. By 1918, after eleven years as an Eskimo among Eskimos, I had learned things which caused me to shed most of those beliefs. Ten years later I began to realize that what I had learned was going to influence materially the sciences of medicine and dietetics. However, what finally impressed the scientists and converted many during the last two or three years, was a series of confirmatory experiments upon myself and a colleague performed at Bellevue Hospital, New York City, under the supervision of a committee representing several universities and other organizations.

Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling: America versus Nazi Germany

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It was only two minutes and four seconds
‘Fore Schmeling was down on his knees
He looked like he was praying to the good Lord
To ‘Have mercy on me, please.’

Bill Gaither, 1938

June 22, 1938 and over 70,000 fans  crammed into Yankee Stadium to see the ‘Brown Bomber’ Jou Louis face off against German boxer Max Schmeling for the second time in two years. Their interest was matched by the 64% of radio-owning Americans who tuned in that night to hear the fight’s broadcast. In 1936 Schmeling had beaten Louis in the very same venue after exploiting a weakness Louis’s boxing style. It was a defeat that sent the black community in America reeling. Joe was the first black boxer to gain acceptance by the American boxing federation since the controversial Jack Johnson and his defeat was met with utter devastation in black communities. At a time when the Ku Klux Klan was enjoying a revival, Joe had been a symbol of hope that blacks could integrate in white society. His loss was about more than sport.

How to gain 63 pounds of Muscle in 28 Days: The Infamous Colorado Experiment

19Is it possible to gain 63 pounds of muscle in less than a month? What about 15 pounds of muscle in twenty-two days? By any metric such results would be phenomenal but few people believe such a feat is manageable.

Yet in the early 1970s, Arthur Jones, creator of the Nautilus machines, claimed it was possible through his own brand of High Intensity Training (HIT). What’s more, he claimed he had scientific backing for his claims.

So what exactly happened during the Colorado Experiment conducted by Jones and was he telling the truth? Have strength enthusiasts been selling themselves sort by setting low targets for muscle gain? After all if such training can yield 15 to 63 pounds of muscle in one month it must be worth doing.

The Sandow Story in Ireland

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During the prime of his career, Eugen Sandow was known for having ‘the perfect physique’ and for being one of the foremost proponents of physical culture. Physical culture being broadly understood as the social movement concerned with health and strength that swept across Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. A man built to a Grecian ideal of beauty and presented as the ideal of what good health should be, Sandow toured the world performing and lecturing the masses about the importance of physical and spiritual health. Such was Sandow’s mass appeal in the late 19th and early 20th century, that some commentators have credited him with launching the body obsessive societies of today. His influence stretched from America to Australia and many places in between. Much has been written about Sandow’s time in Great Britain and the United States, but few have examined Sandow’s time in the south of Ireland in the late 1890s. His time in Ireland was brief but it was to leave lasting results.