TRAINING FOR SPEED.
Some Hints on Fitness by Our Medical Expert.
MOTOR racing is not a sport that demands the intensive training of athletics or the University Boat race, but where track work or roadracing are contemplated lack of the necessary physical training may be a most severe handicap. It is worth saying that there are many _people totally unfitted for the sport by reason of natural incapacity, either bodily or mental ; fortunately these have usually discovered their weakness at touring speeds, but young men suffering from the disease of “more money than sense” are seen only too frequently. However, this article is addressed to the man who can drive a car (and drive it well) and wishes to give the best account of himself among hot competition.
All training may be divided into the general and the particular. By the former I mean raising the general health level without imposing any of the strain which accompanies the intensive training of the athlete. I will suppose the case of the man who has spent the winter at his business, with perhaps some golf or similar mild exercise. First and foremost, he will probably be too fat. While admitting that exceptions are common, there is no doubt that in the sport demanding quick movements and decisions the fat man is at a disadvantage ; in motor-cycle racing the extra Wind resistance and weight is of real importance. I should be the last to suggest the methods by which the jockey makes the weight ; that is impossible for the man who has otheç things to do.
Turkish baths are an excellent preparation, weekly or fortnightly, especially to the busy man who may thereby achieve what would otherwise require exercise for which he has no time.
The civilised nations of the ancient world well, understood its advantages, and the Romans introduced the practice of hot air bathing all over the then known world.
Owing to our climate, rheumatism is a common complaint and one which leads to many complications ; here Turkish bathing is of the greatest value, both as a preventive and cure, and thousands can testify to its regular use having brightened their lives and freed their bodies from pain.
For the reduction of obesity the bath is one of the safest methods known. The flesh soon becomes firmer and the muscular system is braced up, while the fat gradually disappears without any weakening effect or any unreasonable restriction of diet. It is certainly one of the best known means of soothing jaded nerves and relieving mental strain.
To be effective they must be accompanied by gentle daily exercise and some limitation of food and drink. For the former there is nothing better than skipping first thing in the morning ; it should not be made a fetish or carried to the point of fatigue, but the amount should be increased from day to day as the training progresses. I have ‘nothing against the many forms of “exercisers ” on the market, but I have found the simple skipping rope just as effective and with great practical advantages. The ” pressups ” that we knew so well in the Army are good, and a punch ball, if properly used, perhaps the best of all ; finish all exercise with some simple breathing exercises. A cold bath ? yes, but once more, do not exaggerate its importance. It is almost impossible to lay down rules for diet without knowing each case individually. Everybody will naturally avoid the things which he knows do not agree with him ; everybody will do better to avoid anything of a “fancy ” nature. But the best advice is that of an eminent dietician who said that a man should eat “what a sensible woman gives him.” and there is more in the fashionable cult of. plenty of fruit and. green vegetables than a mere passing whim. Glutting is to be deplored but hearty eating is admirable when allied to common sense. Drinking is an almost more difficult subject for advice than eating ; most men have fixed habits which it is inadvisable to break too quickly. But excess in this respect cannot be tolerated, and the man who can reduce his daily allowance to the barest minimum —even to nothing–will be the better for it in training. The same applies to smoking although individuals vary to such an extent that everyone must find his own level by trial and error. Most important of all is to lead a regular and quiet life. In bed by eleven every night is far more important than that second glass of port, and meals at regular hours are most advisable. A difficulty arises here in that the days before a race are liable to be a hectic rush of preparations too long delayed. From every point of view this should be avoided ; if work must be done, the driver must get his full allowance of rest if possible. ” Parties” of any kind should be rigidly excluded for at least three weeks before a race. Given these mild preparations, some games (cricket or tennis, swimming has a dele
terious effect on some people’s eyesight), it should be possible to reach a high standard of general health without interfering with the daily routine. Training with motor-racing as the par ticular object in view is a difficult subject for advice, in that there is no hard and fast accepted method. The most important thing is to improve the reflex time for the movements of the arms and legs, and this quality has been settled for most of us before our birth. Such improvement as can be made will be brought about most easily by the simple training outlined above, combined with the daily practise of driving at increasing speeds. A famous ‘LT. rider once told me that he made a point of driving a hundred miles or so before breakfast every morning for two months before the race, and hurrying over the business. This is a council of perfection, but I would recommend a course of fast motor-cycling to the most blasé car driver if he wishes
to get his nerves into the finest fettle. It is unlikely to be popular advice, but let it be remembered that some of the finest drivers graduated from motor-cycling.
Staleness ? It is unlikely to follow mild training (and let me emphasise again, do NOT overdo the training), and when it comes, is most probably a purely mental phenomenon. If it is not too much advertisement, I would prescribe moderate doses of Edgar Wallace and the back numbers of ” MoToR SPORT.”
Lastly, I would advise everyone, old hand or beginner, to be ” vetted” by a doctor at the beginning of every season or before a big race. It is not that they will have to stand the strains of a Schneider Cup race (where quite different problems are represented), but there may be flaws in the strongest constitution which only come to light at a moment of crisis.