Turns out that one of America’s greatest poets was also a heckuva personal trainer! Or at least that’s the way it seems after reading this new collection of Walt Whitman’s advice on “manly health and training”, written in 1858 – two years before the publication of his landmark third edition of Leaves of Grass – and only recently rediscovered.
Working on that weighty tome most of his life, and with it’s resonance still being felt today, it’s understandable that a series of newspaper columns on physical fitness, eating, and personal grooming that are a good deal less…. well…. poetic than Leaves would be forgotten for 150 years – especially when he wrote them under a pseudonym for a paper which no longer exists.
And maybe that’s for the best, because the most pleasant shock when thumbing through Walt Whitman’s Guide to Manly Health and Training (Ten Speed Press) is how modern it all is. Whitman knew what science has only recently discovered to be medically indispensable.
OK, not all of it. I doubt your dermatologist would approve of taking “hair gloves, the flesh-brush, or anything handy” to be “used, for friction, and to put the skin in a red glow all over” after washing yourself in cold water just after daybreak. Even if my doc did approve of that, I wouldn’t do it.
But – by and large – “Captain” Walt was right. “Eat enough, and when you eat that, stop!”, “Habituate yourself to the brisk walk in the fresh air”, and training should be “a regular and systematic thing through life”. Check, check, and check.
So I’ll see you at The Aboretum – to and from which I’ll be walking.