Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Case for Running - John McCallum (1967)

Originally Published in This Issue (December 1967) 

Harry Williams, Jr. was born in England. He lived with his parents in a neat little cottage on the outskirts of London. He was five years old when World War Two broke out.

Harry's father enlisted in the Royal Navy the following day. He took the very excellent basic training that the British Navy gives to its recruits, kissed his wife and son goodbye, and went to convoy duty in the North Atlantic.

One cold night, early in 1941, his ship took a German torpedo below the waterline. She sank in eight minutes. The wing escort went back in the morning and found twenty-one survivors. Harry's father wasn't one of them.

Harry's mother was a small, dark-haired woman who wore glasses and argued with her husband only once in their married life. She insisted the baby be christened Harry, Jr. "That way," she said, "he's more likely to take after his father."

When the bombing started, she shipped Harry, Jr. off to live with her sister in the country and went to work in a shipyard. She stopped going to the air-raid shelter after they notified her of her husband's death.
Six months later a Junkers 88 laid a stick of bombs down the street and Harry, Jr. was an orphan.

Young Harry stayed with his aunt. When the was ended they moved to Canada. A Canadian rancher married the aunt and adopted Harry. The moved into central British Columbia, and Harry started his new life as a shy little boy surrounded by rolling green hills and more cattle than he had known existed.

Harry's adopted father was a big man who had done hard out-door work most of his life and who placed a lot of stress on physical toughness. He could shove a loaded grain sack overhead and felt sorry for anyone who couldn't. Strength, he figured, came from fresh air, hard work, and lots of good food. He had more sense than some weightlifters.

After six years on a wartime austerity diet, young Harry was a skinny little boy. He was short for his age, with a look of intense and brittle thinness about him.

Harry's new father was a sensitive man. He felt his son's appearance reflected his ability as a provider. He decided little Harry was going to fatten up. 

His methods were simple, direct, and successful. He put Harry on a program of progressive calisthenics and pushed steaks into him 'til even the cattle got nervous.

Milk, he figured, also had to be good. "It fattens calves," he said. "It should fatten up people."

So Harry did his exercises, ate enough meat for two grown men, and drank milk 'til he made sloshing noises when he walked, And gained weight.

When Harry was fourteen his father bought him a set of weights. They hammered together a bench and a squat rack and Harry started out to be a muscleman. There was no fancy equipment so Harry stuck close to the basic exercises and gradually increased the weight. He pressed and squatted and dead-lifted, ate meat, drank milk, and grew. He didn't know it, but he'd stumbled on to the secret of bulking up. At sixteen he was stronger than a fully grown man. At eighteen he weighed 220 and looked heftier than his father's cattle.

Harry got married when he was twenty-three and moved down to the coast. He wasn't trying to gain weight anymore, but he still liked training. He took short, heavy workouts three times a week. He stuck to the milk and the basic exercises, and gradually, pound by pound, his weight climbed upwards.

Harry was thirty-two when he decided to trim down. He came in to talk to me about it one day.

I was reading the paper when he walked in. "Good grief Harry," I said. "You get any bigger and I'll have to get the doorway widened." 

He smiled and sat down. The chair creaked.

"How's it going, Harry?" I said. "You still training?" 

"Yeah," he said. "I do a little." 

"Power stuff?" 


"You oughta branch out a bit," I said. "You're getting in a rut." 

He nodded. "I was thinking that." He shifted about in the chair.

"Don't thrash around," I said. "I can't afford new furniture." 

He grinned. "It's my weight that I was thinking about."

"Harry," I said. "Don't tell me you're finally getting concerned."

"Not me," he said. "It's my wife. She says I look like a fat slob."

"What do you weigh?"

"Two fifty-one."

"Well," I said. "She's got a point."

"What the hey," he said. "I never planned on being a jockey."

"Jockey?" I said. "Harry, you could gain ten pounds and pass for a horse."

He didn't answer.

"Anyway," I said. "It's not good for your health to pack around that much fat."

"I guess not," he said. "I can notice it."

"You can?"

"Yeah, I got no endurance at all."

"That's not good."

"I know," he said. "If I ran up a flight of stairs I wouldn't be able to walk back down again."

"Harry," I said. "I don't like to worry you, but you better get in better shape than that. One of these days they'll be packing you down the stairs.?

He shrugged. "I'm not worried about that, but I'd like to get in better shape." He looked down at his stomach. "I'd like to look a little better, too."


"I'm not really well defined," he said. "Am I?"

I thought he was kidding. "Harry," I said. "Let's be honest with each other. The average whale's got more definition than you got."

He laughed. "I'm strong, though."

"Sure," I said. "I know you're strong. But you could be just as strong and still look a heck of a lot better."

He looked interested. "I could?"

"Of course," I said. "And you could have a lot of endurance, too. It'd be better for your health."

He pursed his lips. "All I really wanted to do was trim my gut a bit."

"You can do that," I said. "And improve your health, definition, and endurance at the same time."

"That sounds tough," he said.

"Not really," I said. "It isn't easy, but you can do it if you want to."

"I dunno," he said. "I've tried starving before. I just got weaker."

"I'm not talking about starving," I said. "I mean modernizing your program."

"What's the secret?"

"There's no secret," I said. "Just work a few new wrinkles into your training."

"Like what?"

"Like a definition diet," I said. "And running."

He looked at me like I'd flipped. "Running?"

"Yeah. Running."

"Johnny Boy," he said. "You're putting me on."

"I'm not. A little running'd be the best thing in the world for you. It'd improve your health and endurance terrifically. And," I added, "it'd improve your appearance. You'd get rid of that big gut and show some muscle."

"But running, Johnny," he said. "That's not for weightlifters."

"Sure it is," I said. Running and weightlifting go together like ham and eggs. It's just that some lifters haven't accepted it yet."

We argued for another twenty minutes. He had every excuse in the book and then some, but I finally talked him into trying it.

We met at the track the next night. Harry wore lifting boots, a York sweat suit, and a long face.

"I hope nobody sees us. They'll think I'm some kind of a nut galloping around."

"They'll think you're King Farouk galloping around," I said. "I hope the S.P.C.A. don't see us. They'll move you down to the horse track."

We started jogging around the track. Harry complained every foot of the way. After 200 feet he quit complaining and just concentrated on breathing.

Halfway around he slowed up.

"Keep going!" I said. "You're not even warm yet."

We finished the lap. Harry staggered off the track and collapsed on the grass.

"e on," I said. "You can't be beat up already."

"Go away," he gasped. "Somebody'll bury me in the morning."

He rested for ten minutes and we tried it again. He only made half a lap the second time. He weaved off the track and flopped on the grass again.

"Man," he said. "I don't look exactly like a track star, do I?"

"Track star?" I said. "You look like a sick walrus. You're in horrible shape."

He sat up and wiped sweat off his face. "I think you're right," he said. "What do I do?"

I put Harry on a definition diet and told him how to build up his running. He stayed on his regular weight program but he followed the diet faithfully and he ran three evenings a week. After two weeks he could run a lap without much trouble and at the end of three months he was knocking off two miles at a good clip.

His health and endurance improved beyond belief. He looked different and felt different.

His appearance changed, too. He looked like a new man. He lost 28 pounds of pure fat. His waist came down from 41 to 34, and his hips from 45 to 41-1/2. The only other loss was some fat off his face and the top part of his thighs. His other measurements and lifts all improved, his calves went up a full inch, and for the first time in his life he showed some definition.

"What do you think now?" I asked him.

"Man," he said. "This is the greatest."

"You're convinced?"

"I'm convinced."

Running can do as much or more for you. Coupled with a definition diet it'll make a tremendous change in the way you look and feel. If you're carrying excess flab, if your waist and hips aren't as trim as you'd like them, then running and a sensible diet can be the answer to your prayers.

Start doing a little jogging around on your off days just to get used to it. Next month we'll go into running in detail.

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