This section is from the book "Fletcherism. What It Is, Or How I Became Young At Sixty", by Horace Fletcher. Also available from Amazon: Fletcherism, What It Is, Or How I Became Young At Sixty.
These are merely typical cases of distinguished and measured improvement.
How the movement went on from step to step others have told, and I need not follow it further here.
Two years after I began my experiments my strength and endurance had increased beyond my wildest expectation. On my fiftieth birthday I rode nearly two hundred miles on my bicycle over French roads, and came home feeling fine. Was I stiff the next day? Not at all, and I rode fifty miles the next morning before breakfast in order to test the effect of my severe stunt.*
* Detailed account of this test is given in The New Glutton or Epicure, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company.
When I was fifty-eight years of age, at the Yale University Gymnasium, under the observation of Dr. Anderson. I lifted three hundred pounds dead weight three hundred and fifty times with the muscles of my right leg below the knee. The record of the best athlete then was one hundred and seventy-five lifts, so I doubled the world's record of that style of tests of endurance.
The story of this test at Yale, when I doubled the "record" about which so much has been written, is this: Professor Irving Fisher, of Yale, had devised a new form of endurance-testing machine intended to be used upon the muscles most commonly in use by all persons. Obviously these are the muscles used in walking. Quite a large number of tests had been measured by the Fisher machine, but it was still being studied with a view to possible simplification.
I was asked to try it and to suggest any changes that might improve it. I did so, and handled the weight with such seeming ease that Dr. Anderson asked me whether I would not make a thorough test of my endurance. This I was glad to do.
The Professor Irving Fisher Endurance Testing Machine is weighted to 75 per cent of the lifting capacity of the subject, ascertained by means of the Kellogg Mercurial Dynamometer. The lifting is timed to the beats of a metronome.
When I began, Dr. Anderson cautioned me against attempting too much. I asked him what he considered "too much,"and he replied: "For a man of your age, not in training, I should not recommend trying more than fifty lifts." So I began the test, lifting the weight to the beat of the metronome at the rate of about one in two seconds, and had soon reached the fifty mark. "Be careful," repeated Dr. Anderson, "you may not feel that you are overdoing now, but afterwards you may regret it."
But I felt no strain and went on.
When seventy-five had been exceeded, Dr. Anderson called Dr. Born from his desk to take charge of the counting and watching to see that the lifts were fully completed, and ran out into the gymnasium to call the masters of boxing, wrestling, fencing, etc., to witness the test. When they had gathered about the machine, Dr. Anderson said to them, "It looks as if we were going to see a record-breaking.,, I then asked, "What are the records?"
Dr. Anderson replied, "One hundred and seventy-five lifts is the record; only two men have exceeded one hundred; the lowest was thirty-three, and the average so far is eighty-four."
In the meantime I had reached one hundred and fifty lifts, and the interest was centered on the question as to whether I should reach the high record, one hundred and seventy-five.
When one hundred and seventy-five had been reached, Dr. Anderson stepped forward to catch me in case the leg in use in the test should not be able to support me when I stopped and attempted to stand up. But I did not stop lifting the three-hundred-pound weight. I kept right on, and as I progressed to two hundred, two hundred and fifty, three hundred, and finally to double the record, three hundred and fifty lifts, the interest increased progressively.
After adding a few to the three hundred and fifty I stopped, not because I was suffering from fatigue, but because the pounding of the iron collar on the muscles above my knee had made the place so pummelled very sore, as if hit a great number of times with a heavy sledge-hammer. I had doubled the record, and that seemed sufficient for a starter in the competition.
As I stood up, Dr. Anderson reached up his arms to support me. But I needed no support. The leg that had been in use felt a trifle lighter, but in no sense weak or tired.
The Author undergoing a Test at Yale when he made a World's Record on the Irving Fisher Endurance Testing Machine.
Then I was examined for heart-action, steadiness of nerve, muscle, etc., and was found to be all right, with no evidence of strain. A glass brimming full of water was placed first in one hand and then in the other, and was held out at arm's length without spilling any of the water.
Next morning I was examined for evidence of soreness, but none was present. There was the normal elasticity and tone of muscle.
Later in that same year, at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School at Springfield, Massachusetts, I lifted seven hundred and seventy pounds with the muscles of the back and legs - a feat that weight-lifting athletes find hard to perform. And I did these stunts eating two meals a day, one at noon and the other at six o'clock, at an average cost of eleven cents a day.
Still another examination at the University of Pennsylvania resulted in my breaking the College record of lifting power with the back muscles. I do not cite these instances as feats of extraordinary prowess, but just to show the difference in my condition then and twenty years before. All this I have done simply by keeping my body free of excess of food and the poisons that come from the putrefaction of the food that the organism does not want and cannot take care of.
As to myself, I am now past sixty-four. I weigh one hundred and seventy pounds, which is a good weight for my height. During the many years of experiment I have ranged between two hundred and seventeen and one hundred and thirty pounds, but have "settled down" to my present quite convenient figure. I feel perfectly well; I can do as much work as can a man of forty - more than can the average man of forty, I believe. I rarely have a cold, and although I am always careless in this regard, my work is never delayed. I do not know what it is to have "that tired feeling," except as expressed by sleepiness. When I get into bed I scarce ever remember my head striking the pillow, and after four and one-half hours I awake from a dreamless slumber with a happy waking thought in process of formation.
I usually find it agreeable to court supplemental naps, to be followed by more pleasant waking thoughts: but these are pure luxury. I can do with five hours sleep if need be.