A Pedestrian Match

So in my last post I mentioned that I mined personal experience when writing about Adam's boxing. I also did as much research as I could, in order to render the boxing accurately. 

Some of this is relatively straightforward. The rules of boxing, for example. They were in flux, as styles were changing, but pretty easy to get straight. But dedicating yourself to a sport isn't a matter of learning the rules. It's a whole lifestyle. It permeates every aspect of your day. 

So I also looked to period sources to figure out what Adam's daily routine would look like. This is all baked into the novel--what Adam eats, his exercise regimen, that sort of thing. One of my most useful sources for these details was The Sporting Magazine (which bears the lengthy & charming subtitle: or Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of The Turf, The Chase, And every other Diversion Interefting to the Man of PLeasure Enterprize & Spirit [Sic]). 

The Sporting Magazine article I drew from was "Mr. Thom's New Work on Pedestrianism", by Walter Thom, Volume 41, published in February of 1813. The whole article is pretty fun and interesting, and easy to look up on Google Books.

Now, I tend to think of a really disciplined, programmatic approach to athletic training as a modern phenomenon. I was surprised to find that the training regimes recommended by this article were so intense. Thom talks about training as an all-day, sunup-to-sundown activity. And he doesn't focus on practice fights, or the mechanics of getting a knockout. He focuses on conditioning. 

He explains: "The great object of training, for running, or boxing matches, is, to increase the muscular strength, and to improve the free action of the lungs, or wind, of the person subjected to the process, which is done by medicines, regimen, and exercise." 

The trainer saw his fighter's body as raw material that could be improved through effort and discipline. The fighter worked with the trainer to build a better body. 

In The Secret Heart, I emphasize certain details that are quaint or obviously wrong-headed (boxers were advised to drink as little as possible--and I don't mean alcohol here, water was #1 on the no-no list) and excluded others that sounded too modern, like the recommendation to eat raw eggs. 

But the thing that really struck me about the Regency/early Victorian mode of training is that it emphasizes a lot of the same things as modern training. The goal is to build endurance--these 19th century prizefights had no set number of rounds; they went on and on until one of the participants couldn't stand up anymore--and also to control weight without sacrificing strength. 

Here's some detail about eating, sweating, and slimming down: "The skilful trainer attends to the state of the bowels, the lungs, and the skin; and he uses such means as will reduce the fat, and, at the same time, invigorate the muscular fibres. The patient is purged by drastic medicines; he is sweated by walking under a load of clothes, and by lying between feather-beds. His limbs are roughly rubbed. His diet is beef or mutton; his drink, strong ale; and his is gradually inured to exercise by repeated trials in walking and running." 

I doubt a modern trainer would care whether the boxer is eating beef or chicken, but he sure would recommend a low-carb, protein-rich diet.

I used Thom's program for a fighter "in tolerable condition" who is training to partipate in a "pedestrian" match as a model for Adam's daily routine. Here's the suggested schedule: 

"He must rise at five in the morning, run half a mile at the top of his speed up hill, and then walk six miles at a moderate pace, coming in about seven to breakfast, which should consist of beef-steaks, or mutton-chops under-done, with stale bread and old beer. After breakfast, he must again walk six miles at a moderate pace, and at twelve lie down in bed without his clothes for half an hour. On getting up, he must walk four miles, and return by four to dinner, which should also be beef-steaks or mutton-chops, with bread and beer as at breakfast. Immediately after dinner, he must resume his exercise by running half a mile at top of his speed, and walking six miles at a moderate pace. He takes no more exercise for that day, but retires to bed about eight, and next morning proceeds in the same manner."

And, of course, "Besides his usual or regular exercise, a person under training should employ himself in the intervals in every kind of exertion, which tends to activity, such as cricket, bowls, throwing quoits, &c. that, during the whole day, both body and mind may be constantly occupied." 

Astonishingly enough, this is actually not the most rigorous course of training I could have subjected my poor hero to. But he needed a little bit of time during the day to have a romance.