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It was probably the Conservative government which did more to popularise the phrase, 'If it ain't hurting then it ain't working.' At the time it was hurting but the great British nation of couch potatoes rose as one and now there are a lot of Conservatives that ain't working. I would have thought, 'If it ain't working, it's hurting.' is a better phrase to live by.

Lets face it, Britain does not have the climate for jogging and the like. It is not an exercise more a matter of survival some days. We probably get the worst of both worlds because our climate is not really any good for winter sports either as we do not get significant snow, a sprinkling of the stuff brings us to a shuddering halt. Once we have invented a sport which actively needs a grey drizzle and high winds to work then we are going to rule the world.

Switch on a travel program and you see nubiles roller skating along foreign beaches. Cut to Britain and you see a bloke with a knotted handkerchief on his head picking sand out of his ice-cream having broken out in a sweat putting up the obligatory windbreak.

changing the batteries in the remote control good exercise

It is probably no coincidence that Charles Atlas was American. Brits do not need to kick sand in one anothers face, afterall why should they, sit in your deckchair and watch the wind do the job for you.

Most of us are going to be too late getting into shape for the next Olympic games but fear not with the aid of Wills, Physical Culture [1914] we could well be ready for the next. There are 50 cards in the series which gives rise to 50 exercises. You might well want to have Wills, First Aid at the ready. Happy irony these cards were issued in packets of legalised death.

The set has a similar feel to Wrestling & Ju-Jitsu although for the most part the exercises are for the individual. The person has a halo of light green about them which fades to white which is the predominant background colour. Very well drawn the person depicted has a ghost image showing where the exercise has taken him. It is a tribute to the illustrator the card remains so clear.

You might be surprised to hear that I am not the most physically perfect example of humanity you could find. Sorry to disappoint some and surprise yet others <g>. However some of these exercise look like I would be capable of them. Indeed card three seems almost unnecessary to suggest, although vital, in that it is breathing. The card suggests doing this exercise about 20 times. Medical opinion may have been divided about breathing in the early part of this century but now it is seen as something that should be done constantly for those that want to remain healthy.

Major Hairy Lip demonstrating Horizonatal Bar technique. Less tonic more gin is my advice.

The first twelve cards are given over to 'Home exercises'. These are the most basic of the exercises on offer and need nothing more than limbs. Card One shows a basic, press-up (develops triceps, back muscles and trunk). The chap keeps his knees on the floor all the while. This used to be the suggested for women of a certain age and for men if they were only in comedy films about bespectacled weeds going to war. Now of course Demi Moore is doing one handed press-ups in her latest film (something which impressed me when Sly did it in Rocky.) Things have changed mightily between the formative years of this century and the last few.

Well anyone who considers changing the batteries in the remote control good exercise should be able to get to grips with the first twelve cards. The next five cards move on a bit, you will be needed a scarf or towel for these. I suggest a large towel for this given card 14 which would otherwise be unpleasant. It goes thus:

Details from Card
1- Stand in position illustrated (standing arms either side) with towel held stretched between hands. 2. Extend arms as high as possible above head. 3. Bend elbows so that towel is now stretched behind the neck. 4. - Lower hands, sliding towel through them until arms are fully extended behind the legs, when it may be stretched tightly again. 5 - Return in order 3, 2 and 1, from which the whole exercise should be repeated 8 or 10 times.

I would suggest if you have not dislocated your shoulders in the first go count yourself lucky and move swiftly on.

Card 16 is probably the biggest test of the illustrators skill. Quite what is going on is beyond me to be honest and I advise you not to attempt the exercise without a friend getting ready to remove the towel/scarf from you if there is any danger of your strangulation.

Cards 18 to 25 use dumb bells (for those without dumb bells washing up bottles filled with water seem to be adequate substitutes according to what I have seen of keep-fit programs on the television. Actually seeing such programs gives me hope because even I can wield a near full washing up bottle about without feeling giddy.) As you would imagine the exercises are all about waiving the dumb bells repeatedly about your head. By card 25 our hero is lying on the ground waiving his arms about.

Card 26 sees our hero reaching for the Indian clubs and swinging them about. I suppose they are still available but the last time I saw an Indian club was in the 1970's when they seemed omnipresent. Card 26 introduces the Indian Club and makes a concession to boys and girls as opposed to adults. Adults should be wielding clubs 21 inches long.

Boys and girls should only be using clubs 18 inches long. Really makes you want to be young again. Once again these next few cards deal with swinging these lethal weapons about your head. If you have not already I suggest you get along to the First Aid page because you are going to be in need of it.

Card 32 onwards is probably only for Brits that do wish to get into the Olympic team or an emergency ward. I do not include other nations as they appear to have sports academies and despite the better climates most enjoy do not seem to think plunging down the staircase on a set of skies a good preparation for ski jumping. Eddie the Eagle might not have been a medal contender but he should have shamed Britain into at least thinking about why we were unlikely to win a medal.

Cards 32/33/34 has our hero swinging about on the Vaulting bar. This apparently is good preparation for the horizontal bar although it looks better preparation for injury to me.

Nothing will have prepared you for what happens when you get to the Horizontal bar. For those that are unaware what one of these things is, it is the thing you attempt to do chin-ups in (remember the weed in the comedy about joining the army?) Unfortunately there is nothing so simple in this collection. The closest thing seems to be 'The Back lift.' Card 36:

Details from Card
Stand facing centre of the bar. Then spring from the ground and grasp bar. Throw both feet well up and forward (with knees straight) until they are as high as the bar. Then bend knees and pass legs through between hands and below the bar. 2.- Hollowing the back, pass feet up over the bar, meanwhile pulling strongly with the hands (see illustration) 3. Continuing the circle sit on the bar. Pushing bar with both hands, descend alighting with legs bent.

Back to card three I think.

Just imagine how many court cases there would be if this set were issued in all seriousness today. Remember today we have labels on our food such as 'This product is hot when heated.' On a bag of nuts, 'Contents: Nuts. Open bag and eat contents.'

The remainder of the cards deal with ring exercises which if performed would ensure a fairly high mark at the next Olympic games <g>. The set ends with our hero demonstrating the 'cross' so much loved of male power athletes who probably no longer smoke Wills, Woodbines.

The exercises described in this article should only be attempted by qualified illustrators with specialist safety equipment. You should not attempt them at home under any circumstances. The breathing exercise though is recommended for those wishing to live beyond the next five minutes.