Dr. George Sheehan: My Perspective
From "The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing," originally written as an introduction to In Fitness and In Health.
By teaching "Maximum Aerobic Function," Dr. Philip Maffetone is following the philosophy that has come down to us from the ancient Greeks. Their emphasis was on the cultivation of the self. The maximum function of the body was part of their “art of existence.”
We read in Seneca that we should spend our lives learning how to live. Primary to this was the training of the body. Everything a person did was important — exercise, diet, sleep, climate. Even the architecture of the house was thought to have an influence on health.
The emphasis on the care of the body is seen again and again in the works of philosophers since the Greeks. We are called upon repeatedly to have a sound mind in a sound body. The great Herbert Spencer in his treatise of education writes, “If you wish to be a success in this life you must first be a good animal.” And this thought is reiterated by Emerson. “Be first a good animal,” writes the sage of Concord.
How best to do that is being constantly amended and refined. As recently as 1972, a poll of Canadians asking about the rules of health elicited these three items: a balanced diet, a good night's sleep and regular visits to the doctor. These are obviously not enough. A return to basic principles and personal responsibility is necessary in order to live the athletic life.
This book, it seems to me, does not teach us how to be athletes, but rather it teaches us how to teach ourselves to be athletes. Ultimately, we must become our own individual coaches in this common goal. But first we must be convinced of the importance of everything we do — to or with our bodies. Our bodies are us. Our lives are our bodies in action. So we must live at the top of our powers.
There is no better time to start than now.
-- George Sheehan, M.D.