Most parents work very hard to encourage their children not to be dumbbells. At least one parent has a completely different idea and actually encourages it.
Harold J. Reilly was reading a story from Greek mythology in which Hercules, as a boy, started lifting a small calf every day. As the calf grew, so did Hercules’ muscles. By the time the calf had grown to its full size, Hercules could still hoist it easily.
Reilly didn’t have any livestock wandering through his home, but he did have an infant son. Why not put the Hercules story to practical effect with children?
Reilly captured his recommendations for healthy living in The Secret of Better Health (Carlyle House, 1941). In it, he wrote, “I’m not suggesting that you bring a bull calf into the house and go to work on it. After all, you’re not Hercules, but you can work out the same idea by starting to exercise with your pride and joy when he’s only a year old, and keeping it up until he’s ten, 15, or even 20. The child will benefit, and so will you…”
To be clear, Mr. Reilly’s concept of exercising with your children involves a tad more than picking them up each day to give them a hug. He writes:
“From [ages] three to six, you can become a little more strenuous. Pick the child up and swing him around, holding him by the arms. Let him lie on his back and take his two hands in one of yours and his ankles in the other and swing him around that way, back and forth, sideways and between your legs as though he were a medicine ball…”
Unstated, but hopefully understood, is that one should have a firm grip on your child before you begin swinging the youngster wildly around. Failure to do so could have devastating consequences, such as broken lamps or unsightly dents on the wall.
Reilly’s book did not seem to be much of a commercial success. Despite the publicity it received in several newspapers, we have had difficulty putting our hands on a physical copy. We suspect that many who received his book as a gift used it as an exercise tool by lifting, swinging, and tossing it into the nearest trash can.
If you happen to adopt Reilly’s method for fitness, you should be prepared for the fact that this strenuous exercise will be quite tiring for you and your child. That being the case, you will want to invest in a baby cage so you can lay the tuckered little darling for a nap, hanging precipitously from the window of a skyscraper, while you recover from your workout — or await your inevitable visit from the Department of Children and Family Services.