The Value of a Tranquil Mind
by Roger Eells (1941)
While I had previously observed the value of conservation of energy and the maintenance of a tranquil mind, it was never so forcibly brought to my attention as when I had the opportunity to spend the weekend in the company of Bob Hoffman, John Grimek and Anthony Terlazzo at the time they visited Columbus for the purpose of giving a weightlifting demonstration.
It is around Terlazzo this article is written, for he so strongly exemplifies the point I desire to bring out. He is the one person I know who has developed to perfection this ability to completely relax, to conserve his energy, to maintain a tranquil mind.
It would be superfluous for me to discuss his merits as a weightlifter. You are all (or should be) familiar with his ability along those lines. You know he has reached the very top in his class as either a 132 or 149 pounder, but have you considered WHY he has attained this enviable position?
Certainly it is not entirely due to the fact that he was born extraordinarily strong. His lifts were not far above average during his very early competitive days, nor can the entire credit be pegged to his leverages or proper use of them. Even granting that he was was so situated as to have serious competition, this and the preceding attributes would still not make him such an outstanding lifter as to exceed many of our good heavyweights in North America, and the entire world for that matter. No, there is still something else.
I remember well the Terlazzo of 1934 when I first saw him compete in the National Championships in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a 132 pounder then and at the top of the heap, even as he is today at the 148-pound class. However, he was an entirely different boy in those days. He lifted no more for only one reason . . . he had not developed the art of relaxation. He was nervous, paced, moved about constantly the evening before in the hotel. He had a bad shoulder, as I recall, and this helped aggravate the condition.
Each year after that, when I would again see Anthony, he would strike me as being much more composed than the year before. He once told me that he was on to and he intended to stay there. He asked me if I knew how he was going to do it and I replied that I had no idea. There were other boys moving up all the time, and unless a lifter keeps on his toes he is likely to wake up some morning to find his crown resting on another fellow's head.
"Well," Tony replied, "I don't expect to do it with muscles alone, but with this up here too," as he tapped his forehead.
There you have it. He had learned and applied another secret. He had recognized the value of conserving his nervous energy rather than wasting it on useless pacing about and worrying. Now Anthony directs his energy into the right channels. He WILLS that when the time comes to lift he will have sufficient strength to accomplish the task he has set as his goal. He KNOWS what he wants to do and he DOES it.
But now to the Terlazzo of December, 1940.
The telephone rang and as I answered it a voice said, "This is Anthony. We're out at the edge of town getting some gas and will be down to the hotel in a few minutes. Why not come and see us?"
When Saramarie and I arrived they were already there and Tony was stretched out on the bed. He didn't look like he had just had a trip of over 400 miles by car. Certainly he must not have driven the car as he didn't look it . . . but neither did the others.
The next morning when we again went to their room there was Terlazzo still stretched out on the bed, waiting to go to breakfast. We walked to the elevator and someone rang for it while Tony dropped into the nearest chair. Upon our return to the room he didn't sit down but again chose the bed upon which to recline.
It was the same during the entire time they were here. Terlazzo has developed the very valuable habit of never standing when he can sit, and never sitting when the opportunity presents itself to lie down. It isn't a case of laziness on his part. He worked hard to develop this ability and it has paid him great dividends. He's been the world champion for a year or two, and he will likely be the world champ for a year or two to come.
Did you ever notice a cat . . . its actions and habits, I mean. Did you ever see one just standing around, unless it was just for a moment to listen to some unusual noise that had attracted its attention? No, I'm sure you didn't. But then, most people are too ignorant to look to animals when they want to reach a goal or fix a problem, aren't they. Anyway, notice that when they're not moving about they lie down and relax completely.
Sometime, when you have the opportunity, feel the muscles of a cat and then the muscles of a dog. Notice the difference. The muscles of the cat in relaxation are extremely soft and pliable, while the muscles of the dog are much harder. Frighten a sleeping cat and it will move out of repose so rapidly that the human eye can scarcely follow it. The dog's movements are tortoise-like in comparison.
If one has the desire to learn composure, the art of relaxation and poise, then study the habits and actions of a cat. I don't know whether Terlazzo has ever done this, but if not he has unconsciously developed the same characteristics. He relaxes at every opportunity, conserves his energy much as our feline friend, then when the time comes to release this stored energy he does so with explosive force. So easily, so effortlessly does he lift in excess of 300 pounds that we cannot bring ourselves to believe it is done with muscles in the ordinary sense of the word.
Terlazzo has made this habit a valuable asset in more ways than one, but particularly has he used it to excel in his chosen endeavor as a weightlifter. You may not have the desire to become a champion in the weight game, but certainly you must be interested in the development of your body or you wouldn't be reading this.
If you are thin or weak it is entirely possible you are in that condition for no other reason than you have never made the effort to conserve your energy or to maintain a tranquil attitude towards the world about you. It is a difficult task to control oneself if of a nervous disposition but the rewards are well worth the effort.
I have seen men who were of highly nervous temperament who, after gaining control of themselves, increased their strength to the extent that you would not have believed they were the same people. There is a lesson behind the success of Terlazzo. He is a fellow who has made his own success. He has used his head as well as his muscles to better advantage because first of all, he used his head.