7 REASONS FOR WORKOUT BURNOUT: THEN DO TAI CHI (ISSUE 125) April 15, 2014
By Diane Gold
How often do we get workout burnout and why do tai chi to avoid it or to fix it?
We are all about getting ourselves in shape, greedy to feel great and look spectacular. This is a good kind of greed because it keeps us healthy and our country flourishing. But, in my over 15 years of teaching martial arts (of which tai chi is one) and all my life watching people and their workouts, I have heard story after story about people’s workout history. There are only a few stories, even though we all, as individuals have our own.
1. My Workout Is Boring.
2. I Feel Empty And Disconnected From Myself When My Workout Is Over.
3. My Mind Is Not Relaxed After My Workout.
4. My Motivation Is Gone.
5. My Muscles Are So Tight From Working Out, I Move Like A Robot.
6. I Feel Totally Selfish When I I’m Finished.
7. I Want A Workout That Builds Me Spiritually.
These reasons may sound familiar. We can give ourselves reasons to quit or continue.
(1) If our activity doesn’t keep our attention, we quit. We usually are not taught the merits of follow through and perseverance, so we quit.
(2) If we don’t feel as if we have done something important, we quit. We usually don’t take the time to examine importance.
(3) If we are jittery and unrelaxed, we are forced to stop the behavior that’s causing it. We usually don’t know how to make the small adjustments needed to relax the situation.
(4) If we’re not motivated, we quit. Even if it’s one time, so often one missed session is enough to end the habit of working out.
(5) If our muscles are unnaturally tight, we may see it as counterproductive and quit. Most everyone has not been taught how to keep loose or to get loose.
(6) If we feel selfish, we may not like the feeling and we quit.
(7) If we see our workout as devoid of anything spiritual, we may feel plastic, unsubstantial and quit.
ENTER TAI CHI.
The art of tai chi is a system of movement that uses wave-like, circular patterns of moving the body, arms and legs. Its purpose is to connect everything that we do with the body with our mind and our spirit. It’s not a magic potion of movement; what it is is a very slow moving discipline that, because of its slowness, allows the mover to connect the movement to the mind. Its purpose is to teach the mind to act fluidly like the body movements. The physical moves are tools to connect us to ourselves.
Here’s something to think about. When I am doing tai chi, the speed at which I am moving allows me to focus my attention on my movement. The movement allows me to focus on only 1 thing. This focus allows me to follow each body part, 1 at a time. I can, as well, connect my motion with the heat and the balance of my body, the expansion and compression of my lungs, the flow of my blood, and the space in which my body exists. I am in moving, martial meditation.
Picture the adventure of a dandelion seed, using the fibers of the dandelion flower to keep it airborn, and it is whisked away by a fluid stream of the wind. The ride is smooth with no sudden movement other than what the airstream provides for it. This fluidity likens it to the journey of tai chi, where we learn to follow the line of movement of one body part from its beginning to its end which leads it into a new beginning of the next body part. This rolling rhythm that is tai chi allows us to translate our wave-like action of our body to our mind, reducing or removing jerky decisions, panic or despair.
And yet, the standard joke in tai chi is this:
“If tai chi is for the mind, why are my legs shaking?”
The true answer is that tai chi uses the body to teach the mind. And the shaking will pass. It’s only mild discomfort on which we are not focusing.
When people do tai chi, they move throughout the session. So tai chi has the advantage of allowing the blood to continue flowing throughout the session, permitting easy self-monitoring of the body so that there are no strains and there are enhanced respiration and circulation without any impingements from closing the body off in any way.
Further, tai chi works to relax every muscle, tendon and joint by teaching focus on one movement or body part at a time. Eventually, the goal is to move while looking at nothing at all. But that takes time.
The very nature of tai chi, that we move everything simultaneously, that we focus on one body part at a time, that we feel our blood moving around in our body and learn to picture the air that surrounds us makes it ideal for someone who is looking for something more. The blood’s moving is our life energy or chi that we hear so much about. The slowing down of movement, the reduction of thought to only one thing (and then “no” thing) and our being able to feel our chi moving up and down our bodies and limbs allows us to have a spiritual, meaning part of ourselves, experience. We know we are not doing traditional working out because we feel especially tuned in to our bodies and our own essence at the same time.
For those special reasons, tai chi helps us to avoid workout burnout. Tai chi is always new because the moves we do reflect the way we are in our lives on that particular day, and we are always feeling a physical connection to our feet, our hands, our bodies, our fronts, our backs and heads when we do it. We remember more as we train ourselves to notice more. The fact that we are able to establish a strong foundation for ourselves allows us to see others in a compassionate, even protective, way. This foundational root takes away the feeling that we are doing our workout just for ourselves, alone, since we start to become kinder and wiser the more we do it. The objection to our doing a selfish workout dissolves, and we evolve.
For all the reasons that we don’t burn out when we do tai chi, this old and sophisticated art offers solutions to people with a huge list of physical and emotional issues: memory disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease, muscle disorders, like Parkinson’s Disease, Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Organic Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), cardiovascular disease, balance disorders, diabetes and more. And it’s a martial art that teaches self-protection, one-pointed focus, stress-free living and how to maximize health.
Consider doing tai chi. The training teaches you to move every part of you at a time. It’s always new because your movements change with understanding.
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DIANE GOLD, PUBLISHER AND AUTHOR
Diane Gold, Founder of Warriors of Weight, Turning Habits Into Health, is a mentor in tai chi, kung fu and meditation, a music, fitness and stress expert, dedicated mom, studying plant-based nutrition and habit change.
She is excited to share some insight about workout burnout. She says,
“I have watched and experienced over and over the cycle of getting into a routine or habit and then, because of missing one instance of it, dissolving the routine for a new one. When we skip an activity or class once, we are beginning a new habit, that of feeling what it feels like to skip the activity and doing something else with that time. This starts the beginning fibers of a new routine which replaces going to the activity or class. When we skip the activity or class two times, it is sooooooo much easier to skip and put less importance in the third time and the fourth time. Pretty soon, the class is out of sight, out of mind; and we are on to the next routine.
“This is OK, as long as we know it is our choice and that is the right choice for us. If it is laziness, stop skipping, and get back to the original routine. And may the force be with you.”
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