Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: plateau

Pushing past the plateau

As anyone who does any kind of exercise knows, there are ebbs and flows to your practice. There are times when you’re at a plateau, and there are times when you’re busting through that plateau and soaring high. In Taiji, there is a lot of plateau. Yes, there is the time of intensive learning–such as when faced with a new form.

In the beginning, everything was overwhelming. The concept of Taiji was unfathomable to me. Remember, I’m an American. We are taught since we were little ‘no pain, no gain’, and te give 110%. You were supposed to push through the pain and take it as a sign of pride if you were hurting all over after a workout.

One of my Taiji classmates was a guy who was very much all or nothing. He would get a bug up his ass every spring that he should go jogging. That’s fine in and of itself, but he would not have done any jogging in the winter. So, to go from nothing to jogging 10 miles a day–not ideal. Then, he would inevitably pull a muscle after going too hard. This led to him bitching about being hurt.

It’s hard to be sympathetic when he did it to himself. I have other friends who do this. They don’t exercise, and then when they do, they overdo it and hurt themselves.

Taiji has been called the lazy person’s martial art. Honestly, that is what drew me to it in the first place. My teacher made it clear that the basic tenet of Taiji was  to put as little effort (exertion) into getting as big an outcome/result as possible. That appealed to my soul. Anytihng that encourages me to put in LESS effort is aces with me.

Look. I used to work out hard every day. I was anorexic twice in my life with a side of bulimia once. I exercised up to seven hours a day the first time, and a more “reasonable” (only in relation to that cray-cray seven hours a day) hour-and-a-half of  dancing  every day and forty-five minutes of weightlifting every other day. And I kept lowering my goal–meaning the amount I wanted to weigh at the end of my journey. Why? Because as with many true anoerexics, it was never enough. What I looked like to me was nowhere near what I looked ilke in the mirror.

I looked gross, disgusting, and just oozing fat. In reality, I looked like I was either really sick on about to die. I looked at pictures of me from that time and just shake my head. It’s actually one thing I don’t like about RKG. They are way too focused on weight and talk at length about how fat they were as kids. No matter how much they say it’s not about weight or that you shouldn’t fat-shame people, that’s exactly what they are doing.

I try to ignore it best I can, but it’s hard. It’s so endemic in our world, and not just in America. They are British, and Asian people are THE WORST about weight.

Here’s the thing. It’s better to be slightly overweight than slightly underweight. Healthwise, I mean. You need that cushion when you get sick, and if you have no fat, your body is more at danger at being invaded/hurt/broken. I was listening to an NPR or MPR story a few decades ago with a doctor who said it was best to gain about ten pounds every decade as you age. She went into all the reason sand why the constant harping on being skinny was a bad thing. I had never heard that before, and it was such a revelation.

Continue Reading

Intentional plateauing

When I first started Taiji, my teacher talked about plateaus. Most Americans are not comfortable with no growth because we are very much a ‘do more’ society. You see it at work in that most places of employment push you to move upwards, whether you want to or not. I read about it at Ask A Manager on a regular basis; people who have no desire to move up are seen as no-getters. And, yes, I just made that up. There was a question  from someone who wanted to quit that life but was worried as to how she’d be viewed. And how she would view herself if she got a job that wasn’t high-pressured.

This leaks over into other activities, including exercise. Americans are very much no-pain, no-gain. I know people who go all out in their exercise and then get injured and cannot continue to exercise. They are forced to take time off to heal, then hop right back on that treadmill. Then, injury themselves again, rinse, lather, and repeat. By the way, I know it’s lather, rinse, and repeat, but I have bene saying/writing rinse, lather, and repeat for ages and will probably continue to do so because it’s funny.

I have never liked the ‘push yourself until it hurts’ mentality, even when I was participating in it. I knew that it wasn’t healthy to push myself to the extent I did when I was dealing with eating disorders, but that didn’t stop me from doing it. It just made me hate myself more.

When I started Taiji with this teacher, she said bluntly that Taiji was the antithesis of that. ‘No hurry, no worry’ was our motto, which was not easy to embrace. If I can do something at 6 strength, for example, wouldn’t it be better to do it at 10? Not necessarily, as it turned out.

Taiji is known as the lazy person’s martial arts because we believe in using the least amount of energy necessary for the biggest results. This was not an easy adjustment to make. I was down with it in theory because I am a lazy person by nature. Inertia is my friend, and I do not like to exert myself. However, when it comes to physical activity, I have still ingested many of the same messages that others have because they are so prevalent in our society.

Continue Reading