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Modern life saps energy. People are often exhausted, unhappy, frustrated... They are frequently emotionally, physically and psychologically unbalanced. Feeling drained is commonplace.
Ignoring the truth
What do people do to off-set fatigue? Do they cut back their commitments, do less, rest, engage in milder forms of exercise? Not usually.
They drink caffeine drinks, eat sugary food and moan about being tired.
Lifestyle issues are often caused by a failure to see what is right in front of you. The truth can be unpalatable or inconvenient.
For example: people who suffer from fatigue usually begin by over-committing their time, being unrealistic about their capabilities, failing to rest, being poorly organised, unwilling to say No, not working on themselves...
Running on empty
Often people are running on empty. They fail to take adequate rest. Many of the exercise methods they adopt lead to even greater fatigue.
Stimulants, sugar, caffeine and fatty food enable the individual to carry on when in fact the real solution to fatigue is of course energy conservation and rest.
Tiring the mind...
Fatiguing the body can be addressed through careful, safe practice. By contrast, fatiguing the mind is far more insidious and difficult to detect.
Politics, news, gossip, media, TV, opinions, fashions, negative emotions, competitiveness - all put the mind under duress. They create frustration, anxiety and a feeling of helplessness.
Continuously thinking about something that has no immediate bearing on your life right now uses energy and tires you out.
Sleep problems occur as a consequence of stress, diet, noise pollution and physical apathy. Many people feel drained each night, but their bodies are not actually tired.
The fatigue stems from chemical imbalances within the body. Additives, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol combine with overeating to make the body restless and unsettled.
Many health problems are caused by the way in which we stand, walk, sit and use our bodies during everyday activities.
Headache, fatigue, stiff neck, bad knees, back problems are usually caused by our own bad habits.
Incorrect muscle use, imbalance, poor physical awareness, work and many forms of exercise only serve to perpetuate poor fitness and muscle tension.
Many forms of exercise can actively develop bad posture. They often cause serious fatigue and adverse wear and tear on the body. The tension in the body uses energy and tires you out.
Local limb action
Forcing a local muscle (or muscle group) to do all the work is simply not as efficient as sharing the workload across the entire body.
Localised muscle usage leads to fatigue, strain and the risk of joint injury. Long after the task is over, the muscles are sore, tired and potentially damaged. The muscles compensate by shortening.
Over time, the nervous system of most adults becomes faulty, and it provides the brain with inaccurate information.
Instead of applying only the necessary amount of strength to complete a given activity, it is normal and comfortable to use an incredible excess.
This fatigues the muscles, blunts the nervous system and makes you clumsy.
One drawback of exertive training is that it can dull your awareness. Yes, you feel strong and seem able to handle the training... but you've inadvertently lost your sensitivity.
There is a tendency to lock the psoas muscle in a defensive posture
and fatigue the muscle by keeping it in a chronic contracted state. This
limits the movement of the leg, encouraging the use of the lumbar spine and stops a person from performing effectively.
Being in the tai chi posture utilizes gravity to one's advantage.
Tired when exercising?
If you are tired and struggle to focus, you are either unfit or using 'local limb' strength. Or both. Using this type of strength will drain you quite rapidly. You give out and nothing comes back.
The longer it lasts, the more worn out you will get. The more exertive your exercise, the quicker you will tire.
Conversely, people who do not exercise are also likely to become fatigued. How come? Their muscles are weak and we need muscular strength to move our bodies around.
By avoiding exercise, the problem of fatigue will not go away. It will not get easier. If you are lazy now, expect difficulties ahead of you. Your fitness level will not improve by ignoring it.
Your aim should be to grow stronger, fitter and far more capable. But it will not happen by itself.
Tai chi addresses fatigue by teaching people how to conserve energy.
The trick with tai chi is to keep your training mild. It is not a gym workout. You are not meant to be sweating and straining. Go easy on yourself. Little and often is the key.
If the training is gentle but works your muscles nicely, then it is easy to sustain and your energy levels will stay high.
Standing without getting tired
When stood in tai chi, the feet are beneath the body so the legs are not fatigued. Your everyday stance should emulate this as closely as possible as often as possible.
Little & often
Tai chi advocates moderation; not taxing or tiring the body. Rather than train for a lengthy period of time, aim to practice little & often. 20-30 minute increments, with rest breaks in-between is ideal.
Instead of pushing your body hard and putting it under duress, just do a little exercise. Resting will keep your concentration sharp and offset fatigue.
The more economical movement/body use favoured in tai chi reduces fatigue. It lessens the possibility of over-commitment and redundant movement.
It makes the tai chi more accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.
Qigong is usually taught alongside tai chi. In moderation, qigong is very gentle and unlikely to cause injury or fatigue. It gradually builds muscular strength and stamina.
Try resting at certain points throughout the day and then continuing... Without momentum to carry you forward, you may realise just how tired you really are.
The brief rest centres you and lets you feel that you're fatigued and need to stop.
Qigong and tai chi training is renowned for improving stamina and endurance. Students can concentrate longer and sustain prolonged physical activity without fatigue.
They gain the ability to withstand hardship and cope with difficulty.
Imagine waking up each morning full of energy and vitality yet also feeling calm and relaxed about the day to come. It sounds like a miracle yet this state of abundant health and wellbeing should be our birthright. In our natural state we would face each day with joy, peace, and a deep connection with our bodies.
• Listen to your body
• Use it or lose it
18 April 2005
Last updated 07 January 2020