As we reach adulthood we will invariably experience some physical injury that will demand we stop or minimize our physical activity for some period of time. Some of these injuries may require surgery to repair. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for athletes and physically active people. After injury or surgery there is a time of convalescence necessary for the body to heal before physical activity can be resumed. It’s important to listen to your doctor and/or physical therapist during this period, and only return to physical activity when cleared by them to do so.
If you’ve experienced a debilitating injury you know, when the doctor releases you, that’s when the real work begins. You probably will experience a decrease in flexibility and range of motion. It may be centered in the area of injury, or you may feel “tight” all over your body, or both. It’s extremely important to ease into physical activity. There are two exercise thresholds to be aware of as you begin your recovery, the pain threshold, and the injury threshold.
To make progress increasing your range of motion and flexibility it is often necessary to pass the pain threshold. Your exercises will most probably hurt as you push yourself in your workout. The pain is OK. It’s telling you you’re making progress. You should feel a little sore after a workout. You should never approach or pass the injury threshold as you might re-injure yourself. It’s often difficult to know where that injury threshold is. An experienced instructor will know how to keep you in the pain (progress) threshold and well below the injury threshold.
Doing the right kind of exercise can inherently keep you progressing and minimize the risk of re-injuring your body. It’s important to take it slow in the beginning introducing the body to movement that will bring you back to full range of motion with improved flexibility. A stretching class is a really good way to begin. Yoga and T’ai Chi Ch’uan are also great programs to begin your return to full health.
It’s no surprise that I’m particularly partial to T’ai Chi as I have been practicing and teaching it for over 37 years. I meet many people who have decided to make T’ai Chi a part of their recovery plan. Lots of doctors and physical therapists recommend T’ai Chi to their patients. T’ai Chi is a low-impact martial art based exercise that is mostly practiced today for its amazing health benefits. T’ai Chi improves posture, balance, flexibility, and strength while teaching the student to relax body and mind.
My school, The Silent Mind in Twinsburg Ohio, teaches many different martial art disciplines including Goshin (self-defense) Jujutsu, Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, and Kung Fu, but T’ai Chi is my suggestion for many new students who enroll to get back in shape. In the classes you learn (and heal) at your own pace. I suggest working out in class at least twice per week, and working at home every day is essential to meeting and exceeding your recovery goals. Students generally report they feel a difference after just a few weeks of classes, but most find it takes roughly 3 months to really see improvements in their health and vitality.
On two trips to China we experienced people well into their 80s and even 90s practicing T’ai Chi. These people had amazing flexibility, balance, and strength. They were alert, focused, and their eyes were full of life! Our oldest student is 85 and thriving in T’ai Chi. T’ai Chi is truly an exercise for life!