Fitness with Tai Chi?We all have our reasons for choosing to learn Tai Chi. Some people come to my classes because they need to gradually build-up their physical fitness levels as part of recovery from a serious illness. Taiji37 and Taijiwuxigong is certainly a safe option for doing that, and those that stick at it find that they benefit in so many more ways than just improved physical fitness.
For me, I was already reasonably fit, and I chose to study Tai Chi because I wanted to learn and practice meditation, but I didn't want to forego my weekly fitness exercise regimen. I didn't feel like I had enough time to do both fitness exercise and meditation, so I thought that learning Tai Chi might be a way of doing both at the same time.
Of course, I got more than I bargained for! Tai Chi brought about transformational changes in me, and I began to understand how health/wellbeing is achieved through fitness of the 'subtle' body, as well as the physical body and mind.
Physical FitnessOK, but does Tai Chi really work as a means of maintaining good physical fitness? I hear you ask. Well, yes it does... or at least it can if you do it right.
Think of it this way. A 'standard' workout at the gym involves a good warm-up, then some stretches, then a cardio-vascular session, then a cool down, then some more stretches.
A good run through of the Taiji37 style form will last about 15-20 minutes and give you the equivalent heart rate of a good warm-up at the gym. You can then follow that with some Taijiwuxigong exercises to achieve some good stretching.
For the cardiovascular work-out, you can run through the TianShan (Taiji37 long) form, which will take around 45 minutes and can quickly get the heart-rate up to cardiovascular levels if done right. You could follow this with some more Taijiwuxigong to cool-down and stretch.
The cherry on the cake would be a nice session of Wuxi Meditation afterwards!
Of course, you need to have already learned these exercises ahead of using this regimen. This would be a considerable time investment, but the excellent physical fitness work-out would be a fraction of the overall benefits from it.
What About Interval Training?A few years ago, when I had some spare time, I tried a little toe-dabble in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I went running in my local forest footpath three lunchtimes a week. At the start of each run, I jogged for 10 minutes to warm up. Then after the warm-up, I did three repetitions of 2 minutes 'fast as possible' running / 2 minutes 'warm-up jog' running. And then I finished off with a cool-down jog and leg stretches.
It was definitely better than a 'standard' run or workout at the gym, but after a week or so, I thought to myself: why not just do this using Taiji37? So, after a bit of experimentation, I figured-out a good method of doing this. The method exploited the unique semi-spontaneous movements that are achieved with Taiji37, and it was very effective.
I don't teach 'Tai Chi HIIT' in any public classes, but do get in touch if you're interested in training one-on-one with me in this.
Isn't This Trivialising Tai Chi?The truth is, learning Taiji37 and Taijiwuxigong for the sole purpose of maintaining 'physical fitness' in the Western sense of the term, will always require more 'effort' than just doing a 'normal' workout. However, physical fitness is the most basic of the many benefits that learning these systems will bring. Many practitioners would rightly say that using these systems as a physical 'work-out' is trivialising them.
On the other hand, if your physical fitness levels are poor enough for a 'normal' workout to be impractical, learning Taijiwuxigong and Taiji37 can be a safe and accessible way of building-up your physical fitness levels. As your strength and energy levels improve, you can then begin to embrace the opportunity to use it in a more planned way to optimise fitness in terms of both your physical and your subtle body. This is the real power of these exercise systems.