Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RELAX... In Between the Punches

Have you ever learned something new, only to have it pop up over and over again in all kinds of circumstances? That's how my week has gone. In my karate training, I have lots of power. Power is not my problem. Relaxing is my problem. Especially when the sensei is watching, I get so tense I'm wearing my shoulders for earrings. Not surprisingly, this has always been my issue with running as well - carrying a lot of unnecessary tension in my upper body.

Funny thing is, I coach swimmers and one of the main tenets of swimming is you have to be able to relax your recovering side while all of the muscles in your stroking arm are tense. You have to be able to relax your feet and ankles while your hamstrings and glutes do the hard work of kicking. So I should be able to apply that knowledge of simultaneously relaxing and tensing in other circumstances right?

Except that it's really really hard to do. Karate is humbling for me. One of the reasons that I love it is that it teaches me on a daily basis how hard it is to learn this stuff. And that's how hard swimming is for many of the people I'm coaching. Swimming always came naturally for me. I was one of those kids that people called "a fish". I firmly believe I was a dolphin in a former life, that I've always lived underwater until now. That's why I'm so clumsy on land. And maybe that's why my feet are the size of flippers.

So my lesson this week is to relax in between each block, kick, and punch, and only tense my muscles at the last possible second. It doesn't sound all that easy, and trust me it's not as easy as it sounds. Our muscles are so tied together in our brains that undoing those connections of which muscle to tense and which to relax takes time and some mental effort. At the Chi Running seminar this weekend, I also got a great refresher on relaxing my ankles and feet while running, something I struggle with more than any other aspect of Chi Running.

If I think about it, there is also a great application in the rest of life. There are times when tension and action is necessary, and times in between when we need to relax. If we fill all of that time with activity and stress, everything suffers including the things we want to be able to do well. We need the Yin as well as the Yang. Just as I struggle with relaxing the non-necessary muscles, I also struggle with allowing myself time to just be, time without busyness and action. How do you get yourself to relax, either mentally or physically?

The Ironmom Extra Mile: More reading on the Han Dynasty Synthesis and the meaning of Yin and Yang within Taosim at WSU's Chinese Philosophies site

3 comments:

tinaparker87 said...

Robin, My right forearm has a constant pain in it. I'm trying to figure out why? When I swim it goes away, but in the morning when I wake up or in the middle of the night is really hurting. I loose strength. At first I thought areo bars, and then swimming the other night I can time it back to when I started swimming two to three times a week. Any thoughts?

I have a physical therapy appointment Friday. The PA said the tendons were tight and gave me the refferal. Also, it seems to feel better the day after the chiropractor put the tens unit on it. I know you are not a doctor, but you are a coach, a mom and a lady who knows a lot. I thought I'd ask. Yes, I type all day and on the computer.

Robin said...

Wow, that's interesting. The forearm is not the place that people have trouble with when swimming. I wonder if when you "catch" the water, your hand is really tense? Or is turning in some way that's not anatomically helpful? It would be hard to say without seeing your stroke. Some people do enter with their thumb first into the water with each stroke, then they kind of have to rotate their hand around the wrist before they catch the water. I suppose something like that could make your forearm hurt?

You've got me stumped, I'll be interested to hear what your PT thinks it might be. You might show them how you're stroking in the water and ask if it's related?

tinaparker87 said...

Tendons are inflammed on my right arm. Tens unit, laser therapy and tape. The cause is repetitive use. PT for awhile to help with the inflammed situation.