Training and Recovery
A Cycle of Yin and Yang
By Tom Olson
Martial artists and Athletes alike experience varying degrees of muscle soreness and inflammation from injuries, or just being over worked. As we train, we create microscopic damage to our muscle fibers. As we build muscle mass, we are actually tearing down or damaging the muscle, then it repairs it’s self to be stronger than before. A managed and well monitored system of exercise will limit the damage done to the muscles and the subsequent post workout tissue inflammation.
The actual function of swelling is not necessarily a bad one, just as everything else that is governed by Yin and Yang, so is our body. Our body uses swelling as a response to this tissue damage. It’s a result of chi and blood being sent to the damaged area to begin the healing process that usually takes approximately 48 hours to complete. What this chi and blood does is promote the process that western medicine calls satellite cell proliferation. Basically the damaged muscles are repaired, and rebuilt to have larger and stronger muscle fibers. This will in the future make the muscle more resistant to damage and subsequently soreness.
On the other side of the coin, inflammation can be damaging as well. The longer the muscles and joints stay swollen, the more likely we are to either have the muscle become weaker and/or keep that lingering lactic acid burn alive. Either way, the result is a secondary muscle damage that will result in us being more sore two days after a work out than the actual time the swelling took place. This is coined by doctors as “Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness” or DOMS. DOMS, places more stress on the joints and makes us more sensitive to pain and pressure and increases the chances of injury. Consistent training without allowing the body to heal will only increase the trauma to an area, and could lead to chronic inflammation in joints and muscles, thereby permanently limiting the movement in joints.
At Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu, a method of damage control is used that has been utilized for centuries. Through a well tested and true method of training, soreness is kept to a minimum as is joint swelling and subsequent damage. Eventually leading to almost zero injuries and loss of training time due to discomfort. There are three main areas that make up this method; One is proper warm-up and cool down, two is Chi Kung or meditations, and three is the use of traditional folklore Chinese herbs.
All of the schools instructors are taught the proper warm-up methods that have been passed down for centuries. The basic idea is that through specific cardio vascular exercises along with proper stretching and breathing, the body is able to move oxygen, chi, and blood to the desired areas of the body. By elevating the heart rate and getting the blood and chi flowing, very little to no injuries occur during a stretch. This also aids in the dissipation of any lingering soreness or stiffness that could be a result of the previous days training or a tough day at work. Once the blood and chi are flowing, the instructors then take the class through stretches. When stretching, the students are taught to breathe into their stretches, employing very old methods of attaining flexibility that range from traditional folklore Chinese herbs to relaxation in movement. Relaxation is paramount during a stretch as injuries can occur when a muscle is not properly warmed up and tense. The use of proper breathing allows once again for proper chi circulation and promotes a positive relaxed mindset in the student to even further the effect of the stretch.
Once the class starts to wind down, instructors are taught to slowly bring down the physical activity of the class eventually culminating in meditation or Chi Kung. When involved in a physical activity with out properly winding or cooling down, the muscles retain the lactic acid built up during activity and are still expecting the same level of chi and blood that no longer is being supplied. The result is a higher rate of secondary muscle damage that will most likely lead to DOMS. But by properly bringing down the need for chi and blood, the instructors and students will limit the soreness and stiffness in the joints to very surprising levels.
A recent study found that DOMS reduced the running economy in athletes by three percent or more. That is a very significant amount considering in a run, hundredths of a second are what decide first place and third place. One major way avoid DOMS is proper rest. Other than getting the proper amount of sleep there are methods of resting that help in the restoration of muscles and speed the recovery time significantly. Chi Kung is used by Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu as it has been used by martial artists for thousands of years. Chi Kung or energy work, is an extremely powerful method of moving and controlling chi. As stated before, the swelling that occurs in a muscle is a result of chi moving to the area to aid in the healing of minuscule damage done to the actual muscle fibers. Being able to relax and move more chi to that area accelerates the healing process significantly and allows for even further breath control and relaxation. During every class, students at Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu practice one form of Chi Kung or another, as it aids in the cool down process and helps the student feel even further relaxed as the class comes to a close.
Kung Fu is meant to affect every facet of a student’s life. The use of Chi Kung aids in the focus, self control, and healing of it’s practitioners. Another major facet of a students training in traditional Kung Fu at Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu is the use of and study in traditional folklore Chinese herbs. According to ancient writings of monks, herbs can be used to aid in the movement of chi, aid in the restoration of damaged tissue, and help injuries heal faster and more completely. These folklore herbs are utilized in every facet of all of the schools classes. Not only are these different herbs used in class, but students use them through out their daily lives, reaping the benefits of thousands of years of study and use.
By utilizing this three prong approach to health and training, students at Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu are able to keep DOMS under wraps. In many cases, even the normal swelling that occurs from exercise is kept down from it’s normal 48 hours to in many cases 24 hours or less. This allows students to train every day to their full capacity. The result is a martial artist or athlete that not only can avoid the pain that lingers for days, but can reduce injuries, build muscle faster, get in shape quicker and more completely. But most importantly, saves time to enjoy every day life in a more healthy, productive manner. It is the mission of Authentic White Tiger Kung Fu to give to it’s students a fulfilling method of training that affects every facet of their lives, thereby making them fuller and more happy. Keeping control of injuries and muscle soreness is just part of that mission, but it is very important.