The first age-related changes may appear as you are reaching your mid forties. However, with a healthy way of life, you may prevent or postponed many age-related diseases. Adequate exercise and a sensible diet play a key role. If you need to have any reason to start an exercise, it would be having a healthier life and enhancing years of quality lifestyle so you can enjoy life to the fullest.
Finding the motivation to begin a lifelong exercise program such as Tai Chi may be a challenge for you, but you have already shown your determination to take positive steps for yourself by reading this article. As a Tai Chi and fitness coach, I can provide you with the guidance and coaching tools you need to begin a safe and effective Tai Chi program and to keep your program working for you over time. The motivation to exercise, however, must come from within you.
During my university life, endless assignment and lap reports plus research always make me feel so fatigue and mentally drained that my activity levels inevitable fall off. However, due to my regular Tai Chi practices way back before my university life, I was determined to allocate time to continue my Tai Chi practice routine even during my exam period. The main satisfaction and motivation which keep me going come from the fact that I understand what Ta Chi exercise can benefit my physical and also know I will feel really good and refreshed after my Tai Chi workout which also helps to as a form of de-stress from my studies.
Once you begin learning Tai Chi, whether Tai Chi is completely new for you or whether you have already been practicing Tai Chi and want to add a new element to your Tai Chi program, your motivation to stick with it may be challenged from time to time. In the following section, I’ll describe some common barriers you might come across in staying with your Tai Chi exercise routine and also some strategies for overcoming them.
Occasional lapses in your Tai Chi exercise program are often inevitable and not unexpected. Skipping some Tai Chi practices should not discourage you to the event that you want to give up completely. During a lapse, your main objective should be to optimize the time that you are away from Tai Chi practice and get back into your regular routine as soon as possible.
ADDRESSING BARRIERS TO TAI CHI EXERCISE
It is perfectly normally that each of us does encounters barriers to maintaining a regular exercise program at one time or another. Some of us face many barriers and commitments, and that makes the challenge to begin and stick with exercise even tougher. Nonetheless, with a strong determination and a clear goal setting, you can overcome these barriers.
Some of the most common reasons people give for not being able to participate in exercise or for discontinuing exercise are:
- Lack of time (work, family commitment)
- Lack of resources (money, location)
- Lack of support from family or friends
- Unexpected or frequently travel
- Inclement weather
- Lack of enjoyment or motivation
Indeed, barriers can be tough to overcome but it is not impossible. It’s always the question of mind over body. Regardless of what the barrier is, the motivation to address and overcome it needs to come from within you. This type of motivation is known as intrinsic motivation (Richard H. Cox, 2002, Deci E. L. & Ryan R. M, 1985) and it comes from your internal commitment to your health and overall well-being. I will share some of the solutions which can help you overcome these barriers and to avoid lapses in your Tai Chi exercise program (Kerri Winters-Stone, 2005).
Lack of time (work, family commitment)
It has always been one of the top barriers for anyone to stop or even begin any exercise program. Who say you cannot mix your Tai Chi practice into your work schedule and even your family time? I’m not suggesting for you to skip work or go off early without finishing your work just to make time for your Tai Chi practice. In fact, you can be practicing Tai Chi every minute of your time, even as when I’m writing this article.
Tai Chi is not just about the graceful and smooth movements that make it so enchanting, it is in fact a way of everyday life which includes the emphasize on the correct postural alignment on how we should stand, sit, squat, walk or even sleep. The basis of Tai Chi comes from the focus on the correct postural alignment, where the neck and spine are neutral with the body standing tall and erect and the pelvic tilts to engage the core muscles.
Once you understand this principle of Tai Chi postural alignment, you can basically practice it no matter where you are or what you are doing. Coupled with the proper breathing technique, it can even improved your concentration and focus and make you feel much more confident and mentally alert.
You can also break your Tai Chi practices into shorter but more frequent bouts. On average, a Tai Chi routine lasts between 5 to 6 minutes and that’s all you need to spare out of your lunch or tea break. Alternatively, you may even choose to practice it in the early morning just before you go to work, which will definitely make you feel more refreshed as compared to a cup of coffee.
Lack of support from family or friends
The beauty of Tai Chi is that you can choose to practice it alone, in a small group or even in large group together. The lack of support from family or friends comes mainly from the amount of time you spent exercising on your own that you tend to spend lesser time with them. To solve this issue, simply share with them the benefits which you experience with Tai Chi and invite them to join you. In this way, the family time together is not compromised and even more meaningful.
Personally, my parents together with my niece and nephews all joined me in Tai Chi practice and it has been a great family gets together. While they might not join you right away, at least let them understand more about the benefits of Tai Chi and what they can achieve out of it. It took me 2 years just to get my mum to start learning Tai Chi and now, she’s basically practicing Tai Chi basically everyday. Even when she’s doing her cooking, she would do it using the Tai Chi stance and posture. How motivating!
Unexpected or frequent travel
If you are frequently travelling due to work commitment, Tai Chi is definitely your choice of exercise workout as you can practice Tai Chi anywhere in the world! Just visit any park, garden in any country where there are Chinese and you will see people practicing Tai Chi in the morning. You will be surprised that you may even make new Tai Chi friends while travelling abroad where you will reap the additional social benefits out of exercising.
You don’t have to depend on the weather to do your Tai Chi practice. While the park or garden would be an ideal location for Tai Chi practices, especially in the early morning or evening when the air is fresh, you can always choose to do it in any open area.
Whether rain or shine, there is no limitation to the training location since you don’t need any equipment. Hence, you can do your Tai Chi practice almost anywhere where you can choose to do your Tai Chi workout either indoor with air-conditioned or even under the void deck with shelter.
Lack of enjoyment or motivation
Something you will find practicing the same Tai Chi routine getting too boring. Having some changes or adding new element such as using the favorite music you like when doing your Tai Chi helps to keep you motivated and enjoyable.
Also, you can learn new Tai Chi routines in a group so that you have more options and can alternate the different Tai Chi routines in different days of your workout. There are many different styles of Tai Chi quan with their unique characteristic which you will definitely find one of them suitable for you.
One of the main reasons why people like to exercise in a group is because they enjoy interacting with other people. Try promoting interaction during your Tai Chi practices and you will find yourself reaping the benefits of social benefits of exercise. Remember that for any group cohesion, people who adhered to a program had higher levels of group cohesiveness. It may be extremely important to the whole exercise experience in terms of making a difference in your health and fitness regime (Kennedy and Yoke, 2004).
KEEPING IT FUN
his article has been focused on finding ways to stay motivated to Tai Chi exercise. As I mentioned at the beginning, this can be a great challenge. As with anything you do on a regular basis, it’s easier to stick to a routine if you enjoy what you are doing.
You have so many different styles of Tai Chi to select from that one of them is bound to capture your interest. You may have to try out different types of Tai Chi routines, different settings, different equipment, and so forth until you find something which you enjoy and feel motivated.
You won’t always like an activity at first, so make sure that you give any new Tai Chi exercise a long enough trial run. At the same time, don’t force yourself to stick with something you don’t like. You will only be setting yourself up to get turned off by exercise in the long run. Inevitably, there will be days where it will be hard to exercise, and you may have to drag yourself to the park. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, you can usually trudge through them. With constant motivation and a clear goal setting in mind, you will be on your journey to achieving a lifelong fitness with Tai Chi.
DECI E. L. & RYAN R. M (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior, New York, Plenum.
KENNEDY, C. A. & YOKE, M. M. (2004) Methods of Group Exercise Instruction.
KERRI WINTERS-STONE, P. (2005) Action Plan For Osteoporosis – Your guide to stronger, healthier bones, USA, Human Kinetics. RICHARD H. COX (2002) Sport Psychology : Concepts and Applications, New York, McGraw Hill.