by Sifu Vyvial
and Mary Ceallaigh
If you have been challenging yourself through regular training and endurance conditioning, you are
SENSATIONS & DELAYED SORENESS
Tough conditioning in Ving Tsun is diverse, and it may mean many minutes of non-stop punching, standing in Jin Ma (wide legged standing squat) intensively, or circuit training resistance movements that mimic the non-sedentary lifestyles of ancient human movement. Through training in the uncomfortable zone (involving extreme discomfort but not sharp pain), this will, over time, actually rewire your neural circuitry and increase your energy levels and coping abilities. The sensation of pain does not necessarily mean injury, but if you push too hard through sharp pain you will be setting up for injury, so practicing self-compassion means knowing your limits. Acute or sharp pain should never be ignored, and activity should be ceased if that occurs. In other words, muscle soreness should make you deeply ache, not gasp in pain.
And then the next day when you feel like you've been pummeled by a yeti, or that your knees are partially disabled, you have to WILL yourself to move around and practice again. That, too, is conditioning, the kind that also builds mental toughness. Just a few hours after finishing new conditioning challenges a student will start to feel a stiffness come over them which begins with a slight twinge of discomfort, often located in the largest muscles of the body. As time rolls on, the soreness increases to true discomfort. And this reminder of your conditioning has an official medical name: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (surprise!).
This type of soreness affects most individuals after a bout of rigorous exercise and includes symptoms that differ person-by-person. Muscle soreness can cause areas that are painful to touch on the body, slight to moderate swelling, and redness. Feelings of swelling, stiffness, and loss of strength commonly occur within 24 to 48 hours of performing rigorous exercise, according to the University of New Mexico Department of Exercise Science.
If this is happening to you, you are not alone - you are yet another warrior in training, joining your classmates and countless others since ancient times who have persevered in training the mind to connect to the body through plunging the depths of self and changing phenomena. If you are training with your whole self, you are finding yourself challenged to go beyond just the pleasant and entertaining zones of training and showing up to the unpleasant and uncomfortable as well. The more you do this, the more you strengthen your foundation as a responsive rather than reactive warrior.
ACTIVE RECOVERY IS THE BEST REMEDY
The intention of Ving Tsun training is pure strength and dynamic mobility. Post-conditioning muscle soreness sensations are often part of the process, and are temporary and tolerable with good self-care along with continued mindful movement to support circulation.
Muscle soreness during and after conditioning exercises is unavoidable for beginners at any new exercise. Since we need to stress our muscles to increase strength capacity, some soreness simply happens because we're exercising. In Ving Tsun, the severity of the soreness is lessened with the good circulation and mind-body strength of practicing Siu Nim Tao before and after the conditioning as an active recovery practice. In addition, we discover a new realm of positive self-discipline, that of choosing "active recovery" rather than zombie-like lounging and negative thinking.
By far, the best post-workout focus is active recovery, where we continue training, or practice movements that bring blood and circulation to the areas that are aching and reverberating. Blood circulation is the best remedy, and active recovery will give you this without any side effects. This may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it can clear the clouds and make a huge difference in your recovery time and general attitude.
Some of the best physical training exercises to complement your Kung Fu training are the basic squat, the deadlift, and power clean. Using many tools, such as a barbell, kettlebell, heavy balls, sandbags, a toddler, etc. The movement matters, not the tool. These exercises can be done in just a few minutes, do them with deep nostril breathing. If done right, they train your whole body.
If your knees are stiff, getting into a squat may seem the last thing the knees might be able to do - and if your shoulder blades feel fiery or your arm joints are aching, lifting weight with them may not seem very enticing... but the body actually appreciates this kind of complementary exercise. Discovering the harmony created by it is pretty wonderful too.
ADDITIONAL SELF-CARE MEASURES
The natural health tradition has many helpful additional measures, such as the principle of good hydration through it all. Hydration is essential for a strong physiology, and includes pure water (spring or filtered is even better) as well as electrolyte solutions. Though commercial electrolyte drinks are easy to buy, many of them have inferior ingredients and even unhealthy ones. Plain coconut water is electrolytic, and very east to assimilate (try Zico, which is super-fresh tasting, and not canned). Much more economically, you can make your own electrolyte drinks as a daily habit, and can pour them into your travel container to take on the road with you.
Here are a few brew recipes:
#1 Into one big glass put: one lemon fresh squeezed (or 1/4 cup of Santa Cruz organic lemon juice), juice of one orange, about a teaspoon of raw honey, four shakes of sea salt. Stir it up, and add water to fill up the glass and stir it again.
#2 Into a big decanter or empty gallon container put: 2 cups of coconut milk (not coconut water), 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of raw honey or Stevia, 1 liter of filtered water. Mix it up.
#3 This one is just tart: Into a big decanter or empty gallon container put: 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 whole squeezed orange (or 1/2 cup of non-concentrate orange juice), 1 liter of filtered water.
#4 Another awesome electrolyte brew is made from a concentrate of 64 mineral-rich himalayan salt-saturated water, 1 teaspoon added to each cup of water in your water bottle. Recipes for this can be found online.
Additional comfort measures: warm water immersion to enhance relaxation (a hot foot bath is more effective than a hot shower or bath for a circulation boost), and topical ointments like Arnica gel, Chinese medicine balm, or Traumeel. When necessary, in order to maintain your commitments when your schedule doesn't have enough flexibility for the optimal remedies, pain relievers such as white willow bark capsules or aspirin which contain salicylic acid will assist in blood circulation and inflammation reduction, and give you relief so that you can do what you have to do.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, the salicylic acid of aspirin is much easier on the liver than acetaminophen or ibuprofin. If you take aspirin, which gives quick & easy results, be mindful of how often you are doing so and try taking it as infrequently as you can, focusing on active recovery measures as the main course.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Staying in the process is the goal of our training. Traditional Ving Tsun was about an intensive commitment of 5-7 hours a day, most days of the week, training with your sifu and sihings one way or another and living the kung fu life. Though few of us can afford that kind of weekly time commitment, we can make the most of the precious time that we do have, and live the best kung fu life we can over the years of basic training and beyond.
For the next month, try practicing Siu Nim Tao each morning and evening in the days in between classes. This will support your circulation, energy, and post-conditioning attitude as you navigate active recovery, self-care measures, and making healthy choices. Superior all-levels health enhances training and is a continuous process.