Push and Relax: The New Definition

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How many times have you begun a training program having very good intentions to get yourself into the best shape you've ever been in? You set goals, make time in your day, and give it your all in order to get the best results.

Then when you're out there on a  run, you try to push yourself as hard as you can so that you can build up your muscles and improve your aerobic conditioning. And afterwards, you find yourself overstretched, fatigued and maybe even in pain.

If that sounds familiar, never fear. There is a better way.  To illustrate how, here are three new definitions for you…

Push (poosh) vt., vi. 1.  The act of doing everything within your power to accomplish a given activity.

Re·lax·a·tion (re'-lak-say'-shun) n. 1.  The absence of unnecessary effort.

Push and Relax –  The act of doing everything in your power to accomplish a given activity while maintaining an absence of any unnecessary effort.

How most people might define “push and relax” as “push, and then relax,” which is when you maximize your effort, and when all your energy is spent… you relax (or rest from over-exerting).  This is a very Western way of approaching fitness. In Eastern terms you’re over-using your yang energy, which is only half of the equation.

In ChiRunning, we recognize that both yin and yang energies play a partnership role in mindful fitness. And, utilizing both at the same time allows you to perform your best without overdoing anything.

Let's look at this piece by piece. In the context of sports, the word “push” conjures up all kinds of images of physical intensity and lots of effort. Push is what you do when you have to “Just do it.”  

In the ChiRunning definition laid out above, there is effort, but it's not all physical.  It's more of a mindful effort, meaning that you are striving to be aware of what you need to do, mentally and physically, and then responding to that by bringing to bear all that you are capable of doing… and nothing more. 

Here’s an example. When I'm running in a race, I'm not only relying on the strength of my body to get me through, I'm using all that I've learned from experience; anyything I can think of that will help me do my best. This is what I mean by “push.” 

I'm constantly working to keep my stride smooth and efficient. I'm remembering to lean and pick up my feet. I'm constantly adjusting my form to respond to terrain changes. I'm closely watching my pace so that I'm not burning through my fuel too fast. And, I'm checking in with my body to make sure I'm not holding any tension.

It's a constant dialog between my mind and my body. My mind checks in with my body to see how everything's going…then body responds with any sensations or feedback… my mind tells my body to make an adjustment…my body responds…and so on.

The “push” of “push and relax” is all about the intent of your focus. Most people know how to focus on a job put before them, but few know how to relax in the midst of all that focus.

The second part of the definition involves “relaxation” and it's pretty self-explanatory.“absence of unnecessary effor.t” This means that if you do everything required in any situation, and no more, you’ll never be wasting any energy.

Here are two things you can do to insure that you remain intent and relaxed:

– Scan your body and “listen” for any tension you might be holding.

– If you sense any muscle tension, pain or discomfort anywhere in your body, take a moment to let go of that area by exhaling fully  while relaxing and letting go of the tension in that  specific area .

It is always important to throw as much focus as you can into whatever you're doing. But that certainly doesn't mean you have to be tense in the process. Taking deep breaths at regular intervals will insure that you stay relaxed and that your brain will get all the oxygen it needs to stay focused.

This alternative approach to “Push and Relax” can be applied to everything from running to fly fishing… to speaking in front of a group. When you really get this into your system, you’ll quickly find that having to be highly focused, will be a lot more fun when you can be highly relaxed at the same time.

Posted in Beginners

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