I started the year by setting myself two 30 Day Challenges: the 30 Day Plank Challenge, and; a 30 Day Tai Chi Challenge. I shared previously about my experiences with the 30 Day Plank Challenge, so today I want to talk about the 30 Day Tai Chi Challenge and what it taught me.
What is it?
I basically aimed to do 30 minutes of Tai Chi everyday for 30 days. I primarily used the Tai Chi for Energy sequence developed by Dr Paul Lam because it is nice and short, making it suitable for shorter sessions.
Why did I do it?
I have been practicing tai chi regularly for quite a while, but have never practiced it daily for any lengthy period of time. As in most things, shorter, but more frequent sessions are better for you than longer, infrequent sessions. (Of course, longer, frequent sessions are the best way to go!) I figured it’s time to practice what I preach and aim for a daily practice. Most tai chi masters will tell you to do a minimum of 1 hour a day, but that just wasn’t feasible for me, so I went for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, with the option to go longer if I felt like it.
Straight away I was faced with the struggle of simply starting the challenge. I wanted to start on 1 January, which turned out to be a terrible idea! Starting a new exercise routine while dealing with post New Year’s Eve partying just wasn’t going to happen. After 1 January, I still managed to find excuses the next day and the next to not start. I realised the problem was that 30 days straight was really daunting for me. I decided to stop thinking about it and deal with each day as it came. Don’t get me wrong, I love tai chi, but even loving it, the thought of being forced to do it every day for 30 days was not appealing.
Key lessons learned
1. Excuses will keep sprouting unless you pull out their root
There will always be myriad excuses to not do something. Rather than beating myself up over this, I realised it is far more useful to try and understand the real reason I don’t want to do it. If you find yourself making endless excuses to delay starting a new habit or challenge like this one, stop and ask yourself what is really preventing you from doing it. Forcing yourself to go against your subconscious desires is only going to lead to more stress and less enjoyment of whatever it is you are trying to do. By addressing the root, you can stop more excuses from sprouting.
2. 30 minutes is not always enough
I chose to do 30 minutes because I thought it was something achievable. I found myself doing an hour on most days because I was enjoying it so much and 30 minutes just wasn’t enough. Still, it was good to have a 30 minute goal for those days that I struggled.
3. Allow yourself to rest
My biggest problem was that I did not schedule any rest days. Having planned days of rest in the 30 Day Plank Challenge made a huge difference psychologically. It took away the pressure on the days I didn’t want to do it, because I knew a break was coming up. When I took a break, there was no guilt associated with it because it was planned. Allowing yourself time to rest regularly is so important, and is not something you should feel guilty about.
There was definitely great benefit in doing tai chi daily. Within the first week I was already noticing the difference. I felt more relaxed and peaceful, my body felt supple and stronger. I just felt good. Nevertheless, it was really tough to not allow myself a break. Tai chi is not about achieving goals, and aiming to tick off a set number of days does not really mesh with its principals. Tai chi helps to cultivate mindfulness, awareness of the present moment. I think it is better to focus on a daily practice each day, and not worry about how many days in a row you manage to do.