Finding Your Limit and Backing Off


One of the basic precepts for a long and healthy life , one where you continue to grow, change and learn over the years is learning to find the limit of any given situation of learning or physical training and then backing off.  All too often in our modern day culture, we are told to push through the pain, no pain no gain, that we need to be better harder and faster, that we should be exceeding our limits. This is leading to a bunch of problems over the long term. For instance, From and article of a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research of 132 cross fit athletes”97 (73.5%) participants had sustained an injury that had prevented them from working, training or competing.” 9 required surgery.  Our minds want to exceed the goodness in just about everything.  Something to make you healthier can hurt you.  So it is a good idea to have a basic safety system in place that guides your interactions with yourself so you don’t become strung as tightly as Prince Rupert’s Drop.  This is the operating System of Finding Your Limit and Backing Off.

Let’s say you are doing some basic stretches to start your physical activity,  This is a place where I have messed up, and have not always followed this advice.  The problem is that in my mind I am a more limber than I really am, and some days when I feel as if I should be able to stretch the same as the day before , or that I am impatient with my progress so I begin to push the stretch beyond the limit of my flexibility.  Then for the next week, I am sore or hurt from just stretching.  The answer over the long run  is Finding The limit and then backing off

Let’s say you are learning to play an Art like Pa Kua, there is a huge mental orientation component to the art, let’s face it you are walking in a circle.  Now I can walk the circle for a few hours but when you first start you need to build the ability to let go of your normal frame of reference to a self-referential spacial awareness.  If you push it too far you get to feeling sick and then you don’t want to play Pa Kua for awhile.  Is it Pa Kua that is the problem? No, it was that it was pushed beyond its inherent goodness at that moment.  Because the player didn’t find the limit and back off.

I have known a few Yoga and Tai Chi teachers in the past that view their students through the eyes of their own present awareness and impatience rather than where the student is on the path.  Both of these teachers caused injuries that nearly crippled the students for life.  One directly cause a knee injury by forcing a horse stance deeper, one Yoga instructor forced a posture and created a bulging disc in my friends neck that later required surgery. Just because Teacher thinks it is a good Idea for the student to do a posture or engage a new Idea the way They would like it done, doesn’t mean the student has the physical strength, the mental fortitude,  or the structure in place to handle a posture on any given day. The teacher should always demonstrate the principal and give the student verbal permission to find their limit and back off.  I am sure there are many trainers in Cross fit, that fail at this idea as well.   Look at the rampant injuries in the activity it is higher than playing rugby!

The problem with Finding your Limit and Backing off is that you have to also build a communication with yourself that is honest and in the moment.  If you don’t engage at all because you are scared of limits that does not help you grow and change, so you have to bring the sense of mind to engage a moment in time, find the limit of what you are doing, and instead of pushing through that instance, you back off to keep it safe.  Over time with this method in place, you will find that you are able to progress much more over the years with  an increasing awareness of yourself, and also an awareness of the ebb and flow of progress.  Also as a very large added benefit you don’t sustain the injuries that come from finding the breaking point.

Which brings up another point, the limit isn’t the “Breaking Point”, the limit is where the process can be pushed to keep within the safety zone.  The idea is for long term growth and success in any given endeavor whether it is mental or physical and learning to have an honest dialogue with yourself as to your strengths and deficiencies at any given moment.  So to reiterate for the safety of everyone engaged in learning a new skill  bringing their physical fitness level up, or engaged in learning a new mental and emotional skill.  Find Your Limit and Back Off.  So you can play and grow for years rather than end up in the hospital.


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