I just read Sifu Princes blog "Level 10" and had some thoughts on why I have often not operated at level 10 myself. From the time I was an infant, I have had below normal lung capacity and lung issues, but not bad enough to warrant medical intervention. The side effect of this was that I did not enjoy any type of exercise that required cardio endurance, which happens to include most sports. I was not physically inactive, but favored sports where I could put in a short burst of effort, then rest. The other factor was that I am easily bored by repetitive exercise, such as weight lifting (Zoning out about the time my blood-oxygen levels would have dropped, I wonder if there is a connection...).
I joined the military as a young man, which has some mandatory fitness goals, and did OK in that department, but never excelled physically. A funny thing though was that the military uses push-ups as a disciplinary exercise, where any infraction (real or imagined) earned push-ups as punishment. So although I did a lot of push-ups, I did a lot less than many of my peers, as I quickly learned not to be caught doing whatever it was that was earning the push-ups.
Forward a few years, and I started King Fu with my wife, who is much more motivated than I am, and some things have changed. My initial motivation was to get rid of a bit of middle aged spread, and learning some valuable skills sounded good too. At this point the aversion to push-ups had to be dealt with, so I did them, but never enjoyed them (they were still too close to punishment in my value system). The main saving grace for me was a combination of stubbornness and cheapness, as I did the math and figured out that if I only went to one class a month, it was a very expensive class, but if I went to all my classes and open training, the cost of an individual class was pretty cheap, so I made a decision not to skip classes without a substantial reason, especially if the reason was that I was just feeling tired or lazy.
Now I am up to brown belt, and have a medical diagnosis of COPD, a variation of asthma. I have discovered that certain brands of toothpaste aggravate it, and have removed as many other factors that could aggravate it as well (such as pet dander from Sherri’s birds) and gluten from my diet. The learning in this is that the asthma has been affecting many of my behaviours towards physical exercise. The lack of oxygen during exercise made sure that I was not very good at most of it, the lack of social acceptance that came with the lack of physical prowess further cemented the attitudes I was developing, and exercise used as punishment was the icing on the cake. My normal reaction to doing something that taxed my respiratory system was to avoid it or dial it back until my oxygen levels came back up, which also explains my aversion to weight lifting (it’s hard to concentrate on good form with low blood oxygen levels). I had always assumed that I was just lazy, and had many people confirm that self assessment, and was quite comfortable with it until I became involved with Kung Fu. Slowly the incompatibilities of “lazy” and “Kung Fu” became more apparent, as I did want to learn, and did try to improve. I told my doctor that I was concerned that I was winded after walking up four flights of stairs at work, he said that I was in good health for someone my age, I might just be getting old. I accepted this, and carried on doing my best at Kung Fu, even pushing myself hard enough at the shuttle run to become physically sick from the effort. My skills were improving, I was progressing, but my stamina remained poor.
This didn’t change until I failed my annual medical breathing capacity test (someone my size should be able to move 3 liters of air with my largest breath, I was actually testing out at 1.2 liters). I work in a plant that contains asbestos, silica dust, coal dust and many other nasty things that can affect lungs, so Workers Comp mandates annual testing, then medical follow up too rule out workplace causes. I was eventually referred to a lung specialist, tested and diagnosed with COPD, or chronic obstructed pulmonary disorder, with an unknown organic (read non-work related) cause.
Drugs were prescribed, the house cleaned and the birds moved to an area where their dust would not affect me, and a connection was made with when I first started using Sensodyne toothpaste and when I started having the more serious problems. I have removed Gluten from my diet, as it can cause an assortment of issues, including inflammation of your joints. My joints have improved, and I no longer get the “arthritis” feelings n my hands and wrists with weather changes, and if gluten was causing inflammation in my joints, my lungs could have been affected as well. I suspect that the gluten has been causing problems all my life, and the toothpaste pushed things over the edge.
My lungs are getting better, my stamina is noticeably improving, and with it many other facets of my Kung Fu are also improving (one down side, at last Saturday’s fitness class and forms seminar, my lungs held out enough that most every other muscle was worked to exhaustion, with the following 3 days being painful to move).
The conclusion to this post is for others to look at why they are not able to perform where they want to be, and to see if outside factors are the root cause. The lung issue has modified my behaviour over the years, it will take time to change it, but I am seeing positive changes now that something has been done. I hope that this post can help others in the same situation I was in, as ignorance is not always bliss.