Enhancing Winter Athletic Performance
Chinese Medicine dates back four thousand years, to a time when people based their understanding of their health and how their bodies worked on what they knew best, how nature worked. They applied their understanding of these natural and seasonal changes to their own bodies and a beautifully effective system of medicine began.
Winter is a bitter cold but beautiful season in the high country. It is a time of hibernation when Yin energy naturally dominates. It is a time when we must nourish our essence, our life force. A time of introspection and solitude. Winter, when the water element in Chinese Medicine reflects our deepest fears and yearnings, is a time to examine our focus and inner strength. Athletes who reside in these high altitude mountain communities present an interesting dichotomy of energy during the winter months. Instead of hibernating they are often found exhibiting their Yang nature by blasting through powder-light snow drifts, gracefully navigating endless mogul fields, leaping skyward off jumps, and rhythmically skate skiing through the trees . . . ALWAYS MOVING! Finding stillness in movement, discovering one’s center, encountering Yin within Yang, this is the place we are seeking in our Winter-time activities. Enhancing athletic performance is about finding an energetic and physical balance, moving what is stuck, and strengthening what is weak.
The condition of the Yin energy in the body helps determine one’s motivation and focus. It has to do with the spiritual or meditative connection to our environment. Yin energy is strongly reflected in the female and includes the substance parts of the body, such as blood that is required to moisten the tendons and ligaments and the body fluids required to make the muscles supple and skin moist. Tendonitis, chronic or repetitive injuries, and joint pain may indicate a deficiency in the Yin and blood that is necessary to maintain strong connective tissue. Other symptoms of Yin and blood deficiency include dizziness, anemia, blurry vision, fatigue, insomnia, infertility, amenorrhea (lack of a period), and depression. An excessively active or otherwise stressful lifestyle may deplete an athlete’s Yin energy making it more difficult to reach one’s peak performance. Yang energy is strongly reflected in the male and includes the outwardly directed power, strength, and movement exhibited by athletes Yang energy is active and warm in nature and is required to maintain endurance whether snowshoeing with friends for an afternoon or maintaining a high level of performance during a competitive hockey game. Pain in the low back, knees, and other joints may indicate a Yang deficient condition especially if accompanied by an overall sensation of chilliness in the body. General symptoms of Yang deficiency include cold hands and feet, loose stools or diarrhea, a pale complexion, edema, poor appetite, decreased sex drive, desire for warm drinks, frequent urination, and fatigue. Moxibustion, where an herb is lit and used to warm specific acupuncture points, is one method that effectively strengthens Yang. As a bonus, moxibustion also encourages the free flow of Qi in the body.
The free flow of QI or energy is also essential to one’s athletic performance and may feel like what is referred to as a “runner’s high.” If the flow of Qi is blocked or stagnant, healthy energy is inaccessible to the rest of the body. The most common reason for stagnant Qi is stress and that feeling that we never have enough time in the day to go out and play! When stress is the main problem, the blockage in the body is similar to that of water building up behind a dam, increasing the pressure until the dam bursts. Common emotions seen when this condition exists include irritability, anger outbursts, energy fluctuations, mood swings, and anxiety. Physical symptoms can include migraine headaches, indigestion, painful periods, tinnitus, and a bitter taste in the mouth.
As a health care practitioner, I would encourage those interested in achieving their athletic goals, no matter how large or small they may be, to try to connect to and to nourish your bodies, to not only exercise regularly, but also to take the time to find that place of inner stillness, of focus, of intent, of Yin. Invite balance and flow not only into your athletic endeavors but into your whole life!
Lynne Drakos has provided natural health care to Summit County residents for more than twenty years. This past year she set and achieved her goal of running a fifty mile ultra marathon. As an acupuncturist, an athlete, a geology professor at Colorado Mountain College and a single mom whose son just left for college, she continually strives to achieve balance in her own days. Over the years she has learned through experiencing the highs and lows of life, that the journey truly is the destination. Make it your own.
Lynne M. Drakos A Balanced Crane Acupuncture Clinic 1905 Airport Rd, Suite D Breckenridge, CO 80424 (970) 547-9415 BalancedCraneAcupuncture.com
About Lynne M. Drakos:
Lynne Drakos, A Balanced Crane’s senior acupuncturist and Summit County’s longest practicing holistic physician, specializes in several areas of diagnosis and treatment. She offers state of the art, comprehensive treatment for patients with complex chronic illnesses including adrenal fatigue, joint pain and arthritis, skin conditions, auto-immune disorders, insomnia, headaches, asthma, and allergies. She also addresses mental and emotional issues including depression, anxiety, and ADD/ADHD. Lynne also specializes in treating couples experiencing infertility issues using natural medicine alone or in conjunction with western medical procedures.