An Olympian's Unexpected Love of Qigong and 3 Reasons You Should Try It

Discover the Power of Qigong

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Catherine Garceau is an Olympic Medalist, author and wellness coach. She uses Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and other tools to help women and men break free of sabotaging behaviors and tap into the most successful and vibrant versions of themselves. To learn more about her coaching and retreats, visit

Feeling exhausted for no reason, having a hard time getting out of bed (when normally you're an early bird), losing the passion to do the things you once loved, and gaining weight due to an insatiable appetite are all signs that something is "off."  They sure indicated something was off with me when I ran out of energy.

With the food, environmental, and lifestyle toxicity that abound these days, it's not just athletes that suffer from burnout, adrenal fatigue, or chronic fatigue symptoms.

"No pain, no gain" is a core belief many athletes adopt when pushing to be their best. I certainly thought I had to suffer as a synchronized swimmer... and frankly, the pain led me all the way to the Olympic Games in Sydney...

Since then, however, that same motto has proven itself wrong many times, and subtle energy practices have taught me something new: That often, the more subtle the practice, the more powerful it can be.

The discovery of Qigong

At my worse moments of adrenal burnout, I discovered Qigong. Rather, Qigong discovered me when a friend who is a naturopathic doctor sent me a Qigong DVD in the mail, with a note that read: "Do this daily for two weeks, and you will be hooked!" 

Not believing in anything that didn't induce heavy sweating, an adrenaline high, or measurable calorie burn, my initial reaction was nothing other than a big eye roll.

How were these basic-looking movements going to help me regain energy?... and more importantly - lose weight? (What woman doesn't have weight loss as a hidden agenda?)

What I didn't know is that Qigong, pronounced "chi gong," is a form of martial arts that has benefited millions of people throughout time, and is considered to be the contemporary offspring of some of the most ancient (before recorded history) healing and medical practices of Asia.

Indeed, the earliest forms of Qigong actually make up one of the historic roots of contemporary Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and practice.

The Power of Subtle Movements

To my surprise, the 24 postures of therapeutic Qigong I learned that day are still with me today, more than five years later. Benefits including greater inner peace, balanced moods, weight loss and lowered anxiety have all come as a result. Not only did I continue practicing far beyond those initial two weeks, but I ended up taking my practice into nature, and became trained to teach others.

I giggle now when people ask me how long the form of Qigong I practice and teach has been around. My answer, "Oh, just over 5,000 years" always gets their attention, and maybe I have your attention, too.

The What and Why of Qigong

Simply, the word Qigong is a combination of two ideas: "Qi" means air, breath of life, or vital energy, and "gong" means the skill of working with, or cultivating, self-discipline and achievement.

Qigong literally means what it delivers - a cultivation of life-force.

Most forms of Qigong are a combination of meditation, relaxation, physical movement, mind-body integration, and breathing exercises, all of which are easy to learn and follow. Here are three reasons why you should give Qigong a try:

1. No Pressure: There are no intimidating yoga poses to overstretch your hamstrings. The more you do Qigong, the more Qigong teaches you, and your body naturally becomes free flowing and flexible.

2. Inner Peace: If you're tired of facing the mirror at home, at yoga, or in group-exercise classes, Qigong gives you the opportunity to go internal. No comparing, or feeling that inner or outer competition bug. Qigong helps you appreciate the journey rather than the destination.

3. Anywhere, Anytime: There's no need to wear the latest yoga fashions (but do if you love it!). Once you've learned a few easy routines from a DVD or going to a local class, you'll be able to head out into nature or find a quiet corner of your home or office. Your business attire won't limit your practice and you'll find all sorts of ways to sneak in 20 minutes of practice here and there. (I practice in airport nooks all the time.)

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