The general rule for tai chi practice is to work at 70% of your maximum capacity. This applies to intensity, exertion, duration, and range of motion. If you exhaust yourself your coordination will suffer, and you will also tax your body’s compensatory mechanisms, which is counterproductive from the perspective of tai chi. The 70% rule allows for a gradual but continuous and sustainable trajectory of development. We have all heard of “no pain no gain”, but by exercising consistently at 70% of your body’s capacity, you will see incremental improvement without the regression that inevitably follows over-exertion.
If you are recovering from injury or illness, however, the 70% rule changes to the 40% rule. Working at this level of intensity is comfortable, and will stimulate your vital processes without taxing your body’s energy reserves, thereby giving you the maximum healing benefit. This rule applies whenever your body or any part of it is in a weakened state, either from acute injury or overall illness.