Whether it’s just a week or a full month of rest, there are many advantages but also disadvantages to taking time off from BJJ practice. Although the determination and perseverance of a Jiu-Jitsu fighter is unique, these very attributes can sometimes also work against them. It’s best to think of your training with the long view in mind, and decide if it’s better to lay off a little, or take a longer break. Either way, if injury strikes, here are a few tips to making the most out of your time off:
Training consistently promotes muscle memory, while allowing you to stay fit and active. Techniques get crisper and smoother, and your movements get sharper. Your body gets used to the amount of stress, and is comfortable in that regimen. With so many benefits, you may be asking yourself, why would one take an extended break?
If injury, travel, or any other life situation crosses your path, a break from BJJ is necessary until you get back on your feet. Even though you might feel like you’re missing out on a lot, especially if you train solely to compete, taking a mental break from the grind of training, will get you refreshed, re-energized, and re-motivated to get back in the game. Staying away from training for long periods of time may also help you realize how much you take it for granted, and increase your desire to get back on the mats. In that case, while you’re taking time off, try to stay mentally immersed in the game, brush up on some old moves, or research new BJJ techniques so when you are ready to come back to the mats, you’ve still got a strategic plan, and some new stuff to try out. Giving yourself a break from the super competitive mind set one has to maintain during intensive training is incredibly healthy, as well.
But like with any athlete who takes time off, it’s important to maintain your endurance. Running, walking, and weightlifting are great ways to keep your strength and endurance levels high. If you are seriously injured, consult with your doctor beforehand, but you may be able to get away with light but effective workouts to stay in shape.
For the hard-headed bunch who love to train, and are a little banged up, but don’t want to take any extended time off, then alternate between hard, and light training days. On certain days, you can do positional or flow rolling, or try something such as movement drills while everyone else is doing full-on grappling.
And, if you’ve decided you’re in BJJ for the long run, an extended break from training will just be a minor blip when looking back at your journey to the black belt. Even if it might feel like an eternity at the time, keep your focus on the day-to-day. What can you do today that will positively impact your training tomorrow? Your body doesn’t just forget those muscular recruitment patterns that it has developed through training. Think of it as a filing cabinet: The more you do something, the further to the front the files are in the cabinet, so you can access them more efficiently. The less you do it, the further back they go. Still, that doesn’t mean the unused files disappear. They are always there, waiting for you to bring them to the front. This is to say, don’t worry about forgetting techniques while taking time off in BJJ. Like the little used files, they will always be there, just tucked away in the back of your mind until you bring them back to practice.
In many cases, there are tons of small injuries we face, but don’t notice because our body automatically suppresses the pain. Eventually, those nagging little injuries build up, and you have to take more time off than you initially needed. Don’t ignore even the small signs of injury, because overtraining in BJJ will eventually result in burn-out or severe damage. In the grand scheme of training, don’t let the small bump in the road throw you off your game. Allow your body to get the rest it needs, and take the efficient steps to keeping yourself in shape, and staying determined, even while taking time off.
Rolling Strong combines scientific exercises and routines specifically geared towards grappling.
Phil Daru is a performance coach for over 200 Elite Level Fighters in all aspects of combat sports.
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