Let’s face it, if you’re reading this you love to train. If you love to train, you’ve probably pictured yourself rolling into the sunset of old age and being on the mats forever. We all want longevity in our training. However, there’s no shortage to the obstacles that could potentially stop that from happening. Injury, life and stalling out technically can reduce our potential longevity on the mat.
The ever-looming threat of injury hangs over the head of everyone who trains BJJ. Between accidents, repetitive strain and submission based training, something is bound to give eventually. Just as the only guaranteed way to not get submitted is to not train all; getting injured is almost inevitable. The reality is that you will be taxing your body every time you train and/or compete. So how can we as practitioners build longevity into our training so that we can enjoy training for longer? Let’s explore some of the most crucial factors for your longevity on the mats.
Avoiding over training. The law of diminishing returns is real!
More training is not always better. Pushing your body towards fatigue and excessive wear & tear is a sure fire way to tax your body’s systems. From compromising your immune system to reducing your mental capacity to absorb information; over training has huge implications for your body and often puts you back further in the long run than doing you any good. Build rest days into your routine, eat well, get all the sleep you need and moderate your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar and drugs.
Injury recovery. Okay, so the worst has happened; you’re injured. What do we do now?
See a specialist who knows grappling and build a rehab plan. Diligently do whatever you’re able to in aid of helping your body to recover. Be patient, understand that the healing process takes time and don’t rush back to training too early.
Supplementation and Diet. What you put in is what you get out.
You don’t have to be a spartan with your diet, but you do need to put in enough healthy stuff to fuel the engine that is your body. Do everything that you can to get the right nutrition that will support the demand put on your body by regularly training. Consider using fish oils, glucosamine and other vitamin supplements that will help your joints recover and keep your body out of the cycle of inflammation and joint pain. Listen to your body and avoid food that doesn’t agree with you.
Seeking professional advice from a nutritionist, dietician and doing some research into nutrition can go a long way to equipping you with strategies to still enjoy food, but keep yourself in a position to train and complete your day without being in a major deficit every day. For competitors, the conversation of weight cutting is prescient. Many top level athletes will even advise against it unless competing at the highest levels. Why would you willingly put yourself into a deficit against opponents who are looking to physically harm you? If you absolutely must, make sure you seek the advice of professionals.
There are no prizes for seeing how far you can let that joint lock go before there’s a disastrous snap, sidelining you for a long stretch or even indefinitely. Let go of your ego and tap when you need to tap. If this writer had a dollar for every time they saw an unnecessary injury due to someone’s refusal to tap, they’d actually be able to make money in this sport. Know your limit, tap and live to roll another day. This applies in the gym and think deeply about applying this philosophy in competition. Unless it’s the Worlds’, is it worth copping an injury for a shot at a forgettable podium picture and a medal you’ll never look at again?
Strength and Conditioning. Do it.
Find someone in the Sports Science/ Personal Training industry that is knowledgeable about grappling and can develop a personalized S&C plan for you. Steer clear of the bro-science, meathead philosophies of lifting. These are going to cause your body more harm than good. Many weight lifting routines are going to add a tonne of strain to your body. When adding this to your training routine, you may be exposing yourself to a higher risk of injury. Repetitive strain injury and general wear & tear can accumulate over time and, even though you feel like Mr.Olympia, you are dividing your energy between two massively demanding training modes. Grappling and Weight Lifting place a huge tax on your body.
Also, take the S&C advice of full time athletes with a massive grain of salt. If you have a job, family and commitments outside of training you need to be strategic about your time and what you can meaningfully invest into a good S&C program. It’s worth paying a professional to find something that is tailor made to you.
Let’s get a bit more philosophical now. What techniques in your repertoire work without any of your athletic traits?
Realize now that as you age in BJJ, there are certain things that simply stop working. Those muscles, healthy joints and great ranges of motion you have? Stop leaning on those to make your technique work. (Intelligently) Handicap yourself in your training to see what techniques in your repertoire work without you having to employ your physical attributes.
Equipping yourself with the knowledge to train smarter, not harder, takes time. We all make mistakes when it comes to our training that can have a roll on effect; impacting our ability to train and generally go about our day to day life. Be prepared to learn, seek professional advice and be prepared to change your own beliefs in the face of new information. If you want to be around for a long time in BJJ, and we’re guessing that most of you do, make sure you do it right.
Thanks for reading.