It’s OK to Take Breaks in Jiu-Jitsu (Or Not Train Every Day)
When I refer to a “break,” I don’t mean the kind of break when we get into a new relationship and we disappear for weeks, months, or years at a time. The kind of break I’m referring to comes in the forms of rest days, resting while you’re injured, or even just taking a mental health break from training. I know this seems crazy since many of us don’t even take breaks when we’re injured, BUT I have to say that there are many positive things that come from taking a break from training.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a teammate and he mentioned that he can only train (at the most) 3 times per week. It’s not because of his work or family schedule, but rather, it’s the most his brain can handle to retain the techniques of the week. Anything more and he said that he just stops “getting it.” At first I thought this was crazy! For the last two years, I had been training anywhere between 4-6 times per week. Anything less than 4 days and I would be angry (much like the hangry feeling we get when we need food).
More recently, I’ve had to take a step back from that 5x a week training schedule. At first, I was super bummed that I wasn’t able to train every day like I was used to. One week, I had only trained 3 times, which is the least amount I have ever trained in a week aside from being injured. I went through all of the feelings – mad, sad, and scared. I say scared because I was afraid that by not training every day, I would suck. I’d forget how to do techniques that I just learned and wanted to put into practice… or I’d get smashed by my teammates who get to train every day. I think this is a completely normal feeling for anyone who has to take a break (unwillingly) – which is why we hesitate so much in taking breaks.
BUT here’s what actually happened when I trained on those 3 days. Not only was I super tired (and felt out of shape); I actually performed the best on the mat in no-gi than I ever have! The techniques I used were completely muscle memory and I didn’t have to “think” as much during live training. I had reached a state of FLOW; which doesn’t not come easily or frequently for many of us.
So what’s the moral of this story? It’s TOTALLY OK to take breaks in Jiu-Jitsu. Just because you aren’t training every day and keeping up with your teammates doesn’t mean that you’ll forget everything (or anything), you’ll lose your cardio, or that if you miss one or two days a week that you’ll miss out on a promotion! We need days off to recharge and recover. The mats and your teammates will always be there. If you force your body into training hard every day without breaks, especially when you’re exhausted or injured, you will do yourself a huge disservice as you will be more likely to get injured or MORE injured! Unless you’re a professional Jiu-Jitsu athlete and it’s YOUR JOB to train and compete, we need to take time off. After all, isn’t that why you get mandatory days off from work each week and have vacation and sick leave? We need to approach training in the same way if we’re in it for the long haul.