Coming back from a long BJJ layoff or injury can be both physically and mentally challenging for anybody returning to the mats. There is the physical challenge of dealing with fatigue, soreness, and working yourself back into BJJ shape, which can take up to several months to attain. Also, there is the mental and emotional aspects of feeling doubt and insecurity as you struggle to deal not only with peers who have advanced in skill and belt ranking while you have been gone, but with your own regression and rust from being off the mats. Don’t fret, since this is a common experience of most experienced grapplers who have had layoffs due to family, life, career, and injuries. Here are five tips for the BJJ players returning to the mats after a long layoff
Don’t offer to demote yourself – If you are coming off a really long, multi-year layoff, you might have as much rust on you as a bicycle left outside in the Amazon. Your instincts on the mat are off, you are easily gassing, and you are struggling against new white belts during randori session. While some people feel unworthy of their once-earned belt ranking and consider asking their coach to demote them until they regain their skills and conditioning, this is going totally overboard. Be patient with yourself and realize it will take time to regain your muscle memory, instincts, and conditioning. Just relax, keep regularly attending classes, and be confident that you can regain your old form in a matter of a few months.
Plan out your life and BJJ schedule – If you are committed to making BJJ part of your life again, consistency is a key component to your success. Plan out your training schedule around work, family, and other life activities so you can get to the gym as often as you want to get comfortable training again. This can require mapping out your weekly and daily schedules well in advance and factoring small details like when you leave the office, commuting time to the gym, and giving yourself enough family time with your spouse and children each day of the week.
Set small, realistic goals for yourself – Yes, the first few weeks back will suck. The gassing, feelings of self-doubt, and muscle aches and pain will make you wonder if you should have chosen disc golf over returning to BJJ. It is important to set goals to gauge your progress during your return to the mats. Setting even small goals like completing all of the warm-up exercises, striking up a conversation with a new student you don’t know, or committing to three rounds of rolling no matter how tired you are will help you see how much your body and mind are improving during your comeback period.
Take beginner classes – When many baseball players come off the disabled list, it is not uncommon for them to do a rehab stint in the minor leagues. In BJJ, you can return to the beginners, fundamentals, or basic class if your school offers them. The great thing about these classes is the focus on the fundamentals, the slower pace, and the more laid back tone. These classes are a great way to ease yourself back into training BJJ and regaining your old form.
Change your diet and sleeping habit – There is a good chance your diet and sleep patterns differ from when you are active and healthy versus when you are living a sedentary lifestyle. When you return to BJJ, how you plan your entire day and night will dictate how your body feels before, during, and after classes. In order to feel more energized and get back in BJJ shape, it is important to clean up your diet and focus on eating more whole and natural foods and less pizza, chips, and beer. Also, with the increase in physical activity, your body will need more sleep to properly rest and recover from the beatings you are taking in class. Put down the phones and tablets early and get enough sleep each night to help your body recover and regain its old form.