When “Skipping A Day Or Two” Leads To A Long Jiu-Jitsu Hiatus

Flickr/Creative Commons: Sylvain

Whether it’s completing a forward roll or maintaining your gym attendance record, an object in motion will stay in motion. However, friction — caused by the mats or by everyday life challenges — can act upon that motion, bringing it to a halt.

There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing other areas of your life before jiu-jitsu. You need to pass exams, meet deadlines for work, take care of your family, and tend to your mental health. But before you know it, what was supposed to be a one-day, three-day, or week-long break becomes an extended period of avoiding the gym, finding every excuse not to go and swearing that you’ll be back on the mats tomorrow.

The realization that you haven’t been to jiu-jitsu in a while can be disheartening. It’s made even worse when you start to see the physical effects it’s having on you — muscle loss, worsened cardio, increased fat. And just as your continued presence at the gym was easy to maintain when you were going every day or almost every day, it becomes easier to stay at home and not go to class the longer you stay away from the gym.

The way to get back into your jiu-jitsu routine is both insanely easy and insanely difficult at the same time: just show up once. Getting back into the gym can feel impossible, and making it to that single comeback class can be met with obstacles made out of fear — your teammates will hate you for leaving, you’re too out of shape now to last even one round, you’ll get submitted by all the brand-new people because you’ve forgotten all of the jiu-jitsu you’ve ever learned. And yet, making it to that one class is the first rotation of the wheel that can get you back into motion again.

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The fears you may have about going back aren’t necessarily unfounded (you will feel out of shape if you’ve taken an extended hiatus, and you may receive some gentle ribbing from your teammates if you’ve been missing because of a non-serious reason like a new relationship). However, the things you believe are standing in your way will quickly disappear. Your cardio, techniques, and sense of fitting in will all return to you faster than you likely believe. But you can’t get that process out of the way by sitting at home coming up with excuse after excuse for why you should postpone your return by just one more day.

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Developing a BJJ habit is a lot more work than developing a habit of making your bed, and it’s understandable that an easier habit is to skip the commute and the hard work and the sweat that’s demanded of you every time you show up to train. Just remember that being able to train is a gift you give yourself, not a punishment. Despite the soreness and the time taken away from relaxing at home, jiu-jitsu is also a way to boost your physical and mental health, and it provides a great source of socialization outside of work and family. If you feel dread at the prospect of going back to jiu-jitsu, try to reframe it in your mind as a kindness you’re doing for yourself. The difficult step of actually getting in the car and walking through the doors is just the payment required for your reward.

Virtually everyone who doesn’t quit jiu-jitsu entirely has had or will have a moment in which “one day off” keeps them away from the gym longer than anticipated. You’re not exceptionally lazy for not having perfect attendance, and you’re more than capable of getting back to the level of performance you were at before you went missing. Get back in there — you’ll be much happier that you did.

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