One of the most frustrating things about practicing any sport is the eventual meeting with injury. It is almost impossible to avoid and it can really take a toll on your motivation, especially if it prevents you from being active in the sport for awhile.
Injuries commonly happen in Jiu Jitsu due to negligence on the athlete’s part like lack of proper stretching, diet and recovery. Understandably, it is very difficult to constantly stay on top of every single thing. The best way to get used to taking care of yourself to help prevent injury is to work things into your routine in small steps. For example: add one mode of recovery like stretching to your post workout for a couple of weeks before adding a second thing to your list, like a new diet plan or second mode of recovery. Taking small steps is less daunting and a lot easier to navigate.
Below are a few suggestions on how you can help prevent injury in sports like Jiu Jitsu.
When it comes to Jiu Jitsu specifically, tension in the body is an unavoidable outcome. With this sport being primarily a squeeze plus explosive type of exercise, tightness and body compensation will occur. Typically, you will notice the shoulders rounding forwards over time, a stiff neck, tight hips and lower back aches (just to name a few). As body tension rises and nothing is done to counterbalance this, possible micro or major tears can happen. Yoga is a perfect counter for all this. To start, a common stereotype of Yoga is that it demands the student to reach way beyond my natural flexibility. This is completely false. Bianca, the yoga teacher here at Stasis, always makes sure the students are aware of the sensations within the body while stretching. This means you do not push through pain! With a great teacher, you will begin to understand that a stretch is meant to open the body to a healthy range of motion per individual, sometimes experiencing slight discomfort (as many stretches will give you) however, you ease up when feeling sharp pinching or pains. Just like how we mentioned to add new things into your schedule in small steps, stretching is taken with the same mindset; one step at a time. Our philosophy when it comes to stretching and Yoga is to be able to reach a flexibility that is natural to the body and allows you to maximize your body's design. As Bianca would say...
“I don’t teach people how to be contortionists. I teach in a way that brings balance to our bodies”.
Weight training is extremely vital for recovery and more importantly, injury prevention within Jiu Jitsu. Although I say weight training, I don’t mean it in the immediate sense. Constant heavy lifting while pushing past a point of safety and making it so that you don’t actually recover your body is not how it should be done. Weight training that will help prevent injuries should be done with low to moderately heavy weights with an emphasis on more repetitions with little to no rest in-between. On that same note, structural integrity, proper muscle contraction and excellent movement mechanics is a must. Jiu Jitsu has a tendency, like many sports, to create imbalances in your body due to the fact that the student tends to specialize more on one side over the other. For example: Golfers and tennis players swing on the same side for years which leads to golfers/tennis elbow. This creates a horrible imbalance in the body which in turn leads to injury and in a worse scenario, surgery. Allowing your body to become balanced again, evening out the strain is extremely important and should never be looked past.
Coming back to weight training, in regards to the number of repetitions, doing more or less has its differences. To put it simply, in order to endure a longer workout with as little muscle fatigue as possible, you would take on more reps with less weight. If you want to gain a lot of power but only for a short period of time (before your muscles fill with lactic acid), you would do less reps with heavier weights. In conclusion, more reps with a lower weight (adding in proper muscle contraction and excellent movement mechanics) will give you amazing muscle endurance and you will achieve a healthier, stronger, more robust body.
It is very difficult to strike the right balance between work (whether physical or mental) and rest/self care time. Those who take their sport very seriously, can develop a guilt or anxiety if a practice is missed. Due to this, that student will usually end up training instead of resting their body and allowing it the time to recover. When you are working out, you are tearing your muscles, exhausting your calories and draining your brain power. However, if someone does desire to train a lot, they need time to work their way up to it; getting their body and mind used to what it takes to train very often. Something to keep in mind though, is your body as an individual. There are genetic limits that can hinder how often you may train or the types of injuries you tend to get. Listening to your body is extremely important in order to stay focused on your path to training often while also giving your body and mind a chance to recover. Rest days will allow yourself to ‘marinate’ and absorb all the new knowledge you took in during your active training days, whether this by physical or mental knowledge. By giving yourself time to take it in and then get back into training, over time, you will see incredible results. Let tomorrow be better than today.
Last but not least is dieting. This does not mean starving yourself or going through smoothie cleanses. This simply means paying attention to what types of foods you are putting into your body. Calling it dieting tends to give the impression that it must be restrictive which is why we love to use the term ‘eating clean’ in order to give less attention those who want to try to correct your way of eating. When it comes to this subject, it is hard to find two people who have the exact same dieting options. This is a complex topic and there are many different types of bodies with different types of metabolisms to take into consideration. Having said that, we do have things that are different and things that are very similar amongst most people. Keeping away from saturated fats and processed sugars, or keeping them as low as possible is key. Those do nothing more than store as fat within the body. Another major thing to not is to have a balanced meal on your plate with vegetables, carbs and of course protein. The trick is to keep your portions moderate unless you exercise on a regular basis. One of the hardest parts for a lot people to understand is to not obsess over the checking the scale to see what you weigh on a daily basis. This can cause unneeded neurosis. Nevertheless, it is important just to see where you are once in a while in order to make sure you are on track to reaching your goal but that is it! All you need to make sure you have to start is a broad goal to simply orient yourself in the right direction as well as making sure you stay honest with yourself to help prevent you from binging on foods that may not be correct for your body.
Remember to do your due diligence for injury prevention and study each topic for yourself to cater it appropriately. These topics, just like anything else, takes practice and patience to truly understand your body and mind in order to find the balance that keeps you happy and motivated. Whether you are weight lifting, training Jiu Jitsu or stretching in Yoga, treat them each seriously and put the time in so you can keep doing what you love for the years to come.