How to Come Back Stronger 3

Imagine that you’re seriously injured and can’t do what you love–jiu jitsu– for at least six months.  You wonder how you’ll get through those long months of not training.  You finally get back on the mats and then bam.  Covid-19 closes the gym for the foreseeable future.  It happened to me.   Are there similarities between injuries and gyms being closed to stop the spread of an infectious disease?  Yes.  Is it possible to get through a long layoff and come back stronger than before? Yes.  Here’s how:



Yes, grieve.  Whenever an event pops up in our lives that creates a sudden change of course, we’re apt to think about what would have been and what could have been.  It is 100% okay to be sad and go through all the stages of grieving:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Kubler Ross model).  I remember being really surprised by this part, but also feeling each stage profoundly, and it helped me get through.


Stay in touch with your team

Let’s face it, when we’re asked “What is your favorite part of jiu jitsu?”, one of the top answers is always “The people!”  It’s our tribe of fellow stranglers that we miss the most, and  maintaining that connection really takes the sting out of being off the mats.   Try starting a group chat, or weekly Zoom meetings, anything to stay in touch.


Keep your head in the game

Challenge gives us choices:  Sit there and ruminate on what no longer exists, or find new ways forward.   Each will have its day, and that’s a good thing! You are not a machine, you are a human being with real feelings in unprecedented times. While the former affirms our love of the game, taking action is so helpful in staving off difficult feelings.  Take advantage of all the jiu jitsu resources out there!  YouTube videos, instructional videos, books, websites, discussion forums, social media, there is no shortage of choices in this digital age.


Return slowly

Eventually, the call will come to resume training.  It may look different than what we’re used to, but I can guarantee our collective enthusiasm will be sky high.  At the same time, we might feel worried, scared, or even guilty for doing something so Covid-unfriendly.  That’s normal!  Start slow and do what you can, what you’re comfortable with.  You are not alone.  Remember to take it easy on your body.  If you’re anything like me, you haven’t trained anywhere near the level you did pre-layoff.  Do your best not to let your ego drive the bus.

Newfound gratitude

There’s no doubt you love jiu jitsu, even during a prolonged break.  Nothing compares to that life-affirming feeling of being on the mats, sweaty-hugging your beloved teammates after some tough rolls. Prepare for this high to be higher.  My advice?  Leverage it.  Be grateful on the days you don’t want to train, when you’re pretty sure you’re the worst player in the game, and when you feel you are making no progress whatsoever.  After all, it could be worse, the gym could be closed.


Like you, I am excited for the day when this is all a distant memory.  When we can tell the new white belts about those months where we couldn’t train and it was the WORST.  But we’ll also be able to tell them how we stayed together using the tools we had, how we made our return to the mats and most importantly, how we kept going no matter what, because that is the spirit of jiu jitsu.



Carly Gauthier

Guest Writer                                                                                                                     :

Carly Gauthier is a relative newcomer to jiu jitsu, after starting in 2017. She signed up despite knowing nothing about the sport and it was love at first training. Since then, she has earned her blue belt, tried her hand at competing and recently started teaching. Her goal when jiu jitsu returns is to finally learn how triangle choke efficiently. Her proudest moment in BJJ was stepping back on the mats after a serious injury in 2018. Previously she has been a runner and triathlete. In between training sessions, she loves spending time with family, being outdoors, exploring new places and things and training as much as possible. IG: @truthandgrit_

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3 thoughts on “How to Come Back Stronger

  • BJJ Bear

    I have just returned after 3 months layoff. The hardest thing was to remember that I can’t train as I did 3 months ago and not go all out. The first couple of sessions I almost threw up and my cardio was at an absolute 0!

    The takeaway is: don’t go all out, take it easy, roll slowly and roll once, build up over WEEKS.

      • BJJ Bear

        My mantra before training: “stay calm, roll light, roll only once or twice”. I also made a choice to roll with teenagers and females who are more or less light.

        Good luck!