As different areas begin reopening, returning to BJJ is on the forefront of every practitioner’s mind. However, as eager as we all are to get back on the mats, remember that going back to training now after several months of lockdown will not be the same as returning after missing a day or two of classes. Instead, we should take a gradual approach by following these five recommendations.
Manage your expectations
Begin with honesty: We are not the same as when the pandemic started. Even if you’ve been diligent with strength and conditioning, it’s not the same as training BJJ. We can’t expect our bodies – or our minds – to pick everything back up instantly.
Recommendation: Set small goals centered around simply showing up. The intent here is to rebuild that lost habit of consistently training BJJ.
Many of us view BJJ as a primary source of exercise, so the idea of exercising to prepare for BJJ may sound strange. The goal here isn’t to regain our athleticism but instead to regain our body awareness. Your ability to direct each limb as they each move through time and space has to be rebuilt all over again in the context of BJJ.
Recommendation: While exercising, focus on what your extremities (toes, fingertips, etc.) are doing as you go through each movement.
If you haven’t been exercising, it’s never too late to start! Even a simple routine that focuses on the main muscle groups and movements of BJJ (core, back, legs, push, pull) will be fine. For example, you could do a HIIT-style circuit of crunches, supermans, squats, pushups, and rows.
Many skip doing a personal warm up before training because they want to save their energy for the actual class. However, this mindset can be harmful since going into class cold can cause hidden aches or limitations to reveal themselves at the worst time. For example, it’s better to know before class that your shoulder is not feeling well instead of in the middle of trying to roll out of an omoplata.
Recommendation: Be it one hour or five seconds before class starts, doing a set of dynamic stretches like arm circles or leg swings to test your body’s range of motion can help you get in tune with your physical state and allow you to understand where your limits may be for that session.
While we may be eager to return to training, our energy may take a while to catch up. Check in periodically during class to see how energetic you’re feeling, both physically and mentally, to avoid overexerting yourself or injuring your partner. While it can be gratifying to know that you “left everything on the mat,” being able to come back to those mats is just as, if not more, important during this time.
Recommendation: Manage your energy in your first few classes so you can end each session with some gas in the tank. For example: Take breaks between each roll for the first week then cut back to every other roll the following week, etc.
Most people think of rest as the “absence” of training, a passive endeavor that usually involves a couch and Netflix. However, to get the full benefits of rest, we have to understand that rest is just as important an activity as rolling.
Recommendation: Plan for exhaustion and have at least one day in between classes for recovery. For active recovery, try doing visualization and other mental exercises like 6 degrees. Additionally, studying video footage and instructionals while off the mat can help you retain the lessons you learned while on the mat.
Welcome back, be safe
Navigating our return to BJJ will take a lot of patience and energy, likely even more than we needed before the pandemic hit. But as long as we keep in mind the long haul, we can get through this, together.