Improving Your Health for BJJ

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Photos by: Callum Medcraft

When you prepare for a tournament, you get ON POINT with your body care, don’t you? You restrict your diet to only healthy foods (eventually, when the scale really won’t budge), you get more sleep, you’re working out strategically around training, you take supplements like BCAAs and fish oil to help your joints and muscles recover so you can accommodate a higher training volume, don’t you?

Have you ever noticed how much better your brain functions in everything you do when you’re in tournament mode? And if your body wasn’t being beaten and battered you would probably feel amazing. All of it matters. You can’t separate the pieces of your self-care and expect the best possible results.

If you aren’t already paying attention to how you feel, I’m asking you to start now.

If something hurts, avoid it until it gets better. See this article "KNOWLEDGE OVER FEAR - DEALING WITH JIU JITSU INJURIES" for more tips on figuring that out.

Move your joints every day to figure out what hurts and reduce the chances of future pain. Joints stay healthy through movement. Think of oiling a gasket, you need to make sure all pieces of it get some love or it won’t work right. You can start with this. 

I am not in a legal place to advise on diet, and you are a completely different organism than I am anyway. Do a little research. Nutrition is woefully under-researched by the general population. Instead of just believing what anybody tells you, take a half an hour that you’d normally be scrolling through Instagram and try to come up with some of your own conclusions about nutrition for athletes humans. I perform great without breakfast on Saturday morning training. Many of my friends would die. And all of us have made the mistake of overeating or making poor greasy delicious food choices too close to training, amirite?

Prioritize it. Studies show that chances of injury increase dramatically as sleep decreases. It’s not something to sacrifice. You know how much better you look when you’re well-rested? That’s a reflection of your entire body’s recovery.

A good friend and colleague of mine once said, “There is no such thing as over-training, just under-recovering.” This includes everything that goes into building your body. Rest, sleep, diet, supplements, massages, active recovery – have you ever wondered how all of it works? Why any of it matters? I think it’s fascinating and spend most of my free time (when I’m not aimlessly scrolling through comedians on Instagram) learning stuff and figuring out what resources I trust and make sense. Just like finding the best Jiu-Jitsu academy for you, find resources that work best for you. And please realize that good anything (training/massage/nutrition/supplements) are not free and free or cheap things are not usually good. Judge objectively as if price were not an option and ask yourself to consider from there. Is it worth getting poor (X) just because it’s cheaper? What is the real cost to me?

Go out with your friends. Invite others to go with you. Surround yourself with supportive people and your habits will be that much easier to maintain. Convince others through example that being healthier is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Please look up Erin Herle’s Submit the Stigma program for ideas.

Listen to Yourself
I had a pushup competition in the kids class a few months ago. I told them about it a few weeks ahead of time and gave them a strategy to improve. On the day of the event one of the girls came up to me in the locker room and told me that she didn’t feel well and her mom said she didn’t have to do it. Knowing this particular girl, I told her I thought that she was fine but she was just scared. A little conversation confirmed my suspicion. We had a really nice talk about how not doing something because it hurts is perfectly fine, not doing something because you’re scared is not a great reason. In fact, it may be a great guide towards something you really should be doing. You’ll get more out of it by conquering your fear. You need to listen to your body. If that fear is accompanied by pain, your body has some justification to avoid the situation and you should probably start at a lower level. There will be days you really should rest and have a nice night off instead of train. Taking short breaks makes you better at things. I recommend the book How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb for some of the science behind that.

When you might need a break (in class or when considering going to class):• You didn’t sleep much the night before, or the week before.

• You’re having trouble staying focused in the train – mental fatigue. Even sitting out one round could help you regroup and allow you to sidestep the injury that is coming your way if you keep going.
• Your form is breaking down – physical fatigue (and some mental, they’re really the same). Lazy repetitions and training are bad form. Just like if you do a bad deadlift you’re going to hurt something, think of shoddy training form as a signal to stop, drink some Gatorade or pickle juice (you usually need salt not so much sugar to recover – look it up).
• You didn’t hydrate much today. Luckily some studies show if you start drinking as soon as you notice this you might only need an hour and 20oz –ish of water to reach a hydrated state. Obviously there are a lot of factors here so just drink more water (telling myself, I am not dedicated enough at this for optimum cellular performance). Black belt Melissa Biscardi recommends stirring just a bit of good salt into your water to actually get the water INTO your cells.

Don’t stop caring even if you stop training
It’s great that we’ve found something we want to ‘get healthy for’. But what about getting healthy just for ourselves?

Oh and the girl did great in the pushup competition and felt amazing afterwards. I gained a friend that day.