Taking a Break From Training is Tough

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Photos Credit: Jeff Chu @jeffchu

The break itself isn’t the hardest part, it’s coming back from it. I’ve divided these slightly, but all advice has its place for all people, so don’t think it you don’t fit under the bold heading that it’s not meant for you. If it makes sense, that’s all that matters.

For Lower Belts
It’s hard to see people that you were doing well with now doing better than you are. If you stop running a race, you have to expect people to pass you. They have nothing to do with the race you’re running. They are your training partners. If you can, be happy for them. Realize that you are going to make progress too now that you’re back in it. Look forward to it. Everybody is happy to see you back.

For Higher Belts
There’s a level of expectation that comes with rank, whether we want it or not. Sometimes breaks come in months or years, and while you still remember how to ride the bike it’s a little harder to pull off tricks. Be modest. Minimize the amount you talk about it. You are where you are, and you can only get better as you shake the dust off. Everybody is happy to see you back. If you have the option, choose your training to suit your intent and best interests. You can never take too many basics classes. Don’t train with someone who seems like they are chomping at the bit to get at the higher belt unless you feel ready for it. You don’t owe anybody anything. This is about you, getting back to doing something that you love. It’s a happy occasion.

For Injuries
Go slowly. Build gradually. Be ok with saying no to something that doesn’t feel like you can protect yourself adequately. Don’t train live for a while. Do keep coming to class. It keeps the habit and you’ll learn a lot by watching the live portions you can’t perform right now. Take this time to observe not only the techniques people employ but the attitudes they bring to the mat. When you’ve been medically cleared for training, set realistic goals for your return to live matches. Do one round the first day back and see how you feel the next morning. Gauge the next training from there and repeat. Be conscious of what felt good and what didn’t. Use conscious, controlled movements to recreate the areas that you felt vulnerable in. The exercises you do on your own will help your nervous system adapt as much as your injured tissues.

If you train while injured, adapt your training and for God’s sake expect to and be ok with the fact you will lose a lot. You may have to completely change your guard or your top game. Don’t do anything that risks exacerbating the injury, even if that means accepting passes, playing bottom a lot, accepting sweeps, only doing partial training, only drilling, only working one side, or any other accommodations you need to make in order to be happy but safe. In a controlled environment, do as much movement as you can without pain. Adjust that with day to day variances.

Show Up
Be there, be quiet, laugh at yourself. Welcome back. Everybody is happy to see you there, if they even notice. Realize most people are more worried about themselves to even care what you’re doing, so pack your gi bag, walk out the door, and smile.