Healing Injuries While Keeping Healthy Habits
Injuries are inevitable in jiu-jitsu. No matter the intensity of training, a jiu-jitsu player is going to get injured and have to spend some time off the mats recovering. With some injuries, the physical injury itself is extremely painful and it effects different aspects of our physical lives. There are other injuries that while they are not extremely painful physically, they have a psychological affect on us by keeping us from the mats.
No matter the injury, we need to find a way of continuing our healthy habits so as to make our return to the mats sooner rather than later. Often with injuries, we fall out of the habit of training and it prolongs our return because we make excuses as to why we can’t return to the mat. If we can continue our habits even while injured, it will make the return to the mats much easier both mentally and physically.
The Physical Injury
With many of the injuries suffered in jiu-jitsu, it is the physical injury and pain that is keeping us off the mats. If you have ever dealt with any kind of rib injury, you will know what I am talking about. Two days before my first son was born, I popped some cartilage in my ribs.
The next several days were brutal. My wife had a C section performed and was unable to get out of bed without help (me too but I propped a coffee table near the couch and used it to help get myself up). So it was up to me to help her up out of bed, prop her up and carry my son around.
I had always thought people had exaggerated rib injury pain but realized there was no exaggeration. The injury kept me from the mats for several weeks. When I returned to the academy, the rib felt fine up until I started moving around on the mats. The time off and rest had helped but I was nowhere near 100%. I began to do warm ups and technique but I didn’t roll for another couple of weeks. This allowed me to get back into the routine of showing up to training, sweating and getting in a workout but not re-injuring myself.
I have rushed back from injuries before and done too much only to be forced off the mats again. The hardest part of returning from a physical injury is knowing your limits.
Controlling your Ego
Knowing your limitations in your return is going to dictate how long your injury bothers you. If you rush back to the mats too soon, you are going to have constant swelling and may actually make the injury worse. When you return, you need to find ways that you can be on the mats but not go overboard.
For example, if you have not learned to deal with a knee injury yet, you will. Almost every jiu-jitsu player has to deal with an injury to the knee at some point in time.
I’m currently dealing with an MCL issue. There are movements that are difficult for me to make with this injury. When I returned to the mats, I could not play closed guard. I have been playing half guard for several months now as it is the position that allows me the most comfort while still being able to play an aggressive game. One thing I have learned (the hard way), was that my top game is really reliant on pressure.
I found this out because when I would sweep, I couldn’t play my top game without my knee hurting. My original solution to this was to hit a sweep but then go back to playing bottom. I had to become comfortable knowing that winning wasn’t the goal. I had to control my ego and realize that I was going to get tapped, but, at the same time, my bottom game was going to improve. The point was to be on the mats learning, not tapping people out.
The Mental and Emotional Struggle
For most jiu-jitsu guys, this is the hardest part of the injury. This is where the ego gets out of control and we end up making matters worse by forcing ourselves to be negligent because we need to act tough. We return to the mat too soon and try to do too much too fast.
If the injury is severe enough, you need some time off the mat. This is where the struggle takes place. You need to find something to do while injured that allows you to keep up your good habits. If you can, try to attend at least one training a week just to watch. Even though you can’t participate, keeping the habit of showing up at the academy will make your return much easier.
Resist the urge to bring your gi. If your bring it, you will end up on the mats doing things you shouldn’t be doing. We all know guys who get injured and disappear never to be seen again. We also know the guys who disappear for six months, a year or maybe even more because they fell out of the habit of attending. For this reason, it is important to show your face in the academy even if you can’t be on the mats.
Also, keep your diet healthy. You cannot continue eating the quantity of food like you did while training. You also don’t want to fall out of your healthy eating habits because eating unhealthy food is going to make you feel out of shape and fat. If you put on a bunch of weight, it will make getting back to the academy much more difficult. Keeping your mind and your will strong during the time off the mats is imperative.
Outside the mat, you need to continue learning. We live in an age where the internet is flooded with information. There are many different Youtube channels that cater to the jiu-jitsu addict. Kurt Osiander has a great channel where he demonstrates his move of the week. Stephan Kesting also has a great channel where he demonstrates techniques. Jason Scully is another great resource for techniques.
Besides videos, there are also other sites where you can spend some time reading articles and blogs. BJJnews.com is a great resource that is updated daily with links to articles, blogs and videos posted in the days prior. GracieMag.com is has well written articles. The bjj ground forum on mixedmartialarts.com has tons of cool people as well as pro fighters (some trolls too) who are a wealth of information. Keep your mind sharp by reading jiu-jitsu related material. This will keep the passion burning and keep you from taking that hiatus. The goal is to get back on the mats as quickly as possible while keeping your body and mind in good working order.