As much as we’d all love to train jiu-jitsu 24/7, we can’t.
For most of us, it’s because we must work (to survive and to pay for our expensive jiu-jitsu habit). Many of us also have family obligations that demand our time (why can’t children just raise themselves??). And for 99.9% of us, it’s simply because our bodies would break down if we tried. Because let’s face it. Jiu-jitsu takes a toll on the body. And believe me, the older you get, the more toll it takes.
Yet we’re often told that “to get better at jiu-jitsu, you have to train jiu-jitsu.” And logically, we think that the more time we put into the mat, the better we’ll become. Well… yes. However, there’s a point at which too much is counter-productive to your growth in the sport. And that’s not the only way to get better.
Believe it or not, your performance on the mat – and especially in the competition BJJ setting – also benefits from other, non-jiu-jitsu type activities.
Here are four non-jiu-jitsu “hacks” you can do to improve your jiu-jitsu… that you can fit into even the busiest schedule.
I know what you’re thinking: “If I have time to cross-train, why not just train jiu-jitsu?” For one, the time demanded by your jiu-jitsu training is likely far more than most cross-training activities.
Between the time it takes to commute to your jiu-jitsu academy (anywhere from 10 minutes to even an hour or more), changing into your gi or no-gi gear, taking the actual class (one to two hours), showering, changing, your return commute, etc… you’ll easily find yourself dedicating three hours of your day just for jiu-jitsu. In comparison, maybe you throw on a pair of sneakers when you get home from work and go for a 20 minute jog. Maybe you roll out a yoga mat in your living room after putting your kids to bed. Maybe you even go for a quick lift at the gym down the street.
Not only do these activities take less time, you gain tremendous bodily benefits in just that short time (if you’re consistent with it). The increased cardio from your runs will translate to increased cardio on the mat. You won’t get gassed as quickly and you’ll be able to perform better. Your improved flexibility from yoga will help prevent you from becoming injured during inversions and submissions. Stronger muscles will keep your joints safe during hard rolls or compromising positions.
Drink More Water (with Salt!)
We often forget that water is the most essential element for the proper functioning of our body. Remember, H20 makes up 60% of our body! We constantly lose water throughout the day, whether or not we are sweating and training hard. So, when we don’t replenish it regularly, we allow ourselves to become dehydrated, which has numerous negative effects on our physical and mental performance.
Especially if you’re active – and if you live in a hot or humid climate – you also need to make sure you’re ingesting enough salt to replace the salt you lose through sweat. Salt is incredibly important for proper fluid balance, nerve and muscle functioning, and cognitive performance. That doesn’t mean that you should chug a ton of performance drinks (the benefits of which are offset by all the sugar they contain). A sprinkle or two of salt in your water is plenty.
How much water should you drink? A good rule of thumb is between 0.5-1.0 fluid ounces per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh around 150lbs, you should be drinking about a gallon of water a day.
Get Enough Sleep
If you’re reading this, I don’t have to remind you that jiu-jitsu is just as much mental as it is physical. But I will. With that being said, one of the best ways to improve your BJJ performance is to GET MORE SLEEP.
Sleep is so crucial for the retention and consolidation of memories and learning, improved decision-making and adaptation, and improved emotional health. All of this translates to positive growth on the mat. In fact, if you deprive your body of enough sleep, you may even be jeopardizing that growth, and even wasting all that time you put into your training.
Have a Separate Hobby
Burn out is a very real thing in jiu-jitsu. This is largely because of the addictive nature of the sport. We crave the training, the learning, the growth, the mental and physical activity… and we want to do it more and more. However, we fail to take care of ourselves properly and/or we over train. Then we become disappointed when we plateau. We think more training will help get us out of the rut, but that just deepens the burn out. It’s a vicious cycle.
The best thing to do – both to cure burn out and to prevent it – is to have another hobby, completely separate from jiu-jitsu. It can really be anything; chess, potting, knitting, cooking, taxidermy… whatever. A separate hobby provides helps you balance your time on the mat, and not feel guilty about it. It also provides another mental – and maybe even physical – outlet, that stimulates your brain in different ways than jiu-jitsu does. And when you do start to feel burn out, you have something to retreat to for a while, so that when you do get back on the mat, you look forward to it.
Long story short, the things you do to take care of yourself off the mat will pay dividends for your jiu-jitsu performance. Train hard, train smart, train safe.