How to recover from your BJJ sessions - Guest Article from Foundations Performance

How to recover from your BJJ sessions - Guest Article from Foundations Performance

Rejoice! Dave Allanson from Foundations Performance is back with his top tips for recovery. Something we should all pay a bit more attention too. 

Jiu Jitsu Can Be Exhausting

You’re just busy you say, but what you really mean is you’re burning the candle at both ends. 

You’re working hard, spending time with your loved ones, learning on the mats, rolling hard and maybe even getting into the gym once or twice a week. It felt great for a while but recently you’re yawning at work, struggling to remember the things your family told you, forgetting your Jiu Jitsu and you’d rather lie down in bed than on a bench. 

You’ve tried to do your research. Your training partners shrug. The purple belt competitor gives you a CBD oil discount code. The ultra heavyweight enforcer quietly suggests he could help you get on “TRT”. The influencers keep banging on about ice baths and 4am morning routines.

But you’ve got better things to spend your money on, you don’t want a heart attack before retirement and you hate the cold anyway. You start to think maybe you’re past it, perhaps it’s time to buy that OAP Jiu Jitsu instructional or take up something easier like pottery.

Fuck. That.

The best recovery modalities are free, and unless you’re a legitimate ADCC or Worlds podium competitor, you haven’t maxed these out yet.

Why does it matter if I’m feeling run down? Isn’t that normal?

Well, yeah, feeling tired or needing to recover from training is literally part of the process that makes you better. But, your central nervous system (CNS) doesn’t differentiate between physical and psychological stress. It’s been said that a job interview is similar to a heavy squat session in terms of what your CNS needs to recover from. Everything we do as humans has a ‘fatigue cost’ that we have to try and pay back in recovery to fully reap the benefits of the stress in the first place. To put it simply: lifting heavy doesn’t get you strong but recovering so it can adapt to lifting heavy that does.

Recovery is about trying to push your body away from the ‘fight or flight’ response we get from stressful events and back into a ‘rest and digest’ state of recovery. 

How can I tell if I’m recovering well or not?

Your mood is a great indicator of how well you are recovering from the physical and psychological stresses you are putting your body through. Readiness checkers and paying attention to your mood have even outperformed fitness trackers in studies. 

So, give your mood a score out of 3, (3 being best) your physical soreness a score out of 3 and your sleep a score out of 3. Add these scores up: below 3 = skip training and rest. 3-6 = train as normal but be prepared to take rest rounds or moderate how hard you roll. 6-9 = go forth and crush your training partners/get smashed by them.

Another option is monitoring your resting heart rate - most smart watches do it as standard. It remains a reliable metric. Lower = better, but just watch out for when it spikes above your usual score. Your fitness tracker will tell you your average RHR  if you look for it. If you don’t own a smart watch, you can use heart rate apps that use the camera on your phone. Take a reading as soon as you wake and write it down, then use the data in the same way as before.

What can I do to recover?

The pillars of recovery are basic. Yet, they are so overlooked that avid gymgoers, ‘fitness influencers' and amateur sports people can be quick to see the temptation in PEDs - as these can enhance your ability to recover - particularly when your baseline of recovery is crap. However, they’re expensive and can be dangerous to your short and/or long-term physical and mental health. Not to mention questions around legality and the very real ethical conundrum if you compete in organised sport.

In terms of what to do for recovery these are the cake: 

  1. Sleep. If the benefits of 8 hours sleep were available as a pill it would be banned in organised sport.
  2. Eat well. Enough calories to support recovery. 1.5-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight a day. Home-cooked food from fresh ingredients. Eating fat. There is a reason everyone bangs on about a BALANCED diet. 
  3. Doing things that help psychological stress. Getting outside, doing some kind of breathwork (Wim Hof breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, square breathing, rectangular breathing and nasal breathing are all excellent choices), journaling, reading and meditation can all help.
  4. Being cautious with stimulants. Avoiding caffeine after midday can hugely help your sleep. Overuse blunts how effective it is. Pre-workout is nonsense. If you’re too tired to train without it after work regularly, then honestly appraise what you do to recover.
  5. Drink water. Aim for 2-3 litres a day and see how you feel. Thirst is an underrated guide.

These are the icing on the top:

  1. Using a sauna a couple of times a week for 1-3 rounds of 10 minutes.
  2. LOW level physical activity. Such as going for a walk, basic mobility work (such as your warmup) or easy yoga to name a few. Bonus points if you only breathe through your nose while you do these. 
  3. Cold Therapy. This can start as simply as putting your face in a cold sink for as long as you can manage, all the way up to wild swimming. Finishing a shower with 10-30 seconds of cold water is likely all that is necessary. Use this sparingly and AVOID doing it close to your training - it has been shown to limit how much you adapt to training.
  4. Getting a massage.

These are also in rank order - all the breath work in the world won’t save you if you’re eating 1200 calories and sleeping 4 hours a night.

Almost everything else is either going to give you a tiny benefit, carry a very real long-term health risk or is snake oil.

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