Workout fatigue is a sweet feeling after you’ve spent yourself on the mats and feel tired but satisfied. But the soreness the next day is very far from pleasant and gets in the way of training again. Recovery becomes crucial when you want to train often, and you must prioritize it to be consistent. But do you know how?
While many factors determine the recovery speed from BJJ training, it can be helped and accelerated by post-workout stretching, good-quality sleep, adequate nutrition, and active rest.
Knowing how to take care of your body is the only way to be consistent on the mats, and we all know BJJ is a marathon. Optimize your recovery with these tips and thrive in your BJJ journey.
For many martial arts practitioners and athletes who are in no short supply of motivation and have the time to train, the big problem is recovery. The only way to consistently train with intensity and progress technically and in terms of conditioning is if you recover your body well.
This entails recovery from the fatigue built in the body in the form of lactic acid, muscle damage, and inflammation, as well as from injuries and training around them. Unlike strength training, BJJ is a contact sport. On top of muscle fatigue, practitioners experience soreness and muscle damage from hits and submission holds.
Recovering from Fatigue
Recovery from fatigue is determined by many factors, some of which you can control and accelerate. So, let’s see what they are.
Post Workout Stretching
Dynamic and passive stretching have different purposes. Dynamic stretching and mobility exercises should be performed as a warm-up at the beginning of a workout.
Passive stretches reduce maximal strength but are perfect for cooling down and relaxing the body after the grueling session.
Here is a full post-workout stretching routine you can try:
Even 5 minutes of stretching will increase the blood flow to the muscles, relax them, steady the heart rate, and improve overall recovery. Foam rollers are also helpful and alleviate tight muscles.
So much has been said about sleep in the last few years that I am sure you’ve heard hundreds of times about how important it is to sleep adequately for your overall health.
Well, this is even more important when you are on a heavy workout schedule because, during sleep, your body repairs the damage from training and makes adaptations.
Sleeping less than your body needs leads to slower recovery, fatigue, and reduced energy levels the next day, making completing a hard workout difficult.
Sleeping a good 8 hours is the general recommendation. Still, not everyone needs the same time, so you may be good with 7 or need 9 to recover.
Quality of sleep is also essential, and you can do a few things in the evening to improve your sleep. You don’t need to do all of those or do them every evening, but all are solid things with proven efficacy.
I like experimenting with stuff and can tell you each of the tips works. Do I do them every night? Hell, no, but if I feel the need, I will do what I can to optimize my sleep.
- Light evening stretch– light dep stretch routines are amazing at preparing your body to sleep.
- Zink and magnesium supplements– Zinc and magnesium are important minerals in the body. Magnesium helps improve sleep quality by reducing stress, promoting muscle relaxation, and regulating hormones like melatonin. Plus, magnesium will keep cramping away.
- Read instead of staring at screens– Some experts advise avoiding screens and blue light after the sun sets or at least 3 hours before bed. I am not going to argue with science, but this is not realistic for most people. But reading a book 30 minutes before bed instead of scrolling social media or watching Netflix will aid your sleep.
- Listen to soothing music or meditate– Calm, relaxing music and meditations are great ways to sleep peacefully. Especially after hard sparring when the mind is replaying situations even hours after the practice (at least mine is), some music or meditation helps calm down and go to sleep easier.
Nutrition is another key element of recovery, as important as sleep. High-level athletes follow different diet plans, but unless you are on some specific diet like vegan, keto, or carnivore, a balanced meal of protein, carbs, and fats is what you need after a workout.
Protein is essential, and you should aim for a higher amount of high-quality protein to recover and build muscles. Carbohydrates replenish the glycogen reserves in the body, while fats also provide energy to the body.
Regardless of the distribution between the macros and the type of diet you follow, high-quality food is infinitely better than junk and processed food.
My experience with years of trying out different diets and meals, along with reading a lot, has shown me that the body adapts well to different diets.
This is a profound topic with many conflicting ideas. Still, all sides have proof their way of eating works, proving the body can operate efficiently on more than one type of fuel. I advise diving deeper into the topic, trying different things, and finding out which works best for you. This will be your “truth.”
On the other hand, the need for optimal hydration is not questioned. Even mild dehydration lowers endurance and durability and impairs recovery times.
Drinking enough water is a habit you must develop not just before and after the gym but overall. The easiest way to access your hydration is through your urine. The clearer your urine, the more hydrated you are.
Drinks with electrolytes are also an excellent way of hydrating. Still, I would not recommend the store-bought sugary junk advertised as sports drinks. Add some lime, lemon, and orange juice to your water, along with a pinch of salt, and you have a perfectly healthy electrolyte drink.
Active recovery is done on rest days and involves light movement or activities that do not cause more fatigue. Studies show that low-intensity sports and movement help recovery by increasing blood flow to the muscles, speeding up the repair process, and promoting lactate clearance.
Longer yoga and mobility routines are great for this because they also improve flexibility and mobility in addition to the accelerated recovery process. Activities perfect for active recovery are:
- Lite cycling
- Every movement you can do light enough not to induce more fatigue
Recovering From Injuries
Recovery from injuries is very different from recovery from fatigue. First and foremost, you need to assess the severity of the injury. Doctors, physiotherapists, and chiropractors are your best friends in these cases, and each scenario must be tackled differently.
As martial artists, we are harder than most people, and working through pain is part of what we do. Staying home and not doing anything whenever something hurts is not realistic advice. I don’t do it, so I won’t advise others to do it. But there are smart ways of going around injuries. Obviously, if it’s severe, listen to your doctor and do what he says.
But most of the time, you can train around an injury. First, consult a physiotherapist to see if there are exercises and ways to recover faster. Then see what you can train for.
This has been the most important principle for me. If my shoulder is shot, I can run, squat, kick, and train my legs. If my leg is injured, I can train my upper body. There is almost always something you can do. Hell, even watching and analyzing matches and instructional videos will benefit your game if this is all you can do.
How many days off you need per week is very individual. A blue belt office worker has very different tolerances than a professional grappler. For most people, 3 BJJ sessions per week is a good number. Adding two strength and conditioning sessions makes it ideal if you are not competing.
Recovery also depends on age, previous physical activity, and so many other things that your needs differ from anyone else’s. Then the intensity of each session also matters. If the training was technical work, you may be able to work out again the next day. If it was hard rolling, you might want to rest.
Listen to your body and figure out what you need. Sometimes you feel like you are beat up, but when you start working, you feel fine and go through everything without a problem.
But other times, you will struggle, which is a good sign that your body needs to rest. With time, you will learn to read your body, know when to tough it out, and when to take a step back. This is the key to longevity in the gym.
Making an effort to optimize your sleep and nutrition, taking days off when needed, and using active recovery are ways to speed up the recovery after hours of hard work on the mats. Being sore, beat up, and spent is not fun, and you can at least help lessen the time you feel this way.