How Should Older Grapplers Pace Themselves in BJJ
Once you hit 40, you will need to make adjustments to the way you train. If you’re 40 and over and wondering how to stay on track in your BJJ class, then this article is for you.
When you are over 40, your aim in BJJ should be for longevity, and not so much performance. Perhaps you won’t see results right away, but by slowing down and being aware of your limitations, you will improve your performance in the long run. First and foremost, it’s fundamental to pace yourself and not to miss any practices. Pacing yourself will significantly decrease the incidence of injuries. When you are over 40, injuries take much longer to heal. Sometimes, they can be fatal, which is why it’s probably best to roll with people in your own age group who practice at a similar pace. You should be tapping out early, and often. If you are rolling with someone much younger, don’t try to go as fast as your opponent. If you arrive at practice thinking you are still in your twenties, you may sustain serious injuries. You should be training with a “sane” variety of people, and not with aggressive, egotistical 20-year olds. You should also be working on your athleticism, focusing on improving your cardio and endurance.
Taking care of your body in any sport is very important, and takes on even greater urgency once you pass your thirties or forties. Following a good diet is vital. While teenagers can get away with eating pizza and ice cream a few times a week while they are in training, older adults need to follow a strict diet. Once you hit middle age, your metabolism slows right down. “You are what you eat,” the saying goes, and never has it been more important than to an ageing body. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins will ensure that you stay energized and may even help you avoid chronic illness. Eating well will also help you heal from injuries faster. Sleeping right is also extremely important. And vitamins are your best friend at any age in BJJ. As you get older, bone density suffers, so in order to avoid injury, taking daily calcium, iron and B12 supplements is fundamental to your wellbeing.
Stretching before and after practice will go a long way to helping you avoid injury. Too often, I’ve found myself having difficulty getting out of bed because of terrible back pain because I neglected to stretch at BJJ. Stretching is one of the most important things you can do before and after practice. The older you get the more your flexibility declines. According to Harvard Health, “Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way.”
Scott Sonnon, who was voted one of “The 6 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 21st Century” agrees. “You’re only as old as your joints,” he says.
If you have a short range of motion in any of your joints, it’s very important to focus on exercises that will increase mobility.
Most importantly, it’s essential to come to practice with an open mind and spirit. BJJ is a strenuous sport, and as you get older, it gets even more difficult. You know your body best, and only you can decide what works and what doesn’t. Don’t put yourself through something you know you can’t handle. Train intelligently. For some that translates into three classes a week. Avoid doing classes over consecutive days. Be realistic with yourself, and understand your limitations. Aim your focus on drilling, and not so much on sparring. And, of course, consult with your coach. They have the experience and insight that can help you create a training regimen that fits your needs and endurance level. It’s all doable if you take the time, and enjoy the process. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.