Tips for Training Injury-Free as Masters Level Athlete
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a beautiful sport… one of the few in which individuals from three years old all the way to someone in their 90s might share the same space.
But, as with nearly all sports, the young have a much easier time of it. They have endless reserves of energy, they don’t break as easy, and if they do, they heal quickly. Not so with anyone in the so-called “Masters” divisions; which is to say, anyone over the ripe old age of 30. Yes, my friends. After we hit 30, we are officially geezers in the jiu-jitsu world.
Some of you Masters athletes may still feel young and spry enough to battle it out in the adult divisions with the whipper-snappers – who may or may not be the same age as your children. You may not have reached that moment in which you realize that training and living as hard as you did in your twenties is. No. Longer. An. Option. Or you may have decided to stave off that moment with supplements of various forms *cough* or chemical makeup *cough* if you know what I mean. No judgments here. You do you. It’s your life.
For the rest of us long-in-the-toothers, we simply have to train differently than we did or would have when we were young. We have to train smarter. Here are four tips on how to train as a Masters level athlete:
Cross-Train, for Safety
Cross-training is one of the most important supplemental activities that any jiu-jitsu athlete can do, but I would argue that it’s especially important for Masters level athletes. As we get older, we break faster and we heal slower. Cross-training will help improve your overall cardio and fitness, even out muscle imbalances, strengthen your stabilizer muscles, and help to increase your mobility… all of which will help to keep you injury-free on the mat.
While you might argue that you “don’t have time” to cross-train, anyone can find 10-20 minutes a few times a week to lift, run or do yoga. You’ll be wishing you had, when you get injured and find yourself off the mat for six months to a year.
Choose Your Rolls Wisely
Especially when you’re just crested that 30-year mark, it’s hard not to think that you’re still invincible. Even those who are decades into their Masters years, it’s hard. Why? Because ego and an inflated assessment of our own abilities. For the very same reason as above – we break easier – it’s critical that we choose our rolls wisely. Roll only with those individuals that we trust not to train like it’s the World Championships every day.
That’s not to say you can no longer go hard… you can. But go hard with the people you know have an elevated level of bodily awareness, and won’t move in some crazy, unpredictable way. THAT’S when you get hurt. Likewise, don’t be that person that goes 100% all the time. Invariably, your training partner will match your pace, which will increase the odds of out-of-control and compromising movements on both sides.
Self-Care is Key
You should think of self-care as both restorative and injury preventative. Even if you’re not injured, but you feel a little achy or burnt out from a bit too much training, you will roll differently on the mat than if you feel 100% (which, congratulations if you ever feel 100% after 30).
What does self-care for an athlete look like? Massages, ice baths, regular chiropractic work and/or cupping, Epsom salt soaks, massage gun sessions, foam rolling… heck, even getting a facial and a shampoo or shave counts. You don’t have to do allll of that, but pick your poison – or cocktail – and make time for it. You will feel a difference.
Be Kind to Yourself
Probably the most important key to training injury-free as a Masters athlete is to be kind to yourself. I don’t just mean physically, but mentally, too. Past our 30’s, we are officially grown-ass adults. We have lives. We have lived. Most of us have time-demanding jobs, families, pets, a mortgage, car payments, and any number of obligations that few young jiu-jitsu athletes these days have to worry about.
It is OKAY if you have to take some time off training to get shit done. It is OKAY if you’re not a world champion this or that. It is OKAY that you’re getting smashed by that 20-something phenom. As long as you’re pushing the needle forward each and every day – on the mat and off – even if it’s just a teeny tiny bit, you’re succeeding in life. Be kind to yourself and remember why you started jiu-jitsu in the first place… because it was fun. That’s all it ever needs to be.
Hopefully these tips for training injury-free as a Masters level athlete resonate with you. Train happy, and healthy.