I think you'd agree with me when I say that structure helps create healthy habits that lead to long-lasting success and positive results for athletes and martial arts practitioners. The problem with this is that many athletes and martial artists struggle with creating structure in the 4 most crucial areas of athletic performance. It took me over a decade before I mastered the art of creating and maintaining structure as an athlete.
I'd like to tell you that it was hard work that brought me to progression as a jiu-jitsu practitioner, but it was actually as simple as following the information I learned from Nattie Boss, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, holistic coach and founder of The Performance Blueprint and bodybyboss.com
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Written by: Nattie Boss from bodybyboss.com
As both a lifelong athlete and a clinical dietitian, I’ve learned over the years that one of the most foundational elements that make athletes successful is having structure.
This structure needs to be permeated in every area of your life but to be more specific, I want to highlight 4 areas where I believe you need structure most.
Most athletes have this somewhat down. They know exactly when they are going to class each week and usually have an idea of when they plan any additional cross-training like lifting and yoga. But as I said, most not all, have this down.
So for those who fall in the spectrum of “not having any idea how often you should be training”, I want to give you some things to think about so that you can gain more clarity around this.
I want to break this down into two types of athletes I see often:
- Athlete A: The Avid Competitor
- Athlete B: The Recreational Enthusiast
Nattie competing in No-Gi BJJ at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA)
Athlete A: If you have a goal of becoming a world champion and you are on the competition scene at least 1-3x/month (or more), then it’s of utmost importance that you have a clear structure in your training regimen.
This structure needs to include training undulation, which is having varying degrees of training intensity throughout the week to optimize your performance.
A training undulation schedule would look like this...
M, W, F - hard training with cross-training (2-a-days)
TR - Complete rest day
Tue, Sat - drilling, flow rolling
Sun - active recovery (yoga/foam rolling)
Integrating this structure creates space from the constant physical intensity and allows your physical and mental body to recover and heal faster.
In short, this will allow you to train longer and harder without reaching burnout.
Nattie practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques at Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Philly (lasso/spider/DLR set-up to armbar)
Athlete B: If your goal with BJJ is to simply learn a martial art and to progress up the ranks with semi-regular competitions, you do not need to train as vigorously as Athlete A. Consistently showing up to class 3-4x/week is more than enough to improve your technique, get in shape, and maintain balance in other areas of your life.
If you have other physique goals that require going to the gym, I recommend committing 3x/week to BJJ and adding any additional cross-training 2-3x/week, while always having 1-2 complete rest days per week.
Your training should be reflective of your goal with BJJ. So as your goals change, so may your training regimen.
You need structure with your nutrition, regardless of whatever “athlete” you identify with above. If you want to be able to put your best foot forward every time you come to class, then not planning your meals DOES NOT EXIST from this point forward. Structure with nutrition is two-fold. Not only do you need to strategically plan your meals during certain times of the day (a term called nutrient timing), but you also need to create structure WITHIN your meals so that you are getting the appropriate nutrients, macros (protein, carbs, fat, and fibre) to help you towards your goals.
When it comes to timing your meals, everyone is different because we all have different schedules. This is where I recommend you get customized support by an expert so that you can figure out what works best for you and your goals. This is something I teach my students inside my performance lifestyle coaching program, The Performance Blueprint (TPB).
My general recommendation is to plan for three main meals a day, plus pre- and post-workout snacks that will serve to fuel your training and improve your recovery.
When it comes to crafting your meals in and of themselves, I teach a simple method called the Balanced Meal Guidelines.
This method focuses on including a protein, carb, fat and fibre (aka veggie) source with every meal! Portion sizes will vary per person - as individual needs are based on goals, body type, height, weight, activity factor, etc. (helping you craft your specific needs is what I do inside TPB). This may seem too simple, but I kid you not if you are not currently following this format, this simple adjustment can and will make all the difference in your energy levels throughout the day and during training.
3. REST DAYS
Yeah, if you haven’t heard of my work yet, then you will shortly find out that I am one of the biggest advocates for regular rest days. I was not always this way and it took a very bad overtraining experience to quickly get my shit together.
You need to add regular rest days to your schedule; this is non-negotiable. Everyone wants “good recovery” but no one wants to rest. Honey, it doesn’t work that way. Training and recovery are two peas in a pod.
Training breaks your muscles down, while resting is what builds your muscles and strength back up! Resting does not make you a weak athlete; it makes you a smart one. I recommend scheduling 1-2 rest days PER WEEK.
Do not wait until you are sick or injured to rest; it’s too late at that point. Be proactive by being committed to your recovery, now. To really make the most out of your rest day, I recommend that you schedule things to do ON that rest day that promote recovery - such as massage, yoga, foam rolling, meal prep, etc.
4. MORNING AND NIGHTTIME ROUTINES
This is a huge part of my program because how you start and end each day is really what will either contribute to your success or hinder it.
The benefit of having a ritual first thing in the morning is that it helps you start the day with control, intention, and purpose. It puts you in a proactive state versus a reactionary state; in other words, you are starting the day on your terms. You can clearly plan your day, your meals, your training, and anything else in between.
I always recommend infusing some form of self-care in the morning to help you “recharge your battery” before you take on the day. Mental energy plays just as big a role as physical energy in athletic performance. Just as nutrition helps improve your physical energy, your morning routine will help to improve your mental energy.
Nighttime deserves and requires the same attentiveness (as the morning) to ensure that you are allowing your body to unwind and get ready to restore/reboot for another day’s work. The purpose of these routines is to help regulate your nervous system to get ready for a restful sleep.
Sleep is essential as an athlete and so having a routine that can help you improve the quality of your sleep is critical towards optimizing your recovery and improving your performance.
There you have it. The four areas where you need structure to become a high-performing athlete. All of these are equally important and if you need any assistance in figuring out where you should start, reach out to me on Instagram @nattiebossrd or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly give you feedback on what area you should address first.
In short, structure creates freedom and clarity.
When you master this, you will be unstoppable as an athlete.
Nattie brings an effective holistic approach to her athletic training and helps female grapplers improve their recovery and athletic performance.
Whether you’re a brand new Gracie jiu-jitsu white belt, an experienced blue belt or even someone just trying to add some physical activity to their lifestyle and gain knowledge about holistic medicine, Nattie is the jiu-jitsu training partner and support you’ve wished you had.
Do you structure your athletic lifestyle to perform at your best? Let me know in the comments below.