Burn out. I think you'd agree with me that overtraining syndrome can be common amongst ambitious MMA and Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. This can be a combat sports athlete’s most dangerous yet familiar foe. Training too hard will create burnout which is associated with a long list of serious health issues. This was my biggest mistake when I was just beginning my martial arts journey. I'm going to show you 9 natural tips for avoiding burnout.
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Overtraining Sabotages Your Jiu-Jitsu/Martial Arts Performance & Creates "Burnout"
There are several signs of overtraining in both MMA fighters and general work-life balance.
Some signs of burnout are:
- Being regularly sore for days at a time
- Depression and anxiety
- Easily Aggravated
- Decreased performance
- Increased rate of overuse injuries
- Decreased coordination
- Decreased strength
- Unwanted Weight loss
- Training fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Lowered Immune Function
- Insomnia or waking up extremely groggy and not energized.
- Changes in menstrual pattern
This community is filled with martial artists, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, MMA combat sports athletes and human optimizers. Whether you’re training to be the next BJJ world champion, or you’re just a passionate martial artist, these simple tips will help you avoid experiencing burnout.
1. Include a Natural Nitrate Rich Diet
It’s important to understand the differences between “natural” nitrates and the ones found in processed meats. Deli meats such as sausages, bacon, ham and hotdogs have all been linked to multiple health concerns.
You can find these benefits from foods such as beets, cacao (100% dark chocolate), watermelon, garlic and dark green leafy vegetables. These compounds help us form nitric oxide which increases the time to exhaustion in the athletes participating in this study.
Beet juice can improve your cardio at the anaerobic threshold. Which is basically the exhausted feeling in your arms when you’re trying to finish a submission hold. MMA fighters and boxers may experience this as struggling to keep their hand up due to fatigue in their arms.
Beet juice is one of the highest sources of this compound and was used in the study above. It’s bright red colour can be a great reminder of its benefits for your blood and cardio. Consume this energizing beverage 90 minutes prior to your training session to avoid burnout.
2. An Ancient Chinese Training Secret
Beets don’t seem appetizing to you? Well, I’m sorry to say that this won’t be either. However, the benefits of this supplement can not be ignored. The Chinese Olympic team didn’t in 1993 and 2001 where they collectively broke 14 world records in those two years.
It was believed that prohibited steroids were the reason for this countries’ success. However, after clean tests were shown, the western world was baffled. It was shortly revealed by their coaches that these results were from the use of Cordyceps Mushrooms.
These mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Here are the exact benefits of this powerful fungi for your athletic performance.
This supplement can be found in powdered form and is commonly consumed by making soups or teas from the mushroom.
There are many benefits of this herb including improving your ATP function (One of the primary sources of energy during exercise).
It is also a powerful immune enhancer and adaptogen that helps your body withstand stress and fatigue. These two factors are common contributors to “burn out”. Add this to your pre-workout smoothie to experience the combined benefits with some other helpful nutrients.
3. Turn Up The Heat To Avoid Burning Out
The sauna can be beneficial for grappling and martial arts practitioners looking to improve their athletic performance. The sauna has been shown to aid in the adaption to strenuous workouts. This occurs because the sauna increases your plasma volume and blood flow to your heart and muscles.
This method is known as “hyperthermia conditioning”. This condition increases your muscle mass and improves your growth hormones by allowing your body to produce heat shock proteins.
It’s important to understand how to properly utilize this helpful method safely. It is recommended to not be in the sauna for longer than 5 minutes if you’re just starting out. For each session, work your way up to 15-30 minutes total by adding 30 seconds to your total time spent inside. The reason for this is because the detoxification process can in some cases be severe, depending on your toxic load.
Dr. Clement's general sauna recommendations are as follows:
- Infrared sauna: 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15-30 minutes
- Regular (Finnish, or moist) sauna: 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10-20 minutes
- Additionally, you'll want to use the following safety tips at all times.
- Avoid using a sauna by yourself, always sauna with a buddy
- Do not use a sauna if you've been drinking alcohol
- If you're pregnant, avoid saunas
- Always listen to your body when deciding how much heat stress you can tolerate
The benefits of utilizing the sauna should not be ignored.
4. Frequency, Duration and Intensity
These three factors play a vital role in your ability to withstand stress and avoid burnout. When scheduling your training routine, keep these three aspects in mind. It may not be beneficial to train at 100% intensity for multiple hours every single day.
Frequency: This factor is something that can be greatly beneficial for your training as an athlete and martial artist. Frequent training creates the healthy habits needed to improve. The issue with this is when it is combined with an excess amount of the two other factors.
Duration: The time spent in a single training session can have a major beneficial impact on your athletic and technical progression. However, training too long can cause injury or extended fatigue.
Adding an extra 30 minutes to the end of your session shouldn't be an issue. But when you add multiple hours to an already physically intensive workout it can raise the risk of burnout. Long durations of training can be tolerated if the intensity is expressed in a controlled and reasonable manner.
Intensity: Training in combat sports has its moments of severe intensity, especially if you roll/spar hard. This style of training builds durability in stressful situations. However, too much intensity, mixed with long durations can cause injuries and overtraining syndrome. Consider lowering the intensity of your training if you are experiencing burnout.
Adjusting these three factors accordingly will be beneficial in avoiding burnout on your journey to becoming a black belt.
5. Sleep Right or The Sharks Will Bite
Resting optimally may be the most important factor on this list. It should be no secret that sleeping well will have an impact on athletic performance and help you avoid burning out. Even just one night of poor sleep has been shown to dramatically lower the athletic ability of athletes in multiple ways.
Ideally, for general health maintenance, sleeping 7-9 hours is recommended. If you had an intense workout or sustained an injury, extra sleep may be beneficial for your recovery. Here’s a more in-depth article on improving sleep and how it will help you avoid burnout and overtraining.
Sleep deprivation decreases the body’s ability to produce glycogen and carbohydrates that are crucial for energy during physical activity. Research has shown that having less sleep will increase the rate of exhaustion and reduce your ability to focus. It may also increase your risk of getting injured.
6. Remember To Breath
It’s commonly overlooked that the breath and our ability to control it has a vital role in athletic performance.
Many stand up martial arts such as muay thai, boxing, taekwondo, kung fu etc, teaches timing of the breath with strikes. This simple technique plays a vital role in your athletic conditioning.
Recent science has shown the effectiveness of breathing techniques. Practicing these techniques has the ability to control the autonomic nervous system (fight or flight response). Wim Hof’s work is an excellent example of this. Applying these breathing techniques can help you lower your adrenaline at will.
This is beneficial because lowering your stress hormones while recovering will greatly improve the body’s ability to recover. Having the ability to increase your adrenaline is beneficial for energy production when it’s time to compete or perform.
“Breathe from the diaphragm and practice this regularly," -Rickson Gracie
This can also be one of the most important aspects a Jiu-Jitsu/BJJ practitioner will learn. Panicking and losing control of your breath can harm your decision-making ability by lowering the body’s oxygen levels. Consciously control your breath and utilize this knowledge to your advantage in competitive scenarios.
7. Make The Best of Your Rest Days
Most combat sports and jiu-jitsu practitioners implement at least one rest day during their weekly training schedules. If you aren't resting your body for a short period of time, you will increase your risk of experiencing burnout.
Taking a day off to rest does not mean you can’t be active at all. Instead, it may be better to begin an active recovery routine utilizing various methods.
A few simple body movement exercises that you can do on your rest days to experience an enhanced physical performance:
- Light Yoga
- Casual Swimming
- Focused Stretching
- Tension Band Resistant Training
- Physical Therapy Exercises
- Foam Rolling and Soft Tissue Release
- Consuming Adaptogens
On top of caring for your body, it is also important to take care of your mental health. Stress can be a common cause of many health problems. It's important to know how to apply simple strategies to lower your level of stress from overtraining and prevent mental fatigue.
8. "Be Like Water" - Bruce Lee
Staying hydrated during athletic events should not be ignored if you are looking to perform your best. There is a natural desire to quench our thirst when we begin to sweat. Our bodies have an innate ability to know what it needs to function at its highest potential.
About 60% of your body is made up of water, here are some negative health effects of dehydration:
- Reduction in blood volume
- An increased rate of glycogen use
- Decreased skin blood flow
- Decreased sweat rate
- Decreased heat dissipation
- Increased core temperature
Dehydration can cause lowered athletic performance in multiple ways including mental fatigue, muscular-skeletal dysfunction, lowered cardiac output and much more.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is crucial to performing your best. Learning how to utilize the correct hydration techniques to improve athletic performance will give you an advantage over your competition.
Cutting weight (lowering your hydration levels to make a weight class) can be a common occurrence in combat sports athletes. However, there have been near-death experiences in both amateur and professional levels from this dangerous tradition. This practice can lead to being fatigued and burnt out if performed incorrectly.
The health risks that are associated with cutting weight improperly should not be ignored. I highly suggest you learn how to safely cut weight If you choose to participate in this practice
9. Flow Like A Shark
The philosophy that Bruce Lee expressed relates closely to the idea of being in "flow". The idea is to train in a state that is in between being bored and stressed. You want to enjoy your workouts to the point where it's difficult enough to entertain you but not too demanding where you become overwhelmed and stressed.
Being passed the state of flow can have you overworked and burnt out. Firas Zahabi, MMA coach to professional fighters such as Georges St. Pierre and Rory Mcdonald explains in this video below.
Knowing these tips and applying them to your athletic life will help you to avoid burnout while training. Whether you choose to use adaptogens or more cost-effective methods such as breathing and cold showers, it's important to remember the importance of consistency. Similar to how a martial artist will need to develop the discipline to practice their technicals, the same approach should be applied with your recovery techniques.
Now that you know the benefits of these methods and strategies, I highly suggest bringing what you just learned to the next level by using these helpful tips from a BJJ brown belt on how to structure your lifestyle better to include these strategies.
What are your thoughts on the methods above?
Let me know which tactics you've tried or mention a new tactic that we might have missed in the comments below.